I abhor most social situations (weddings, funerals, parties, formal dinners)--especially those I feel obligated to attend because of political pressure or because of work. However, I kind of like baby showers. I think it's all the tiny little clothes and the atmosphere around the excited mother-to-be. I even like the dumb games that involve wearing wrapping paper hats, guessing what's in the gift bag, naming the baby and so on.
I went to one of these today. I barely know the mother-to-be who asked me to come, but she seemed so excited at the prospect of my attending that I just couldn't say no. She's the girlfriend of someone my husband does odd jobs for and they are often just as broke as we are. And, I thought, it might be nice to go to something where I don't have to play politics or listen to a salespitch.
The party itself was at a beautiful house in the country (vaulted ceilings, big windows, a huge deck out back, landscaped yard, winding drive). It was furnished with big over-stuffed couches, restored flea market finds and bargain shop purchases and true antiques. The hostess was one of those women who knew how to angle her furniture in corners, draping swatches of fabric over curtain rods as window treatment, and used chairs with broken slats to hold ferns. She scattered just the right amount of nicknack's and (lovely! just lovely) candles around the house. Her use of space and wall treatments indicated a true flair for decorating. I was impressed with the generosity of this woman who opened her home for this event. I knew that the young mother lived in a trailer with next to no room. What an incredibly decent thing for her to do, I thought.
There were about eleven or twelve women there, not counting the mother-to-be, from all walks of life. In the mix, I recognized a couple of older farmer's wives and a waitress from a water front cafe, a business owner a secretary and so on. In addition to this, some of the mother-to-be's relatives had driven up from the deep south for the event. Everyone got along extremely well, even me.
We all ate (awful) cake with too much icing, drank sherbet punch, and played the cutesy games and oohed and ahhed over the gifts. Very pleasant. Very feminine. I began to relax some. It was nice to do something not related to church or work, for once.
Feminine bonding, I thought. That's what's wrong with me lately. That's why I'm running so depressed. I don't have enough female friends--sisters in the trenches who understand what I'm going through. I need to seek out women more often.
After the opening of the gifts, people drifted (casually) off into a couple of different rooms to chat. I stayed where I was, admiring the view and listening to the lovely southern drawl of the woman from Mississippi. I'd missed that old-fashioned graciousness, I thought.
Then two of the women, one local transplant from Louisiana and the lady from Mississippi began discussing a town they had both lived in at separate times.
It just wasn't the same, they agreed. Sad how things change.
"The mayor just went to jail for six months," said the lady from Mississippi.
"Really? What did he do?" asked the other.
The first one just waved her hand in the air. "Oh you know--he's black--that just kinda says it all, don'tcha think?"
"Oh yes. I agree," The other bobbed her head. She added that the that town was made up of all blacks these days and it just wasn't very nice anymore. And from there the exchange became about how they'd both known niggers and blacks and they was two different things . . .
I was in someone else's home, at a baby shower, in a pleasant gathering of women all unified for a single cause: to celebrate the young mother and her son's very immanent birth. I silently fought the surprisingly strong urge to tell them both to hush for as long as I could. When it became impossible, I stood up abruptly, let out a loud sigh (that was sort of involuntary) and left the room. Their voices (I swear) were raised slightly, following me. "And I've known good white folks and white trash too . . ."
I wandered into the other room and listened for a second. The hostess had turned into a salesperson--giving a pitch for her newest home decorating line of candles. Candles which cost anywhere from $60.00 to a $100.00 or more (what a bargain, she cooed. Look at how the flowers are pressed into the wax). Two women ordered them on the spot--one ordered several, as she was in charge of decorating a tourists' lodge just outside of town. The other struggled for a few seconds and finally gave in to the temptation. The mother-to-be just beamed and talked about the candles she'd already purchased.
I couldn't decide which was worse. The salespitch or the white supremacists.
I hugged the happy-looking mom-to-be and beat a hasty retreat.
It was nice while it lasted.