Ethical people tell the truth, but what do you do when it comes to babies?
Babies are not inherently cute. That is, unless they are your child or grandchild.
Having said this, I am prepared for a barrage of critical e-mails and notes. This is the price one pays for telling the truth.
We never actually tell someone that his or her baby is ugly. Yet, in our well-developed concept of beauty, nearly all babies do not make it. Society says that George Clooney and Halle Berry are good looking. Babies never look like them.
It is said that “honesty is the best policy,” but this proverb breaks down when it comes to babies.
People who have not seen a baby will ask, “Who do they look like?” They might be asking if the baby looks like the mother or the father. We often avoid telling the truth, which is that a large majority of babies start life looking like Edward Asner or Winston Churchill. A few resemble Phyllis Diller. But, one does not mention any of these.
Better to say something like, “She’s cute.”
This is not a lie and will be even less so in a week or so. But, at first, babies are not generally cute. Maybe it is an evolutionary survival mechanism preventing them from being stolen.
My own children — like yours — were born beautiful, looking like they belonged on a Gerber label. They were not like other children, who were born red, wrinkled, with cone heads and a rash.
Really, sentimentalism and personal feeling aside, most babies are funny-looking.
My grandchildren — like yours, if you have been so blessed — looked like cherubs and angels.
They were not like other children, suffering from baby acne.
To be honest, however, beautiful babies began in my family with my children. This was called to my attention after my mother’s death. I was going through old photographs when I came across a photo of my sister shortly after her birth.
My father worked for a newspaper, and it was clear that one of the professional photographers had come out to the house to take a photo of my mother and newborn sister.
Mom looked radiant and no one would have guessed that she had recently given birth, an arduous process at best.
The child in her arms was another case altogether. The infant was ugly enough to scare horses and possibly terrify young adults. It was clear that this child’s photo could be used to encourage birth control.
The comments I made were not very kind, but then my sister — who is nearly a decade older than I am — always competed with me for first place in the family.
My sister grew up to be a lovely person. Most beautiful adults started out as less-than-perfect babies.
Then it happened. My sister came to visit, and I had to show her how far she had come. I pulled out the picture and announced that this was the homeliest child I had ever seen and could not imagine why my parents had not left it at the hospital.
My sister chortled. “Sorry,” she said. “That’s your baby picture.”
What? Me? It must be a lie. I flipped over the picture and there in bold print was my name and a date some five days after my birth. Flipping the picture back over, the child depicted suddenly looked better.
So, you know the old expression that “beauty is only skin deep”? Some of the most wonderful and charming people were homely and did not ever grow out of it.
You likely would not find Abe Lincoln or Mother Teresa in a Calvin Klein ad. And Einstein was not a stunner. Who would say that they were not truly beautiful people?
Quite possibly, attractiveness is subjective. My kids are cute and yours are, well, yours.
Maybe we put too much emphasis on good looks and neglect the important things.
Attractiveness is really found in virtues like character and integrity. Considering how subjective beauty is, maybe it would be better described as being kind and loving.
Besides, we are told that many gorgeous-looking people are often dense and ill-mannered. Or, at least we hope so.
• Mike McLellan can be contacted by calling and leaving a message at 830-4201 or emailing him at DrMikeM@sbcglobal.net.