Laying Down the Law with Your Ugly Baby, Confessing to a Girl that You Are Her Stalker, and Other Questionable Advice

Welcome to Thatz Not Okay, a regular column in which I school inquiring readers on what is and is not okay. Please send your questions to caity.weaver@gawker.com with the subject "Thatz Not Okay."

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A friend and I were having a discussion about parents who praise their children's appearances. Neither of us has children, and from our own observations of other parents' interactions with their kids, her thoughts were that if your child is not actually beautiful by conventional standards, there's no need to instill that belief in the child by repeatedly saying that they are beautiful, because the child might get an inflated self image. She also argues that looks shouldn't matter in the first place. I agree there are less-than-average-looking children (and adults) out there by conventional standards, but I believe it's a mother's duty to think and tell the child that she/he is beautiful. What do you think? If you tell you average-looking child that he/she is just average-looking, is that okay?

Thatz not okay.

The best policy is to go a step further and just tell all children (even the hot ones) that they are ugly. That way, if somebody ever loves them, they will be surprised and grateful. Try turning it into a learning exercise:

"Do you see this pretty flower? Tell me the ways in which you are different from this flower. I'll start. The flower gets its food from the sun and you are average at best."

Logically, one could argue that the best way for a doting mother to show her love is to constantly find ways to emphasize her child's shortcomings, so as to prevent him or her from getting a big head.

Ask your daughter "Who's the prettiest girl in the world?" Then press her for an answer. It wasn't a rhetorical question.

Even grammar lessons become Teachable Moments:

"The imperfect is used to indicate that an action was on-going, incomplete, or repeated in the past. Much like how you, my imperfect child, serve as an on-going reminder of why your father was not my ideal mate."

The odd thing about mothers, though, is their short haircuts and also the fact that most of them can't help but believe their babies are gorgeous, even when, by conventional standards, their baby is just a dirty old log they wrapped in an extra-small t-shirt and are pushing around in a pram.

"Isn't she beautiful!" the mothers insist of their newborns.

"She's got such a cute…personality," wince their polite neighbors.

My dad sometimes does this embarrassing but also factually correct thing, where he answers phone calls from me by saying "Well if it isn't a phone call from the smartest, most beautiful girl in the world!" Imagine how poorly this could have turned out if I had grown up not to be the smartest, most beautiful girl in the world. I would have marched around town demanding special treatment—"Barkeep! Put it on my tab: ‘The Smartest, Most Beautiful Girl in the World.' Just kidding. I know it's on the house. Oh, I love how we joke!"—and people would have had no idea what I was talking about. My dad narrowly dodged a bullet. The next dad who tells his daughter she is the smartest, most beautiful girl in the world won't be so lucky (unless I am already dead).

I like your friend's idea that looks don't matter. That's a fun story. But the ugly truth, uglier than the ugliest baby in the land (Jordyn), is that they matter in as much as people are aware of them and sometimes make decisions or judgments based upon them. I don't think there's anything wrong with telling your son of the future he's a good-looking kid every once in a while. It probably shouldn't be something you beat into his head ninety times a day (it's more an appreciation of your own work than anything) and it definitely shouldn't be the only thing you compliment him on. Specific compliments mean more anyway. "You've got such lovely hands." "I find the level of your cunning disconcerting." Etc.

Furthermore, even if you truly believe your child is average-looking, it is still okay to tell them they are cute. Nobody comes to their parents because they want an unbiased assessment of their attractiveness. That's what Internet pic-rating sites are for. Telling your daughter, "You look pretty today," will probably scar her far less than telling her "You are of average appearance for your age and height. Many little girls are prettier than you, but on the plus side, a few are uglier."

If you ever find yourself scrambling desperately for a compliment to fling at your ugly, unremarkable child, "I love you" (the ugly man's "You're pretty") is a fine substitute.

I use several on-line dating services and one of the ways I try to protect myself is by running profile pictures through Tineye or Google Images to see if I can find it somewhere else on the web. [A/N: If you've never performed a reverse image search, go to Google Images and drag an image from another window directly into the search bar. Cool trick.] Fairly often, the image has been stolen from some other site (porn, mail-order bride etc.) so I block or ignore that person. Sometimes, I find the images are from a "real" location (blog, business website etc.) that clearly belongs to the actual person behind the profile, so now I have their real name, a personal email address, their phone number, and a physical address. Now I feel like a stalker, so I don't make contact. However, I have started to wonder if I should contact that person and warn them they have really exposed themselves to embarrassment and/or danger. I'd like to write a note telling them what I have found. Is that okay?

Thatz okay. But you have to be prepared for people to take it poorly.

Here is a true story: a woman I know once received an email from a stranger letting her know that some racy pictures of her had ended up on a "Submit Your Ex's Juicy JPEGs"-type porn site. This is an uncomfortable story for everyone involved: The Good Samaritan performing due diligence on his porn. The young lady who received an "I recognize you from your bra pictures" email from a stranger. The ex-boyfriend who, upon dying, will burn in a fiery hell for all eternity. Awkward for everyone. I'm fuzzy on the details of what happened next, but I don't recall that my friend was able to get the photos taken down. (She was 18 and the pictures were not stolen from her.) So you have to ask: was it better for her to know but be unable for her to do anything other than share her story as a cautionary tale?

I assume the folks who would post the same nude pictures on both their dating website profiles and their personal blogs wouldn't really care if people could trace one to the other.

Of course, you're talking about something a little different.

The odds are much greater that the woman who uses the same headshot for both her audiobook review blog and her Match.com profile would not want people to be able to connect "Alice Smith" who "enjoys Taboo :)" to "AuralSt1mulation" who "will try anything in bed-even if it's taboo ;)."

I might be a little creeped out—by the Internet—if someone emailed me to say they were able to track my dating website photo to my personal Facebook profile or weekly advice column, Thatz Not Okay. But I would also be grateful to that person for letting me know. And I would take steps to better preserve my anonymity on the dating website.

If you do decide to send out some friendly PSAs, I would take care not to mention "stalking" in the emails. Don't say "You might feel like I'm stalking you…" or "I feel like a stalker – HA. HA. HA." Or "Anyway, nice stalking to you!"

Keep it short. Keep it casual. Don't launch into a detailed list of the ways in which they have "really exposed themselves to embarrassment and/or danger." The fact they are receiving any email (even an easy breezy one) regarding this subject should serve to sufficiently freak them out.

You probably will not be asked on a date by the people you contact with this information. But it will give you something to talk about on the dates you do get with people who keep their profiles anonymous. (Incidentally, on those dates, I would not mention that you use "several on-line dating services" simultaneously.)

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