Baby showers grow no flowers

Last February Susanne and I hosted a baby shower for our good friends who, obviously, were having a baby. There are a lot of parties in and around DC, I suppose, on a daily basis, and not just because two and a half million people live there. I think parties of all sorts — showers, cocktail parties, work happy hours, holiday get-togethers, poker nights — are part and parcel of the culture there. It’s something that after living there for more than a decade, I now take for granted. I presume that everyone knows all of the etiquette around hosting, attending, and being made the spotlight of social occasions. And that’s not to say that I think every party is like the parties of DC. I certainly don’t think it’s standard for to see people from the Department of State and Department of Commerce to get into an argument about which of their jobs is more important. Although on the other hand, I suppose that fight happens in some form at many parties no matter where they’re held.

But DCists do have a protocol for these things. If it’s informal, an evite goes out to a few or everyone the host has ever met, so you look down these long, multi-page lists of names and email abbreviations trying to figure out who’s been invited, and it soon starts to look like the streaming green nonsense characters in the Matrix movies. If it’s formal, you’ll get an invitation in the mail — in which case you have no idea who else may be coming, but depending on the event, you can guess. 

The emphasis on knowing who else will be there isn’t to determine whether you yourself should show up, it’s to ascertain the annoyance and idiosyncrasy factor of the event. Will there be a lot of really cool “kids” (and by kids, I mean mid-to-late 30-somethings who still shop at Abercrombie & Fitch) there? If so, bring your Foucault references and general disdain for establishment.* Expect a crowd mainly of the host’s coworkers? Get ready for a support group masquerading as soiree. A bunch of folks from Baltimore? Don’t be surprised if you see people putting ice cubes in their pinot grigio glasses, hon. I don’t know why, it’s just a thing I’ve noticed.

All of these differences, of course, are important because they help you meet the expectations for the event and have fun.

In Walla Walla, it is different. Forget evites — I’ve sent out two so far and only about 25% of the people who come to the event have RSVP’d on the Web. Forget even having a distinct idea of who to invite or who may wind up arriving on one’s doorstep. Instead of the East Coast “it’s my birthday and here’s who I want to see” mentality, it’s more of a “oh, don’t do anything for little ole me” sense. But friends, being who they are by definition, affectionate for their pals, say, “oh no no no, we need to do something, so let’s have a party.” And then each friend runs off to his or her own corner to plan a fete of the grandest proportions. Thus, the more friends one has, the more parties that may be taking place, on the same night, with the same people, same themes, and potentially, same bag of chips.

Again, DC has its own issues. Our baby shower last year, for example, was marked by an older couple — longtime family friends of one of the new parent’s parents — who were spirited, to say the least. The gentleman walked in, asked if we had free long-distance, and when we said we did, asked to use the phone. In fact, he asked Susanne to dial it for him, and then proceeded, during the entire shower, to talk on the phone in an attempt to get Dubai Airlines to hook him up with a cheaper flight to Uzbekistan. His wife, meanwhile, refused to eat anything we’d prepared because apparently she only eats once a day, and only at salad bars, so Ruby Tuesday is kind of a way of life for her. Everyone else, for their parts, seemed to enjoy themselves, despite the occasional holler from the husband, who had made his way upstairs to our bedroom, where he’d sat on the bed to argue with the airline.

In this context, we are again going to a baby shower this weekend. Actually, we’re the site of a baby shower and we’re attending another. For the same person, and for the reasons I listed before — that friends have gone off and made plans without conferring with each other. I’m not sure if we’ll have the kind of personalities one finds out in the east, but we may have a Baby Shower Meets Groundhog Day. Only time will tell.


*Now that Barack Obama has been elected President, these folks have a lot more conversation time on their hands, since there is no evil Bush/Cheney administration to bash. It seems to have been upsetting for them.

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