Thursday, February 4, 2010

Etiquette challenge: The untamed shower


Dear Catherine,

This past weekend, my first impulse was to email you after a dreadful, DREADFUL baby shower I hosted. It was in honor of my cousin; I suppose you could call her my family's Lydia Bennet. She is expecting her second child soon, yet is only 20. My extended family was worn out from helping the fEtirst time around, and as no one had offered a shower, I said that I would host one for the family. I should mention my family is very, very conservative Catholic, but this cousin has always marched to the beat of a different drummer. My aunt had sold or donated most of the baby things from the first time, expecting that experience not to be repeated until there were two rings on her daughter's left hand. Immediately after I offered, my cousin asked if she could invite three friends. Of course, I answered, three friends are fine.

Saturday approached, and everything was ready. I was taken aback when her first guest arrived and immediately helped herself to cake, but that was only the start. Another guest brought her husband. Six more friends arrived. Another brought her baby, and resolutely sat on the couch while her baby screamed the entire time. They sprawled over my furniture, texting away, and glared at my husband when he passed through. The invitations to the shower said from 1-3, and her friends stayed till 3:30 (to be fair, only a few received invitations).

What should I have done?!!?

Gratefully,
Amy


Dear Amy,

I suspect each reader will have a different method here and I welcome their perspectives. Honestly, with a list such as this, best to pick your battles, you are not going to correct it all in two hours, the best you can hope for is to salvage enough to have decent photos, possibly.

Frankly, I might have given up, grabbed the champagne and headed for the kitchen stool. But you, Amy, you are a fighter.

One thinks immediately of a sitcom when reading this, do they not? Some sort of Married with Children brand of social disaster? You could act in kind, snatching cake from mouths and hands, gently replacing it, plastering it back together with a spatula while holding a screaming baby and noting, to the husband in attendance, "It's a bridal shower! If you want to stay, you must wear a dress!" Oh. No? Okay. Okay.

So, Amy. Surely, you did the best you could. In the end it is really about celebrating the impending child and you are right to swallow some of these slights for a family member. But you are within your rights to ask someone to step away from the cake, to announce the phones will be put away immediately as we are all here to celebrate Jenny's baby, to nod to the husband and say "there will be shower games, let me find your Cheetah ears, I hope you will play too!" to see if he doesn't run out to do an errand, and to mention gently to your cousin afterwards that you were not expecting quite so many guests and you would have appreciated an accounting to make it that much better an event for she and her friends.

And then, you know, see the bottom of a wine bottle once they leave...

Be well, our lovely Amy, always glad to hear from you.

Best regards,
Catherine



Photo credit: marthastewart.com

11 comments:

EntertainingMom said...

Seriously I have no words for this. WOW! I would give that young cousin a FIRM talking to. How dare she invite guests like that, with children, and spouses. Incredibly rude.

Acanthus and Acorn said...

Great story and advice! I think we can all identify with the senario in some way. There is what we would like to do and we can reasonably do to remedy a situation. I had a neighbor who was famous for showing up to any event late, without so much as a small gift for the individual that the event was planned for (yes, even a child's birthday) and always had several uninvited kids in tow. Solution, after gently speaking to her to no avail, me and many others just stopped inviting her. I am a firm believer in not letting one spoil it for all.

Suburban Princess said...

I am with EntertainingMom...I started writing 5 or 6 times and couldn't complete a thought that didnt end with &^%& or $%#@* lol!

Perhaps this is why we should stick with tradition and reserve baby showers for the first child only. Why did the mother to be expect a shower?

Karena said...

I understand completely. I am from a large family, Oldest of eight) and our gatherings are always fun and crazy. We have always had extra food around, just in case! Trust me most functions include the kids, however I have had an aunt show up with her children and grandchildren adding about a dozen more to an anniversary celebration,
Karena

JMW said...

This brings to mind a line from Ferris Bueller's Day Off:"I weep for the future."

Natalie said...

I threw a baby shower recently that had similar results. In the end (after some alcohol) you realize that these people ultimately care enough for the mom to be to attend a shower, and even more so if they bring a gift, to celebrate the joy that is coming into her life. Just be thankful it is over!

little augury said...

ugg-Catherine you are right on all fronts-what's to do in the middle of a disaster. I might have enlisted the help of a stern relative respected by all to step in and help out with bad copping. I have step away from parties that took on an extreme turn-for the worse, Hit the kitchen and the drinks.

Lily Lemontree said...

Excellent response as always Blushing! Unfortunately we when extend our courtesy and generosity to others, there is always the potential to not receive the appropriate courtesy back, such are the trials of the gracious hostess (ha!ha!). Hopefully this experience does not deter Amy and her generous heart in future hosting endeavours. I agree with the EntertainingMom and the Suburban Princess in that an exchange of some sort with the young cousin is a must, preferably done when everyones tempers have cooled (and the wine bottles have been emptied-always helpful to set the mood!)

Sabine said...

She should have set up a video camera, start shouting 'All out!' and put it on youtube... Just kidding. As you say, the best thing is probably to sigh and forget about it.

Angela said...

I think that at the age of 20, people don't have really developed social rules yet. Especially if she's the kind of person who sort of throws convention out the window, right?

So, I guess I'd say I just would have expected it. And if her friends didn't know any better than to wait for cake, and you didn't say "okay -- cake is for later," well, that's not really their fault, either.

Some people aren't raised according to Emily Post. I think that developing that kind of social awareness and level of acceptable and gracious behaviour is something that comes with a lot of life experience for a lot of people. I know my mom never told me the rules. I just had to watch others and learn on my own.

I feel for both sides on this one.

Butler2880 said...

I love these scenarios. It gives us a chance to see how gracious we really are! It's a tough situation, especially since it's family. When I'm in a tough situation with a guest, I can be a bit abrupt. I get extremely annoyed when a guest comes in and thinks they own the place. We've had a few guests that come in and open closet doors to leave their things (when there are 5-6 of us standing around to at LEAST ask where there things can be held) or got into parts of the house that they're not welcome. I am very abrupt with these people, but they're often so rude they don't get it. One assistant of the Speaker of the House is so rude he makes me crazy. When he comes in and starts to make himself at home I tell him where he can put his bag, or that he can't go upstairs and he generally gets it, but is so pompous it doesn't seem to really get through. I guess all you can do is be as up front as possible and tell people that don't have any sense of manners what they can and can't do. If that doesn't work, make sure they never come back to your house!