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Barbara Greenberg

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A Treatise on Being Called 'Cute'

Posted: 05/08/2012 4:04 pm

I am an adult woman. Yes, at the risk of saying something socially inappropriate, I will say it anyway. On some days, I do feel attractive. And guess what -- despite having gone through childbirth, I am still pleased with my body. I am delighted when I get complimented on my appearance because I love fashion, beauty products and all that comes with being a woman. I will tell you, however, what irks me to no end: when someone refers to me as "cute." Yes, even at my age, which is over 40. Isn't "cute" a word that is associated with babies or adorable pets or a new item of clothing? I haven't seen any magazines called "Cute Women." There is Glamour, Cosmopolitan and Vogue, but nope, no magazine called Cute.

I can't really take a poll and ask people why they associate me with cute because that would be perceived as pretty weird. So, instead, I went to the dictionary and looked up cute and here is what I found:

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

After I read and obsessed over each definition, I felt even more confused. I am attractive in a way that a child or a toy is? What on Earth should I do with that information?

For goodness sake, I have a PhD. I have a grown daughter, who, by the way, is graduating from graduate school next week and already got a job offer. I just threw that in to be CUTE. I write for respectable magazines. I am an author. I shop at nice stores. Still, I am cute? What about "that Barbara, she is just so charming" or "doesn't that Barbara know how to wear her clothes so well?"

I am thinking back to my childhood and teenage years. Was I called cute then? The irony is that I don't think that that was how I was referred to back then. Or, maybe I simply wasn't paying attention. Maybe at this age, "cute" is a common descriptor. Actually, I don't think so. I, for example, don't say to friends "You really have to meet____ because she is so cute."

So let me put this out there: I don't want to be called cute. I never once aspired to this status. I don't know what I'd prefer but I'll eventually get back to you on that. First, I need to sort out the issue at hand.

For the sake of my well-being I have decided to put myself out there. Perhaps you can weigh in on why I am being referred to with the same adjective that one uses, for, say, a toy dog? I will try your suggestions and even incorporate them into my daily style. I am trusting that you won't lead me down the path of frumpy or dowdy. Trust me though when I tell you that I don't ever expect to be called classy or elegant. I think that would be a stretch. So, here's my photo.

Please weigh in but don't be too harsh. I think cute may be associated with sensitive.

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