Used to be, you waited until a baby was born. Then the doctor looked at its privates and said, “It’s a boy!” Or “It’s a girl!”
Now you can find out way ahead of time. So you don’t have that dramatic moment in the hospital. Turns out, people miss that.

So they dreamt up “reveal” parties. They do things like open a box of pink or blue balloons, or  shoot off a flare with either pink or blue smoke, or — the low-cost option— the mama yanks up her shirt and reveals “boy” or “girl” written on her stomach with a marker.

My sister-in-law Gloriosa is having a  reveal party.

I got to explain. Gloriosa is very organized. She planned her first two children exactly three years apart, and they arrived three years apart. She planned one boy and one girl, and she got one boy and one girl.

This third baby was an accident. Gloriosa ain’t used to accidents. She needs to make lists and check things off: appropriate baby clothes; best baby names; theme for the baby’s room, all that stuff. But first, she needs to know the baby’s sex.

Her husband, Proteus, says to relax, wait until the baby is born, let it be a surprise.

She says being pregnant is surprise enough.

He comes up with a compromise. After she takes the test, he will get her results in a sealed envelope and hide it. Then they can open it at a reveal party and reveal it to themselves and everybody else.

She says okay, if after her test, she will drive him to another doctor, and he will have a procedure done so there won’t be no more surprises.
So that’s what they do.

Naturally, Gloriosa plans every detail of this party. It will be very high-brow. She definitely ain’t yanking up her shirt.

Proteus will formally present the envelope containing the test results to their oldest child, Comus, who is a good reader. Comus will open the envelope and read out the results, like at the Academy Awards.

Ms. Sarcophaga, Proteus’s mother, disapproves. She says talking about sex is low-class: just let the baby be born, and people will notice if it’s dressed in pink or blue without anybody having to come out and tell them. But she shows up at the party anyway, muttering.

The rest of us have a great time eating various pink and blue refreshments, drinking pink champagne and Blue Nun (sparking grape juice for Gloriosa) and laying odds on whether it’s a boy or girl.

Finally we are directed into the front yard. Proteus and Gloriosa appear on the balcony above the front porch, waving an envelope. Comus steps out in a little tuxedo, and his little sister, Momus, carts out two big boxes, one filled with pink balloons and one with blue. She is ready to dump one or the other onto the guests as soon as Comus makes the announcement.

They even have a microphone on a stand. Comus says, “The envelope, please,” and everybody holds their breath.

Then in a loud, clear voice, he reads: “Post-Vasectomy Instructions:

“Wear close-fitting underwear for two days to hold the bandages in place.
“Place an icepack on your scrotum …”

“Wrong envelope!” Proteus yells. Momus, who has been dying to drop them balloons, dumps both boxes over the railing, which some people assume means Gloriosa is having twins. Ms. Sarcophaga slinks away.

There’s a mad scramble for the right envelope (which they don’t find until the next day, in the car, between the front seats.) Gloriosa calls the doctor’s office, but it’s closed, this being Saturday. Then she calls the doctor’s cell phone, but the doctor just finished delivering triplets, and is recovering with some Johnny Walker, and can’t recall.

My mother-in-law Ms. Larda tells Gloriosa to just pee on some Drain-O. It turns pink for girls, blue for boys. Never fails, she says.
But Gloriosa won’t listen to that advice. So we all go home, with nothing revealed except the news about Proteus getting snipped.
Actually, we do know one other thing. That was the last reveal party they’ll ever have.