Friday afternoon I was confronted with an etiquette crisis: is it, in fact, proper etiquette to bring a present to a baby shower if you’ve specifically been asked not to, even though you’re aware that others will be bringing gifts to said shower? The women in my officer conversed with each other in completely noncommittal balderdash about the circumstances we were operating under, eventually reaching the conclusion that all of us should act individually and deal with the consequences.
I, of course, was the only person who elected not to purchase a shower gift. In my defense: ignorance - I’ve never been to a shower of any kind; my boss (the person who was ultimately responsible for our invitation to said shower) had said that he rallied against the very concept of showers in the first place, particularly for people of he and his wife’s economic status; the baby had been born prematurely and last week I helped make a homemade meal so that they wouldn’t need to worry about making it themselves; and I’ve only known these people for a few months. And so I arrived promptly fashionably late, sat in my car for an additional 5-10 minutes until someone I knew happened along and parked behind me so that I didn’t have to walk in alone, and marched in, cutesy pastel greeting card reading “Sometimes the biggest joys arrive in the smallest packages” in hand.
I found myself in the all-too-familiar limbo of the single woman. Married couples everywhere, discussing children and home improvement and the good-old college days. It’s as though people don’t know what to do with you if there’s no husband to attend to or inquire about - you’ve got to be louder, offer up more of yourself voluntarily so that the conversation has somewhere to go. In lieu of actually engaging in conversations that would require an understanding of the ins and outs of child rearing, property ownership and/or much of the 1980s, I nodded politely and laughed nervously. My reflex to glance at the left ring finger of every person in a room such as this has become well honed - so well, in fact, that I find myself doing it in EVERY room and am shocked at the seemingly increasing number of gold circle club members there are in the world. I sipped Chardonnay and ate antipasti and bruschetta and fancy cheese and crackers and felt as though I was from another planet. One of my coworkers suggested that I host a “soiree” so that they could become familiar with the world of urban studio apartment living. I struggled to picture these women and their husbands sitting on my full sized bed and commenting on my adorable four walls.
Present opening time. I watched my boss’s wife open package after package filled with soft, tiny “onesies” and hats and booties and bibs and pacifiers and toys that she pressed against her husband’s lips with a “smack” from her own. Pictures flashed every thirty seconds. The room was filled with the requisite number of “oohs” and “ahs”.
I can’t in all honesty describe what I feel in these situations as jealousy - sometimes it makes me sad to hear people talk about priorities that are tied so closely to a spouse or a house or a child and differ so completely from my own. I’ve made my choices, they‘ve made theirs. On the other hand, I imagine the love these people feel for each other and the love they feel for their children to be an amazing, metamorphic experience - particularly for the people who waited for the right person and the right moment - and I can’t help but understand the impatience people feel at finding it, some so much so that they try to invent it when it isn’t there. The really impressive love to watch is the kind I can see, that I can’t find a reason to question. The kind that isn’t mine, that I’m not even sure I’m ready for, but that makes me long for it.