I was fortunate to grow up in a community of educated, professional, cultured, sophisticated people. I suppose some would call them the élite. I know better because when we vacationed, hung out on weekends, or met up at the grocery, the “élite” often wore t-shirts that read “Unreal!” or “Luke, I am your father” or “God only made a few perfect heads, on the rest he put hair.”* They giggled and were nerdy when they weren’t off running labs or college departments or theaters or wall street offices or law firms.
What I learned at an early age was that cute didn’t fly with these people, the men or the women. Attractive? Fine. Pleasing to the senses? Yup. Aesthetically hunky-dorey? Yup. Cute? No. Substance, substance, substance. Nothing lit up these brilliant people’s faces like sound logic, a great pun, a well-turned phrase.
I grew up, thank God, aspiring to be more than a sexual being. Not that I’m not a sexual being, I have kids for God’s sake (and eyes…I mean have you people seen Godfrey Gao? No? Here he is..)
I strove to be that “complete package” — not just as a woman, but as a human being. Gentle with others, scathing with humor, well-read, articulate, interested, interesting. I take care of my appearance, but not excessively so.
I went to a college that emphasized academics almost to the exclusion of anything else, including hygiene, if you could smell down the dorm hall. And I could. Smart, witty, brilliant, clever, outrageous — all lauded. I did, after all, go to The University of Chicago…one of the progenitors of Second City. Mental fencing…classy, refined, occasionally painful.
I graduated and worked at a Catholic School with a bunch of priests. It was as respectful — both ways — as it gets. I felt being female was nothing more and nothing less than an alternate perspective, a different history. It was not a weakness. It was not cute. It was beautiful. (I believe males are equally beautiful.)
Then grad school. More academic wolf-whistling.
I actually dated throughout these wonderful years of brain-enhancing. Good banter usually led to more dates. Great banter to a relationship. I fell in love with some pretty brilliant men. Most of them probably not considered handsome when using the traditional measures. I was not asexual. I was growing…as a person, as a woman…every day. I laughed a lot.
Something happened after all that…I got smacked in the face with the real world. The world that likes its women with a whole lot more cute than what I offer. A world that will work tirelessly to extract, explain, explore, and exclaim cute at every opportunity. And if there is no opportunity, one is created. Opportunities to project cuteness where they was none, and where none need be, have been on my mind of late.
Cuteness, it seems, is another word for non-threatening.
To be continued