Dear Uncommon Courtesy,
Hiya! I love the website so far! And now I have a question of my own.
I just got my first baby shower invitation (yikes). I am busy that day so I can’t go — but do I still have to send them a present? If it matters, this is an old high school friend who I’m not very close with, and I wasn’t invited to her wedding (which I was totally fine with–I only mention it to illustrate how not-that-close we are and I think it is weird I got this shower invite). Is it a huge faux pas to forgo a gift? If you tell me to, I will get something small from their registry, otherwise my natural inclination is to buy books and give them to her at some vague point in the future, because I buy everyone books.
You are under no obligation to send a gift, though, of course, you can if you wish.
Jaya: Baby shower gifts! I actually just got invited to a baby shower, so this is timely.
Victoria: Nice! Yeah, gifts are totally optional if you can’t go. And for someone not close like this I would totally not send something because…it kind of seems like a gift grab? Showers are tricky, they are really supposed to be just for your super intimate friends, but now we have people inviting all the female wedding guests to them and all kinds of craziness.
Jaya: Absolutely. And yeah, it does seem like a gift grab. It’s probably not intentional, but presumably this mother-to-be knows they are not that close.
Victoria: And usually, I think the hostess will get a list of guests from the mother-to-be?
Jaya: Right. But just inviting everyone you know to every occasion (unless that’s culturally what you do) seems a bit like a ploy for gifts. I don’t know, showers bother me sometimes in general.
Victoria: I don’t mind them so much for babies, but I wish they would fall out of favor for weddings as they are starting to seem redundant with all the crazy gift giving that is starting to happen. Like, why are people giving you TWO (or MORE!) gifts for the same life event?
Jaya: And also, you’d think anyone important and supportive in your life would already know you’re having a baby, and would probably buy you a gift.
Victoria: Yeah, because its kind of like, for the baby!
Jaya: I have no problem with people throwing parties! I love parties! But yeah, to invite everyone you know, who may not have been a part of this baby’s life already, sounds like you’re trying to get more stuff.
Victoria: Weirdly, I have heard a thing that it is bad luck to throw a baby shower before the baby is born.
Jaya: Oh is it bad luck?
Victoria: I have heard that, but it seems like everyone does them before anyway.
Jaya: Problem solved. Don’t send a gift or the spirits will get you.
Victoria: I guess the idea is that birthin’ babies is dangerous and it might die and then you will have all these presents to deal with, but no one wants to think that way!
Jaya: Omg Victoria!!!!!
Victoria: It’s a thing I heard! Not something I believe!!
Jaya: ”Please save the money on buying me a baby bjorn in case I die and you need it to raise my orphan child.”
Victoria: No no, they are afraid the BABY will die.
Victoria: Don’t Indians not give babies names until they are like, 2, because of the same reasons?
Jaya: Yup! Also because they wait until the baby has a personality, so their name will match who they are. But yeah don’t waste the good names if they’re gonna die of malaria by the time they’re 4 anyway.
Victoria: Ooooh, that makes a lot of sense actually.
Jaya: Hi! Ok, back to gifts, and not infant mortality.
Victoria: Yeaaaah, I really like the idea of sending a classic children’s book.
Jaya: For this person, I think it’s totally up to her whether to send a gift. Gifts are always optional no matter what, and especially in this case. And I love the books. Good, gender neutral option.
Victoria: I personally wouldn’t send one, I don’t think. What am I, made of money? No. But maybe if later on they invited me over to come see the baby, I would probably bring something. And then I would squish its little face. Although, I do think if you choose to attend a baby shower, you do need to bring something since the main activity of a shower is gift giving.
Jaya: I always liked the idea in these things of like, giving something not related to a baby. Like how nice would it be, as a new mother, to have someone give you a nice robe and some bath salts and be like “hey, take a night not as a mom.”
Victoria: Remind me to invite you to my shower if I ever have a baby.
Jaya: Also, pregnant ladies of the world, do not invite acquaintances to your baby shower. There is probably a lot of vagina talk and that’s weird.
Victoria: I hear there are games where people put melted candy bars in diapers and you have to guess what candy bar it is. Although, again, there is this whole hyping up of every portion of our lives- baby showers, gender reveal parties, specially colored cakes! Where does the madness end??? (I don’t really object because I love parties, but still!)
Jaya: I also had no idea Baby Registries were a a thing until last year.
Victoria: Yeah, actually, interestingly, while it is not etiquette approved to put registry info on your wedding invite, it is totally okay to put it on shower invitations.
Jaya: Oh interesting. I guess because you’re not inviting people to your birth. The shower is sort of the one event. Unless you want 60 people to see a baby and your bloody vagina. Which…hyped up!
Victoria: OMG that is absolutely going to happen. What a world we live in.
Jaya: I can’t wait to get invited to my first birth. What sort of cardstock do you use for that?
Victoria: Although! It would kind of be more traditional! Because it used to be all the ladies of the village would come help out. Paleo-birthing, it’s gonna be big.