I knew I'd outstayed my welcome but I couldn't leave, even if I'd wanted to.
It was a perfect Spring day. After weeks of persistent rain and wind, the sun shone and the sky was a brilliant cloudless blue. In the early morning, I'd put up gazebos, hung paper lanterns and laid out plastic chairs. Tables draped in reds and whites were laden with baby shower presents, bowls of fruit punch, and plates of tiny pink and blue cupcakes. In the kitchen, meat pies and sausage rolls cooked in the oven and, in the bedroom, my wife's sisters put the finishing touches to party games and tokens of appreciation.
The guests would soon arrive and mingle on the freshly mown grass cut to within an inch of its life not two hours before. Gifts would be given and gossip shared. My work was done and I had a window of opportunity in which to disappear and leave the women to their party. This was a baby shower after all and the rules of society had me banned from setting foot within a hundred yards of the house once the festivities were underway.
|Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons (A Baked Creation)|
My moment of escape came and went.
Instead of grabbing my car keys and making a break for freedom, I answered the front door and greeted two early arrivals. I found myself back in the kitchen making polite conversation. I answered the door again and welcomed three more. I helped serve some food and tidied away the rubbish. Put more pies in the oven, re-arranged cakes on trays.
The guests kept arriving. I smiled, I chatted, I caught up on their news. We laughed, we cried, we talked about babies. "No, I haven't figured out how the breast pump works." "Yes, I'm looking forward to getting down the gym again." "Of course we're considering air and gas but I still prefer epidurals." The conversation flowed and I doled out more punch, happy to serve and eager to please. I was caught up in the moment, in my element, loving this life, and not in a hurry to leave thank you very much.
"Are you still supposed to be here?" one of the guests suddenly asked, her bleach blonde head tilted to one side, frown set firmly upon a sun-kissed face. The question knocked me clean out of my fruit-punch induced haze. Left sprawling in a pool of reality, the penny dropped and my baby shower bubble burst. I shouldn't really be here, should I? This is for ladies only. A man-free event.
"Erm... sure... I'm just... you know... welcoming people to the baby shower and... well... catching up with old friends," I managed to say. "I'm leaving shortly. Just got to gather my things. Won't be long." I felt several pairs of eyes on my back as I put down my punch.
My wife tried to rescue me from my inquisitor. "It's okay Russ. Stay if you like. You don't have to go." But I did. I needed to leave. I had to leave. I knew it deep down in the bones of my newly minted metrosexual body. I had to break free from this incredible fun. From these wonderful, blissful, perfectly delightful baby shower moments and resume my regular role as husband, man, non-invitee.
Of course, I couldn't leave until I'd found the bloody dog lead. Where had I put it? As I hunted high and low, I was cornered by a friend from my university days who insisted on reminiscing about the life and times of our alcohol-ridden student life. The eyes on my back turned into many sharp daggers and started to stab and stab. I tried to carry on the conversation, acutely aware that the clock was ticking and I should be well on my way.
"Still here Russ?" one of my wife's workmates called out as she walked past me into the garden. "Shouldn't you be out with some of your man friends?"
I squirmed where I stood and a bead of sweat worked its way down my back and into my underpants. I wanted to be anywhere but here. The beach, the city, out of the country, in another continent, maybe the UK. In fact, I'd heard that Travelodge offer great rooms in Manchester at this time of year. It was time to get out of dodge... and fast.
Mumbling a feeble excuse, I snuck off to the car, male ego slightly bruised but for the most part intact. I took my dog to the beach, grabbing a coffee on the way, and played ball on the sand dunes for hours. Afterwards, I headed home to help with the party clean-up. I couldn't exactly leave my heavily pregnant wife to the task alone.
As I pulled into the driveway, I glanced at the clock on the dash. 4pm. 4pm??? I'd only be gone one hour?!! The party was still in full swing and I'd come back far too early. I decided to hide in the house, keep a low profile, try to blend into the background.
I crept into the living room and put the dog into his bed. I had to place the car keys on the hook in the kitchen, then I could retire to the bedroom and read a good book. Crouched down low enough to keep my head below the kitchen window and hidden from any wayward glance by a guest, I heard someone point out that the dog was on the back deck. No, now he was in the garden eating scraps off someone's plate.
"Russ? Are you back already? Are you there?" my wife called out.
Panic gripped me like an oh-so-manly vice but I straightened up and walked meekly onto the back deck with the condemned air of a suspect caught with his trousers down. A dozen pair of eyes tracked me. Twelve women judged me. The verdict was given and I was (almost) unanimously found guilty. I'd returned to the scene of the crime and committed the crime once again. I was a man at a baby shower, the one place a man is not allowed to be.
Then, like an angel sent express post from the gods, my good friend Nick, one of the guest's husbands, sauntered into the backyard. Another wolf to the slaughter, another man well out of his depth. "Hey Russ, thought I'd stop by and pick up Sammy. Any chance of a cold beer?" he called out.
And with those few beautiful words, those expertly delivered lines, any crisis was averted and my panic was abruptly over. After which, I cracked a couple of cold ones and we went and watched the footy.
So... the big debate.... Should baby showers be the sole preserve of women or should men also be allowed to get in on the act? Or should we be doing something else?
Do share below.