Gender Reveal Parties

Last summer my cousin invited me out to a local spot for pizza along with her parents and other family members.  I hadn't seen that side of the family in while, she was pregnant at the time and I thought nothing of it so I joined them before work on third shift.  We jawed and caught up, ate some pizza and when it came time for some dessert there was a cake sealed in a box that no one was permitted to see ahead of time.  I didn't know it at the time but this was my first “gender reveal party”.  It was a boy by the way.

Now that I am an expectant father I am finding out about all sorts of odd customs that I was previously unaware of.  Recently my sister emailed my wife and I about hosting such an event for us.  Only after she asked did it dawn on me that I had been to one before.

Reveal parties revolve around telling family and friends what the gender of the unborn is in some cutsie way and around 2008 they started to gain in popularity.  The first YouTube video of one was posted that year and there have been thousands posted since.  A quick search will produce tens of thousands of links that offer fabulous suggestions on how best to announce the gender, bakers that can make pink or blue cakes and videos of past events.   Babycenter.com lists several ways to wow your girlfriends or torture your buddies, depending on your gender.

George Packer writes about the inherent narcissism in such parties in the New Yorker.

In the case of gender-reveal parties, couples take a private moment made possible by science and oblige others to join in, with the result—as in so many invented rituals of our day—that the focus turns from where it ought to be (in this case, the baby) to the self. At a bris or christening, the emotional emphasis falls on the arrival of a new life in the embrace of family and community. At a gender-reveal party, the camera is on the expectant father tearing up at the sight of pink cake.

That’s the nature of manufactured customs and instant traditions. They emerge from an atomized society in order to fill a perceived void where real ceremonies used to be, and they end by reflecting that society’s narcissism. Is it too much to say that gender-reveal parties are amild symptom of cultural despair?"

I won't argue that America, and the world at large, has turned into a me-first celebrity seeking cesspool but Mr. Packer has over analyzed this concept.  Taking something as innocuous as a pre-baby shower and twisting it into a commentary on “cultural despair” seems a bit rough.  Is it so wrong to want to get together with family and friends to eat cake?

Bringing people together to celebrate new life and wanting to share the moment doesn't mean we are all dead-eyed suburbanites looking fill our meaningless lives with something of import.  Yes, there are important things going on the world; elections, terrorism, unemployment, but must we all be serious and socially aware at all times?  I think it necessary to take some time out from worrying about property values and teachers strikes to relax, if nothing else.

Sometimes it’s just nice to have a party.

 

Related articles

Comments

Leave a comment
  • This might be flattering myself, but I'm 99% certain I started this trend. Hear me out. I had a blog in 2008 that got a decent amount of traffic and I posted about my gender reveal party then. I had never heard of anyone doing it before, just felt like celebrating the gender of our baby with surprise cake icing. It got lots of hits, but I shut the blog down after moving to CN and have seen this trend snowball ever since.

    That's my claim to fame!

  • PS, Sorry to flood your comment section, but after years of sealing it off, I decided to take the redirect off my old blog. Here are the posts:

    http://highglossandsauce.blogspot.com/2008_07_01_archive.html

  • Hmmmm.....sounds a little sketchy. We'll go with it until someone shows up that is 99.9% certain that they started the trend.

  • In reply to Aaron DeDobbelaere:

    I'd actually love to be disproved. The whole topic is highly annoying to me. I know it was me though because I was on a very popular message board at the time and there was a huge thread about my party. Oh well, in my next life I'll actually cash in on one of my ideas!

  • PS- I know this is old at this point, but I totally forgot to mention that my gender reveal party was explained in detail in a two-page spread about me in The Bump magazine. Whoops, how could I forget that detail when making a case like this? Haha, I only remembered just now because I'm hanging pictures in my new house and found the framed article.

    Good luck with the baby!

Leave a comment