What if I told you the perfect baby gift exists? You might reasonably ask me to define “perfect.” How about: completely customizable, personalized, and holds universal appeal regardless of cultural background, gender identity, class, or even the child’s own “personality” (insofar as parents claim it exists)? And the baby wouldn’t grow out of it—ever? And it was completely free? And obtainable in less than a minute?
Latch on to this, pals.
Do not pass Bonpoint. Do not spend $200. Head directly to Gmail and register little Elon or Ivanka for baby’s first e-mail address: email@example.com. Choose a password and send the login information to Mom and Dad. Soon enough, you will be the swaddled one—swaddled in gratitude.
I’ve registered half a dozen children for Gmail accounts. Does this technically make me a serial cyber-criminal? Sure. By the letter of the law. But who isn’t?
More relevantly: not once had the parents thought of it first. Bogged down by the immediate demands of infancy—making the baby an extra set of keys for the apartment, buying the child a litter box, unplugging dangerous household items like refrigerators and Wi-Fi routers—those early days are all-consuming. (I don’t have children.)
It’s completely customizable, personalized, and holds universal appeal regardless of cultural background, gender identity, class, or even the child’s own “personality.”
And yet, no newborn should find him- or herself staring down a lifetime of firstname.lastname@example.org—or, God forbid, email@example.com. A terrible fate: damned to spend eternity fielding the question “So I guess firstname.lastname was taken?”
I was lucky, nabbing the e-mail address I did. But what if, by the time I got around to signing up in 2004, my preferred username had already been taken? It haunts me: the narrowly avoided theoretical inconvenience. If only someone had had the foresight to register my Google username on the day I was born. What were my parents doing on that day in 1988? Listening to cassette tapes while rollerblading to a Dukakis rally? Maybe, instead, they should have rollerbladed to gmail.com. Such myopic callousness I will never understand.
No newborn should find him- or herself staring down a lifetime of firstname.lastname@example.org—or, God forbid, email@example.com.
What about “screen time”? Well, to settle this once and for all: screens are terrific. I stare at them all day long. If not for screens, what would people look at?
But on the off chance your concerns persist even after I’ve just successfully and definitively argued the case, the beauty of this gift is that parents are the ones with the password, and they can bequeath it unto the child at whatever point they deem appropriate. Until then, they can simply set up the child’s out-of-office auto-response: “Hello, I’m currently a baby with limited access to e-mail. For immediate assistance, please contact an adult.”
The life span of baby clothes is measured in months. Toys are outgrown, lost, and discarded. A Gmail address is something a person will use forever.
It’s a surprisingly profound feeling: being the very first person to log in to an account that will soon become an ever expanding archive of someone else’s life. In just a few short decades, the now empty in-box will swell with love letters, college acceptances and rejections, inside jokes, press releases, fundraising e-mails from political campaigns, and a fathomless accumulation of uniformly unopened Politico Playbooks.
It is a permanent digital connection between Gmail benefactor and beneficiary, forever bound by a few short keystrokes. You’re more than a godparent: you’re a Gparent.
Juli Weiner is a five-time Emmy Award–winning screenwriter and an alumna of Graydon Carter’s Vanity Fair. She wrote for the first six seasons of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and is currently a writer on the forthcoming HBO limited series The Palace