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The point of the Gender Reveal Party? “Clever and adorable” ways for the parents and party guests to discover — together! — whether the impending little tax deduction will be an heir or an heiress. (cdedbdme/flickr)

Ever open a door, see a flash of something you wish you hadn’t, and slam it shut faster than you can squawk “color-coded cupcakes”?

Then you can imagine my reaction when I moseyed around a corner online and found myself staring at an article about a “Gender Reveal Party.”

The Gender Reveal Party is not a new phenomenon. It is, however, new to me. Apparently, I missed this addition to the reproduction protocol because in the past few years I have failed to notice a slew of web features with titles like “Top 10 Pregnancy Trends Right This Second!” and “Super Hot Ideas for Your Pink/Blue Shindig!”

Careless, indeed, to overlook a giganta-craze bubbling up from the gates of hell.

I was distracted, perhaps, by the election… the economy… climate change… the drawbacks of cheap Greek yogurt.

But hoo boy, am I ever focused now. Like, watching a train wreck focused. As much as I wish I could forget I ever saw this, I can’t.

This generation throws more look-at-me parties than there are spellings of Caitlin.

Gushing how-to articles abound. And even naysayers in the target demographic are complacent. My human sources on this topic — the 20- and 30-somethings who would still answer questions after I grabbed their shoulders and screamed, “What is the MATTER with your COHORT?!” — tell me that it appears the Gender Reveal Party is here to stay.

They say it has become just another part of the big production package — the all-inclusive engagement/wedding/procreation deal, also known as are-we-all-paying-enough-attention-to-MY-STORY? This generation throws more look-at-me parties than there are spellings of Caitlin. Gender Reveal Parties, I am told, are as routine as posting the flotsam and jetsam of your existence on every social media platform extant, never mind who might care or who might wish they could go wash their eyeballs afterwards.

Yes, anthropologists of the future, we are as problematic as you suspect.

The Gender Reveal Party is just what it sounds like.

The expectant couple throws a party. The point of the party: “clever and adorable” ways for the parents and party guests to discover — together! — whether the impending little tax deduction will be an heir or an heiress.

That whole discover-together component is what makes it all so devilishly fun. For, um, somebody. Allegedly.

Because, you understand, the Only People in the World to Ever Have a Baby — we’ll call them the Opwehb family — can’t just ask the ultrasound technician, “Are we scheduling a bris?” That would spoil everything. I mean, not much point having a baby if you don’t get to occupy center stage at a mid-pregnancy xx-vs-xy mystery theme party.

The Opwehbs order the ultrasound tech to write down, all secret-like, whether they are having a girl or a boy, and then place that ultra-secret information in a sealed envelope. The Opwehbs then deliver this sealed envelope to, say, a bakery, or a balloonery, where the baker or balloonerist gets to read the Opwehbs’ secret info and then either create cakes with secret interior pink or blue crème filling or — since crème filling is less appetizing inside Mylar — secretly stuff a bunch of pink or blue balloons into a box.

And then, party time. The moment of the big reveal, with the attendant tweeting and video streaming and…

I think you get where I’m going with this.

The Gender Reveal Party lives at the intersection of All About Me Avenue and Oversharing Boulevard.

And while I’m in the neighborhood, the party also lives next door to Sloppy Vocabulary Lane. Because what we actually are revealing here is sex. Not gender, but sex. Biological and physiological characteristics, not a social construct. Sorry, but some of us are picky that way even if you are too squeamish to have a Sex Party. Hey, it wasn’t me deciding to make a big public event out of a sweet private joy and then slapping a misnomer on the whole shebang.

Some might argue that if I don’t have anything nice to say about the customs and rituals of others, then I should say nothing at all. Some might be correct.

But what fun would that be?

Sometimes the kid is 2 or 3 and the parents orchestrating the perfect theme birthday bash finally notice that the guest of honor is ignoring the production values and has toddled off to a quiet corner to play with an empty box.

Of course, one person’s idea of the end of civilization as we know it is another person’s idea of a lark and happy excuse for a party. And I’m not trying to, for example, ban the Gender Reveal industry because it offends my sensibilities. Although… no. It’s tempting, but no.

I suppose it just seems the focus is askew. Having never attended, I’m clearly a prominent expert, and I say these parties reek of Parent-Zilla. And yet the first thing every mom and dad learns, or should: It isn’t about me. It is never about me, and it never will be about me. I matter, but this newborn is an individual — finding pathways independent of my notions. This is my chance to sit back and watch the beauty of an emerging unique personality.

True, sometimes that concept takes a while to sink in. Sometimes the kid is 2 or 3 and the parents orchestrating the perfect theme birthday bash finally notice that the guest of honor is ignoring the production values and has toddled off to a quiet corner to play with an empty box.

Then again, I’ve flubbed more than my share of parenting decisions, starting in utero and persisting in college. And we have all lived to tell the tale. So despite the celebratory abominations around every corner on the internet, I could learn to, you know, chill. There are worse developments than the Gender Reveal Party, right? Right. So, I’ll leave you to your own misguided devices. Go, enjoy your little trend. No harm, no foul. And bring me back a cupcake.

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Tags: Family, Humor

The views and opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the writer and do not in any way reflect the views of WBUR management or its employees.

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  • Julie L

    Thanks for updating me on what is happening in the world! Who knew!

  • Cjros

    hope for civilization after all, if commentators like Sharon exist!

  • Matt

    This is wonderful. It illustrates the very important point of “It isn’t about me”, while also illustrating the absurd notion of “the all-inclusive engagement/wedding/procreation deal”. Sharon Brody, thank you.

  • N

    Wish I could post this article on Facebook, but then all of my gender-revealing (really sex-for-now revealing) friends would say I was ruining their good time.

    • Johan

      Glad you noted the error. It should be “sex-revealing” as gender isn’t established until well after infancy.

  • JMS

    Hmm. I’m really sure that I wouldn’t want to experience the moment of the big reveal in front of a crowd!

  • Clint Cavanaugh

    Oooooohahahahahahahaha! No.

  • Nicole

    I’m in the older half of this cohort and for about 3 seconds I considered the cake idea, but just for my parents and our then 2 1/2 year old daughter, not a whole crowd! Then I came to my senses, although I’m sure my daughter would have enjoyed any reason for cake. I’m just waiting for the story about the minimum wage, teenage bakery assistant who accidentally mixes up a few gender reveal cakes. Oops, surprise!

    On the other hand, this could open up a whole new field- revealing all sorts of medical information via pastry. I can picture it now. “Gee, Frank, too bad about those biopsies coming back positive, but the cake is sure good.”

    • AP

      I think the cake is cute. I think throwing an entire party around the idea of eating said cake is ridiculous.

      Though I wonder if people are simply using these excessive parties as an excuse to see their friends. My friends won’t come out for drinks, even, and if I can find anything to celebrate that will drag them off their sofas for an hour, I’ll seize it. Arbor Day Beers! Bunker Hill Day Dinner!

  • J__o__h__n

    Why doesn’t WBUR give Sharon a weekly segment on Radio Boston? Bring back the Brody Beat!

  • Johan

    That video makes me want to gouge my eyes out.

  • keltcrusader

    There may be many spellings of Caitlin, but the only pronounciation should be “Catleen”.

  • Alex

    Overdone parenting is most annoying to watch, especially from the smugness of having done a perfect job with my own.

    It’s also such a “first kid” kind of thing–you read “What to Expect when you’re Expecting” cover to cover with the first kid and boil the binky if it is in the same room as a floor it might have dropped on. Kid number 2 and higher–that book is at the bottom of a pile of old newspapers and dropped binkies are wiped on your shirt and re-inserted into the kid’s mouth.

    I’m reminded of the scene in Monty Python’s Meaning of Life with the arrival of a newborn into the comically large catholic family, falling to the floor while Mum is doing dishes, and mum just looks at one of the many children in the room and say, “Oh. Would you get that, Diedre?”

  • Livia

    BARF!

  • neuroscientist1

    AWESOME article. Social media is a platform for narcissism. At 35, I’m the only one I know not on Facebook. Oh, well.

  • Tanya

    Thank God someone said it.

  • gatsby

    I would love to see a baker fill the cake with green (or some other gender-neutral) colored frosting

  • Flo

    I agree with J-o-h-n about a regular spot for Sharon Brody on WBUR.

    Also, from an older person’s point of view, the lack of a “wait and see” attitude on the part of the birth culture today is amazing. Yes, technology has made so much possible, and seeing an embryo develop is amazing and serves a useful medical purpose. Yet other than knowing whether to focus on pink or blue (which are outdated designations I thought) or decorate the nursery–a luxury many families do not even have–what is the poiint of sharing such an intimate moment with the world? Perhaps some of us are intimidated by one-to-one private intimacy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/armando.gespacho Armando Gespacho

    For first time parents we can probably chalk it up to the last vestige of “its all about me” till the little one teaches them otherwise. For established parents this can only be deemed a shameful dereliction of their duty of self-sublimation. There’s also gotta be a HIPPA violation in there somewhere.

  • Old-fashioned

    Thank you, Sharon Brody, for a dose of reality. I am in the identified cohort (and pregnant with my first), and this concept offends my sensibilities. I long for a return of a sense of modesty (social and financial).

  • Fact

    I strongly disagree with Sharon Brody and all of you commentators. For the record I am 26. In addition: no, I do not overshare on facebook (I hardly log on and I don’t have many pictures or videos); no, I have never had a birthday party; no, I have never had a graduation party (I’ve had 5 graduations so far); no, neither did my siblings; and no, I did not grow up privileged and I am still not privileged. But you know what? I think if you have the money and can celebrate these things you should go ahead and do so, and you should find more things to celebrate with large groups of people! I see my sister going out of her way to have birthday parties for my nephew (though she barely has a steady job). My Mom doesn’t get it (she did not have birthday parties as a child). But you know what? I approve!

    If I can ever afford it, I’ll have as many celebrations as I can! If you get an invite to a gender reveal party and you don’t want to go, then don’t go but don’t begrudge folks of their fun. If you can’t stand oversharing, stay off facebook (like I do) but don’t criticize those who want to overshare. As for me, I don’t think I would specifically do a gender reveal party (what if the obstetrician made a mistake? what if you have a late-term miscarriage or still birth). I would prefer to be surprised when giving birth.

    But I say, go ahead and rock on with the gender reveal parties!

  • Ann Silver

    Just glad I’m old fashioned enough to let it be a private moment between me, and the doctor in the delivery room!(Oh, and yes, my husband!)

  • jmlorimer

    To Neurioscientist1 — You have company -I’m not on Facebook either. Or Twitter, or LinkedIn, or Myspace. or any of the other social media sites. I already spend far too much time in front of this computer, and I still want to have some sort of life without technology getting in the way.

  • Frank B.

    Great essay! I would like to meet the guy in that video — and personally demand that he relenquish his man-card.

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