A couple of years ago, gender reveal parties were having a moment. Love them or hate them, they were popping up everywhere, and you could fairly easily separate the fans (the parents-to-be who hosted them) from the foes (everyone else). Back then, the trend had spread like a diaper rash on social media -- I'm not sure that throwing gender reveal parties in an age without social media would have much allure -- and seemingly everyone was weighing in on their absurdity.
Here on Mommyish, editor Maria Guido wrote a post titled 'No One Cares About Your Big Gender Reveal -- Except You,' in which she wrote, "The cake cutting happens and everyone delights when the color of the cake is revealed. Or, they roll their eyes and think, "I can't believe there was a whole separate party for this. Do these people actually think I have endless amounts of free time?" George Packer at the New Yorker penned a biting piece called 'Narcissism in Pink and Blue', and by January 2013, TODAY.com was reporting on the trend of "ultrasound parties," in which technicians roll ultrasound monitors into private homes so that parents-to-be and their friends can all glimpse Baby B or Baby G together, for just a few hundred bucks per hour. (What a bargain!) One technician noted that "gender reveal is probably the bulk of our work," emphasizing the popularity of "real time" gender reveal parties in which parents and guests find out the sex of the unborn baby simultaneously. It's no wonder so many people fell into the "love/hate" camp on this issue, either adoring the parties and the excitement they represent for parents OR abhorring them with a passion usually reserved for obnoxious baby shower games.
But this is in part because those games haven't been replaced by gender reveal parties; rather, they've been enhanced. Most parents don't combine the reveal and the baby shower into one party. They just throw multiple parties. So on top of the fact that guests are supposed to be palpably excited about the reveal, they're also meant to prepare a gift and return at a later date to fête the parents once again. It's a whole lot of partying if you consider how many friends have babies around the same time. And while it's not necessarily a huge strain, and no one is forced to participate (I'm sure most parents would prefer that only people who want to participate do), the problem with reveal parties isn't really rooted in time or money. It's rooted in the fact that the parties are an inherent act of conceit. Despite them being described by many people, even cynics, as fun, it's hard to divorce the self-centered quality that surrounds the stereotypical "pink or blue" celebrations from the joyful element of surprise. For instance, if a group of close friends got together for a picnic at the park, and parents-to-be chose to slice into a special pink or blue cake while everyone just kind of hung out playing Frisbee, that would be a much more low-key and welcome approach. It's the idea that some parents go overboard in their excitement that turns people off from ever wanting to hear the words "gender reveal party" ever again. (And just for the record, I do wish more people called them "sex reveal parties" for politically correct reasons, but let's be real: They don't.)
All of this is to say that since their inception, gender reveal parties have only become more commonplace, and the trend won't be disappearing anytime soon. Consider the now-dated enthusiasm this group of friends had when they first learned what the parties are about:
Now consider the harshness in this Miss Manners reply, from earlier this year:
Miss Manners goes on to express her full opinion, which can be chalked up to these two lines: "Not everyone is as excited as you are about every detail of your child's life, let alone the pre-life. It is best to know this now, before you start going on social media announcing the baby's first spit-up or throwing parties for when he or she sleeps through the night." In other words, Miss Manners rips the entire concept of a gender reveal party apart with her bare hands. She seems to share a similar view to this woman, who left this note on the STFU, Parents Facebook page in late May:
It doesn't get more straightforward than that, folks. Let's check out some examples of the ways our gender reveal obsessions have gone from fab to drab over the course of just a few years. If you're ever wondering whether to make a dramatic display of your baby's sex reveal on social media -- or especially in party form -- allow these pointers to help guide the way.
1. Just A Casual Get-Together
Jennie is preparing to Pinterest the fuck out of her adorable "Mustache or Sash?" party (cue vomiting sound effects), which is merely a relaxed gathering of her closest 212 Facebook friends. For the 200 or so people wondering, no, this party will not trump nor replace Jennie's wildly thrilling baby shower, which will take place at a future date. This just a fun get together for food and conversation and sex revealing. Do NOT leave your squeals -- or your cell phones -- at home. You're going to want to Facebook alllllll about this, friends.
2. Guess! NO GUESS! KEEP GUESSING!
Nothing is more comically irritating than a "sex reveal teaser" on social media. I honestly don't know what I would even say to a friend who knew the sex of her baby yet refused to tell anyone for several days to "build suspense." Parents: LISTEN UP! The surprise is for you. YOU are the ones who are surprised, along with your parents and your grandparents. No one else is really that invested or surprised because the odds are one in two. It's a boy, or it's a girl. If you find out you're having a Velociraptor or a Silurian, you can drag that out for a few days. Otherwise, just tell people or don't. Baiting is only fun when a real reward is involved. (i.e. If everyone who guesses correctly wins a case of wine, then you've got my attention.)
3. Gender Reveal Videos
Gender reveal videos are soooo hot right now, which is both good and bad. The bad news is, you often have to watch the entire video to discover the result. The good news is, the videos are usually montages of sappy shots of mom and dad staring into each other's eyes, and they're entertaining in the corniest ways imaginable. Take the above example -- here is the full video. Go watch it and tell me you didn't come away feeling somehow superior to these two lovebirds simply because you haven't made a video this cheesy and actually encouraged your friends to watch it. Sure, the mom has great hair and she and her husband are adorable, but really? Who wants this footage in their digital history? When new civilizations unearth the hundreds of thousands of "gender reveal" videos on YouTube many years in the future, they'll probably laugh at the embarrassing level of self-indulgence and turn the videos into a drinking game. Assuming drinking games still exist then, but with a plethora of material like this, how could they not?
4. Gender Reveal Disappointment
Here's the problem: When someone makes a big deal out of announcing the sex of their unborn baby, and tells her entire social network to "watch this space" for more information, the big reveal shouldn't make people feel badly. It shouldn't be an event for sadness. If you're not prepared to be excited about having a healthy baby, regardless of the baby's sex, then don't tell everyone to pay close attention. They'll come to regret that decision pretty fast.
5. Name Reveal Parties Are Our Future
In case you've been wondering what comes next after the excitement for gender reveal parties dies down (if it ever does), well, wonder no more! Name reveal parties are definitely it. The person who submitted this example says, "A few weeks ago they had a gender reveal party where they put blue confetti in a wet-dry vac and blew the confetti everywhere. I haven't seen this girl in about 5-6 years and yet I know everything about Baby Luke."
Still unconvinced that name reveal parties are the next big thing? Check out this wall update from the STFU, Parents Facebook page, posted earlier this week by a reader:
There is nothing more important than the expression "Master Douche Level unlocked." Not an unborn baby's sex, not the latest flavor of Doritos, nothing. Sheryl has taught me so much with this comment that all I feel is immensely grateful. And worried. And excited. Name reveal party drama is surely on the horizon, and I can't wait to see what transpires.