Thursday, August 23, 2001

I am so sorry I had to work; I missed the single most important event, next to the birth itself, of my wife's pregnancy: the baby shower. Or to use the correct title for this social event of the season, "Celebrating Her Motherness 2001 -- Baby Blessing II, The Joy of Life Continues" as the embossed, hand-folded, signed & numbered invitations proclaim. Twelve women, three new babies, one grumpy father-in-law, all sitting on the back porch on a hot summer day surrounding a veggie platter.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the baby part of the whole shower concept – the reason the shower exists is because there will be a new baby, and we need to bathe and clothe him. I love the baby that comes after the shower, I tried to sneak into the party and borrow a friend’s four month old little girl to just sit and watch a baseball game. Babies are the best company to enjoy a ballgame: no fighting over the remote, no rooting for the wrong team, no debates about why Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame (he shouldn’t), no rants about overpaid athletes and how you would pay for free (no, you wouldn’t). Babies simply sit and enjoy, smiling and cooing and drooling over missed bunt attempts and doubles to the gap alike. They fuss a little over the high strike, or it could be gas, but a few gentle bumps on the knee and all is well. I grabbed a beer ( from the fridge, not from the diaper-shaped ice sculpture with fruity drinks in baby bottles…and don’t ask me if they took off the nipples off the bottles to drink; it might be sexy to watch women suck from baby bottles if you’re peeking at the scrambled Spice channel, but with this crowd of post-partum “oh, the weight will come off eventually” women, expectant “my, that’s going to be a big baby” women, and not-a-chance-in-hell-of-ever-getting-pregnant-except-by-her-blind-lesbian-lover-paying-for-artificial-insemination “I know I’m 35 but it’s just baby fat” women, it’s an image I did not want to deal with the rest of my life) and thought I might settle into the recliner and tell this new little person bits of wisdom involving life, baseball, and Mookie Wilson.

Unfortunately we were discovered and forced at fork-point to join the festivities, and against our will shown 85 miniature outfits in various shades of light blue. Many adorable animals and fantasy creatures decorated these outfits, then proceeded to parade across blankets and booties and lampshades, mobiles and bathtubs, fuzzy hats and diaper bags. It took me a few minutes of icy stares before I realized I was supposed to make the appropriate cooing and awww-ing at the sight of each unbelievably adorable huggable gift, without the slightest trace of sarcasm – and they think giving birth is painful and difficult! After the gift review, we moved on to the Humiliate the Father of the Baby segment of the day’s entertainment, beginning with a demonstration of just how little I remember regarding the birth of previous children -- exact minute of the day when his head popped out? circumference of his head and amount of hair on it at the moment of birth? color of the outfit he and his mother wore home from the hospital? what I had ordered at TGIFriday’s the night his umbilical cord fell off and his mother had the waiter wrap it in a to-go box? If I had known there would be a quiz (interrogation) I might have written down all these very important details and studied them daily in preparation; had I known the shame I would bring upon my gender by not recollecting every detail, as I was assured every husband/father not present (lucky bastards) had etched in his heart, I would have video-taped the proceedings and studied daily. As I recall, one of the few memories of the blessed event that has managed to stay lodged in my numb skull was the futility of my numerous hours of intense practice with a video camera as I prepared to record with Speilbergian artistry the birth of our child; all the zooming and panning and extreme close-up practice, miles of tape shot at the beach and the pool was all for naught when my wife demanded I turn off the camera and kicked my buddy, helping with lighting, angles, and providing color commentary, out of the delivery room. We could have watched our son’s grand entrance, his first breath, his circumcision, in Hi-Definition digital video accompanied by play-by-play narration and a cutting-edge soundtrack; we could have shared the natural beauty of mother and child with our family, friends, co-workers, softball team… but, no.

The second event in Humiliate the Father must be Raunchy Embarrassment, in which every woman at the party, ranging in age from 14 to 71, attempts to out-shout the others in a Dr. Ruth-meets-Chris Rock cacophony of exactly how I failed in my role as chromosome producer. I was told in most explicit detail how my boys and I were personally responsible for the unforgivable sin of not planting a baby girl, of having the audacity to inflict my wife with son #3. And I was told what I must eat, wear, think, swallow, twist and exactly when and where and at what angle I should hold numerous body parts, mine and hers, to absolutely guarantee the same grievous error does not occur next time. Next time . . . ? Next time I’ll head straight for the bleachers, find a beer vendor, and thank God for babies, baseball, and the wisdom to stay far, far away from baby showers.