What Sex Is Your Baby? Find Out With a Colorful Cake

Welcome to 2012, when gender reveal parties are an actual thing. Ugh.

When I read in the New York Times about the trend of so-called “gender reveal parties” thrown by expectant parents, it seemed like one of those Times sort of trends you sometimes read about but never really encounter—like parents sending their kids to camp in private jets or the sudden popularity of hair buns on men.

Alas, I have now had two separate run-ins just this week with real live people hopping on this bandwagon. Brace yourselves, people … “gender reveal parties” are, apparently, an actual thing now. (Though technically, these are much-grosser-sounding “sex organ reveal” parties, not “gender reveal” parties, as gender is less a biological concept than a social one. But I digress.)

So a gender/sex reveal party, in case you haven’t heard yet, is a fete at which expectant parents reveal to friends and loved ones—and in many cases, themselves—the sex of their fetus. Also in many cases, they do so with pink or blue cake, which requires sonograms being sent to the bakery in sealed envelopes straight from the doctor’s office. Only when folks cut into the cake do they find out the sex of the unborn baby—who is, of course, oblivious to this whole hoopla. Already-born people, however, get really into it.

I am not a mom, but I have helped many (many!) friends and loved ones joyfully welcome babies into the world over the past couple of years, and I don’t begrudge a single minute of the baby celebration. I love babies. And I love parties. And while baby showers—originally designed so that a community could shower a family with wisdom and other necessities for the infant—may have strayed from that wisdom bit a little, they certainly still have their usefulness and their place. But there’s something about a surprise party centered around your unborn’s sex organs that seems troubling in a deep, cultural sense. Especially because every parent I know freely admits that the sex of the infant doesn’t even matter to them, so long as the child is healthy.

I have to agree with the New Yorker blogger who wrote that the whole thing feels like a “manufactured custom” that signifies “a disenchantment with modernity.” I would add that it’s also just sort of a bummer that something as naturally exciting and full of surprises and joy suddenly needs pink cake-pops to push it over the edge. Are we this bored with life? Are we this self-important to ask our friends to come and chose a “team” and then wait with bated breath while we find out the sex of a child that will be loved no matter what?

And look, sure, I realize that sometimes a blue cupcake is just a blue cupcake. But I also think that sometimes a blue cupcake is just a precious, fluffy, iced symbol for the truth that every single detail of life (and now, even life in utero) must be shared, documented, noted and commented on in order to give us any sort of sense of validation, any sort of rush of meaning. (Thanks, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!) It strikes me that a blue cupcake—and a party centered around said cupcake—is, in this instance, just totally missing the point. After all, one would think that the miracle of birth would pretty much be enough validation, enough of a rush.

Like in the days before Twitter and cake-pops, I mean.