It’s probably my age and unblemished upbringing. But when I first heard the phrase ‘gender reveal’ I thought it had something to do with tests at the Olympic Games. I nodded sagely, telling myself I would google it soon. That phrase was usually followed by the word ‘party’, and it was this that confused me. I mean, I didn’t think that the revelation that Usain Bolt had won the men’s 100-metres and not the women’s, was by itself cause for celebration.
And then I was enlightened by – as often happens – a young niece. She told me about the blue and pink balloons and cakes and outfits and a whole lot of things that apparently took the place of the announcement that usually followed childbirth: “It’s a girl!” or “It’s a boy!” Or “Get out of the way, the doctor wants to go home!”
In France of the 17th century, the courtiers around the queen delivering the baby threw their hats in the air if it was a boy or folded their arms across the chest if it was a girl. Childbirth was a public performance, and the queen was distracted by musicians and clowns. It was another couple of centuries before it became a private affair in closed rooms without distractions.
But there is something to be said about gender reveal post-childbirth. This can be followed by trauma-reveal, whooping cough-reveal and more. With a party each time. “My son has the chicken pox, let’s celebrate,” is a line waiting to be said.
Today’s gender reveal parties are substitutes for the public childbirth, and held so the expectant mother can take part too. No one shouts “It’s a boy!” any more. Like red cards and yellow cards in football, the message is conveyed by a judicious use of the blue and pink.
But already, I am told, the parties are passé. When did they stop being fun? My theory is that it became boring and predictable and non-fun from the second time ever that one was held. For centuries mankind (and womankind – we have to be kind to both) survived without pre-birth gender reveal parties. Then suddenly, like cyber crime, they were everywhere.
Perhaps it is time to bring greater excitement to it. Parents can be thrown into confusion by green or yellow colours; perhaps there can be a shootout between a man and a woman, and whoever survives (one of them fires blanks) corresponds to the gender of the child.
At any rate, the modern gender reveal is guaranteed to keep psychiatrists in business for long. “I was a pink baby because an uncle packed the house with the wrong-coloured balloons” could be the start of neurosis in many men.
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