If I’m Single, Can I Have a “Career Shower”?

An outdoor party with lights and tables
It's time we cultivate a culture of celebration and communal support for those who may not become brides or moms.

What’s worth celebrating?

Well, lots of things. But what’s worth “showering” with celebration?

We’ve got engagement showers, bridal showers, and baby showers (we’ve even got the sprinkle party for when a full-blown shower might be too much of a downpour). These gatherings are normal and even expected, centering around key milestones (wedding! baby!). They usually involve a copious amount of practical gifts for the bride- or mommy-to-be.

And, unfortunately, they serve to reinforce a basic assumption: If you’re not married, it’s a little harder to get in on the showering, leaving some singles to believe the significant moments that shape their lives aren’t as worthy of recognition.

Think about that graduation party you had when you finished high school or college, the one where you received a fair number of checks and gift cards. In the span of time between graduating and getting married, there aren’t really any significant markers where you can expect similar celebrations of generosity.

There are plenty of other milestones apart from marriage and motherhood — like cross-country moves, big promotions and great personal achievements. So where are the “career showers” or the “move-in day showers”? Where are the celebrations, the gatherings, the outpourings of support for all the other critical happenings of life?

Where Have All the Showers Gone?

Through the 1930s other types of “showers” played an essential role in building community. In Etiquette (1937), “society author and manners maven” Emily Post wrote that “[s]howers are friendly neighborhood gatherings” that typically recognized an engaged woman or an expectant mother, but they were also used “in welcome of a new clergyman or of new house-owners.” Post also mentions “‘larder shower[s],’ at which edibles were gifted” and “a ‘kitchen shower,’ at which kitchen supplies were given.”

A friendly neighborhood gathering designed to support those who are new or in need? Sign me up. But since the time of Post’s writing, it seems many of these community parties have faded from cultural recognition. (At least, I personally haven’t attended a larder shower recently.)

I could guess why only bridal and baby showers have managed to stick around, but really, who would deny that marriage and motherhood are monumental milestones? Of course they should be celebrated. But I’m also thinking of my friend who had to max out her credit cards as she bought furniture and cleaning supplies and new decor as she prepared to move to another state and start a new job. I’m thinking of the people I know who’ve made drastic career shifts and others who fiercely pursued grad school options and finally landed an impressive fellowship.

How can we cultivate a culture of celebration and communal support for those who aren’t about to become brides or moms? How can we “rejoice with those who rejoice” in the most tangible of ways?

Avoiding ‘Second-Best’ Syndrome

In thinking through these questions, however, another critical one arises: How can these rejoicings avoid making singles feel, well, more single?

If you’re married, you may worry hosting something like this for a single friend might sound patronizing: Since you haven’t had a bridal shower, how about I throw you a career shower instead?

If you’re single, you may worry that such an event may turn into more of a pity party than a celebration: Well, if I’m not getting hitched or having kids anytime soon, I might as well make the most of what I can celebrate.

So is a “career shower” second-best? There’s a tension here that deserves thought and inspection … and I wish I had some brilliant, comprehensive answers. I do think Paul provides a helpful hint a few verses before his exhortation about rejoicing together. In Romans 12:9, he writes, “Let love be genuine.” Such a statement is a powerful rubric for every action. How are our motivations, intentions and plans for “showing hospitality” (v. 13) measuring up?

Lives to Lift Up

Now, real quick: Let’s talk about barns.

Maybe in your life you’ve picked up a couple Amish romance novels (I won’t judge), or maybe you’ve seen Witness. But even if you haven’t, you’ve probably heard of a barn-raising. A barn-raising is a kind of “frolic” — “a work event that combines socializing with a practical goal” — with the barn-building event “fulfilling a practical need and also serving to tie the Amish community together.”

Perhaps we could take a cue from the Amish.

Most of us don’t live on farms or have barns to raise — but we do have careers and apartments and lives we can come together and lift up. It’ll involve working, giving of our time and resources and possibly having conversations between married and single friends regarding the potential tensions.

But these things are worth doing in order to bring value and recognition to the lives around us. These kinds of celebrations also remind us that we’re more than our milestones — moms deserve career showers, and a newlywed can celebrate finally finishing that forgotten BA degree. Let’s work on cultivating a culture of celebration that draws attention to what we do and who we are, not just the roles we play.

I keep coming back to the words of Paul in that letter to the Romans: “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (12:10).

Showering one another with affection, love, and honor? Now that’s worth partying about.

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