There’s something about this adjective that’s special. It’s not ‘beautiful’s’ PG-13 cousin and neither is it ‘charming’s’ older sibling. It’s a word that’s destined to destroy every grown-up woman’s self-esteem and pride.
When you say something is ‘cute,’ I instantly picture you looking at a baby seal, covered in oil and splashing in a tiny bucket of bubbles. And if you say ‘cute’ when looking at a girl in her mid-20s (or even 30s), it’s a crime.
At the risk of taking this topic too close to home, I’m going to say that the latter makes me cringe. I get called ‘cute’ a lot. A lot! It’s not just said in an innocent way by uncles, aunties and my mum’s best friends, but by coworkers, friends, neighbours and men. Yes indeed, I did just classify men in their own, exclusive category (lucky you!), but I have a reason for it, which I’ll come to later.
Due to the confusion caused by bubbles, cuddly animals and battery-operated toys, I feel the need to understand the actual definition of ‘cute’. What the hell do you have to say for yourself, Oxford Dictionary?
1. Attractive in a dainty way; pleasingly pretty: a cute child; a cute little apartment.
2. Appealing and delightful: What a cute toy!
3. Affectedly or mincingly pretty or clever; precious: The child has acquired some intolerably cute mannerisms.
4. Mentally keen; clever; shrewd. noun
So, am I perceived as an apartment or do my manners translate to be of an intolerable child? I’m a little confused.
I’m certain that majority of times the word ‘cute’ is blurted out as a compliment, or the incapability of knowing any other words in the English language to praise a lady. But when men label mature, well-dressed and intelligent women as ‘cute’, does definition #4 imply to… the woman? Men, explain yourself. Why do you call your woman cute? What about words like: sexy, beautiful, attractive, stunning, gorgeous, talented, glamourous, vivacious or witty? Have you seen a magazine named ‘Cute’? Exactly! There’s a reason why all the Vogues, Cosmopolitans and Glamours in the world exist.
Women don’t want to be in the same box as a nursery rhyme character.
Tinker Bell was cute. We don’t want to be.
There’s a brilliant post written by a Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Mary Oliver, who especially hates the word “cute” when used to describe animals and plants. She writes:
“Such words – “cute,” “charming,” “adorable” – miss the mark, for what is perceived of in this way is stripped of dignity, and authority. What is cute is entertainment, and replaceable. The words lead us and we follow: what is cute is diminutive, it is powerless, it is capturable, it is trainable, it is ours. It is all a mistake. […] We live, I am sure of this, in the same country, in the same household, and our burning comes from the same lamp. We are all wild, valorous, amazing. We are, none of us, cute.”
Her point being that ‘cute’ portrays anything but flattery. If you’re labelled as ‘cute’, then you are “replaceable, powerless, trainable and diminutive,” according to Oliver. Why would you want the world to think of you as someone who is so fragile and delicate that you might flutter and fall apart with a slight nudge? Modern woman’s nightmare – right here.
Sometimes I wonder, does my five-foot-nothing frame, petite silhouette and extremely loud, mind-blasting personality have anything to do with the adjective sticking on with me as I grow up? For goodness sake, I am a strong, independent woman who doesn’t even need a shoe anymore to kill cockroaches (Yeah baby!), so what’s this ‘cute’ business? I work for a respectable magazine, write for publications that have a mature audience and don’t own a single item of clothing from Supre. Apart from that doing good to the fashion industry, why am I still considered ‘cute’?
I remember being called ‘cute’ when I was a child with super chubby cheeks – photo evidence below – and that’s completely acceptable. But those layers of face fat have shrunken to defined cheek bones now, if I may say so, and by no means is the architecture of my face comparable to this dreadful adjective.
But honestly, I do want to know, do you exclusively use this adjective for toy dogs that bark and flip, or do you use it to define someone’s sexuality or physical appeal?
Should ‘cute’ be vetoed from all dictionaries that are applicable to women between the ages of 20-45 (YES!)?
And if you’re a man reading this, do you like your ladies calling you their ‘cutie pies’?
Seriously, tell me.
Until then, save your “you look cute!” remarks for when I get a puppy. I bet her fluffy little tail would love to hear that from a human!
Disclaimer: All the narcissitic references to my own self in the post above are merely there for example purposes. I want you to think over this with your own life experiences and next time when you call your furry cat ‘cute’, make sure your even more adorably-cute girlfriend and/or boyfriend doesn’t hear you.