Gender Reveals: An Addiction To Being Important

Stop celebrating these couples, right f*cking now.

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Photo by Amy Shamblen on Unsplash

We make our own hells, don’t we? Human beings decide what matters, and what doesn’t. I don’t see many screech owls or rainbow trout demanding presents and cake on the day of their birth. We invented celebration, and we also invented the reasons for it. And at some point in human time, we decided that after childhood, most of the celebrations were going to belong to couples. We decided to minimize everything else a person can do, and completely ignore the fact that divorce is a thing, by making couplehood the ultimate reason to gather, make a speech, and raise a glass. We told couples they were worth celebrating. We created the beast. It is hungry.

Engagement parties, bachelor/bachelorette parties (sorry, weekends), bridal showers, weddings—which are now also full weekends—anniversary parties, baby showers. That’s a lot of goddamned celebrating centered around the fact that two people decided to continue to have sex with other. I mean honestly that’s what’s happening. Take away the sex and you’re basically celebrating two people who split rent.

We told couples that their continuation of couplehood, with the addition of jewelry, was more important than anything else you could possibly celebrate. New jobs aren’t celebrated like this. There aren’t hand-lettered invitations and blocks of hotel rooms reserved when someone buys property. Graduations are celebrated with a special dinner and maybe balloons. Nothing even comes remotely close to the scale, expense, and reverence we give to couples who are celebrating their couplehood. And we keep them coming, one after the other, often for years at a time. I call it The Zone Of Mattering More, it lasts from the moment a couple gets engaged until their last child is born. With top-ups once every five years for significant anniversaries.

I think we created an addiction. I think couples are addicted to the attention, to being centered, and to the importance we place upon them by continually throwing celebratory gatherings in their honor. As evidenced by the fact that we keep creating new reasons to keep centering them.

One thing has always frightened me about weddings. (It is, ironically, not being lifted up in a chair by four inebriated members of my own family that I wouldn’t trust to keep me airborne stone cold sober.) It’s the come-down. I’ve had some nasty hangovers in my life, but what is it like to wake up the morning after you’ve been the center of attention for a year or more and realize that all you are is like…married? You’re a person again, just like the rest of us, worthy of love certainly, but no longer a bride or groom, no longer the “special one.” What is that even like?

I think it must be crushing. I think it must be a massive goddamned void. Because if it wasn’t, couples would be content to just…be couples, to live in comfortable companionship and love. They would be satiated by being the “special one” to one person, their person, for as long as their relationship lasts. But they’re not, and I can prove it. So can California.

Gender reveals are the most recent and perhaps gross example of the beast needing to be fed. Something that used to happen (or not happen) while a woman was lying on a table with a sonogram wand on her belly has been turned into yet another small-to-extravagant range of celebrations bestowed upon couples. We are really, really good at taking things that used to happen in private and turning them into things that now happen on Instagram, and I hate us. It’s not enough that we celebrate a couple bringing life into this world. (Which by the way I think is a miracle and if you want to celebrate that with a wedding-level party instead of a circus animal-themed shower, do it. Honestly, why don’t we? Why don’t we celebrate actual new life the same way we celebrate deciding to continue old sex?) Now, we also have to gather, dress up, and cheer for you when you reveal the baby’s gender. First of all, that’s so fucking weird.

There are far better sources for educating yourself on how our relationship with gender is bullshit so I won’t make any kind of inevitably less-eloquent argument here, but I will say, as someone firmly of the “girls mature faster than boys” generation, fuck gender reveals. They are the most blatant and quite frankly insulting invention of a thing to celebrate I have ever seen. They perpetuate ancient narratives and place a disgusting amount of importance on something that a) is just a normal part of life and b) is subject to change. Now that I think about it, gender reveals are a lot like weddings….hmph.

Couples, you don’t need this. You’re certainly not entitled to it but your behavior indicates that you think you are so I’ll appeal to another side of you, perhaps a softer one. You are important, you will always be important. Even if there isn’t an invitation stuck to people’s refrigerators around the country, you’re still significant. You don’t need to invent a reason to spend money and ask people to gather for you in order to feel that way. Look around at your life, at your home, at your family. Know that even if a celebration doesn’t exist, that doesn’t mean you aren’t worth one, and I genuinely hope you believe that. Celebrate inside your own heart, is what I’m saying, because the rest of us are sick of this shit, and y’all can’t be trusted.

If you want to learn how to move through adult life without being celebrated, and still manage to…you know, like your life, talk to a single person! We’re never celebrated! No one gives two hoots about what single people do, and yet here we are, getting promotions, buying homes, taking trips, assembling Ikea furniture alone, and nobody’s lighting off fireworks for us. (Thank goodness, if anything needs to be cancelled in 2020 it’s fucking fireworks.)

We’ve found a way to exist without craving being the center. We throw our own birthday parties, do you understand that? There’s nothing wrong with not being the “special one,” if you find a way to acknowledge your specialness for yourself. Because it’s there, and it’s a real thing, and the kind of celebration that comes from inside of you will always be more lasting of a feeling than the kind that comes from other people. It is possible for me to be both cheesy and right at the same time.

They just keep happening. The celebrations, the inventions of new celebrations, people will apparently order a balloon arch for anything. And what I find so dangerous is that when new celebrations pertain to couples, they catch on. I see a fraction of the Singleversairies I’d like to see. Somehow divorce parties aren’t as lauded as they should be—hello, something that needed to end has ended and someone can move forward freely though life, pop a bottle. I think the ways we celebrate couplehood have become delusional. Apparently, dangerously so. I want them to stop, and while thinking that something I write might help them stop is probably delusional too, I still have to try, because I get scared thinking of the things they’ll find to celebrate next.

It’s enough. We celebrate couples enough. We celebrate them too much but maybe “enough” is easier to hear and more likely to inspire action (or in this case, inaction), than me telling the damned truth which is: couples aren’t that important. They haven’t really done anything. They’ve found each other, they’ve found love, and that’s the prize, not the party. Even if they stay together for 10, 20, 50 years (or twenty fucking minutes, I honestly don’t care), the reward for that is all that time they got to love, and be loved. We throw parties for people for being lucky, adding extra sting to the cut if you’re single, or ending a relationship, or trying to have a baby, or any other cohort of people who aren’t seen as special as two people in a pair. The gender of your baby reveals nothing. Your need to celebrate the world finding out what it is reveals a lot.

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Shani Silver is a humor essayist and podcaster based in Brooklyn who writes on Medium, pretty frequently actually.

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NPR once called me a humor essayist, let’s go with that. Host of A Single Serving Podcast. shanisilver[at]gmail

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