The playful but creepy lyrics of ‘Baby, it’s cold outside’ tell the story of an overbearing predator (described in the sheet music as ‘the wolf’) trying to get a woman (‘the mouse’) to spend the night with him. So I rewrote it.
It has always sounded creepy and threatening to me. Which is a shame in some ways because the song is a neat call and response duet with some subtle humor and the intention of good cheer.
Apparently there are now ‘wars’ about whether the song is appropriate or not. Defense of the song seems to be circling around the idea that “it’s tradition, it’s boys being boys, and I like it”. For more background, see this article from Snopes). Some would keep the lyrics but gender-switch the roles, even if both are the same sex. Some have tried to fix the lyrics by dropping the most problematic lines or to make it an example of proper consent protocols.
I suggest taking the lyric-fixing one step further by entirely dropping the romance/flirtation angle, which is the heart of the problem. Of all the songs about love and relationships, trying to jam that issue into a holiday song in a playful way seems misplaced. Sure, “I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus” and “Let it Snow” also handle adult romance in a playful way but note that both handle it so much better.
My rendition below all started with the title, and all the different contexts someone says ‘baby’ including ones that are not out-and-out sexist. Flip the genders, change the relationship, the humor stays and without too many changes, we get a better holiday song. These lyrics add a dimension that any parent with a teenager allergic to coats can attest to. I think it makes the song both funnier and bittersweet in a cute way. Like holiday songs are supposed to be!
I really want to play (but baby, it’s cold outside)
It’s been snowing all day (but baby, it’s cold outside)
My homework has been (been hoping that you’d stay in)
Long since done (hold my hand, I’m sad when you’re gone)
Those kids mothers don’t worry (beautiful what’s your hurry?)
My friends will be sore (listen to that snowstorm roar)
It’s really just a flurry (beautiful I’m gonna worry)
But maybe just two cookies more (just like when you were four)
That scarf will make me sweat (son, it’s bad out there)
Say how did these gloves get wet? (no fun to be had out there)
I wish you could see (you’re still so young to me)
How much I can do (can barely tie your shoes)
I ought to run out that door (don’t break my heart any more)
It would be crazy to stay inside (it’s too dark now, besides)
I have to go play (oh baby please don’t go out)
But baby, it’s cold outside
I really want to go (but baby, it’s cold outside)
Look at that snow (but baby, it’s cold outside)
My blankie has been (isn’t it nice to snuggle in)
So nice and warm (see I mean you no harm)
I’m starting to get suspicious (gosh these cookies are delicious)
Thats my friends knocking on the door (I’ll miss my baby more)
The snowball fight will be vicious (aren’t these candies delicious)
But maybe just one hot cocoa more (never such a blizzard before)
I’ve gotta go out (but baby, you’d freeze out there)
Say give me my coat (it’s up to your knees out there)
We’re gonna go sledding (I can make you some pudding)
It’s gonna be a blast (when did you grow up so fast?)
We’ll play together tomorrow (my heart is full of sorrow)
My boots are on and my laces are tied (if you got pneumonia and died)
I really want to play (I don’t know what else to say)
Baby, it’s cold
Baby, it’s cold outside