Ever hear of Gender Parties?
I suppose I’m a little late to the, er, party on this one, but I just heard about this practice the other day. It’s a gathering where expectant parents invite (re: obligate) family and friends to celebrate the announcement of their child’s gender. The twist is that the parents themselves don’t know yet, either. They’ll typically get the results from the doctor in a sealed envelope, deliver it to the baker, then discover the sex of the baby when they cut into the cake and see blue if a boy and pink if a girl (‘natch).
I read up on the practice a bit. I don’t write for the New York Times, so I won’t insult your intelligence by dishonestly inferring that this is some huge trend that’s sweeping the nation. However, it’s been around for a couple years now and there are enough people doing it to warrant my attention. To wit, there are no shortage of videos on YouTube of parents sharing their exaltation with the whole world, because apparently subjecting a captive audience of family and friends to your narcissism simply isn’t enough.
Okay, that’s mean and perhaps a bit unfair. Still, while I don’t know anybody who’s personally done this, I have to ask: is this where we’re headed? I don’t mean gender parties specifically, but what they represent. Why are these videos on YouTube? Is mine a generation where everything someone does has to be treated with blustery fanfare and exposed to the whole world? Why do you think strangers on the internet care what sex your baby is? Aren’t there any moments that are private anymore?
My first reaction is to blame reality television or the internet for giving people the mistaken impression that all aspects of their personal lives should be broadcast to the world and celebrated as a momentous achievement. I wonder, however, if we’re not confusing cause for effect, and if reality television and internet overexposure isn’t a symptom of a greater disease; a culture of entitlement that’s been fostered since the baby boom of the 1950s.
The crime of it all is that stuff like Baby Gender Parties take what should be a tender, memorable moment for the parents and twists it into narcissistic minutae for everybody else. If you’re going to post videos, it should be of the baby itself being adorable and cute and doing unintentionally funny things. That’s why people are there and why people are interested: for the baby itself, not because you made one and to see your reaction as you celebrate your ability to procreate. Worst of all, you get strangers and jerks like me on the internet making fun of you for it.
For these parents, I can only hope that this is not an indication of things to come for the Gender Party Baby. If it is, then I have a message for that baby.
To the Former Gender Party Babies reading this from the future: I am so sorry. I’m sorry for what my generation, and specifically your parents, have done to you, which is to take potentially beautiful moments and fetishized them for their own personal validation and entertainment. There are those of us that, if it were within our power and our right to do so, would have stopped it. But hey, it’s a free country, and people are able to make their own choices when it comes to carrying and raising children. Unfortunately, that means you had to suffer through no shortage of embarrassment and tasks forced upon you so they could be recorded for faux posterity, and you likely developed a complex from parents that were disappointed at your inability to produce a viral video. Well, Former Gender Party Baby, I think you’re just fine. Don’t measure your self-worth by how many eyes on the internet are on you and commenting on your videos. Your accomplishments will be measured by less tangible but more meaningful ways, like by those around you that love you (even if they show it in very weird and self-centered ways). More importantly, though, they will be measured in your own feeling of self-worth, which I hope you are able to foster despite your parents pathologically confusing self-esteem for self-delusion.
Now go forth, Future Gender Baby! Do great things and keep your flip phone in your pocket while you’re doing it. Be better than us. Create memories and great moments, don’t manufacture them.
- Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye…
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