Showers have always been a strange phenomenon to me. Wedding showers. Baby showers. Bridal showers (which I learned when I got married are irretrievably different from wedding showers). Someone volunteers to throw it for you, and if no one does then you get very upset until someone volunteers. They compose a list of people, supplied by you, and a list of food, supplied by you. They contact tons of people they don't know and invite them to your shower. They usually tell these people where you have "registered". (Don't get me started on registering. You go to a store and pick out everything you want within that store. You shoot everything you want with a laser gun. Then, people from around the country go to the nearest chain of that store and buy you presents from a list, which turns out to be comprised of all the things you shot with your laser gun. After they buy these things, they wrap them and add a "to, from" sticker. Then they bring it to your shower and you open it and you act SURPRISED that they got you the item you shot with a laser gun just a month prior. See? I told you not to get me started.)
After they tell the people you know where to buy you a present and which presents you want, they then start planning the activities. How do they plan the activities? They gather up as many ridiculous, humiliating, and uncomfortable situations as they can think of and rename them "games". They buy several gifts that only a few of the participants will win, though none of them will want. They buy copious amounts of finger food. And then, they wait for the RSVPs.
If it's your shower, you arrive early. You oo and ahh over all the decorations. When people begin arriving, they all look at you. They hand a gift to you, and someone else quickly takes it to the correct place to join all the other gifts. No one knows each other so they sit around trying to find something they have in common besides knowing you. You are led around from chair to chair, depending on the activity, never actually getting comfortable in any of them. You watch as the "games" begin. For example: People who you consider friends are given clothespins and are told to avoid saying a word like "cute" or "wedding" in order to win a "game". The competition usually gets fierce among two or three of the guests, who begin making announcements: "WEDDING! SHE SAID WEDDING! GIVE ME YOUR CLOTHESPIN! I HAVE 7!!" Meanwhile, the rest of the guests stop talking altogether to avoid saying any word that could result in public declaration of their failures.
My favorite part is next: the gifts. When I was a kid and had a birthday party, I would open my presents at the dinner table and immediately begin to play with the best ones. I was 9, so this was acceptable. However, at a shower, the guest of honor must open every last present in front of the entire party. This is strictly for the guests, not the guest of honor. He or she must announce each gift ("Ooh, diaper rash cream") as though it was a surprise to be receiving it. One person is in charge of writing down everything the guest of honor receives so he/she may accurately write thank you notes because saying "thank you" directly to the person at the shower is not thankful enough. This person is sometimes the shower's organizer. If the shower organizer doesn't volunteer, there is often a race to see who can nab this coveted position. It sometimes gets ugly and results in more than one person writing everything down, remarking, "Oh you're writing? I'll just do it too."
Then everyone is forced to watch everyone else's gifts being opened, often times creating animosity between guests who purchased the same gift (which is not at all uncommon when they all purchase from a LIST). Occasionally, gifts are not from the registry list. This is frowned upon, as it draws unequal attention to the guest who got "creative", and frustration from the guest of honor who sees no point in registering if people are just going to "buy whatever the hell they feel like."
Finally, the shower is over and everyone gets a "favor". This is a tradition in which one person spends an inordinate amount of money on a useless object (which the guests take home and throw away) as a "thank you for coming." At this point, there are 3 lingering guests who did not feel they got ample time to chat with the guest of honor during the shower. These guests often gossip about guests who have left, especially those who deviated from the list. They usually take home the leftover food and some of the extra leftover favors before leaving an hour after the end-time on the invitation.
Showers are a strange tradition always thrown with the best of intentions. However, it is my belief that these traditions should be updated. All guests should arrive whenever they feel like it with a friend or significant other. They should bring a gift card to an appropriate store and dish they would like to share. The guests should mingle and congratulate the guest of honor before leaving with the innate understanding that the guest of honor is thankful for them being there. Then everyone should move on with their lives.
Showers: an unfortunate tradition.