Join the grand tradition of looking kind of bad at your baby's baptism

January 28, 2013

A friend of mine is having her baby baptized soon, which is very lovely, except for the fact that the baby is five months old already.

No, it’s not a problem because the parents let the baby risk being alive all these five months before getting some nice-smelling oil rubbed on his little baby head. If it weren’t for the cute frilly white dresses and the way everyone holds their breath when the baby gets the water splashed on the baby head, I’d say no one should be baptized until they’re 18 and have picked his or her religion.

The problem is that this mother unfairly skirted the tradition (in the christening set) of Looking Kind Of Bad At Your Baby’s Baptism.

Looking Kind Of Bad is not at all the same as looking actually bad. You wouldn’t find a picture of yourself in Glamour with a bar across your eyes for Looking Kind Of Bad. It’s just the sartorial result of being presented by the challenge of being required to look nice on a photo-op day that is a significant occasion shortly after you just had a baby. It’s been difficult enough simply taking care of the child, taking care of the house not to mention keeping yourself together in the face of basic biology (wherein, post-birth, your boobs explode and your uterus falls out.) Then you have to find a dress that covers up your postpartum belly but is slightly hipper than a muumuu. And you need to find shoes and jewelry to go with that nonexistent dress and don’t forget to do your hair and makeup. You could put your clothes on before you feed the baby but then the baby might spit up on you so hurry, hurry! Get dressed before you get to the church. Don’t forget the undereye concealer, you waking zombie. So it’s no wonder that mothers in their kids’ baptism photos look a tiny bit uneasy in addition to tired and happy. I myself purchased a Gap dress that was simultaneously gigantic yet also too short, but what really mattered was that it was a fun day, the baby behaved and we ate some delicious honeybaked ham.

Looks aren’t everything, especially when it comes to recording your kid’s life. (This essay by Allison Tate  encapsulates that beautifully.) We can’t all look like Claire Danes who looks like she must have given birth to a pea-baby. What’s important on a christening day is health and happiness and family and whatever spiritual element one finds in the day (and of course whether the baby cries once its baby head gets wet.)

But once I realized that feeling awkward in your clothes on a baptism day is a funny sort of tradition and not a curse, it seems like some sort of cheat, like managing to skip over puberty and going straight from adorable childhood to confident adulthood. So whether you’re doing the christening late or you used a surrogate or adopted, just do the decent thing and at the very least, eat a big meal right before the christening, and join the club.

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