My niece had a baby shower a couple weeks ago, and all I can say is things certainly have changed since the last time I shopped for baby items.
For one thing, I hadn’t been to a baby shower since Nixon was president. Back then, expectant mothers didn’t know the sex of their babies in advance, so most newborn babies started their lives wearing either pastel yellow or green clothing.
My niece is having a girl, so I set out to buy lots of cute little girly things for the baby. Everything for baby girls, I soon discovered, was pink – pale pink, neon pink, dark pink, flamingo pink – pink as far as the eye could see. I felt as if I had been swallowed by a bottle of Pepto Bismol. After a while, I actually found myself searching for pastel yellow or green, just to break up the monotony. I didn’t, however, find anything. So I decided to buy something practical instead, something non-pink – like diapers.
“Is she going to use disposables or go the organic, eco-friendly route and use cloth diapers?” the sales clerk asked me.
“I don’t know,” I said, shrugging.
“Cloth diapers are making a big comeback,” she said, “they don’t harm the environment. I heard that a thousand years from now, today’s disposable diapers still will be completely intact in landfills.”
The vision of a mountain of old, used, disposable diapers that popped into my mind wasn’t an attractive one. However, I also had a flashback to my high-school days when I used to babysit, and all diapers were made of cloth. I remembered removing the baby’s diaper, dunking it into the toilet a few times to rinse it off, and then putting the sopping-wet diaper into a smelly diaper pail, awaiting laundry day. I also remembered the diaper pins that were used to secure the diaper – potentially lethal weapons when the baby was squirming.
So I decided to forget about the diapers for my niece’s shower gift. Instead, I thought a case of baby food might be a better idea. I checked the jars and they were dated far enough in advance so the baby probably would have a full set of teeth by the time they expired.
“Are you sure the mother-to-be isn’t planning to make her own baby food?” the clerk asked me. “A lot of mothers are doing that now, to make certain everything is 100-percent fresh and natural.”
Again, I had to say I didn’t know. Years ago, babies were fed strained peas, strained carrots and strained beef right out of jars. Nothing fancy, and it probably was loaded with salt – which, from what I’d heard, now was taboo (I’ll bet if babies could talk, however, they’d be begging for the salt).
“I thought I’d just buy a case of Gerber baby food,” I said. “I ate it when I was a baby, and I grew up just fine.”
“Well…if you’re certain the mother isn’t intending to make her own baby food,” the clerk said.
I not only was beginning to dislike the clerk, I was beginning to wonder if she worked for a competitor, because she certainly didn’t seem too eager to make a sale.
Even after the clerk stopped “helping” me, I found myself using her method of thinking. I picked up a soft, pink fleece outfit with little lambs on it. Did the baby clothes have to be made from organic materials, I wondered? Did they have to be made in America? Did they have to be hypoallergenic?
I hung the outfit back on the rack.
I then noticed a selection of adorable little shoes – sneakers, Mary Janes, even cowboy boots – all so tiny, they looked like dolls’ shoes. I immediately fell in love with all of them.
It took me quite a while to decide, but I finally picked out a pair of tiny white-leather sneakers that had a little swirl of sparkly crystals on each side. They, I felt, were guaranteed to be “ooh-worthy” at the baby shower.
As I was admiring them, a female customer who was looking at baby socks a couple feet away, smiled and said to me, “Those are adorable!”
I smiled back. “Yes, aren’t they the cutest?”
“Too bad they’re such a waste of money,” she said. “I mean, it’s not as if a newborn baby is going to be walking anywhere, not for months, so why does it need shoes? It’s kind of like buying a toothbrush for a goldfish!”
At that moment, I fully understood why gift cards were invented.