Should you go to a friend's baby shower if the whole idea makes you uncomfortable? It's time to talk superstition.
One of my friends is pregnant and having a baby shower soon. I'm so happy for her and wish her all the best. I am also personally uncomfortable with attending baby showers based on how I was raised in the Jewish tradition. I really don't want to go but don't want to be rude. How can I support my friend?
Another Shower Question
I would never have guessed that baby showers would be such a hot button issue for my column! I've previously written about whether or not to host a shower for a friend, whether or not to have a shower for yourself, whether or not to get involved in family drama surrounding shower invitations and now this. Who knew??
As I've said before, the Jewish gut instinct (which, by the way, not all Jews have) to avoid owning baby things in advance of a baby being born is a tradition that grows out of superstition involving the Evil Eye. There is no actual halacha (Jewish law) about what color onesies to purchase and when. A person, such as yourself, with such a strong aversion to the baby shower tradition would, of course, not want to have a baby shower for yourself. You would not want to be in charge of planning one for a friend. But attending one? I feel like even the most superstitious person who also happens to be living in America in 2016 wouldn't think that your mere presence at such a party would invite the Evil Eye (but, for good measure, I'll add the traditionally absurd warding off words of "poo poo poo").
I honestly don't mean to make light of your feelings. I wouldn't dream of having a baby shower myself. I wouldn't let a diaper anywhere near my house until after my daughter was born. The idea of decorating a nursery with a not-yet-born baby's name makes my blood pressure rise. I can't even bring myself to say "congratulations" to non-Jewish friends when they share news that they're pregnant. Despite all this, I do think, though, that there is room for flexibility. You could go to the baby shower and bring a gift for your pregnant friend rather than for a future baby. You could go and cringe at the blue and pink decorations and embarrassing party games and then leave early. You can support your friend by being there because maybe she thinks the whole thing is kind of cringe-worthy too, and maybe it was important to someone else in her life to make this party happen and you can be someone she can roll her eyes at across the room.
You can also, of course, send your regrets. You can say, "I'm sorry I can't be there, but I'd love to treat you to lunch sometime in the next couple weeks," or, "I look forward to bringing you dinner when the baby is born (God willing)." You can choose not to attend because you always have that option when you're invited to something, and you are never required to state your reason. Whether you go or don't go, don't let on as to the reasons why. If someone says, "Did you/your sister/your cousin have a shower?" you can say, "No, it's not really a Jewish tradition," and leave it at that. Please do not tell anyone close to your pregnant friend about the Evil Eye. Please do not even hint at the idea that you think having a shower is inviting bad luck.
In the course of writing this, I will admit to worrying that I, too, am inviting the Evil Eye by acting like it's all right to suppress these thoughts and feelings. This stuff runs deep. And yet, I am reminded of the scene in the second season of Transparent, which I just finished watching last night, when (SPOILER ALERT) someone does, in fact, lose a pregnancy. The would-have-been grandmother sobs, "I am always afraid I'm gonna die. I'm always afraid I'm gonna make somebody else die." She is then told, by way of comforting her, "You're not that powerful." You certainly don't have to go, but I think you owe it to yourself and to your friend not to let the Evil Eye be a factor in your decision.
B'sha'ah tova to her, and be well,