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The Death of Cute | Manolo for the Big Girl

The Death of Cute

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:

ninotchka

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:

sofft

Jimmy Choo luggage leather brown court shoes

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:

Bandalino Berry

sofft calypso

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.

53 Responses to “The Death of Cute”

  1. KimKS May 11, 2010 at 12:47 pm #

    I am the Executive Assistant to a pretty important bad ass woman- I make the coffee and I wear stilettos, not because I am forced to but because I like to. I am well educated, well compensated and I pretty much run my office. People see me as the right hand to the CEO and in being her right hand I occasionally have to get the coffee or the pastries, so be it.

    I think the respect I get comes from doing my job well. The fact that I look the part also helps.

  2. Ai May 12, 2010 at 7:26 pm #

    Oh my, i happen to be in that stage of high school where cutesy goes. I wear blazers and cowboy boots but i never get any guys. one of them actually said to me, “Christ, why are you so dressed up!” Sure i wear Mary Janes but a darling little pair of Mary Janes can’t stand up to a pencil skirt, a tuxedo blouse and perpetually threaded Veronica Lake eyebrows! i suppose i should be cute but i like where I’m at. just gotta wait for everyone else to catch up

  3. me May 16, 2010 at 10:24 am #

    Sorry for me the black one says secretary or hopeless middle management. It is conventional, has absolutely no risk or individuality involved, is not elegant or stylish or anything at all, it is just boring. It is a shoe for a person that is going to be forgotten the moment she walks out of the room. The Jimmy Choo has at least its improbable height going for it, it says the woman wearing this shoe will do everything to have things her way.
    We are not living in a time anymore, where being conventional gets you anywhere, if you want a career don’t dress to be forgotten or blend into the background, dress as you. In a lot of careers you may very well be the only woman around, you stick out anyway, why not stick out as you.