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Words have always been very important to me. The way they are used, the context, the meaning; I care which words you say, and when. I care whether we name our children names that mean something important or not. I get hung up on wording, even if the intent behind them was innocent. (Ask my husband — as a person who generalizes during discussions, he knows this well.) Perhaps this has evolved from my love of writing, from the days when I read the dictionary and devoured new words with a voracious appetite; perhaps this comes from being a person who loves to over-communicate (or perhaps that comes from my love of words), or perhaps it’s just a quirk I’ve always had.
Whatever the case, words are important. And there is a word that has been floating around for a long, long time; a word I read over and over again on various blogs, in various conversations, in regards to many different things, and it’s beginning to bother me.
You see this word flung at puppies and kittens and chubby-cheeked babies; you hear this cooed over new shoes and dresses with bows and frilly things; you say this word to small children or grown women or hot guys… and if you haven’t deduced by now, the word I’m talking about is “cute.” I have seen this word used in so many different situations, for so many things, and it may be an overreaction but yesterday I saw someone use the word and it just… bothered me.
See, yesterday, the word was used about me, in conjunction with “adorable,” in regards to that red dress I was wearing and how I needed to get dressed in order to feel beautiful again. It struck me, when a few people said I looked “cute” or my dress was “cute”, that I really dislike this word in reference to myself.
Babies are cute. Puppies are cute. Kittens are cute. Little girls in frilly dresses with bows in their hair are cute. Baby-faced teenage boys are, to equally baby-faced teenaged girls, cute. And sure, a dress like the one I’m wearing today, I could categorize as “cute” although I would choose “quirky” or “fun” instead out of a desire to avoid that word. Grown women in high heels and red lipstick? Cute, really?
And I am not using this as an attack on whomever has used “cute” on me in the past. Having heard from a friend who admits she defaults to “cute” even if said item is more pretty, beautiful, delicate, whatever, I get it. Sometimes, you just have that word you use for all the things. You say it in passing because you don’t want to think of a more appropriate description. Because it’s easy, it’s adequate, perhaps it’s partially true, or perhaps in your eyes, that woman in the red dress and red lips with the vampy heels is just that — cute. No more, no less.
When I hear “cute”, I think “childish.” I associate “cute” with the twee, the bows and frills and knee-high socks and the outfits that you could just as well see on a five-year-old girl as you could on a teen or on the 25 year old woman who is wearing it. There’s nothing inherently wrong with dressing to be cute, let me be clear. If you’re a mature woman and you want to wear the bows and the frills, do it. Wear what makes you feel good.
But can we get a little more creative with the words we use to describe people? When I comment on another woman’s appearance, I intentionally avoid the word “cute” unless she’s wearing a sweater with cats printed all over it. Adorable is as close as I’ll get. I try to tell her she looks pretty, or beautiful, or stunning, or glamorous, or fun, or striking; that I would wear what she’s wearing, that I love the print, that she looks fantastic.
Dress c/o Oasap | Target tights | Modcloth headband | JC Penney boots | gift Doctor Who Pin
Maybe I’ve thought too much about this word, or maybe it’s true. But when I go all out to dress up and feel glamorous and beautiful, and someone comes along and tells me it’s cute, my first reaction is, honestly, to be a little let down. The word makes me feel as though that person thinks I’m a little girl dressing up, or not quite worthy of a higher praise. Not that I need a higher praise. But it would be nice to know that my efforts looked better to someone than just… cute.
Cute is a middling word for something beautiful. I’m not trying to hail myself in yesterday’s outfit post as some gorgeous goddess, nor was that the only instance where I was called “cute” and felt as though that was an inappropriate time to use the word. There are outfits I have worn that I would describe as “cute” because they are — a little girly, a little twee, a little whimsical, cute. But my prerogative when getting dressed is not to be cute. I am a grown, pregnant woman with a child and a husband, who dresses up to feel pretty and, yes, to look hot for her man.
My point here is… let’s quit using that one default word all the time. Start noticing people; start really thinking about what you like about them. If you mean cute as a genuine, highest-compliment-I-can-give, best-thing-ever word, then sure. Call me cute, and I’ll be pleased. But if you’re using it because it’s just that word you always use, think it over. That woman in the uniform with the fantastic nails, was she really trying to just be cute with those nails? Or did she do it to feel beautiful? That woman in the floral dress with the heels and big hat, is it really appropriate to say she looks adorable? Or is pretty (or gorgeous) a better descriptor? What would really make someone feel better about themselves — to be associated with kittens and puppies, or a glamorous movie star?
(EDIT: please note, when I wrote this I knew that nothing I was writing was actually expressing what I meant. I wrote this post HORRIBLY — what I meant to get across was that while I have no issue with the word “cute” in and of itself, it bothers me how much it is overused to describe every single thing, including things that are in no way cute. Mainly, my point was that language is so diverse, and I wish people would utilize the vast amount of descriptive words available and give certain defaults (“love” is another one) a rest.)
Words. I think they’re important.
What word do you default to all the time? What word bothers you the most as a descriptor? And does being called “cute” bother you as much as it bothers me?
Let me know in the comments, and most of all… have a wonderful Friday!