Angry alligators, terrified guests: when gender-reveal parties go wrong

Stuart Heritage
Photograph: Milorad Kravic/Getty Images/iStockphoto

There are gender-reveal parties, and then there is what just happened in Florida. A video has gone viral of a US couple using an alligator to announce to the world that their next baby – the 10th between them – would be a girl. The father tied a balloon to a stick, bopped the alligator on the head until it lashed out and bit the balloon, some pink dust flew out, and that was that. Incredibly, this is not a world first.

Such a stunt is a high-risk strategy; partly because the father looked positively disappointed by the result and partly because the response has been downright hostile. Lots of people hate gender-reveal parties, and for obvious reasons. They are attention-seeking and narcissistic. They seem to imply that one result will be more desirable than the other. They are the subject of mercilessly regimented how-to guides. They are unnecessary. They are binary. And, in this instance, they seem to lack awareness of the consequences of blasting an alligator full in the face with chalk dust.

Despite all that, I don’t mind them. Not that I would ever stage a gender-reveal party for myself. Of course I wouldn’t. I hate any sort of party: I even tried to talk my wife out of having a wedding reception. But a gender-reveal party seems solipsistic, because the only acceptable reaction to learning whether your baby will be a girl or a boy is to say, “OK, good” and then move on. It shouldn’t matter, so imagine how little it will matter to all the people who have to trudge to your house to watch you fire a confetti cannon.

They can be irresponsible, too, such as the gender-reveal party in Arizona last year that started a 47,000-acre wildfire. Or the one that accidentally shot lit fireworks into a screaming crowd. And let’s not forget the screaming fight in an Ohio restaurant when attendees refused to clean up their glitter.

However, I do see how a gender-reveal party can serve a function. There are the reveals – as with the alligator one – where pink comes out and the father looks aggrieved at being denied a son. The purpose there, obviously, is to remind the mother to pack her things and run away as fast as she can.

But my favourites are the gender reveals that involve older siblings. Because those are useful. The arrival of a second baby is always an almighty disruption for the firstborn child and, especially if they are young, it can be hard to prepare them. If getting them to pop a coloured balloon will help to make them excited about their new brother or sister, if it makes them feel as if they are more involved, that can only be a good thing.

So, if you are having a gender-reveal party – especially if it is on behalf of your existing children – then good for you. I am all for them. Just don’t make me have one. And never invite me to yours. Especially if there are alligators around.