Are Gender Reveals Cursed? – The New York Times

This week, after a “smoke-generating pyrotechnic device” used at a gender-reveal party set off a devastating wildfire that scorched thousands of acres east of Los Angeles, many internet pundits decided enough was enough.

“Revealing my baby’s gender by crashing a tanker full of pink oil into a delicate coral reef,” one person tweeted sarcastically. Others expressed anger at the decision to host such an event in the midst of a global health crisis and the most devastating wildfire season in modern history.

Gender-reveal parties have divided Americans for nearly a dozen years. Born out of the social media age, these parties turned the private experience of family-making into a public spectacle. And while many parents choose to learn the biological sex of their children for practical reasons, the events — which revolve around a pink-or-blue binary — hammer home essentialist ideas about gender.

“We go into this traditional checklist thing,” said Carlos Zavala, 25, a communications consultant who hosted a gender-reveal party for a friend at his house. “When you get engaged you think, ‘I have to plan a bridal party, bachelor or bachelorette party, rehearsal dinner.’ Now with babies, it’s like, ‘I have to have a gender reveal, a baby shower, a christening.’”

“We had to go through infertility treatment to even become pregnant, so it’s about celebrating every step of your baby’s life and even the fact that we made it this far,” she said. “We won’t be having any more, so this was our only chance, that’s why we’re trying to celebrate as much as we can.”

Even for those who haven’t struggled to conceive, a baby is a worthy cause for celebration and a gender-reveal party is a great excuse to get family and friends together, especially during such a brutal year.

“My whole family is literally all girls. The last boy we had was 25 years ago, it was my older brother,” said Morgan Neal, 22, who hosted an outdoor gender-reveal party at her home in West Virginia on Saturday with close family. She said the party was a way to emotionally and mentally prepare for the birth of her first child. “Pregnancy is a big deal to people, especially around here,” she said. “It’s a way to celebrate being pregnant and bringing life into the world.”

Anne Helen Petersen, the author of “Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation,” said that gender-reveal parties, especially during these times, feel like an attempt to grasp some sense of normalcy.

“In the pandemic, people in this moment are like, ‘This sucks, I can’t go to baby yoga classes, I can’t have all these pregnancy milestones I thought would happen, but I can still have this crazy gender-reveal thing,’” she said. “It’s almost an act of desperation to cling to some of those expectations.”

But before going all out on blue and pink cake, balloons, or confetti, consider a gender-neutral baby celebration. They’re becoming more popular.

These parties are really just “an excuse to get together,” said Erin McGlasson, 32, the owner of Erin Elizabeth Custom Events, an event planning business in Houston. During the pandemic, she said, it’s important to do that responsibly.

“Instead of gathering everyone up, I think right now there’s a lot of cool options that are socially distant, interactive and creative,” she said. “People can mail party poppers to everyone, things like that.”

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