Christmas music is not contained in cathedrals, as my three Pandora stations dedicated to holiday songs will prove. Many of us begin listening to holiday tunes the day after Thanksgiving and carry on throughout the month of rushing and baking and buying.

When I was a kid, during the Golden Age of TV Variety Shows, I sat cross-legged on the floor entranced by the sparkle and holiday garishness of Dean Martin singing “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” I was hooked from the first note. Sure, Dean was a lecherous crooner with bloodshot eyes who carried his martini glass and cigarette as if they were appendages. But I truly believed he was a good guy in love when he sang “Baby.”

My daughters, independent and smart women of the #MeToo generation, do not agree. They say “Baby” is about a wolf pressuring an innocent woman into doing things she does not want to do.


Frank Loesser wrote “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” in 1944 to sing to his wife as part of the entertainment at their holiday party. “Baby” is about romance and fun between two consenting adults, I insist, not sexual harassment.

But my daughters don’t buy it. They say, “What about when the guy pours the girl a drink and she says, ‘Say, what’s in this drink?’ Mom, we have three words for that: date rape drug.”

“Was that even invented in 1944?” I ask.

They roll their eyes and present more evidence of seduction: “She wants to leave but he keeps telling her she looks swell and her lips are delicious and he’ll take her hat. He talks her into one more cigarette.”

“Smoking is bad for you,” I agree.

Then they bring out the big guns: “She concedes she ought to say ‘No, no, no sir.’ But he responds, ‘Baby, don’t hold out. What’s the sense in hurting my pride?’ That’s coercion, Mom.”

“Okay, I admit she’s concerned about staying. How her mother will worry and her father will pace the floor. And what will the neighbors think? But . . . it’s a holiday song.”

My daughters look at me with such disappointment. They are from the generation that does not know any background about when and why “Baby” was written. They are from the age of sanitation, where nothing is safe, not even Dr. Seuss.

“Do we have to wring the romance out of everything?” I ask them. “What if the song is not about a man trying to entice a woman into his bed? What if the song is just about two honest people falling in love on a wintery night? There are many Minnesota nights when I will make any excuse not to go outside.”

My daughters shake their heads at my naïveté. “Mom, this song brings to mind the uncomfortable situations many of us have been in. It’s hard to ignore the fact that the woman says no and the man repeatedly tries to wear her down.”

This comment stops me. They’re right. I admit that when the lyrics are taken out of context, they do sound creepy in today’s cultural environment. And as a mother, it outrages me that my daughters have to put up with predators and lechers in their workplaces, in stores, just walking down the street. These are my babies. 

So I have begun to look at “Baby” in a new light. Still, there are times when I find myself walking down the street humming “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” I can’t help it.

Apparently, I have much to learn about the true intention of holiday songs.


Don’t tell anyone, but I also sneak views of the Idina Menzel and Michael Bublé video of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” which is a refreshing and updated take on this holiday classic.