A Deluge Of Showers
by Clark L. and Kathryn H. Kidd
For as long as we’ve been writing about ward activities for Meridian, nothing we’ve written has touched such a nerve as the subject of bridal and baby showers. People have a love-hate relationship with them. Some people can’t get enough showers, others want them banned, and most people are right in the middle. But it seems that everyone has a pet peeve about showers or a suggestion as to how showers can be improved, or an experience where feelings were hurt, and many of you wrote to tell us so. Other than a few readers who suggested slow, torturous ways we should die (preferably soon), most of you who wrote had something interesting that could benefit shower-givers and shower recipients alike. If you think you may find yourself on the giving end of a shower (or hope you will soon be on the receiving end of one), here is what they had to say:
Pet Peeves about Showers
Bishop Joseph Scott of North Carolina wrote with a situation we’d never encountered. “The sisters in my ward are bent and determined to have showers on the Sabbath,” he wrote. “My wife is forever going to them on a Sunday afternoon. She said that she would hurt people’s feelings if she didn’t attend. I told her that she could give them the gift on another day and tell them why she didn’t attend – it was Sunday! I wish you would write another amendment to this article and say, ‘KEEP THE SABBATH DAY HOLY. NO WEDDING OR BABY SHOWERS, PLEASE!'”
An anonymous reader wrote that in her area, people who attend showers are expected to give more than one gift to the lucky bride. “We are not only expected to attend a shower, or even two of them, but we also are expected to take a gift to the wedding as well,” she wrote. “Why the double hit?” She added that in her area it is the trend to have a “shower open house,” where people come at their leisure, drop off a gift, and may never even visit with the prospective bride or expectant mother. This was just another indication, she added, that the brides and new mothers are more interested in the loot than they are in the celebration.
Several readers commented that sexual innuendos are out of place at an LDS shower. Gail Wasden of Petaluma, CA, said, “Don’t give saucy undies to a temple bride. This should be a no-brainer,” but it isn’t. In some areas of the country, a bridal shower means at least one gift of underwear that does not come from Beehive Clothing Mills. Ladies, if people who have been through the temple want to wear racy underwear, let them make the decision. Don’t choose for them.
A reader from Idaho Falls, ID, concurred. “I was hoping you would mention how inappropriate games with sexual innuendos are at events sponsored by LDS people,” she wrote. “My two older daughters attended college in Utah, and the showers they were given had terrible, embarrassing, sexually based games. All the older women seemed to think it was just cute, but I was terribly offended they would make my sweet, temple-worthy daughter the focus of such an event. Somehow, the situation seems so wrong.”
Not all the questionable entertainment is sexually related. Marjean Livingston from St. Louis gave us some shocking stories about baby showers. She went to a shower where “we played some horrible games. The first consisted of melting assorted chocolate bars into disposable diapers, and then passing them around so people could guess what the chocolate bars were.”
“You can add this to the list,” she continued. “We don’t need to smell or taste baby food or wear tiny diapers with yellow in them as name tags. All of this is crass and revolting and beneath the dignity of any woman. Just my humble opinion.” Ours too, Marjean. Ours, too.
Suggestions for Showers
Kathleen Rose wrote with an excellent idea to help people give shower gifts they can afford, without getting over their heads. “Often in our area the invitation will include who is collecting for the group gift,” she wrote. “That is the individual to whom you can take what ever money you feel you can afford.” The key to the success of the group gift is that the card lists all the givers in alphabetical order without indicating who gave what amount. “We all have times that are difficult,” she added. “In our ward we try to be especially sensitive because there are some who are not as blessed as most of us. We love them and want them to feel included.”
Sister Rose also talked about something that never would have occurred to us – “showers” given for men. “We have only boys in our family,” she wrote, “so when the friends of our oldest son began to marry we began giving what we call a Tool Party. We print up our own invitations and in the beginning we included a list of suggestions from the groom of tools, camping gear, or games that he would like. We really play up the guy thing: We eat on picnic ware, usually red and white check. We have a special meat chili and all the toppings. Men have told us many times that they wished something like this had been done for them as the groom, because they would have felt included in the wedding festivities. The dads of both the bride and groom seem to feel it is the only time they ever get to share in the celebration.”
Sandee Spencer of Longwood, Florida writes, “I totally agree that showers can get out of hand, but despite that I have one more idea for a shower. Sometimes a sister leaving on a mission could use some financial support. It’s a huge surprise to many LDS families how much expenditure is required just to get their child out the door. Many of us give cash to help missionaries on their way but it might be more fun to have a shower. There is a long list of needed items many of which would be great shower gifts. People could give her an umbrella, a small hymn book, stockings or other articles of clothing, a backpack, or other necessary items.”
Here is yet another idea for a shower. A Meridian reader wrote, “My daughter-in-law is having her third baby. Her neighbors had a baby shower for her like they do for all the mothers-to-be in the neighborhood. Since it was her third child the ‘shower’ was a chance to get out for an evening and have a nice (potluck) dinner. The only presents she received were diapers for the new baby. My daughter-in-law said they just all enjoy getting together every so often and this is a fun reason. The key here being this group of young mothers want to get together and don’t feel obligated to contribute anything in the way of a gift.”
Cherie Griffith of Salem, OR, wrote that a great shower alternative for people who don’t need gifts is to have a different kind of party. She and her visiting teaching companion organized a “Ladies’ Pool-side Social – A Celebration of Womanhood and Motherhood” in honor of a friend who was expecting her ninth child. The social featured a potluck dessert extravaganza, along with games that had fabulous prizes. (Note from the Kidds: Always remember those fabulous prizes!) She wrote, “The one gift that our honoree will receive is a special guest book that will be written in and signed by those attending the social and by others who wish to write something to her or her child to be to reflected on later. This idea can be re-worked for some other celebrations if desired; all it takes is a little imagination, and creativity.”
Lorraine Brinkerhoff wrote to say that sometimes it is appropriate to have showers for women who have had several children. This is in the case of a mother who has had a long break between babies. “I speak from experience,” she said. “My three year old was born two months before his youngest older brother turned twelve. Believe me, except for a few things I saved for sentimental reasons, the baby gear was long gone. I wished I had gone to my Relief Society president and asked for help! You definitely have to look at each circumstance before the decision is made whether a shower is appropriate or not. I agree that the bishop’s wife and the Relief Society president should not give the showers, but they certainly can guide the appropriate people to give the shower.”
How Not to Hurt Feelings with Showers
Although showers are meant to surround the recipient with love as well as with gifts, it is easy to hurt the feelings of others who have not been similarly blessed. A reader who asked that her name not be used wrote a poignant letter that talked about how, when she was eight months pregnant with her third child, was asked to throw a joint shower for two other pregnant women. One of these women was having her second child, and one was having her third. Although the reader had not expected to have a shower for her third child, it was devastating for her to be asked to give a shower for other women who were in her same situation, and then not be given any recognition whatsoever when her own child was born. “My feelings were terribly hurt,” she wrote. “I wish I could say that they weren’t. I realize I still have hurt feelings over this and need to forgive. I’m working on that.
“My feelings are that showers for first babies and first weddings are great, and I hope everyone could experience them,” she continued. “Beyond that, if we want to acknowledge a second marriage or birth of additional children it should be done on an individual basis. We really do set a precedent when we start making exceptions. It’s just not worth risking hurt feelings.”
Grace from eastern West Virginia, who has lived in seven states and multiple wards, said that in her experience showers “tend to segregate women.” Those who have a knack at picking “the perfect gift” are elevated above those who either don’t have the time, the money, or the knack for it. “I’ve watched many a sister who isn’t in that elite circle have her gift belittled in one or more ways. It’s not that the gift itself was bad, or wrong. It just isn’t the cutest, the most fashionable, or the latest trendy thing. It certainly can’t be, given the social status of the person who gave it.
“Please don’t try to tell me this doesn’t happen in the Church,” she wrote. “I’ve been a member far too many years and been to far too many showers. I routinely avoid attending showers of any kind. If I attend, I make sure that the non-elite knew that I really appreciated their gifts. I especially thank the ones who gave the practical gifts, like a large volume of disposable diapers (my personal favorite, whether as a giver or a receiver). These kinds of gifts get used gratefully once the glamour and the excitement die down, but usually don’t engender much gratitude at the party.”
“Showers are also very fleeting moments,” she wrote. “True love and support of these women comes daily, as the newlywed is encouraged after the ‘honeymoon period’ is over, or after the baby comes and the day-to-day events wear down the strength and resistance of even the most capable mother. I fear that for those who really need our support the most, showers are more hurtful in the long run, because that moment of glory is just that: a moment. The love they felt has too brief of a lifespan.“
Grace’s advice is to “skip the showers. Give privately, give freely, give regularly the kinds of things that the woman truly needs. Give service, yes, but give the kind of service that is truly needed, not the kind that meets your own needs more than the person you’re trying to serve.” A “service shower” only works, she concluded, if the giver can clean bathrooms without making a judgment about how dirty they are, and the receiver is able to accept that type of service.
If you are thinking of giving a shower, please take all these suggestions to heart. Showers are supposed to be celebrations of joy, but they should never be given at the expense of others. Before you have a shower for one woman in your ward, ask which women in your ward have been in similar circumstances without being acknowledged. Before you ask people to give a gift that many may not be able to afford, try to think of ways gifts can be given without costing a lot of money. Remember, always, that the feelings of the guests as well as the recipient of the shower should your be your primary consideration. If you can celebrate in a way that everyone’s heart is glad, the shower will be of infinite more value than a simple means of collecting gifts for the guest of honor.