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JOEL STEIN

His inbox is a baby-free zone

March 06, 2007|JOEL STEIN

I'M A DECENT FRIEND: I'm happy when you're happy, sad when you're sad, thrilled when your career isn't going better than mine.

So when you have a child -- or more accurately in Los Angeles, twins -- I'm overjoyed that you got to experience the miracle of fertility treatments. But I don't want you to e-mail me your baby pictures.

Here's something you knew before you got pregnant but forgot in the mess of hormones and Nutella: All babies look the same. Yet, immediately after you gave birth, you scheduled an hourlong photo shoot for a person who has such awful bone structure that her brain is unprotected.

I asked my friends who recently had babies to describe them to me, so that I could determine if they are in fact any different from one another. The phrases "super cute" and "button nose" were used a lot. This made me realize that compared to writing descriptions of your kids, maybe photos aren't so bad.

Still, my problem is that there's absolutely no information being passed along in those Flickr slideshows. Unless two Asian people have a black kid, or your baby has clearly identifiable superpowers, I'm getting nothing from the pictures I didn't already know. Except what your wife looks like without makeup after the most physically traumatizing event of her life. There's a reason no one takes pictures the morning after a party at the Playboy Mansion.

I know something wonderful has happened to you, and you want to share it with the world, but you've got to be more disciplined about the bragging. People don't, for example, send mass e-mails saying, "Guess who's making $100K now?" Nor do people generally ask us all to "check out my cancer-free colonoscopy films!" Unless, of course, you're Katie Couric.

I'm fine with you flashing a photo to me over dinner, or showing me the kid when I'm over at your house. In both those situations, I've signed up for an evening when you're going to tell me all sorts of things about your life I'm not interested in.

But when I'm sitting innocently at my computer, you can't expect me to download jpegs and open a separate window to look at images of unidentifiable bulbous flesh. I only do that for porn.

I know this is a MySpace world, where we can celebrate ourselves without wasting time with humility, but that doesn't give you the right to expect me to click on every one of your photos. I glanced at the first one and got the main idea: He's small and unformed and yet exactly like an old man. Why they don't make baby-sized Members Only jackets is beyond me.

When I e-mail you back that your baby is "adorable" and "looks just like you," it does not mean I actually looked at the photos. So don't ask me if I saw the shot where your baby was smiling because a) I didn't, and b) he wasn't. You should have learned from 4th-grade book reports that it's impossible to have anything interesting to say when you're obliged to mention, right up top, the person's middle name.

Also, don't tell me what the baby weighed at birth; that's creepy. It's one small step away from sending me dilation figures. Again, things I don't need to know about your wife in her time of trauma.

So here's how it will work from now on: You send me either just an announcement or, at most, one photo embedded right in the text of the e-mail. In return, I will send you a $10 onesie from babygap.com.

That giant stack of photos? Send them only to other parents. They'll respond with long, emotional essays about how time moves quickly and you have to appreciate them while they love you unconditionally and everything is new to them.

This will give you a taste of how annoying you are to the rest of us.

Thank God the Internet wasn't around in the '70s. We'd all be watching YouTube videos of each other's childbirth.

*

jstein@latimescolumnists.com.

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