Friday, April 15th, 2011

Let Them Eat Baby! The Terrifying New Practice Of The Cake Gender Reveal

Immediately after my mother gave birth to my brother, the legend goes, she demanded three things of my father: a crate of avocados, a six-pack of beer and an entire chocolate cake, which last she devoured entirely, bed-bound, before moving on the rest.

I believe and like this baby story, because, unlike so much of today's newborn lore, it is neither self-congratulatory nor solicitous of sympathy. (Unless one feels for the prospect of my father trying to locate a crate of avocados at 7 a.m. in the Bronx.) I also like it because it involves beer, and chocolate cake, two things that have historically gone great with baby.

Until now! Witness:

This is only one example of the newly ubiquitous, guilelessly documented Gender Cake Party, in which a couple hands over the obstetrician's report to the local bakery, then receives the news in a manner they firmly refuse to acknowledge as symbolic: from a newly sliced, triangle-shaped wound of tender flesh.

As a preemptive strike against being invited to any such party, and in the service of uterine cultural deconstructionists and cake-eating baby-related activists everywhere, I will herein lay out some official objections before retiring to watch these again and again.

The Butcher
Here's what passes for common sense around my parts: You don’t want whip out the words “cut” and “gender” and “baby” unless you’re actually planning to do something about it. I mean, them's fightin' words. Along the same lines, you also don't want to hand just anyone standing in the proximity of a very pregnant woman, in the service of discovering the gender of her baby, a knife.

And, MOST important, you don't want to give the pregnant woman a knife and act like it's not some serious performance art if, pre-pregnancy, she has to slice a gaping red maw into a convex mound. Not unless you're going to follow up with some blue-tinged, sagging Twinkies we all get to bite in half, you jerk.

The Baker
Why cake? That's a question. I'm going to ask it again—why cake?¹

Think about it. First, desserts have a poor history in the announcement game in general. (HOW many beveled settings have to lose in the parfait game?) A cake is a poor vehicle for revelation unless someone's jumping out of it. Otherwise, its only surprise is its own flavor, which is always almond when you don't want it to be.

Second, cakes and babies have a terrible history in literature, as readers of Raymond Carver's "A Small, Good Thing" and Gordon Lish's mastercut "Bath" well know. In both versions, EVEN THE "CUT" ONE, a cake is prepared for a child, who then immediately dies, driving a baker around the bend. Don't even get me started on Little Jack Horner, whose delusion still reigns over decades of innocents.

Third, as any woman who has ever sat in stirrups in a gyno's office desperate for reading material can tell you, there is way too much food in fetal analogs as it is. You know what your baby looks like at 15 weeks? A navel orange. Not a Spaldeen. A navel orange. Sometimes I like to eat a navel orange. You know what I don't like to eat? Babies. But it doesn't matter, because my baby was made with "baby batter," I "cooked" my baby, and now I'm silencing it with some "baby bubbly." I hope my baby tastes great braised in butter, with a little shallot.

The Candlestick Maker
Why cake? I know I just asked that, but now I mean it because I think this is happening because CAKE IS WHAT WE USE ON A BIRTHDAY. This is lame! Why not an envelope that releases a stream of urine into the air if it's a boy; a devastatingly cruel giggle if it's a girl? Why not have the audience place bets, so that one partner can forever feel betrayed by the heretofore unacknowledged but distinct preference for what cannot be? ("We just want it to be healthy." HA HA HA!) Why not make your living child announce the gender, so he can get it wrong deliberately and fool everyone? (Oh, someone actually did this. Okay.)

Why not just invite someone dressed as Jonathan Swift to sit in the corner and sneer out how little he’s been referenced, then fold his arms and eat the announcement?

Or you could use an actual suggestion by a kindly message-boardist to a mother afraid she would be stepping on the toes of another Gender-caker:

Now, the other mothers she's invited can comment how the noise and presence of BPA will cause irreparable harm to the fetus! THIS is a party.

Knaves All Three
You know I love you guys, right? But I sat and listened to the breathless story of how you met each other. I stayed up late to talk both sides of you through the breakup, then tried to make you forget what I said when I told you it was for the best that you broke up. I came to your engagement party, your wedding shower, your wedding, your baby shower, your baby's first birthday, and I stood over the crib and made faces a lot. I LOVE your baby and I love you. I'm like IN DEBT FROM MY LOVE.² And you know what I know? There's only two bad things that could happen here: You could have a baby that was neither male nor female, or you could make me come to another party celebrating the progress of you.³

Why not instead emulate this efficient couple, who have saved everyone a Sunday and are not ashamed to show it?

¹ Right. There IS already a party in which you find a baby in a cake. It's a King Cake party for Mardi Gras, and it is awesome. This has NOTHING to do with King Cake or Mardis Gras and is therefore inherently bunk.
² You can bring me a 32-pack of condoms and a case of Aia Vecchia Toscana Lagone and we're square.
³ Doesn't apply to anyone who came to my book party.

Lizzie Skurnick is the author of Shelf Discovery, a memoir of teen reading. She lives in Jersey City. You can follow her on Twitter.

65 Comments / Post A Comment

anildash (#487)

White people are crazy.

KenWheaton (#401)

That dude in the first video really wanted a son. Or he's long grown sick of showers and registries and American women's insistence on creating a gifting even around every fucking milestone in life (and then bitching because they're broke because all their other friends have done it too).

carrots (#12,725)

@KenWheaton please don't lump us all together. some women, including most of my friends, think showers are a stupid waste of time. because they are.

MichelleDean (#7,041)

My undying devotion will go to the first baker who sabotages this plan by secretly replacing the cake inside with red velvet.

shelven (#1,992)


Nick Douglas (#7,095)

@MichelleDean Wait, I don't get it. Blood? Or pregnant women can't have beets?

shelven (#1,992)

@Nick Douglas It would be more of a "There Will Be Blood" acknowledgment. Like, this sex stuff is great, what actually happens when you cut is BLOOD.

bennimaddi (#314)

Lizzie you are a genius!

IBentMyWookie (#133)

@bennimaddi Yes, can we have more of her here?

BadUncle (#153)

I've never heard of this annoying thing. And now, I wish to unknow it. But first, I'd like to pie the inventor.

saythatscool (#101)

@BadUncle Commenter and comment find synchronicity.

@BadUncle No shit. Thanks, Lizzy, to introducing me to something I could have gone my whole life without knowing!

petey (#8,666)

This was totally on Amazing Wedding Cakes last Sunday!!!!!!!

LondonLee (#922)

I'm sure all you single and stridently childless people do fucking annoying things sometimes too. Don't blame all us Breeders for this or how annoying your friends with kids are.

IBentMyWookie (#133)

@LondonLee Yes, but we do it with booze

@IBentMyWookie You've obviously never been to a 1 year old's birthday party. Booze is the only thing that ensures male attendance.

@LondonLee Yeah, I've never been to a dry 1st birthday.

I hate these people so much.

grandpa27 (#804)

Swift did it better.

delrayser (#319)

My baby! MY BABY!

@delrayser But also I'm worried about my baby.

hman (#53)

It's Raymond CARVEL.

IBentMyWookie (#133)

@hman Beautiful

saythatscool (#101)

@hman Shouldn't it have been a Cookiepussy then?

BirdNerd (#4,196)

/becomes baker to sabotage this process with blue and pink swirled cake.

Its a girl! Kinda.

lawyergay (#220)

Gender performativity aside, how bad does that fucking cake look?

Also, everyone knows green what you decorate the nursery in when you're having a hermaphrodite.

hockeymom (#143)

Baby showers are already the worst, now THIS?

For once, I am very glad that my work blocks Youtube.

keanesian (#1,116)

This whole thing is so Cakes and Babies it is kind of blowing my mind.

bshep (#746)

Everyone please head over to youtube right now and post nasty comments on these videos. Because they are getting nothing but positive feedback, and that's just wrong.

I did not know this was a thing, and I deeply apologize on behalf of my gender. Which is female. If you'd like proof of this I'll send you a cake.

@bshep I'm not watching, but are people getting penis or vagina cakes? I want to know.

Annie K. (#3,563)

Lizzie! Is that you? I hear you, my dear, and applaud. But I'm not gonna watch those little movies. My nerves couldn't take it.

shelven (#1,992)

@Annie K. Si, c'est moi!

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

We just need a bit more advancement in these obstetrician's reports to turn these things into multiple cake-color possibilities to include baby's sexual orientation.

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

Or a little Maury-style paternity reveal. "On the minus side: your husband is not the father. On the plus side: chocolate!"

KarenUhOh (#19)

ProLifers have to bake the cake without eggs.

NightOwl (#11,168)

How funny would it be if the kid is allergic to gluten.

Being in a similar condition, all I can say is that chocolate cake and a six pack is my dream lunch right now.

deepomega (#1,720)

@winchesterwolcott Not sure why you'd need to be pregnant to want avocados, cake and beer for lunch. Might have to make this happen today.

saythatscool (#101)

@winchesterwolcott You're preggers? Congrats WW!

IBentMyWookie (#133)


@saythatscool Thanks!

@IBentMyWookie Some people had to write research papers on intersexuality in college and will not being having a gender reveal party!

IBentMyWookie (#133)

@winchesterwolcott Some people have presented papers on the depictions of sexuality and Two-Spiritedness in the writings of contemporary First Nations authors and agree with you but are also PMSing and hence would really enjoy some cake.

@winchesterwolcott Can you just have a party with some cake? Because I don't need to find out the gender of your baby in order to enjoy some cake. But for serious, congrats on your navel orange!

Emdashes (#4,271)

Lizzie, although you and I both love our pregnant-lady ladies, your saying "We just want it to be healthy!" reminded me of this recent discovery, "Pregnant Woman Are Smug" by the very funny band Garfunkel and Oates:

Backslider (#819)

My wife and I made a baby not long ago. This makes me an expert on just about everything. So I take issue with a few points in this essay.

Beer does not go with cake or any other sweet.
Gender reveal parties do not exist in any statistically significant way. They are the rainbow parties of would be parents. Sure, these videos prove that someone has done something along these lines, but the reaction here proves that these people are freaks.

atipofthehat (#797)


Just don't tip them off about the secret parties where we spin our car keys on the lazy susan and trade babies.

Brunhilde (#1,225)

@Emdashes: That is one of the best Garfunkle & Oates songs. I send it to all my knocked up friends. And then they stop talking to me but I feel like it's just because they know it's true and are embarrassed.

r0semarysays (#11,194)

the dad in the first video is so unapologetically bummed that it's a girl

nofunnybusiness (#10,151)

"you could make me come to another party celebrating the progress of you."
so. tired. of. this.

Melocoton (#11,203)

It's SEX! not GENDER! when they're fetuses/small children.

shelven (#1,992)

@Melocoton Yeah, but you can't say "sex" and "babies" #worsethancake

"It's SEX! not GENDER! when they're fetuses/small children." @Melocoton Did you just give someone crap about grammar, and in the same sentence insert exclamation points in the middle? Nice fail.

Melocoton (#11,203)

@Melocoton Um, no. I was giving someone crap (though not really–hence the friendly exclamation points) about word choice. Sex=biological, gender=social/performative. Since a fetus can't play a gender role, the term to use is "sex cake parties."

runsinbackground (#10,344)

@Melocoton I kind of want to make an argument against your last sentence, and then I kind of don't either.

Cuttlefish (#11,264)

@Melocoton I really want to go to a "sex cake party". I just don't want it to have anything to do with babies.

Schoprah@twitter (#11,207)

Meanwhile, that baby on the lady's lap in video 1 is pissed. He (because of the blue polo, I'm JUST ASSUMING) knows on some level no one got him a goddamn cake.

theheckle (#621)

I'd like to see paternity cake parties. So much more fun.

Diana Bee Dash Bee (#11,121)

There's something deeply unsettling about the fact that rather than celebrating, you know, the developing fetuses' eventual PERSONhood, these couples are obsessing over the development of particular genitalia (which, just for the record, does NOT ensure stereotypical gendered behavior). I am sure that there is nothing sinister about these parents' intentions, but I can't help but worry that as long as we feel okay about forcing people into rigid boxes before they can even survive outside of the womb, we're enforcing a very narrow view of both sex AND gender. I just hope that none of the eventual people, whose specific form of junk matters so terribly much to their parents, is trans. I can't imagine such households being a particularly welcoming place for that, and trans kids already have a hard enough time getting acceptance from people outside of their families. How about a "being pregnant is hard sometimes" cake? Or a "we're tired and worried because we're going to love and accept our child however he or she turns out" cake? Or an "I'm such a good partner that I wake up in the middle of the night to rub your aching feet while you're pregnant" cake? I'm all for celebrating the new phase of life that's about to begin and the hard work responsible parents undertake in preparing for that, but this is just creepy.

Katja (#13,710)

@Diana Bee Dash Bee finding out the sex is one of the fun parts of pregnancy. It helps narrow down the names list, and what not. I don't think a gender cake is forcing it down the babies throat, I have two sons and am expecting. My boys had their names picked early but I didn't force blue on them and trucks. They play with what they like. My youngest likes paper dolls, remote control dinosaurs and all stickers (girl or boy) and my oldest likes action figures AND barbie dolls because he likes to make them get married in between battles. Sometimes he puts the weapons in Barbies hands, sometimes he tries to put dresses on spiderman. This one is going to have the same "to each his own" stye of toy picking, but I am sending the inlaws a cake. It's just a fun thing. Either one of mine could go trans, gay or bi, they play with everything and me wanting to know their gender ahead of time doesn't change that. It's not like we're going to cry about it years later and say "Oh my god, don't you we made a cake for you?! Listen to the cake!!!", do you know how many babies leave the hospital as Baby Girl or Baby Boy because the parents could not agree on a name? I work at the vital statistics corrections unit and honey, there are tons of them! Knowing or wanting to know the sex so that you can feel less like an incubator and more like a prepared mother does not make anyone a biggoted nut job who is not going to accept their child because of how it turns out. Come on now!

I do agree with one of your points though, I would love to have a "being pregnant is hard sometimes" cake

Ali-oop (#13,510)

Good Lord. Remind me never to invite you anywhere with FREE CAKE. Do you have friends? Are you sad and lonely? When something exciting happens for you, do you think, thank GOD no one I know gives a shit because I couldn't bear SHARING it with someone?

Rather than tell our parents in a phone call (btw, first-time grandparents and very excited to be so) "Hey assholes guess what it's gonna be a fuckin' bitch/dude — STOP CRYING STOP CARING NO ONE SHOULD CARE ABOUT ANYTHING OR LET ALONE PUT IN ANY EFFORT TO OTHER PEOPLE'S LIVES!!!!!", we're going to say "Hey, this is kind of fun, come over for some free cake, we'll cook you dinner too, and how about some nice IPA?" and find out and be excited together. And enjoy life and each other's company because not everyone HATES crawling out of their hidey-hole.

Seems to me buying a cake to celebrate the birth of your first child isn't as annoying/selfish/ridiculous as writing a huge hateful post about other people being happy.

Katja (#13,710)

Well gender reveal parties are rare (peaked in 2009- mid 2010). The actual uses of the cakes presently is to send to inlaws or other family members who are privy to the information that you may not have time (or desire) to call.

Sort of like that holiday bouquet you send out because you don't want to have a 45 minute conversation about their issues with the clerk at the grocery store. I don't do baby showers, however I am sending little cakes out to the in laws who are cross country and to my grandmother who is also pretty far off. That way everyone knows, no one can lecture me on the importance of family names or gets into other ridiculous family drama that surrounds babies.

Besides who doesn't like a free cake delivered right to their door!

I will agree that the parties are too much, however sending free cake to grandparents makes their day and makes our lives easier :)

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