Support the news
Like what you read here? Sign up for our twice-weekly newsletter.
I have no idea what it’s like to be a megacelebrity's child, but I imagine it's an extreme version of being a child of modern parents.
For instance, if you are born to parents today, you might be given a name with multiple hyphens, unlikely letters in unusual positions, or some deep connection to a god or goddess from an ancient culture.
And if you are born to Beyonce, you might be named “Sir.”
This was the biggest revelation in Beyonce’s latest Instagram post, which is giving a grateful nation a reprieve from depressing world events and speculation about the Trump family. It’s also a reminder that, as much as our president prides himself in his ability to draw attention, he’s got nothing on the Carter-Knowles family.
I’m more concerned about what Beyonce is doing to poor, beleaguered parents, trying to navigate today’s world of social media one-upmanship.
“Tiffany” is a name you give your child to burnish your family image. “Sir” is a name you give your child when image is your primary asset.
I’m not so worried about the mental welfare of Sir. It’s highly unlikely that he’ll go to public middle school, so I’m sure everything will turn out OK. (Same for his sister Rumi, who is presumably named for a 13th century Persian poet.)
No, I’m more concerned about what Beyonce is doing to poor, beleaguered parents, trying to navigate today’s world of social media one-upmanship. Giving your child a suitably memorable name feels like an option. What’s more universal is the pressure to share your child with the world in the most premeditated and choreographed way.
Consider Beyonce’s Instagram unveiling of her twins. There she is, a new mother reduced to pre-maternal size, looking beatific in front of an unspecified ocean, surrounded by floral fabric and a gauzy veil, not to mention an enormous floral halo and meticulously trimmed hedges. (Is it wrong to admit that my eyes go to the topiary?)
Her hair is flowing. Her kneecaps are perfectly arranged. Wait, there are babies in there, right? Somewhere? Oh yes, two tiny heads, also artfully arranged in this glorious still life — and, thankfully, asleep.
I know, IknowIknowIknow. Beyonce is making a statement about the divine power of motherhood, and honoring the human body, and I am 100 percent for all of that. Also, she is Beyonce, so she can basically do what she wants.
Still, some part of me is hoping that among the messages stacked in that photo is parody, because our celebration of all things baby has gotten a little out of control. When I was in the throes of baby-making, roughly a decade ago, your biggest stress was wondering how tired you’d look when the post-birth photo was inevitably posted on Facebook.
On Twitter the other day, I saw a baby announcement that included an animated purple mist, which reconstituted in the form of a child.
Now, a parent’s obligations, to the followers in her various feeds, extend well before and after the birth itself. They require painfully clever and painstakingly designed photo collages, abetted by technology: On Twitter the other day, I saw a baby announcement that included an animated purple mist, which reconstituted in the form of a child. Thankfully, online magazines are willing to prevent you from being a social media failure, offering, for instance, a gallery of “creative birth announcements that will break Instagram.“
Unlike the Carters, these people are not obligated, by dint of their careers, to draw publicity to everything they do. But the advent of photo filters and editing tools makes it easier to DIY a Beyonce-caliber post. And the pressure emanating from everyone else’s social media feeds makes glamour-posting harder to resist.
Yes, these parents are having fun. That’s what they’re telling us, and what they are probably telling themselves, and what they’re certainly telling the toddlers they enlist in their performance art. But really, in most cases, a simple snapshot will do.
Babies are cute, no matter what their surroundings. And what new parents really need, a month after a blessed birth — what Beyonce surely deserves, as well — is a nap.
This segment aired on July 18, 2017.