"Oh, they're still on," I said, "You just don't get up early enough on Saturdays to see them."
But I sure do. My 8-month-old son wakes up at 6 a.m.—or earlier—no matter what day of the week it is. At that early hour, I can testify that not only are there still cartoons on TV on Saturday, but also that the commercials are pretty much the same as when I was a kid. They hawk the latest innovations in junk-food technology; blinking, whirring, missile-shooting toys for boys; pretty, pink princesses for girls; and theme park vacations that leave me renewing my vow to stay clear of Central Florida.
Having my own baby has changed my perspective on those kinds of commercials—I think the babies who act in them and model for advertisements and catalogs usually aren't all that cute.
Who am I to play Simon Cowell? I don't have any qualifications, save one: My son, in my "objective" opinion, is cute. Do all new parents think their sons and daughters are cute? Of course we do—our brains are hard-wired to see them and their features that way.
My son is baby-doll bald and has absurdly long eyelashes that frame big, blue eyes, a twin-peaked cupid's bow of an upper lip, and massively chubby cheeks. And he's happy to flash a nearly toothless ear-to-ear grin at just about anyone who smiles at him first. Grandparents, great-aunts and strangers in restaurants have told my wife and me that he looks like the Gerber Baby—the Muhammad Ali of spokesbabies—and I think it's actually a pretty close match, though his eyes are a bit closer together than hers.
I know he's not the only cute baby out there. Simon Cowell has his favorite singers, and I can recognize legitimately cute babies when I see them. One business that never seems to fail to have cute babies is Mini Boden, the children's clothes wing of the British-based Boden mail-order catalog. I wrote to the senior art director of the catalog, Vic Andreae, to see if my son could actually be as cute as I think he is.
Andreae explains how Mini Boden selects for maximum adorability. They use agency models if the shoot takes place in London, she says, but also rely on friends, friends-of-friends and model scouts who search out cuties in supermarkets and parks.
"We usually cast up to 200 babies for a shoot. There are two reasons why we need so many candidates," Andreae says. "Firstly, choosing models is a very subjective business. There's often a difference in opinion between the four people who select our models, so we need plenty of choice. Secondly, we like to have 'backup' babies, as when it comes to the shoot day, some of our models may be sick, tired, teething or simply feel overwhelmed by their surroundings."
Is there anything in particular Mini Boden looks for in babies? "We don't have a specific look in terms of coloring, size or length of hair, but we do love smiley, happy babies who will be interested in what is happening by the camera."
So far, so good. What about chubby babies? "We love chubby babies. We often think it adds to their charm, so it really isn't an issue—provided they fit our sample sizes."
Check! At just over 8 months, my son weighs in at a stout 20 pounds—big enough that he's already moved on to the 12-to-18 months clothing size.
Here's the final question: How about hair—is bald bad for infants?
"Totally bald can sometimes look odd—girls can look like boys, and boys can look like old men. But babies with masses of hair can also look more grown up than they actually are, so somewhere in between is usually best."
Drat! Foiled by his bald head. I guess he'll just have to settle for being the first best-selling novelist/baseball pitcher/president.
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