I can’t fake it. I’ve tried over the years and it’s just left me sounding silly, left the other person feeling mocked and both of us wishing we didn’t have to look each other in the eye again. I am, of course, talking about my reaction to “cute” photos.
The correct reaction, as everyone knows, to being shown a photograph of a baby or a puppy is as follows:
1. Sharp intake of breath
2. Hand dramatically clasped to chest
3. Eyes opened so wide your lashes get caught on the ceiling fan
4. Emit high-pitched cooing noise interspersed with nauseating superlatives “Squeeeeeal! That’s just the most gorgeousest, smoochablyest fuzzywuzzy ickle… I want to eat it!”
5. Ask to see the photo again/see others of the same subject
This is my reaction:
1. Looks blankly at photo
2. “Uh-huh, yep, it’s a dog”
3. Hands picture back awkwardly
You see, I just don’t get it. I think I was born with a set of genes missing, the ones that make you want to “eat” babies and kittens and that make you want to look at pictures of other people’s things that bear no relation to you what so ever. For all the emotion I can give you, you may as well be showing me a photograph of a potato. It can be a real stumbling block, I can tell you, and it’s only getting worse due to the fact social media such as Facebook actively encourages the sharing of photos.
I don’t mean the sharing of beautiful artistic photos, like the delightful photo bloggers of the world are busy doing, I mean the ordinary folk out there who dump 115 pictures of baby’s first hilarious attempt at getting into a laundry basket on your Facebook feed, 529 pictures of their second cousin’s wedding, or the 57 pictures of the yesterday’s home cooked dinner that actually looks like Heston Blumenthal‘s vomit. Add to these the commercially produced “cutesy” pictures of a soft focus kitten in sunglasses, dangling precariously in some allegedly adorable comedic position, accompanied by a witty caption designed to encapsulate the irony and drudgery of the everyday office worker, it’s all just a bit much and there is really no escape.
I’ve tried faking it in the past. I’ve tried to make the cooing squealing noises when shown photos of some stranger’s baby/newly decorated kitchen/mange infested dog but it just catches in my throat and I feel about as genuine as Paris Hilton in a library. What’s more, because of my inability to produce these standard noises of admiration, the person thrusting the picture of little Timmy/the granite worktops/Ol’ Scratchy under my nose then feels I have deemed their photographic subject matter inferior to other pictures I’ve been shown. They think I’m saying that their cute thing is less cute than other cuties. I’m not, truly I’m not. I just don’t find any of it cute.
Show me a cleverly shot section of unusual architecture, show me an extreme close-up of an autumnal leaf, show me someone falling over in a highly amusing situation and hurting themselves terribly. These are pictures I can get on board with, these are things that are artistic and/or delightful nuggets of Schadenfreude, either way, I can objectively view these and appreciate them without needing the ability to sound like a pigeon on cocaine.
Take the picture of the cretin slipping on a banana skin out of this for now, the other pictures are undeniably aesthetically pleasing and can be viewed by anyone, in any context and still appreciated. How do you expect me to “feel” something when I look at a poorly-lit picture of your toddler’s baking? Burnt cupcakes decorated by a 3 year old’s spittle and sprinkles is a hard artistic sell at the best of times but when that food isn’t even going to end up in my belly, it’s pretty much just a waste of eyesight. (Disclaimer: I would really rather not eat anything covered by a 3 year old’s spittle).
Your kitten/puppy/baby may have just done the “cutest” thing (in your opinion) but that’s because it’s your kitten/puppy/baby and, well, unless it’s going to end up in my belly, err, I mean, unless it’s my kitten/puppy/baby, it really doesn’t have the same impact. This really is a case of “you had to be there”. I wasn’t and 318 pictures of the occasion won’t make me feel any more warm nor any more fuzzy about the whole thing.
I know that many of you will be thinking that I’m either a hard-hearted cow or that I’m pretending to be a hard-hearted cow for comic effect. I assure you I’m not. I don’t generally like to offend people (there are of course exceptions when I’m only too willing) and I also really don’t like having to pre-empt every photo showing session with a formal apology and explanation of my genetic defect. Seriously, I actually do this.
I have one very understanding sibling, who all you “cutesy” photo sharers would do well to learn from. Instead of bombarding me with pictures of her newest family addition, knowing the absolute disinterest I have for all things “cute”, she took pity on me and assured me thusly; “Don’t worry about it. He just looks like a baby and he doesn’t do much.” I know she loves her child deeply and that he is truly unique and special to her but for these words of logic and comfort alone, she will always be my hero.
If you have something special that you think is simply wonderful and you can’t show the level of restraint my darling sister does, please can I humbly request that you limit yourself to taking 5 or less pictures of this particular “cutie” and please don’t be offended when I politely inform you that you may have my eyes but you will never have my coos. Afterall, it really doesn’t benefit either of us if I have to fake it.