How do you feel about the word “cute?”
Maybe it makes you think of babies or puppies or Hello Kitty backpacks. Small, harmless things. Or, miniature replicas of larger things.
Maybe “cute” to you is just shy of pretty and a few blocks from gorgeous.
My friend, writer Becky Karush, believes cute is underrated.
Becky hosts a refreshingly different podcast called, “Read to Me,” where each week she reads a short literary selection and shows us how to listen for what we love. In a recent episode, she read a children’s book by Juana Martinez-Neal and said:
“There is a place for cute,” she says. “It’s undervalued, I think. Sort of commodified as a way to sell things or devalued as just a girl thing. But the sincerity and passion inside cuteness, there’s a real thing there. Someone should write an essay about that.”
Cute, at first glance, is … is appealing, attractive, approachable. But the closer I look, the more there is to it. Because what’s most interesting about cute is that it doesn’t know that it is.
Trying to be cute? Not cute. Humble brag? Not cute. Self loathing? no. A little self deprecation? Sure. A blush of self-consciousness? Yes.
True cute isn’t self aware. It doesn’t know it’s cute, which is, of course, partly why it is so damn cute.
It’s why cat videos dominate online: Because cats aren’t trying to be cute. They’re going about their business quite seriously—and it’s very adorable.
And: Cute is everywhere, if you know how to spot it in the wild.
Catching someone in the moment of cute is to see someone being so fully themselves, so unguarded and rapt, so sincerely present to whatever they’re doing, that we kinda fall in love with them (but not in a creepy way). Which is why someone can be cute when they’re eating…or raving mad.
I’m lucky because I get to see people at their absolute cutest—a lot.
When I work with people (in a workshop, in a private session) I give them spill-proof conditions for their sincerity, creativity, vulnerability, and strength to safely emerge.
They take great care in writing their ideas down, then read them out loud to me and each other.
No one is trying to be cute. But it is a very real side effect.
Here’s why: There is, in cuteness, an inherent trust. When someone’s being cute, they’re showing you who they are, trusting no harm wil come to them. There’s beauty and vulnerability in that.
Now—contrast that with our modern culture and its reflexive snark, its snorting and eye rolling, its irony and indifference—all of it a coping mechanism for mounting despair.
Cute brings us back from the edge of being “over” everything, and helps us reengage in a fresh, vital, even innocent, way.
You can’t aim for cute. But I do think that kind of un-self-awareness, the ability to be open and to trust and just be you without trying to be any other thing. That is undeniably cute. In fact, it’s something to aspire to.
…I have created a place where people can be cute and disarming and 100 percent themselves, and it’s in a gorgeous, sprawling ranch outside of Austin, Texas.
And a few of us cuties are going to spend a long weekend there April 30-May 3, 2020.
Want to join us? Learn more about The Intensive, a 3-day retreat for people dying to get their big ideas down on paper, and the work out into the world.
Come be yourself. Because you’re kind of adorable.