We’ve all been there. You’re minding your own business, hanging out with a baby, and it feels like you have to mention his or her appearance… but the baby is totally busted.
Before we start, I should say that I’ve been really lucky in my personal life. It’s not even my bias talking: my nephews and niece are beautiful children. Most of my friends don’t have kids yet, but I swear there’s one due in the summer who even looks cute via ultrasound. But there are
less cute babies ugly babies out there, and sometimes you need to talk to and about them. I can help. Here’s what you can say if a baby is ugly:
- To start, it’s way less necessary to say that a baby is cute than you think. It can be fairly easy to work around. If you know a lot of babies, you’re in luck. Just start talking about what developmental milestones the baby is near. If you don’t know a bunch of babies, but are REALLY dedicated (or just know a lot of fugly infants and want to prepare yourself), you could maybe check the internet to learn about what babies do when. This is more interesting than talking about what a baby looks like anyway. When you meet a new adult, you don’t feel the need to compliment them on how attractive they are, right? Although maybe everyone would like me more if I did that. Another way to make more people like me is probably to stop calling babies ugly on the internet.
- You could talk about what side of the family the baby looks like, if you know the baby’s biological parents. Even if all you say is “aww, he looks just like his father!,” the baby’s parent will probably hear a compliment. Steer clear if the relative or side of the family who the baby favors is obviously, objectively unattractive.
- If the baby has a feature that is pretty nice, you could just mention that. “Aw, such big eyes!” “Look at all that great hair!” Is the baby chubby? That’s cute! Talk about that! Unless the parent is so super weight conscious that they’ll take that as an insult. In that case, perhaps compliment the baby’s slim wrists or something. [Warning: A few times my mom had people make really mean comments about my brother as a baby, asking what she fed him and stuff. He was a giant baby because he was on major steroids for a serious epileptic disorder. My nephew had the same thing, and all the “football player” comments were well-meaning but sort of hit a sore spot. Not to bring the discussion way down, but if the baby’s distinctive feature looks like it’s bordering on a medical condition, maybe don’t go there.]
- You have a BABY!
- “Look at that BABY!”
- “Now THAT’S a baby!”
- “Well, bless his/her heart!” Note: you can pull this off best if you’re Southern, but please be aware that other Southerners totally know what that means.
- “What a sweet baby!”
- “What a good baby!”
- “What an alert baby!”
- “What a happy baby!”
- “What a baby!”
- “That sure is a baby!”
- “Your baby is so well-dressed!”
- “Your baby is so clean!”
- “Your baby smells so good!” Note: It seems like it would be weird to talk about how a baby you don’t even know smells, but people always talk about how babies smell good. It’s normal, somehow. You need some confidence to pull this off.
- “S/he looks just like (name of attractive celebrity).” Note: This is a tough one to pull off, and is really advanced-level baby complimenting. Some babies, while not cute, sort of look like people widely regarded as attractive. Big lips? That baby looks like Angelina Jolie! Dimples? That baby looks like Mario Lopez! Freckles? I don’t know… Eddie Redmayne maybe?
- “Your baby is HILAROUS!” Note: Use sparingly, as the truly hilarious baby is quite rare. My nephew Hank, age two, is one of the funniest people I know, but if I’m being quite honest I know a lot of babies who don’t bring much to the table, humor-wise.
We’re kidding, of course. Babies are cute – an ugly baby is like an ugly puppy or kitten; they’re cute just by definition. Still, the expectation that you’ll compliment a baby’s appearance all the time is odd enough to almost make you want to say “what a baby!” the next time you meet one.