Will Unwound #827: “Coochy Coochy Coo”August 1, 2013
There have been two schools of thought about the excessive hype surrounding little baby George. One, it’s a good thing. Babies are beautiful little miracles that reflect the wonder of the world. Let’s celebrate creation! Two, it’s a bad thing. Excessive attention to the royal baby puts too much of a public spotlight on an innocent little infant who is entitled to some privacy even in his exalted state.
I dismiss the second school of thought out of hand. There’s not a parent, royal or commoner, who doesn’t pull out the video and still camera and plaster the internet with images of a newborn child. Rare is the baby who enjoys any privacy. In fact this generation of infants constitutes the most intensively documented and photographed humans in the history of the planet. Graduations (and I’m talking about graduations from kindergarten), birthday parties, soccer games, and trips to Disneyland have become little more than internet photo ops. I even went to one birthday party recently where there was a fifteen foot high birthday cake made out of plastic. Why? It was the perfect background prop for photos.
Back in my day there were the obligatory “formal” baby photos whereby you hauled the precious little one into a professional photographer’s studio for a posed picture. This photo shoot was usually done tastefully and respectfully with the infant in a christening gown. The pictures would end up in a fancy album and might get pulled out once or twice during an entire decade usually when drunken Uncle Dick from Dubuque showed up on your doorstep. These albums helped bring him up to speed on the evolution of your family. Now thanks to the Internet every baby is a baby George.
And, hey, I’m all for this. As I said…nothing proclaims the miracle of creation more than a newborn.
My problem with recent childbirth trends has to do with the mandatory showing off of the baby back at work. There you are in your director’s office and Sally from Acquisitions wheels in little Taylor. You have to gush or you’ll be insulting Sally, but you can’t say something like “this has to be the cutest baby I’ve ever seen” because that will get back to Sheila in Cataloging who wheeled in her little Elston last month. So you blurt out something lame like “is he reading Shakespeare yet?” I used to pull out a finger puppet to break the ice, but newborns are not into puppets yet. The problem is that they do nothing. The more you try to talk to them, the more you feel like they are stonewalling you. Their silence seems like taunting.
And what makes it worse sometimes is if the baby is…how should I put this…ugly. That’s right, despite what their parents might think, not every baby is Gerber poster material. What do you say when Clarence from Circ wheels in his little Richard and indeed little Richard is aptly named because he looks like Richard Nixon with his sagging jowls and bushy brows?
Have you ever noticed how much babies look like Presidents or Prime Ministers. There’s the classical Winston Churchill look and the timeless Ike Eisenhower image, which are kind of cool in an infant, but what if the baby looks like Ulysses S. Grant? All you can say is: “Don’t worry. In time his face will tighten up.”
The ugliest baby I ever saw was the son of a reference librarian who shall remain nameless. This baby had dark hair all over his body. So much so that he looked quite like a little chimp. I almost asked if his name was “Darwin” but I held my tongue.