Only YOU Can Prevent Gender Reveal Parties

“Something as seemingly innocent as a gender reveal can turn into a large-scale disaster where homes are threatened,” Fire Rescue Chief Mark Schollmeyer said in April 2020 of a theme party in Florida that resulted in ten acres being burned to the ground. (Not to be confused with the El Dorado Fire later that year which celebrated the same theme by burning down 22,744 acres.)

But Chief Schollmeyer’s assessment is dead wrong: There is nothing innocent about a gender-reveal party.

I had assumed — wrongly, it appears — that in this current time of a pox on our houses, the tone-deaf celebration of the gender binary would have gone obsolete. Especially the ones with explosives, seeing that the Three Wise Men were not bearing gold, frankincense, and gun powder. But plainly the horror continues as evidenced by this willingness to use accelerants and firearms to herald the detection of tiny genitals on an ultrasound.

So if, like me, you’re getting bored with passing judgement on standard reckless behavior during the pandemic (i.e. no vaccinations, no masks), I encourage you to focus your rage on this other stubborn pestilence. Join me (though keep a safe distance, eh?) in ghosting these flaming occasions. If you should find yourself invited to such a fraudulent fête, make like a credit-card reader and decline, decline, decline. When you receive an invitation that starts with, Please join Lilly, Ryan, and Baby ???? for our GENDER REVEAL PARTY!!!, don’t even dignify it with an RSVP.

To be fair, most hosts do the big reveal using food instead of explosives. (Though be prepared for decorating themes centered on pulsing ultrasound videos, and PowerPoint slides displaying amnio results.) The invitation will likely hint that there will be “birthday” cake or creative snacks along the lines of gingerbread “people,” or a round loaf of rainbow bread meant to look like the mother’s swollen abdomen. Temporary tattoos and cardboard mustaches and lips on sticks will add to the hilarity. I am not making these things up. In declining such an invitation, you only need invoke dietary restrictions, for instance, how you are not currently eating anything in pink or blue.

It doesn’t matter how uncomfortable you are turning down the invite, because the hosts don’t care if you’re uncomfortable with the “games” they have planned. While I’ve always felt that imposing games on guests is autocratic even in the most nondescript of gatherings, GR party games are especially despicable. The most typical (and appalling) of these is “Might It Be…?” in which guests have to suggest what are presumed to be androgynous names (i.e. “Might it be…Lee? Alex? Terry?”). The fun here is trying to determine if the prospective baby is one of the two genders the hosts are familiar with. Participants are encouraged to construct long-strings of gender-nonspecific names while working themselves into coughing-fit-inducing laughter. You don’t want to put yourself through that.

Being fundamentally superstitious, I am uneasy celebrating that which hasn’t actually happened yet, like the birth of a baby. (Probably even a marriage shouldn’t be celebrated until it’s had some time to jell.) Lots can still go wrong in a pregnancy: a rocky third trimester; gestational diabetes resulting in a baby so gigantic that its gender will seem trivial, and the most ironic of all, a baby born with undescended testicles.

No, you are not obliged to attend a party where the underlying theme is presumption, tone-deafness, and willful lack of awareness. I’d prefer instead realistic party themes like “Guess Which One of Us Will Be Seeing The Child On Weekends?” or “We’ve Given Up Trying, Though We Still Have Intermittent Relations (esp. in a Leap Year).”

When I first heard the term Gender Reveal Party, I actually thought it was a way that parents celebrated their child’s transition. It struck me as an awkward mode of support, if well-intentioned. But clumsy or not, if that had been the tradition, such a party would have been miles more judicious than what the GR party really celebrates, which is not what should be celebrated, such as that the baby appears to be healthy (or that it is wanted or that its paternity is no longer in question).

Instead it heralds the arrival of a categorically male or female baby, as if that sums up in advance the contents of its character.

And it can be bad — very bad — for the environment.

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Piet Marino

Piet Marino

Author of very funny YA fiction. So he says.