Back when I was a Deeply Misunderstood middle schooler, I remember spending a good deal of time feeling righteously indignant because those fools (read: 8th grade boys) didn’t appreciate my Advanced Glamor. I might show up to school in my nana’s mink stole –heads and feet attached, natch– or a beret/scowl/neckerchief combination a la Ninotchka complete with enthusiastically, if not attractively, plucked eyebrows for the total Garbo package:
Only to have the boys chase these boring girls who wore OP tee-shirts with their Esprit madras shorts and pneumatic ponytails.
It made no sense.
Here I was, categorically fabulous in intent if not application (we shall not discuss The Summer of The Purple Lipstick) and I was getting nada in the way of pre-adolescent admiration. I complained –as I so often did– about the general stupidity of people who were not me to my grandmother. She took a drag off one of the many Benson and Hedges she had smoldering at any given moment, exhaled and said:
“Don’t worry. Cute doesn’t age well.”
And my friends, I have held onto that little gin-soaked kernel of truth ever since.
Not only does it provide many delightful moments of Facebook schadenfreude, it keeps me on my toes when it comes to my wardrobe.
Now we use “cute” in a lot of ways, so maybe I ought to be more specific. I’m talking cutesy.
I have a problem with cutesy.
Cutesy doesn’t get the promotion. Cutesy doesn’t get respect.
Blah blah blah shouldn’t matter what I wear blah blah I prove myself through my intelligence blah blah antifeminist tyranny of painful shoes blah.
Sure, fine. And you’re right, in a perfect world it shouldn’t matter what we wear. We would ride unicorns to work, park them under the cupcake tree, get Peter O’Toole Memorial Drunk and play with kittens all day.
But riddle me this:
Which one of these women makes the coffee?
But maybe you say it’s an unfair comparison. Jimmy Choos are hundreds of dollars, come in perilously high heels and only one width.
Okay, let’s play again:
Even with an equivalently priced shoe –with the same heel height and available in a variety of widths– I’m still going to ask Mary Jane to be a lamb and fetch pastries for the meeting.
If you don’t mind being Mary Jane, fine. There’s a woman in my office who happily makes the coffee every day and that’s peachy, although I’d rather burn off my fingerprints with acid than make coffee for a male colleague. Just be aware of the message you send and make sure it’s the one you want people to hear.