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Now that one millennium has passed away, there is one custom that should also die. Let's ban the ritual of the archaic "shower," whether it be bridal or baby (these days, the order may be reversed).

Don, my husband, hands me a shower invitation from our stack of mail and I freeze. I'm stopped by a picture of a pink umbrella -- I know I'm sunk.

"How bad could it be?" Don asks, "You dress up, talk to people and eat."

Showers have evolved to the status of an elaborate event, so dressing up is required. Usually, there are more jewels at these parties than at Tiffany's. Nevertheless, I decided to show up.

Maybe the food is what bothers me. Why doesn't someone show some imagination? Certainly, I'm not the only person who is sick of grazing on lettuce leaves and quiche at these events.

How about a hardy bridal barbecue? If people weren't poured into their chic suits and dresses, they might enjoy some fat on the buffet. Why not pizza and chicken wings? These foods probably are too greasy for those who bring plastic bags in their purses to secretly pack up a "doggie" bag.

Drinking punch should also be retired to the 20th century archives. Wiggling your fingers through that tiny cup handle requires too much dexterity. My friend Lorraine even lost a few false nails as she struggled to get a drink.

Besides, punch is too sweet and too weak. Guests could tolerate the small talk and goofy games better if the drinks were straight whiskey.

Then there is the matter of the proper gift. Nowadays, the future couple is merging two households from the separate wealth they've accumulated. Sometimes, they have lived together for years and already acquired heaps of stuff. So what do they really need?

Frankly, I'm not fond of others opening gifts for two hours. Hearing someone "ooh" and "aah" over a frying pan is not my idea of fun. All sorts of comments drift into my ears:

"Didn't she get that at her shower for her last wedding?"

"I should have given a better gift."

"Where are the door prizes?"

As for me, I just want to get out of there.

A successful shower hinges on the prospective bride's acting ability. There is a remote chance that she will actually cook, but faking delight about cooking utensils might impress her future in-laws. With today's lifestyle, most women really want a hot-line phone to the nearest take-out restaurant.

Recently, I browsed at a friend's yard sale. "Look here," she remarked. "Everything on this table is in mint condition. It's from my shower and I never used the stuff."

"What! I gave you this bean sprout farm, and you never used it?"

This gave me an idea. Why not reserve shower rites for those who have survived marriage for 20 years. Then give the weary couple a big bash to replenish all those chipped dishes, jelly jar glasses and tattered towels.

CAROL FLEISCHMAN, a free-lance writer, lives in Niagara Falls.
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