Oh, come on now, before you jump on me about picking on poor defenseless babies because all babies are beautiful, and I’m just a cold-hearted bitter barren bitch with no little childrens of my own, I want to assure you it’s not the babies I am really talking about here. It’s their parents, and their insistence on spreading pictures and announcements and six-month picture updates viaShutterfly collage postcard (seriously, I’ve had several of these magnetized to my refrigerator, which is so awesome for my diet. Believe me when I say there is no better deterrent from going near it) so I can see how unattractive your baby is from many different angles, in six different poses and settings. Hey, you know your baby’s not that cute, yet you expect me to help you perpetrate the lie that it is. No matter what your baby looks like, if you post a pic of him or her on Facebook, you know it’s going to garner at least fifty or more likes. And insincere comments of, “Such a beautiful baby!” “How cute!” Because we, as a society, feel compelled to lie about ugly babies. But we can all recognize what is really being said during that moment on Toddlers and Tiaras when the voice-over is talking about the criteria for winning Ultimate Grand Supreme including facial beauty just as the frame jump-cuts to a cross-eyed, egg-headed baby with four twerps of hair. We know what we’re doing in the privacy of our own homes when we flip that iPad to face the person on the couch next to us, laughing so hard at your baby we can’t breathe, even as our fingers are typing, “Awesome pic!” And you, parents, know it. You know that if you get no praise on a daily basis, if no on has approved of something you’ve done in quite a while, post that baby picture and just like that (I’m snapping): fifty people are telling you what a good job you’ve done with your baby.
We know what we look like. We know what our babies look like. And let me say there is nothing wrong with not being traditionally beautiful, not adhering to the standard of what is considered pretty. There is a science to beauty, just like everything else. Beautiful faces are a certain shape and symmetry. Skin is a certain texture and color, eyes are a certain width apart, bone structure and all that. Beauty is real. It can be quantified. According to this science, Brad Pitt is beautiful. Most would agree. And although he doesn’t do it for me, I can recognize that he is beautiful. Adrien Brody does it more for me, and he’s got a crooked nose and jacked up teeth. He doesn’t fit the scientific mold of beauty. One’s taste has nothing to do with one’s understanding of the concept of what is a structurally beautiful face.
So, following this model, what is one to say when someone says, “I got my baby’s six month portraits yesterday. Want to see?” Sure, right? Who would ever say, “No, not really, I don’t want to see your baby?” So now I’m looking at your baby. Little precious’ appearance is two-fold: not scientifically beautiful, and not my cup of tea. My options are to (1) lie, (2), tell the truth, (3) avoid commenting, (4) comment on how wonderful the background is. “What a lovely photo.” There you go. You know your baby’s an acquired taste. Why are you putting me in that awkward position? Hey, I’ve been around beautiful babies, and I’ve been around babies who look like Uncle Fester. Yes, there was a baby in my sister’s family of in-laws that she and I referred to as Uncle Fester. Granted, my sister has no idea what it feels like to breed an ugly baby: all three of them were absolutely beautiful. But even she could acknowledge the youngest looked like Hermey the “I want to be a dentist” elf from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. And ugly or not, my sister loves babies. Anybody’s baby, doesn’t matter. She’ll love and hug and coo at your ugly baby, but that still won’t make her think it’s beautiful. She’ll show your baby the proper amount of affection, simply because it’s a baby. I will, too. My mom raised us that way. We inherited her love of babies. But Mom will still occasionally hold up that iPad with a questioning face, as if to ask, “Am I wrong for thinking what I’m thinking right now?”
So I can respect your baby. I can love and hold and think your baby is the berries. I don’t have to think he or she is beautiful. You don’t need my approval. And I’m not talking to close friends or family members here: you I can tell the truth. You won’t hold it against me if I say your baby has an infectious laugh and hold back my assessment of her physical attributes. I don’t want to lie. That’s not fair to your fabulous baby. She can be ugly and still be beautiful. Just like this blog posting.