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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