Baby Showers and Pregnancy, Vol. 6, Issue 39

Dear Etiquetteer:

My husband and I are expecting our first child. He is preparing to send out a birth announcement with photos to close family and friends by email (and we'll send out cards to people offline). A few people have offered to throw a shower after the baby is born, but we are not really comfortable with being the center of attention and will probably just throw some kind of regular party instead.

But that does not solve the question of gifts from people who will want to get us something. Our dilemma is this: We are going organic (from bedding to clothing to food) and are not buying anything for the baby from China or other places with suspect environmental or regulatory standards. (A lead-painted rubber duck, anyone?) We also don't want to do a formal registry telling people what to get us! But we know gifts are inevitable from some people.

We thought the best thing to do would be to add a link to the announcement to a Web page for those who want to give gifts. On that page is a note saying that gifts are not necessary, etc., but explaining that we are going organic and offering a selection of ideas with live links to organic baby stores, independent book stores, two charities, and other ideas. This way, we won't get a few dozen China-made things we can't or won't use from the big baby stores like [Insert Name of Colossal Chain Store here]. But we will make life easy for people who don't have the time or inclination to ferret out creative outlets without our making a registry of and asking for specific gifts.

So, Etiquetteer, what do you think of this? Is it proper etiquette to send mention of the link to our gift page with the announcement? Should we instead wait for people to ask us about gifts and just return or deal with the ones we can't use from people who didn't? Should a friend or family member be the one to circulate the gift ideas site instead of us? We want to be practical and considerate without being crass. We look forward to your response.

Dear Mother to Be:

First, allow Etiquetteer to congratulate you and your husband on the impending birth of your Little One. Etiquetteer wishes Your Baby a Long and Happy Life of Perfect Propriety.

Etiquetteer understands your reluctance to be in the spotlight at a shower opening gifts. On the other hand, you are throwing away the only opportunity you have to keep from looking crass and picky by denying your friends the chance to throw a baby shower for you. That way they end up spreading the word about your preference for lead-free organic products for Baby and not you. And as Etiquetteer thinks about it, an organic baby shower might be kind of fun! Everyone could wear hemp and unbleached linen and cotton (or at least neutral colors), eat organically grown crudités served from bamboo serving dishes, and enjoy themselves. Someone could even apply henna tattoos in the bathroom! And thank goodness Champagne is organic.

Because right now, Mother to Be, you are looking pretty picky. Etiquetteer has always said that it is rude to tell people what to get you until they ask. Including gift preferences in a birth announcement is not Perfectly Proper, even though it isn’t a registry. And your directives are sufficiently extraordinary to most people that they may feel demanding. Your friends and family members will want to do something for Baby, as long as it isn’t too difficult. As Gwendolyn Fairfax says in The Importance of Being Earnest, "If you don’t take too long, I’

ll wait all my life." So Etiquetteer hopes that you will reconsider allowing your friends to hold a baby shower for you, which is really the most elegant solution.

Dear Etiquetteer:

Recently, I was discussing the joys and woes of pregnancy with a friend who is currently expecting her first child. She bemoaned the constant health inquiries, the need for complete strangers to touch her abdominal area without so much as a by-your-leave, the insistence that she not carry large boxes, etc., While my dear friend understands that all of the inquiries as to good health, box carrying prevention comments, and so forth, all stem from The Place of Good Intentions, enough is enough. Pregnant women are not public domain, nor are they celebrities who have chosen to live a public life. And honestly, would you go around rubbing just anyone's tummy without asking? I think not. What, then, is Perfectly Proper when it comes to expressing your excitement and concern for the health of pregnant friends and strangers?

Dear Thoughtful:

Oddly enough, Pee Wee Herman has the best advice for what to do when a stranger touches you, pregnant or not. Remember what you’

re supposed to do when anyone says the Secret Word? SCREAM REAL LOUD! Etiquetteer is quite serious.

As for comments about heavy lifting, Etiquetteer hopes your friend will take them seriously. Marie Antoinette Herself miscarried after the effort of shutting a stuck carriage window! Your friend need only respond that she is grateful for their concern, varying the temperature of her response to the degree of acquaintance: frigid for total strangers, warmer for acquaintances and friends, warmest for her mother-in-law.

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