WHEW! I AM exhausted, physically and emotionally, and I will tell you why: I have been helping my wife register for her baby shower.
This is a new wrinkle in the field of having babies. When I was born, during the presidency of James K. Polk, we babies did not require a lot of equipment. We had our blanket, and that was pretty much it. We'd lie on our blanket and amuse ourselves for weeks on end by trying to get our feet into our mouths. If we were lucky, we'd have a rattle, which we would obtain by catching an actual rattlesnake with our tiny bare hands. Also in those days, we changed our own diapers.
So back then, baby showers were pretty basic. There was no registering. A group of women would simply get together and watch as the mother-to-be opened the gifts and commented on them ("A blanket! Thank you! Look! Another blanket! That'll come in handy! Look! Another ..." etc.). In 20 minutes the shower was over and everybody went back to pounding clothes with rocks.
Equipping your modern baby is a whole different kettle of fish. You've seen newsreels of the Normandy Invasion, with thousands of supply ships stretching across the English Channel as far as the eye can see? That will give you an idea of the minimum amount of things that you need to adequately support a single modern baby, in the view of today's baby industry.
So now, when you have a baby shower, you register what your baby-equipment needs are. We registered at a baby-fixin's megastore the size of Yellowstone National Park. The lady behind the counter handed us a sheet of paper that said "Baby Registry Must Haves!" It listed Must Have! baby items in six categories: First Priorities, Room Decor, At Home, Splash Down, On The Go, Just For Fun and Layette. (The baby industry says "Layette" because it sounds classier than "Clothes For Baby To Poop In.")
I added up all the items in the six categories, and it came out to more than 150 things -- furniture, bedding, undergarments, outergarments, warmers, coolers, bath gizmos, sterilizers, stabilizers, transporters, transponders, diaper anti-stink devices, a type of pump I don't even want to think about, and on and on -- that the baby Must Have! The piece of paper didn't say what would happen if you didn't get all of these things, but the clear implication is that your baby would fall behind all the other babies.
Like, say you didn't get a jumper, which is a Must Have! device that you put the baby in so it can bounce up and down while it is pooping. Without this device, your baby would be slower to develop the vital bouncing skills that studies have shown ultimately determine who gets into what business school.
And you can't just get any jumper. There are many jumpers, and you have to pick out the right one, the one that conforms to all 387 parts of the U.S. Department of Consumer Nervousness Jumper Safety Guidelines, because if you pick out the wrong one, you could very well be signing your baby's death warrant. Multiply this responsibility by your 150 Must Have! items, and you begin to see the intense psychological pressures involved in registering for a baby shower.
The most stressful part is picking out the stroller. Today's baby stroller is an extremely high-tech piece of equipment, comparable in complexity to the B-1 bomber, but more expensive. I have purchased houses in less time than it took us to decide on a stroller. And I still agonize that we picked the wrong one. I mean, the stroller is not just a seat with wheels: It is a place where your baby will spend much of its critical developmental years pooping. You cannot afford to make a mistake.
The only good part of the shower-registration process was that I had a gun. I don't mean a bullet-shooting gun: I mean an electronic scanning gun, the kind that beeps when you point it at an item's Universal Product Code. This is how the baby megastore keeps track of what items you've registered for. All around the store, there were massively pregnant women, crazed by hormones, holding up tiny garments and going, "Awww! How cute!" And next to each woman was a man, finger on the trigger button of his scanning gun, ready to beep. It was like prehistoric times, when the woman's job was to bear the child, and the man's job was to hunt game and kill it by striking it with his club in the vulnerable product-code region.
So anyway, we registered for all kinds of stuff, which I guess means that after the shower is over, all that we'll be missing is the actual baby. Although, come to think of it, maybe we don't need the baby. It definitely was not on the Must Haves! list.