Monday, April 16, 2007

Identity Crisis

Here's a fun game people like to play with newborn parents: "Guess who the baby looks like." Surprisingly, contestants from both sides of the family are split between whether she looks like me or my wife.

So, who does she look like? How about this for an answer: The baby looks like... other babies. If not, why was it so hard to distinguish her from her contemporaries in the hospital nursery, that they labeled her bassinet with a big sign that read "MANNATO?"

She doesn't look like anybody yet. So why do so many people insist on participating in this rhetorical quiz show that's more confusing to solve than a five-star sudoku puzzle? How come they always have to ask annoying questions to begin with? It started years ago with "When are you two getting engaged?" I don't know, how about you spot me a few grand for a ring, and I'll get it done?

Soon after that we were bombarded with "Are you excited about the wedding?" No. We're not excited about the biggest day of our lives. Stupid. Any more dumb questions? Yes, as a matter of fact, there are. Then came "When are you going to start a family?" I used to reply, "When you stop asking." Since when is my sex life, and preferred method of birth control, appropriate conversation around your dinner table? I know what's coming next, too. Pretty soon, I guarantee you, someone who can't come up with something more creative to say will fill the blank air between sentences by asking us, "So when are you going to have another one?"

Once we were expecting, the parade of baby questions followed: "Are you going to find out if it's a boy or girl?" "Do you have a name picked out?" "Is she going to breastfeed?" None of your freaking business. When did my wife's nipples become your concern? PLEASE stop thinking about my wife's nipples. They're mine. They're currently on loan, but they're mine.

I have a question for all of these people: When are you going to leave me alone? Why do I constantly feel like I'm taking some never-ending real-life version of a standardized test, and I don't have a number 2 pencil?

You know what would make this a lot more interesting for me? If all of these people dressed up like Frank Gorshin's character from the old "Batman" TV series, that slick green form-fitting number with all of the question marks on it, and started all of their inquisitions with "Riddle me this..." I might actually stop to think about it then. "Riddle me this... who do you think Penelope looks like?" That, to me, sounds like a much more entertaining proposition to consider.

The people who think they have the correct answer are insistent, too. Like they don't know anything else in the world as well as they know the DNA of my child. Not only did we spawn a daughter, but she in turn spawned a team of world-class geneticists. "Oh, she looks just like Megan when she was a baby." "Oh, she's got your Uncle Joey's chin." Huh? Who the hell is Uncle Joey? Are you saying I had an uncle I could have referred to as 'Joey the Chin' and I'm just finding out about this now?

And who cares anyway? Can't we find something more pressing to talk about? For instance, who wants to change her next poopie diaper? We rarely get volunteers for that one. Personally, sometimes I think she looks like my Aunt Anjule, which is interesting since she's not a blood relative. Not to say we don't love Aunt Anjule very much. We do. She makes outstanding cookies for all of our family events. Weddings, Christenings, Bar Mitzvahs, Parole hearings. You name it, Aunt Anjule has a tray of cookies for it. You know when you spellcheck 'Anjule,' the first replacement suggestion that comes up is 'ankle?' Random, but funny.

And let's not forget those who like to play the "pick a nickname" game. Because the first thing new parents want to think of after the painstaking process of coming up with a name for their child (a name that child will ultimately hate at one point anyway), is how to bastardize that name to make it even 'cuter' to the general public. "What are you going to call Penelope?" Everyone from relatives to random people in the park like to play. "What a nice name, are you going to call her Penny?" Uh, hello? We named her Penelope. If we wanted to refer to her as Penny, that's what would be on her birth certificate. Why would we choose a four syllable name and automatically slice it down to two, just a month into her life?

While we realize nicknames are inevitable, it's hard to fathom why people are so eager to slap one on this child so quickly when she hasn't even mastered the task of holding up her head, let alone learning her actual name. And they act as if they're trying to convince us that the nickname is the way to go. That our name isn't good enough "C'mon, isn't that cute?" they say. If cute walked up to these people and introduced itself, they would most likely try to come up with a nickname for it. "Can I call you 'Cu?'" Then cute, wouldn't be so cute anymore now would it?

'Penny' isn't even close to being the worst of it. No. Some people, and they know who they are, have ridiculously attempted to pin the moniker "penne" on this child. You read it right. Penne. Let it sink in for a moment in all of its foolishness. As if she's some soggy noodle to be served as a side dish with a spoonful of cold, salty marinara sauce. Absurd. The whole lot of them.

Sometimes I'm waiting for Roger Daltry to come barging into the nursery with his wild curly hair, wearing a Union Jack tank top, singing "Whooooo are you? Who? Who? Who? Who?" Luckily this identity crisis is inflicting nearly everyone except the parents of this child, and the child herself.

But after careful consideration, I have reached the ultimate conclusion. I have the definitive answer to the question on everyone's mind. Are you ready for it? It might upset some people. Here we go: The baby looks like... Penelope! Yes! That's it! That's who she looks like! Herself. And I'm not trying to say something sappy like 'she's one of a kind, there's no one else like her. ' No. She looks like Penelope. That's who she is. That's who she looks like.

Check back in about a year, after she has actually formed a face, and we'll see who she may resemble or take after. Until then, just enjoy Penelope for all of her cuteness and charm. I am actually more concerned about who she is going to act like.

As for who she looks like, for now, and forever, the answer to that question when you ask me, is that she looks like her. And her name, once and for all, is Penelope. That's all you need to know.

8 comments:

  1. I'm pretty sure that Penelope will ACT like Penelope too..By the way, the other day my daughter Samantha came up to me and told me that I can call her Sammi because that's whet her friends call her in school. I said that I named her Samantha and that's what I'm going to call her. If her friends want to call her Sammi then they can go right ahead. As far as I'm concerned Samantha is her name.I agree with you on that one!!

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  2. So really, who does she look like? I think you should call her "Lope" (pronounced low-pee). Funny that you have a problem with nick names. You call Robyn "Zia" on your website. Where the heck did that come from? I don't ever remember hearing that and I've know her over 40 years. I think people, especially relatives, try to figure out who the baby looks like so they can remember what you looked like as a baby or what someone else looked like. They are trying to connect the past and the present to, hopefully, bring themselves a moment of closeness as a family or maybe to remember a brief instance of joy. People ask those questions to try to bring themselves closer to you and share in your happiness. Maybe things aren't going great for them and hearing the excitement in your voice talking about your wedding or new baby with help them get through a tough time. Thanks for ripping that all away with your cynical blog. Anyway, I think the baby looks like her beautiful mommy. Hopefully, she doesn't whine like her daddy.

    (Zing!)

    Bill

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  3. I don't call Robyn Zia, I call her Robyn. She prefers her nieces and nephews call her Zia. And I don't have a problem with nicknames. I have several of them myself. I have a problem with some people trying to force a nickname on a person who doesn't even know her real name yet. Nicknames should come naturally, not to be conjured up by people who don't like the name Penelope and want to call her something else.

    As for who she looks like, and identifying with the past, I guess she looks like EVERYONE when they were a baby, including Aunt Anjule, since all babies look alike. And I didn't know you were such a nostalgic sap!

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  4. I would just like to clear something up,Zia is not a
    nickname! It simply means "AUNT" In Italian!! And That Is What She Wanted To Be Called From The First Time She Became An Aunt. Plain And Simple. Shame On You For Not Knowing That!!

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  5. Yeah, what kind of Italian are you? I'm telling your mom. No stinky cheese focaccia for you next St. Joeseph's day.

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  6. Hey does it count if you have a "song" you sing to your child? Like Samantha Rose......smelly toes???....I think we have issues...ROE

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  7. Hi everyone. I figured I'd say something too. Everyone has thier own opinion on things. I don't like my nickname 'riss' at all, but now not only does my family say it, but friends too. They think its funny. My name is Clarissa. If you can't pronounce it I'm sorry. My mother is different so is my name. And I act like Clarissa. I don't think anyone has any arguments on that one. So let's all just be happy that we have a new family member. WOOO HOOO!

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  8. I concur Clarissa. And in case you didn't notice, I don't call you Riss. I call you Clarissa, because that's your name. I'm a freakin star like that. Except when I'm doing my Hannibal Lechter and I call you "Clarise."

    "Hello Clarise..."

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