Could we just talk for a minute about the creepiness of the song, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside?”
If for some inexplicable reason you haven’t heard this song in one of its many iterations at the mall or on holiday radio stations, it goes way back to 1944. I know, because I looked it up on Wikipedia, which describes the song as a “call and response” between a man and a woman, originally identified in the song sheet – creepily – as “mouse” and “wolf.”
Clearly, this was before “no” meant “no,” and a wolf whistle was … what, a compliment?
Here are some lyrics: The woman says, “I really can’t stay,” and the man says, “But Baby, it’s cold outside.” Then:
“I’ve got to go away”
“But Baby, it’s cold outside.””
“This evening has been”
“Been hoping that you’d drop in”
“So very nice”
“I’ll hold your hands, they’re just like ice.”
Okay, so we go from maybe he’s concerned about her safety in hazardous weather, to, he probably doesn’t actually give a crap about her safety or the hazardous weather. He just wants her to stay for two reasons: she’s there, and she has a pulse! He can work with that!
Also: he calls her “Beautiful,” and “Baby.” Does he even know her name? Does it matter?
I’m sorry; I was an English major in college. I can’t help myself.
But at best it’s awkward. Later on, she says flat out, “The answer is no.”
Then, as Bill Cosby’s dates allegedly wondered, “What’s in this drink?”
Meanwhile, he says, “What’s the sense in hurtin’ my pride?” Yes, because it’s all about you! Followed by, “How can you do this thing to me?” Seriously? Is he Charlie Rose, casually standing around naked after his shower? Or maybe he’s Matt Lauer, with his secret Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery buttons under his desk that lock the office door? What’s missing, Harvey Weinstein telling her that either she’ll never work in this town again, and/or he’s going after her family?
And toward the end, when she repeats, “I really can’t stay,” he says, “Get over that hold out,” or “old out,” I can’t really tell, but it sounds a little bit like the tone has turned from playful to: I already paid for your drink; let’s cut to the chase! I’m on the clock here!
Then in unison – symbolic unison, my English major self says – they both sing, “Baby, it’s cold outside.” And suddenly everything’s supposed to be peachy.
Now, I’m going to come right out and say, the song is catchy. It’s clever, and the tune kind of gets into your head. The Dean Martin version is very good. My personal favorite rendition is by Brian Setzer, who also adds a delightful guitar solo, with Ann-Margaret, whose singing voice is as lovely as ever.
But the giant elephant in the room is the clear fact that the guy is not going to take no for an answer.
What’s in this drink?
“I Believe in Christmas.”
Changing the subject: You know my love for Hallmark movies. In fact, I even own a shirt that says, “All I want to do is drink tea, bake Christmas cookies, and watch Hallmark movies.” I adore Hallmark Christmas movies. But just like the phenomenon I have previously mentioned, about the hair of the leading men and ladies dyed a shade too dark, there’s just a shade too much Santa.
“I just want my son to believe in Santa Claus.”
“We all need to believe in Christmas Magic.”
See, the thing is, Christmas is a holiday dedicated to celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ! Christ, Christmas… the reason for the season… And frankly, why go to great lengths to make your kid believe in Santa Claus – I admit, I’ve done it, once snipping a curly lock of snowy chest hair off of our liver-and-white Springer Spaniel, Penny, and pretending to find some of Santa’s beard hair, which, I acknowledge, was weird – when, eventually, they’re going to suspect that maybe, just maybe, it was not actually Santa?
Instead, we see supernatural Santa doing magic, matchmaking, transporting from the North Pole to a train, to a street in a small Hallmark town, putting up roadblocks to delay the wrong suitor so that the right suitor can finally make his move. We see a magic stocking acting as a sort of divine Providence. We see Santa’s wife having her own powers, going around helping people find love. We see Santa’s daughter helping people and actually finding love. We see Santa’s lovable and sometimes cranky elves busy making toys in undercover towns in the far north. We see Santa’s reindeer… well, they don’t have speaking parts, but still. And kids write letters that are like prayers… to Santa!
It’s not about Santa! Believe it or not, it’s not even about presents!
Similarly, Easter is not actually about a large rodent tenderly breaking into your home and placing candy and toys in baskets lined with plastic grass, although some might argue that Peeps are heavenly, and so are malted eggs, and of course jelly beans.
© Janet Farrar Worthington