Writing I’ve Started: The Pessimist’s Guide to Babies

I’ve always been hesitant about posting things I’ve written on a blog.  (That is, things other than actual blog posts – books, short stories, poems, etc.)  There’s two reason for this – 1) it’s “out there” which is just a scary concept in itself and 2) other people will see it, which could in my head lead to any number of bad things I’ve probably made up.

But I’m a writer.  And a writer, at least the kind of writer I am, doesn’t just write things she never wants anyone to see.  Which is what will happen if I don’t start putting things out there.

There’s actually a third reason I don’t post stuff I write – it’s never finished.  Much of it is first drafty stuff, but even what is fairly polished just isn’t done.  Well, no more.  One of the reasons I finished some of my fan fiction back in college is that just the act of making it available for others to read (regardless of if they did or not) makes me feel more like a writer.

So I’m going to post a few excerpts from projects here, and see what I feel like continuing.  The first is something I started almost 5 years ago when I had my first child, and it’s been on my mind lately because I’m about to have (God willing) my second.  The Pessimist’s Guide to Babies is a kinda funny account of how to deal with a new baby, meant mostly for new parents who have not yet discovered, for example, that breastfeeding sucks.

Here’s one of the sections I liked better than others, on baby registries: 


You’re going to need to buy some stuff.

You’re probably pretty clear on that already.  You may have downloaded lists of things to research and buy for the baby.  Perhaps you’ve thought about your theme for the baby room.  You’ve separated out categories of possible gifts people can buy you into large, medium and small items.  Maybe you’ve even figured out exactly who is going to buy which essential thing, and anything anyone else gets you at this point is just gravy.

Or, more likely, you know you need to buy stuff.  But, other than panic, you haven’t done much about it yet.

What is it about a baby that makes procrastinators come out of the woodwork?  It’s not like you can put this off forever – your swelling belly is making your impending deadline more and more clear.  Yet somewhere around the sixth month or so, it’s common to just shut down.  Pretend you’re not really going to have a baby.  (While you’re at it, pretend you can fit into your jeans – it’s fun!)

You can’t put it off forever.  So, let’s talk about registries.

They’re also known as “Lists People Will Ignore”.

It sounds like a great idea.  Make a list of the exact items that you need and want, complete with the price and which store to find them at.  Then, people can be sure that they’re buying you a present you can actually use, and you can be sure that you’ll only get the things you need.  Everyone ends up happy.

Whoever designed this system did not understand human nature.

People do not use registries.  Or rather, people do not use registries properly.  You view it as a complete list.  The people buying for you, however, view it as a mere suggestion.  And not a very good one, at that.

The problem here is that they’re buying a gift.  What’s the main element of gifts?  Surprise.  Registries try to eliminate surprise in favor of useful gifts.  Don’t worry though.  Your thoughtful gift-givers will add it right back in.

They’ll look at the list, sure.  Then they’ll do one of the following:

  1. Buy something that is the same general kind of thing you want, ie “Oh, she registered for cute little cloth diapers!  I’ll buy her this box of Huggies, they’re more convenient and on sale.”
  2. Buy what you want, but in a different color/theme – “I know she’s going with a Winnie the Pooh theme but look!  Monkeys!” or
  3. Just throw out the list completely.  “I’m just going to get a baby blanket.  All babies need blankets – I’m sure no one’s thought of that yet.”

Winnie the Monkey

Regardless of what your theme is, you will at some point end up with monkeys. Stars and planets? Monkeys in space. Forest animals? Jungle is close enough. Robots? Shiny monkeys.

Don’t read too much into it. No one’s trying to say anything about how your baby is likely to look.


This would be fine and you’d know what to expect, except for one thing.  Only about ¾ of people do this.  The idiotic quarter that is left will, of all things, actually pick something off your registry exactly as you put it down.  This may not seem like a problem, but most of these people will also want to buy you the same things.  And about half of them will forget to take what they buy off of the registry.

Here’s what all this means to you:  you’ll end up with a few things you want, exact duplicates of a majority of those items, quite a few of those items in a totally wrong theme/color, a lot of things you never really asked for, and a full metric ton of blankets.  (Incidentally, wedding registries give much the same results, only replace “blankets” with “towels”.)

So, what you’ll need to do is register wisely.  I know I just said that registries don’t work, but the fact is that everyone thinks you need one anyway.  In fact, some people will use this as an excuse not to buy you anything.  “Oh,” they’ll say with a slight frown to indicate that this is really all your fault, “I wanted to buy you something for your new baby…but you never registered, so I had no idea what you needed.”  Then they’ll give you a card (printed off their home computer, or better yet, an e-card) and consider the matter closed.

Don’t give those cheap bastards the chance.  Shove that registry in their faces as soon as you can.  (Incidentally, once you do register, these are also the people who will forget to take items off the registry.  Since they’ll go for the least expensive items on the list, and everyone else will buy those as “gift filler”, you can safely blame this group for most of your registry woes.)

So if you have to register, you may as well put some thought into it for those few, misguided people who will actually use it properly.  There are a couple of schools of thought on how to do this.  The most popular one, to register for half the store, is of course the one the stores themselves will advocate.  Baby stores are very, very helpful when you register with them.  They’ll hand you a scanning gun (They’ll hand this to the man in the group, if there is one, because they know that men like shooting things, even small fuzzy things that look like bunny rabbits.  Possibly especially those.) a list of what you need (everything in the store, as it conveniently turns out) and a bag of samples and coupons, and tell you to have fun!  Enjoy your trek through the store!  Scan everything!  Don’t forget to register for diapers!

Warning for Wives: Gun Safety

If the store gives the scanning gun to your husband (and they will), take it back. Immediately. If you fail to do this, at some point you will discover that you have inadvertently registered for something bizarre while he was “just testing it out”. I once saw a wedding registry for fine china, beautiful furniture, designer kitchenware and a large rubber ball.

Guess which one people bought. Multiple times, of course.

The store will even give you hints as to how to get the most stuff from people.  They won’t put it quite that way, but they will point out, for example, that you shouldn’t register for baby clothes.  This is true.  The reason is that people love buying baby clothes.  They’re cute, they’re relatively inexpensive and you only get a chance to buy them every so often.  Buying a diaper pail, while necessary, is boring and expensive, and shows a lack of creativity on the part of the gift-giver.  (Or so they seem to believe.)

If you register for baby clothes, you will only receive baby clothes.  People will feel happy and justified for getting you something they wanted to buy that’s also (at least kind of – remember they’ll buy clothes they want, not necessarily the exact ones you want) on the registry.  And you’ll be stuck footing the bill for the car seat on your own.

On the other hand, if you don’t register for clothes at all, you’ll receive both clothes and other stuff.  People are going to buy you clothes regardless, but they’ll feel a little guilty about it if you didn’t register for any.  Guilty enough to go ahead and throw in the much-needed-but-boring changing pad you asked for as well.  Or at least get you a gift card.  Bonus for you, and double bonus for the store.

The store also knows that the more you register for, the more deprived you’ll feel after your baby shower.  Maybe that designer mobile was just a “we’ll go ahead and scan it just in case someone wants to buy it for us” at the store, but after the shower it becomes the one thing you really really wanted and no one loved you enough to get.  Also the several-hundred-dollar baby decorations set.  And the extra baby carrier in organic cotton.  And the giant teddy bear that you kind of scanned ironically but really wouldn’t it be so cute over there in the corner and doesn’t your baby deserve all the things you wanted for her anyway?

Baby store to the rescue.  You’ll get some kind of incentive, somewhere between 10 to 25 percent off for most if not all of the items left on your registry after a given amount of time.  This will make you feel great until you realize that they’ve also marked up their items somewhere between 10 to 25 percent, and really you’re just finally getting to buy things at the price they should have been in the first place.

The other main method of registering is that of the minimalist.  We tried this as a reaction to our less than successful wedding registry experience.  Our baby registry had 13 items (not counting diapers).  Most were expensive things that we didn’t really have the money for but needed, with a few cheaper “this would make a great gift” things and two cute things we kinda wanted.  No clothes.  We expected people to go in together and get the expensive, necessary things.

Silly us.

After the shower we surveyed the damage.  Out of the 13 items, we had received 2 things.  That’s right, the cute things we didn’t really need.  (Well, technically we got three things, but one was a duplicate.)  We also got:  a couple gift cards, several blankets, a gigantic pile of clothes and a lot of “creative” baby gifts we had never thought to ask for.  No one went in together to buy something.

In other words, there is no good way to register.  Plan on buying most of what you need.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Writing