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Give them the party they want

Dear Carolyn: My brother and his wife are expecting a little boy this spring, and I've offered to host the baby shower.

The problem is that the parents-to-be are putting all kinds of conditions on the shower. They want it to be coed, because my sister-in-law doesn't want to have all the attention on her. They also don't want to open gifts at the shower.

I really don't like these ideas, and wish I hadn't offered to host the shower. I sincerely doubt that men want to go to a baby shower. In addition, saying you don't want to let people ooh and ahh over all the cute baby gifts is like saying, "Just leave the gift at the door."

These two have a habit of being very bad hosts when they host parties themselves. They'll turn off the heat or air conditioning to save money and not care about the comfort of their guests. They serve minimal food and you always leave hungry. I just don't want to be seen as an awful hostess so I can accommodate their preferences. Thanks for any guidance you can provide.

-- Baby shower dilemma

A: Bias is a funny thing. You see these two as bad hosts, and so you're using that lens to view their baby-shower preferences as hostile to the guests you've agreed to host. And it made (by my count) two requests into "all kinds of conditions."

As a total stranger, I don't see your brother and his wife as anything -- and I see their two requests as generous to the guests at your shower. Merciful even.

I get that showers are vehicles of tradition and that every tradition has its true believers. The argument for showers is a lovely one, too: Let the community rally to support the newcomers to a big change of life.

Anecdotally, though -- and personally, so there's my bias -- I've seen people turn on the whole institution of showers with increasing vehemence.

Marriage and parenthood aren't the societal givens they were once perceived to be, and singletons are rightly tired of such selective celebrating.

"Traditional" showers in the registry age are arguably just women watching an honoree open gift after gift after gift of things she herself picked out and knew she'd be receiving. For some, that's the social equivalent of picking cat hair out of a cable-knit sweater.

Bring the men, make it a cocktail party to celebrate parenthood, and collect the gifts on a table? A shower-fatigued singleton might feel better about buying booties for that.

This may still not be the party you'd like to host (or, ah, the hosting example you'd like to set for these two?). But you offered to host a party in their honor, and this is the party they'd be honored to attend. And what says "awful hostess" about a festive evening for family and friends? As long as you provide ample food and climate control, your reputation will emerge intact.