I love showers of the water-based variety. A nice warm shower relaxing your muscles after a good workout. A refreshing shower to wake you up early in the morning. A nice fall drizzle in October, a spring shower to bring summer flowers (well, that's how it works here in Seattle).
There are other showers I don't like at all, however, and those would be the partyish ones. Bridal showers, baby showers, anything involving a big group of women getting together to play inane party games and ooh and ahh over each other. I try to avoid them if I can, and have had anxiety attacks at many of the ones I haven't been able to skip out on.
Anxiety attacks in large social gatherings are something I've struggled with for the past ten years or so, but somehow showers are the most difficult parties to manage emotionally. Perhaps it is the fact that they are predominantly attended by women, and my own history of awkwardness and hurt with members of my gender. Not that I haven't had awkwardness and hurt with guys, but mostly when I was growing up I was good at just relaxing and being one of the guys. I grew up with brothers and a brood of male cousins, and spent most of the years that I was in schools hanging with some random group of nerdy boys. They let me be, and I didn't feel like they were constantly judging me.
Girls though, girls were judging. It's true what they say-most girls don't wear fancy designer clothes for boys-most of them don't care, as long as you look sexy-no, we wear them for the girls who are evaluating our outfits. Whether we are fourteen or fourty, we clean our homes and dye our hair and buy the right brand of whatever because we fear judgement, criticism, not fitting in.
And I never fit in.
Even though I was assured that not fitting in was a good thing, and in my mind, I agreed with that (who wants to fit in with a bunch of critical, appearance-obsessed backstabbers?) I still longed for that feeling of belonging. That feeling that there was a group of people who would accept me for me, who were happy that I was at the party, who I could relax with.
Showers always felt too much like middle school, like a social test, like another opportunity to be ridiculed or rejected. It's the social mixer on steroids: a whole group of people, only half of whom you've ever met, and most of whom you only know through someone else. We're all on our best behavior, trying to make small talk (one of my least favorite things) and putting up false fronts. There is this unspoken pressure to say the right thing, to be perfectly charming, to not say or do anything to rock the boat, because this is supposed to be a cheery, sweet occasion.
Maybe this is me projecting my own issues, but I know plenty of other girls who feel the same way. And yet we continue to have these showers, continue to play the ridiculous games and make the sugary small talk. Sigh...
But here's the thing: in the midst of my utter disdain for showers, I am completely excited for my own.
I don't understand it. I hate these things. I debated whether or not to even have one, only agreeing because I knew that The Raccoon would do a fabulous job of making it as comfortable as possible. No Jer and Becca trivia quiz, no toilet paper gown, no pin the veil on the bride (I'm not wearing a veil anyway, why have one at the shower?) I still wasn't sure how I would feel about it-usually if I am going to a shower, a deep sense of dread builds up in the pit of my stomach for a few days prior until the day of I am sure that I am going to make myself sick so I don't have to go.
But no dread, no anxiety, just excitement.
I suppose it's easier being the bride. You know everyone, you don't have to make small talk with folks you don't know. You get to sit there and let people serve you cake and bring you presents and gush over you.
Really though, I think it is the guest list that makes the difference. I know the girls on my evite, girls that have changed my perspective on groups of women. These are generous, genuine women who love God and people, and have accepted me. I know I don't have anything to prove with them, any standard to live up to, because they like me just the way I am.
I know that I should feel that way with everyone all the time-that I should be secure enough in my identity and self-worth to not worry about the acceptance of others. But that takes a lot of constant energy, a diligent focus on being completely at peace with myself, at walking in my identity in Christ. And usually showers create the biggest drain on that energy-a virtual black hole sucking the life right out of me. But I think today will instead be a day of blessing, a day that gives me energy because I am surrounded by people who affirm that identity and celebrate it with me.