Let’s not play games.

A friend of mine, a lovely woman, is having a baby soon.  (Really soon.  We compared notes yesterday on how significant it really is, driving-to-the-hospital-wise, when you can’t shake the feeling that the baby is not so much getting into position as trying to make a break for it)  And I’m throwing her a shower.

Her personality blooms at the crossroads of thrift, elegance, quirkiness and artistry, so although the party would be small, I wanted it to be special.  A gazebo by the river was reserved; mini quiches were baked.  Food, drink, music, and decorations were all in place.  The only thing left to arrange was the games.

I know, I know.  Why do we have to play games?  I remember all too clearly the childhood humiliation of being forced to run around and do stupid stunts (they called it phys. ed.; I called it hell) — and I’ve been to a few adult parties, too, where games are enforced.  There I’d be, finally wearing something that hadn’t been peed on, finally able to sit down without an outraged howl of “Hey, dat MY chair!” ; finally able to put down my glass of wine where I can reach it, instead of where minors can’t — in short, finally able to act like an adult.

And then someone leaps out shrieking, “Okay, everybody, let’s SIT ON BALLOONS!”   No one listens to my protests that I’m fine, I’m having fun, I’m having a lovely time — I’m drinking, aren’t I?  But they insist that I get up right now and start passing lemons around with my chin.  Some party.

Nevertheless, when planning a party of my own, I was haunted by the fear that a group of intelligent, friendly women, well-supplied with snacks, shade, and a very obvious topic of conversation, would somehow fall silent after the first three minutes and just sit there, gazing unhappily at their laps.  They would silently cursing me in their hearts because I hadn’t filled a baby bottle with jelly beans for them to estimate.  Maybe the mother-to-be would think I secretly hated her, and had deliberately stolen two  of her precious, pre-birth hours when she could have been spending that time doing something pleasant and fulfilling, like scrubbing grout.  Or maybe some of the guests would swear off childbearing altogether, thinking that the misery and dullness of this awful, awful party foreshadowed the tedium of motherhood itself, and then I personally would be responsible for a significant decline in the ability of western culture to sustain its own population.

Yeah, I’m not really the sociable type.

Well, I figured that maybe things would go well, and maybe they wouldn’t.  If they didn’t, I had better have a few games on hand.  So I turned to Google, and started to search.

Pregnancy does strange things to people.  Having had eight children in the last twelve years, I know this better than anyone (except, possibly, for my husband, who has put himself into the Pregnancy Witness Protection Program.  With this valuable service, any father can, for his own emotional protection, undergo cauterization of certain cerebral areas involved with traumatic memories).  I’ve gotten up in the middle of the night to eat an entire can of lemonade powder, one spitty fingerful at a time.  I’ve gotten into screaming arguments with strangers in the middle of a four-lane intersection because when he puts his truck right there, I can’t see around him, and I can’t tell if I can cross the street or not.  I’ve broken into tears while reading that well-known tragedy, Mouse Tales (it was that moving passage in which the Old Mouse’s pants fall down, and his own wife wouldn’t help him, but only gave him a hit on the head with a rolling pin.  It gets me every time).

Pregnancy makes you crazy.  It’s just the awful truth, and the only good news is no one will tease you about it, because they are all afraid you will sit on them.

But new to me was the idea that pregnancy could make other people this crazy.  I read on and on, spellbound with horror, imagining what hideous mob of feeble minded harpies could enjoy such barbaric rituals,  disguised by the innocuous name of “baby shower games.”

Some of them weren’t so much horrible, as terminally lame.  They had no entertainment value at all, unpleasant or otherwise — they were just little time killers dressed up with a theme of pacifiers or alphabet blocks.

Some of them were designed, for reasons I am fearful to contemplate, to humiliate the pregnant woman.  For instance, you can’t really consider it a shower, the websites implied — you could hardly feel certain that the woman was pregnant at all, really — unless the guests had to guess the circumference of the guest of honor.

Now, call me old-fashioned, but me no likey.  By the time the shower rolls around, most mothers-to-be are very close to spherical themselves.  They feel like there is just no end to them, and they don’t want to be reminded of this fact.  It doesn’t have anything to do with a sexually damaged culture of death which doesn’t recognize the beauty of a pregnant form, blah blah blah.  It’s just that, when sitting on the toilet has become a major feat of engineering, the whole, “Ho ho, you are HUGE!” thing loses some of its humorous edge.

There was one game that I felt ought to be flagged in some way, or possibly passed on to the local law enforcement’s tip line:  you take a bunch of those miniature plastic babies, and you freeze them.  In ice cubes.  I guess this kind of thing seems normal enough if you’ve spent any time near a fertility clinic lately, but to the rest of us, I would think the sight of those little ones suspended in ice would make me feel sad, even panicked.  Yes, I know they’re just plastic, but still! I guess the maternal instinct has been sufficiently shouted down so that little newborn-cubes seems like a cute gimmick.  And what do you do with the poor little ones?  Drop them in your drink, of course!  And whosever baby thaws the fastest, wins.  Wins a heart, I hope.

I’m not proud to admit that I have been known to sneak around at social events, stealing other people’s drinks.  I’ve given up that kind of thing, but on this one occasion, I think I would be justified.  I’d lose a lot of friends, but I would have rescued all those poor plastic babies, anyway, and I wouldn’t be sorry.

Speaking of sorry:   Before the fad is over and people wake up, shaking their heads as if to clear a disturbing dream, it’s likely you will come across a new game that’s wowing all the ladies this year.  So arrange now for an “emergency call” from your “babysitter,” and you will be able to leave in a hurry if you’re at a shower and someone says, “Hey, let’s play the candy bar game!”

What could be so bad about candy bars?  Well, howzabout we take a nice selection of them, melt them down until they’re gooey and shapeless, and slap each one into a diaper.   Yes, pooplike.  Then we pass them around . . . at a party, let’s not forget . . .and we poke them into each guest’s face, and we say, “Smell!”  The idea is to see how many types of candy bar  you can identify without their wrappers.

But . . . but —

Well, if you can’t see what’s wrong with this game, and I can, then I guess I’m feeling better about my social skills after all.

One final travesty cleverly disguised as pleasant entertainment:  the teddy bear game.  Picture, if you will, the puzzled giggles that ensue while you tell the guests, “Teddy bear wants a kiss!  Go ahead, pass him around and give him a kiss!  Wherever you want, but you have to kiss him somewhere!”  And then, once everyone has kissed the bear, you explain what it’s all for:  you have to kiss the guest of honor . . . on the same place that you kissed the teddy bear.

An alert guest would smell a rat, I think, and kiss that damn bear on the cheek or the paw.  But woe to anyone who got cute and headed below the waist.  It’s not just that this could be embarrassing for everyone involved:  it could be downright deadly.  I don’t know about you, but when I’m in my third trimester, the only thing larger than my belly is the envelope of gas that follows me around.  Wowee!

Well, maybe I’m not the ideal one to throw a shower.  All of my ideas seem to center around finding some comfortable chairs, and making sure there will be enough juice boxes to keep the kids from annoying us.  But I know one thing for sure:  anyone who shoves a used diaper in my face and tells me to smell it is going to get a spanking.  And not in the fun party way, either.

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25 comments

  1. I am with you on these games, Simcha, and all the attendant expectations. I have thrown a few whopper dinner parties in my life, and they can be wonderful, but more recently our parties depend on the most basic foods and enough chairs. And still they come. My insouciance offends my sophisticated daughters, which is why they are in charge of their own parties. And what marvels they produce! But reading “Let’s Not Play Games” makes me nostalgic for the days when sticking a bunch of spoons into a communal jar of Nutella was a great party! (Okay, now, for the sake of hygiene, an awareness that came only with motherhood, I might serve individual jars, but you get my point.)

  2. Oh Simcha, it’s all so true. I habitually dread baby showers, and begged and pleaded for no games at mine. Thank God for true friends. There were no games, and we actually got to talk and not _only_ about babies! If I’d been able to drink some alcohol alongside it would have been bliss. My Austrian husband was so shocked that games could be expected – let alone that baby showers existed – that he googled ‘baby shower’ etiquette at one point. You can find some veeery interesting – er – opinions on a lot of points with that particular search term.

  3. I’m also anti shower game. I was thankful when, during my recent baby shower, we had craft time where everyone made felt food for my baby. It was fun and I left with a bag full of cute, handmade toys.

  4. So true, so hillarious!

    Btw…I’m new here. I got your link from Jennifer’s 7 Takes, and I have to say your writing has had me and my husband in stitches for the past two days!

  5. Renee introduced me to this blog and this post since we share a deep and abiding hatred of such games. While I have no children, I have been to a number of showers and while reading this all I could do was laugh to almost crying at the the descriptions and various forms of torture, which some choose to call games. While your post is specific to showers, I would apply it to any party of any kind anywhere where people turn to games instead of relating like adults.

  6. Thanks for the baby-jostling bely laughs, and for the lovely, serene, mature, and tasty snack-filled shower.
    Where can I find info about the PWPP? Andrew would like to sign up.

  7. Agreed!

    And what happens if someone’s “ice ice baby” (sorry, I had to do it!) melts more quickly than they realize and they take a quick swig and swallow the baby!?!? You’d have to do the Heimlich and a little baby would come flying out? Ew.

  8. Yay! Simcha’s back!! Just as all the other blogs seemed to be getting boring.

    I have been to a shower where they did the poop / candy bar thing. I haven’t been the same since. Now I’m even more of a snob.

  9. I hope it’s okay to tell stories that are only tangentially related. Once upon a time, there was a pretty cool boss lady who my husband used to work for, and she threw a baby shower for a lady who worked for her and I was invited. It wasn’t a bad shower, except that one person there was the biggest brown noser in the entire world. And I think I really mean the entire world. But even that wasn’t so bad because the boss lady was very seldom aware of her and it’s funny to watch someone tucking their nose in and getting nothing in return.

    So we were playing the horrid “guess-how-fat-the-preggo-is” game with pieces of yarn, when a couple of other women and I witnessed the brown noser surreptitiously measure her piece of yarn against the boss lady’s and cut it accordingly. Then we watched her interrupt the conversation the boss lady was having with someone to “measure” their strings and laugh in a false, conspiratorial way at the “coincidence” while the boss lady smiled bewilderedly. I consider it one more level of stupidity that game provides.

  10. I also came over from Conversion Diary and am so glad to have found you! Wedding games are equally bad. The worst (well, the worst that’s printable) I’ve heard of was the mother of the bride requiring guests to sing songs to the bride and groom. Said songs must have the word “love” in them. When the guests sang the word “love” the bride and groom kissed. Our friends chose to sing the Oscar Meyer Weiner song, which I believe the mother of the bride fully deserved.

  11. My funny sister Jessica was making me laugh towards the end of her last pregnancy by telling me how little she likes being weighed at the doctor’s, and how next time she just might just make a run for it. We envisioned a large pregnant woman stampeding about the hallways, chased and finally brought down by a team of nurses armed with tranquilizers.
    I now think this could also be used as a shower game.
    This same sister also recounted to me in horror how she, a Mayonaise Hater, was forced out of politeness at a baby shower to eat a sandwich composed [in her estimation] of four cups of mayonaise and a half a teaspoon of chopped ham.
    I think this could also become a shower game.

  12. I am getting ready for a baby shower next week (my 8th in 12 years as well!), but thankfully the women throwing it for me are NOT into these sorts of games.

    blech.

    If anyone tried to guess my waist size at this moment, I’d have to hit them. Seriously.

  13. Your social skills are right on, Simcha. Have no fear. All was very lovely and delicious. Thank you for nixing the awful games. Making a baby out of playdough was perfect.

  14. Eeek! The only thing worse than baby shower games is bachelorette party games. I am so glad no one tried to introduce games to my baby shower. I’d have kicked them all out of the house. My idea of a good party is there being enough fruit salad and petit fours and not having to make awkward conversation with the only person in the room more socially awkward than I am.

  15. First time visitor at Jen’s suggestion. THANK YOU for giving me my best laugh of the day. One of the many great things about turning 60 (I never thought there’d be so many but there are!), is that I can declare out loud that I’m happy to attend the shower if there are no games.

    After years of measuring pregnant moms’ bellies, picking up cotton balls with a spoon while blindfolded etc. I finally decided enough is enough. Surprisingly, the last few wedding & baby showers I’ve been to, the lovely practice of the honoree asking the assembled guests what would their advice be for a newlywed or new mother has caught on & made the whole afternoon rather wonderful.

    We just go around in a circle & everyone shares a bit of hard-won wisdom. We learn something new usually about people we’ve known for many years & maybe the guest of honor learns something too, who knows? AAR, it sure beats the heck outta kissing the teddy bear or smelling the candy bar…did you make those games up???????

  16. I like the “share your wisdom” idea. You could do it while quilting a baby quilt, which is what my aunts set up when hosting a shower.

  17. I LIKE baby shower games, and maybe that’s because our family doesn’t do embarassing ones like the “kiss the teddy bear” thing.

    We tend towards the Baby Bingo (mark the square marked “bottle” when she gets one) or Taste the Baby Food (with the labels concealed) and Guess the Flavor, or the Kim game with twenty baby things on a platter.

    We play some wedding shower games, too, but they are also simple and innocent: making wedding dresses out of toilet paper, guessing romantic pairs’ names in movies and literature, giving points for what’s in your purse (2 points for a comb, 1 extra point for every missing tooth)….

    I like the continuation of the traditions that existed during my childhood, and my aunts’ childhoods, etc.

  18. I just arrived via Jen and laughed so hard that my 13month nephew came over to check on me — I think that he thought that I was crying or having some sort of fit. Thank you thank you. Hoooo good way to start the day!

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