Monday, March 3, 2008

Humor Me: Your baby needs an airbrush

By MATT WIXON
The Dallas Morning News

So you think your baby is the cutest in the world. I don’t blame you. You’re a proud parent, after all, and the logic centers of your brain are muddled by sleep deprivation and the fumes from the baby spit-up on your shoulder.

Well, as the parent of a 1-month-old, I should probably say my son is numero uno. But hey, with millions of babies out there, I’m realistic.

Also, to be perfectly honest, the other day I noticed that Lil’ Nathan sometimes has drool hanging on his lip. His skin tone is also a little blotchy and his eyebrows are not perfectly shaped.

It’s tough to admit it, but he’s not perfect.

In photos, however, he can be. In fact, thanks to several baby-photo enhancement services I found on the Internet, we can have Nathan’s eyes brightened, skin tanned, change the color of his hair and have the frown lines around his mouth removed.

Baby airbrushing. Truly awesome!

Or truly weird. It probably depends on whether you currently have a photo of your baby with the "doll eyes" enhancement.

What are doll eyes?

Basically, it means taking a photo of your baby and replacing his or her eyes with eyes that are brighter, more open and genetically impossible. You know the kind of eyes you might find on a doll at the store? It’s just like that, but less human.

One photo retouching site shows a baby who looks as though she’s about to squeal with excitement — if her batteries are installed correctly. Below her photo it says, "from snapshot to low glamour," and the list of enhancements includes flesh tones boosted to peachy hues, eyes brightened and sharpened, lashes added and lip-line correction.

It also appears that they removed her soul, but I’m not sure if there was an extra charge for that.

Enhancements on other photos are even more bizarre. One has "irises replaced and moved for eye contact." Another child had her brows tilted and shaped and the corners of her mouth turned upward to create a slight smile. Perfect for preserving memories.

Remember how happy you were when we took that photo? You don’t? But look, you’re smiling!

If your child’s mouth just doesn’t look right, even with the smile enhancement, don’t fret. One of the sample "child to plastic resemblance of a human" photos includes complete mouth replacement. I’m not sure whose mouth the enhancers used, but it does seem to match the doll eyes and the added definition they gave the girl’s cheekbones.

If those really are her cheekbones, that is. Maybe they subbed in the cheekbones of a 2-year-old Angelina Jolie.

Photos are supposed to preserve memories, not alter them. But I guess we just don’t handle imperfections well. Even in babies and toddlers.

One photo-enhancement site refers to the kids in the photos as "natural beauties." Of course, some of the natural photos include digitally adding lipstick to a 2-year-old and giving her fake eyes that make her look like she’s from the planet Zork. You can probably also airbrush your toddler’s hips so she looks like she’s a Huggies size 4 instead of a 5.

Here’s a way to get a good laugh:

Type in "natural beauties contest" on an Internet search engine and check out the "age progression retouching" option. It includes a photo of a cute little girl whose photo has been retouched to make her look older. Changes include turning her baby hair more glamorous, adding a headband, growing in her teeth slightly, giving her a tan and reshaping her arm.

"For children who have outgrown their photos," the Web site says.

Of course! Why bother taking another photo when you’ve already got a good one?
I think I’ll send the enhancement experts a photo of Nathan -- a really good one with no spit-up on his lip -- and have them age-progress him to adulthood. If they send me a photo for each year, I won’t have to worry about taking pictures to preserve my memories of him.

And for Nathan’s photo as an 18-year-old, maybe they can give him Brad Pitt’s nose, Matt Damon’s smile and the chest of some Olympic weightlifter.

That way, he really will be the cutest in the world.