Joel Stein is easy to dislike. He’s got a big head. When it comes to funny, he’s got a bad case of trying-too-hard. I don’t read him regularly, but every once in a while he manages to say something silly enough to generate wide web reverberations that I do notice. Recently, he seems to have launched an attempt to be the surliest columnist in a major paper. For example, he doesn’t want to read emails from readers, so he writes a column about it.
Now he’s on to the not-very-original complaint about baby pictures: they all look roughly similar and parents love to send them to other people. Stein’s not having it! (registration may be required) But not only that, Old Man Grumpus doesn’t even want to see pictures of his friends’ babies!
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.
My feelings on this are obviously colored by the fact that a 24-week old fetus is now kicking away in my wife’s belly. I was elated to send sonograms around to friends. I also get excited to see sonograms from pregnant friends. And baby pictures. Sure, being a parent-to-be plays into it, but overriding that is that fact that I love my friends and care about their lives. I like to both learn about them and share with them.
Stein’s problem, as noted in his email column, is that his big head likes things to flow one-way: straight out. Want to listen? Fine, but don’t think he gives a shit about listening to you. (Friends now included, unless they are giving him dinner, apparently.) The guy’s a columnist, so some of that self-absorbed braying is to be expected.
All that’s on record, at least. But I wonder if there isn’t some envy and defensiveness at work in the baby picture example, too. At the Obscure Store, where I first read this, the discussion has degenerated into a breeder/non-breeder brouhaha. Many childless people say they are happy with their choice. I have no reason to doubt them. But Stein sees sharing baby pictures as “bragging,” and that position seems so unreasonable that I can’t help but wonder at the psychology behind it. Why care about “bragging” (and he equates babies with 100K salaries, too) unless you are envious?
I don’t know if Stein has kids. I did some Stein-ian levels of research myself for this post (I looked at his webpage) and read he is married. But he doesn’t have to envy friends' kids for my argument to stand, only their happiness. I actually suspect it is all an act, but such is that type of columnist’s job.