I very recently had occasion to attend a wedding shower. Normally I avoid with plague-like obsession any sort of event that ends in “shower” unless it involves bathing, with the feeling that they are the estrogen drenched olympics of social obligation and I have no stomach for copious amounts of estrogen. This particular shower was for the engaged daughter of a friend of mine and because I love and have great respect for her family I decided to go. Besides, given I’m in my third month of pregnancy, I figured I’d finally be estrogen drenched enough myself to fit right in.
Leading up to the event there was the normal amount of dread that accompanies any decision I make to attend shower festivities, dread that sees me asking my more estrogen appropriate sisters if I have to play the stupid games and do I have to be nice to everyone. I have such a loathing of wedding and baby showers, in fact, that I have seemingly blocked from my memory those of my own sister. I’ve been told I was in attendance, and there’s video to prove it, and I know these particular events were before I was drinking in earnest or doing drugs of any kind, but I cannot remember a single moment of either of the two I was present for. I’m already dreading my own baby shower, asking my sister on more than one occasion to please not play any “stupid games”.
In addition to the normal dread, there was a new sense of apprehension about attending this particular shower. There were bound to be various members of my former church present, people I hadn’t seen or spoken to for the better part of a year, people I wasn’t at all sure I wanted to see. Would it be awkward? Would I feel out of place? What would the reaction to my pregnancy be?
I’m happy to say that I was pleasantly surprised. Not by the shower, of course, that was the predictable, mind numbing display of giggling games that I still cannot believe any person actually enjoys, and the properly placed ooh and aah of well-practiced women watching the opening of gifts. My contribution to the actual wedding shower portion of the day involved bringing a gift that my sister and I decided to wrap in a purple vinyl tablecloth, introducing myself as “just here for the cake”, and doing as little as politely possible to involve myself in any gaming activities.*
No, the surprise came in the form of those church folk I was so apprehensive about seeing and in the genuine pleasure it was to see many of them. There was a warmth and affection that, unbeknownst to me, I had been missing. These ladies were exuberant in sharing their excitement at my pregnancy. They laughed with me as I acted out various ways I would try to keep my daughter away from the color pink and smiled encouragingly as I talked about names I was thinking of. This group of people, friends of mine that I had walked away from in my anger at the select few and the system as a whole, seemed genuinely happy to hear that we had signed on a house and would be moving into it soon. They wanted to know what it looked like and where it was, they wanted to hear how happy I was about everything. They were glad to hear that my relationship is solid and wonderful. They shared stories of encouragement for the next months from their own lives, children, and relationships. I spent the afternoon laughing and, game playing portion aside, not watching the clock. When I finally did leave it was to a round of hugs and well wishes and, yes, estrogen drenched giddiness about when they would all get to meet my little one.
I’ve spent the last 24 hours or so thinking about this. This was not the reaction I had anticipated. Actually, the reality of this welcome stands in sharp contract to the stern faced crowd of judgment ready, freedom crushers I had painted in my mind. I find it perplexing. In my anger at a particular situation and for a few errant individuals, did I really lose sight of the goodness of the rest? Does this mean that there might be more that I was wrong about? If so, what is it? Did I, in the undiscerning fury that comes from betrayal, turn my back on a source of joyful encouragement and friendship the likes of which I have not been able to replace completely?
Above everything else that was surprising, I think what stood out most starkly to me was the sense of happiness that infused these women. This is, no doubt, in large part to my current hormonally-based intolerance for the amount of whining, complaining, opinion tossing and general discontent that I seem to sense from a portion of my circle of friends as of late. I feel as though I have become a near recluse in my community, occasionally coming out for the companionship of my sisters and little else, simply because I cannot stand the incessant negative focus of the conversations that take place. There are relationships that are terrible, but no one is leaving them; jobs that aren’t paying the bills or aren’t fulfilling, but no one is looking for new work; personal issues of near crisis, but no one wants to go to therapy. Is it any wonder, with the amount of unaddressed pain in their day to day lives, a few of my friends are quick to cruelly cut down my choice of baby names, to point out the difficulty that comes with moving farther away from the circle, and say time and again, with a certain amount of glee, “if you think it’s bad now, just wait a few more months” when they hear that I’m not sleeping well or that this, that, or the other thing is sore.
I clearly remember leaving the church to join a community and saying loud and clear, “These people love and accept me no matter what!” At the time, it was true, I felt loved and accepted in my decisions; decisions to keep drinking, to embrace God if I needed to but not the church, to be as much of myself as I wanted to be. These days, however, I don’t feel quite as supported or as unquestionably accepted to be who or what I am becoming. I wonder if it easier for my community to support me when I am struggling. I am beginning to believe that, in some circles, it is easier to support someone who is struggling than it is to be happy for someone who is happy. Or, perhaps it’s not that at all. Perhaps we simply feel accepted in the environments that match us in that moment. Perhaps a group of well-established women who have found their way to a sort of balance in life feel more supportive to me in this season of living because I am also feeling balanced and joyful. Just like a community of soul-searching individuals who have not yet found their way to peace felt more accepting to me when that is where I was myself.
In the end, I don’t have any of the answers. I love very much my community circle, even if I don’t always feel particularly lifted up by them. And I realize now that I may have been missing out on something else that I love when I turned my back on an entire church of people over an incident of personal betrayal. It seems to me that I may find, in the end, I need one just as much as the other. If that’s the case, it would appear I may owe a few people an apology for my lack of trust and belief in them as individuals and for lumping them all in with what I (still) see as a depressingly sinking ship.
For the record, being tossed into a philosophical tailspin by my participation in one has not, in any way, heightened my appreciation of those gift-giving extravaganza’s known as the “shower”.
*I should mention here that for those that enjoy these things, I’m sure the shower was lovely. The food was excellent, the hostess was flawless and the company was truly wonderful. Should that lovely family be a reader of this blog it’s important to understand my opinion in no way reflects your success… I’m just a shower hater, don’t mind me.