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The Cult of Cuteness

September 28, 2015


On Saturday Mrs. Chatterbox and I took a drive to enjoy the wonderful fall weather. We ended up walking through an antique mall in Troutdale near the scenic Columbia Gorge. I overheard a woman talking to another, pointing at something behind glass and saying, “I have no idea what it is, but it’s really cute.”


I was curious about this mystery object, and when they moved away I checked it out. I likewise had no idea what it was, but I didn’t think it was cute. In all honesty, I don’t tend to like things that are cute. It’s always risky to speak for anyone other than one’s self, but I have a feeling most men don’t like cute. When a woman claims something is cute she often wants it; when a guy says something is cute he doesn’t usually pull out his wallet.


Mrs. Chatterbox uses the term often. She hands me her I-Pad to observe a cute picture…or video. I check it out; if I judge it to be cute it isn’t a compliment.


If you Google c-u-t-e, the first image is a puppy, followed by kittens, a bunny and then babies. Babies seem to be the prime source, although it’s reasonable to assume they can’t all be oozing cuteness, yet I feel criticized if I don’t respond with the appropriate reply: “Yes, that’s certainly a cute baby.” It’s possible that the Internet has made cute the most overused adjective in the English language.





Casa Chatterbox is filled with items Mrs. C. has purchased over the years because they set off the cute-o-meter like uranium triggering a Geiger counter. I don’t need to reach very far to grab something of which I can ask, “What is this and why do we have it?”


“What are you talking about? Just look how cute it is! Don’t you think it’s cute?”


To keep from sinking in relationship quicksand, I troll my memory to recall if she gifted it to me, or if it was something I gave her. As a husband, I understand all too well that not appreciating the power and allure of cuteness makes me a barbarian, a hairy beast unfit for social interaction, so I do what men have done for millennia—I lie. I look my spouse in the eyes, shiver at the wobbly state of my spine and say, “Yes, it sure is cute.”


Women are often heard commenting about how cute things are. Just read comments where a blogger has posted a picture of a puppy or kitten, and count all the times the word cute is used, followed closely by adorable, another word men seldom use.


I recall back in school when guys would comment that a girl was cute, one of the few exceptions when I heard guys actually using the term. Still, cute never rose to the level of hot or smok’n; cute girls were wholesome and sweet, not the stuff of torrid fantasies. A year ago, Mrs. C. and I celebrated our fortieth wedding anniversary. I said to her, “We were just kids when we got married so long ago. Why did you marry me?”


She blinked her baby blues at me and said, “I married you because you were cute.”


Horrified, I replied, “You decided to spend the rest of your life with me, not because I was hot, or smart, or entertaining or talented, but because I was cute?”


She nodded. “As you say, it was a long time ago.”


When I finished writing this post I followed my usual practice of giving it to Mrs. Chatterbox, a college English major, for editing. She circled a few things and handed it back.


“What did you think of this post,” I asked.


She smirked and said, “I thought it was cute!”





I don’t need to ask you women, but how about it guys? Are you a hairy barbarian like me, or do you like things that are cute?




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Oh no, I'm with you. I'll use that word online because I know it's expected and because some things, like puppies and kitties, have few other ways to accurately describe them. And yes, I cringe when my wife wants to show me a cute photo. (Fortunately, it's never a baby.)
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on September 28, 2015
I do have a thing for ducklings and puppies, and probably use the word cute for them, but that is it...promise and the word adorable has never left my lips, and sweet refers to desert or a basketball three pointer. I may refer to cheerleaders as "cute" but only because saying"smoking hot" tends to get you in trouble Excellent post..not cute!.
By: cranky on September 28, 2015
I like cute...not love it...but babies make me a puddle of cooing and babbling.
By: Tabor on September 28, 2015
Oh hahah this reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where someone has a baby and it definitely is NOT any where near cute! Elaine goes through this routine that is absolutely hysterical. If you haven't seen it- look here:
By: Kathe W. on September 28, 2015
At some point I decided to be too sophisticated to like cute things. I like lovely or beautiful things (however that may be defined) for myself or our house. On the other hand, I look for cute gifts for my granddaughter. But at 7, even she is growing out of cute.
By: Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma on September 28, 2015
Most men don't say, 'cute.' Neither do they say 'precious' or 'adorable.' We also pee standing up. Unless we're middle aged. And it's the middle of the night. Which ISN'T cute.
By: Al Penwasser on September 28, 2015
I occasionally say something's cute, but like Alex, because it's someone else's post or baby, or cat or dog and "cute" is the expected response. I like funny. I post funny memes on FB. I get as many comments from guys as girls. You can't go wrong with funny! :)
By: Lexa Cain on September 28, 2015
But you ARE cute, Stephen!!
By: fishducky on September 28, 2015
l'm not sure about cuteness but I thought Mrs. Chatterboxes final comment was way more than cute!
By: Catalyst on September 28, 2015
"Cute" now belongs to that group of words which take up space and have no meaning. Other words in the same category are "interesting" and "issues." To give context, I often hear "That's interesting" as a response to something. But is it interesting because it's bad or amazing or completely insane? You have no idea. And with "issues" it is used usually to describe someone's behavior, yet it provides no information. Example: A woman runs down her husband. Response: I think she has some "issues" she needs to work out. Or a banker absconds with all the investment money. In this situation both the victim and the perp could be said to have "issues" yet again, no actual information is conveyed at all.
By: Michael Offutt on September 28, 2015
I am one of those totally susceptible to anything cute. Man, child, animal, sayings and cars to mention a few, "Cute" trumps most any other descriptive word for me. Cute I will either have or admire. Mrs. C had the perfect answer to this post.
By: Akansas Patti on September 28, 2015
The word "cute" is very overused, and when i see something that is "cute," my first thought is how much trouble the upkeep will be, whether it's a tchotchke that needs dusting or a kitten that needs feeding. That's why i like to look at cute in other people's homes.
By: mimi on September 28, 2015
What's the matter with you "guys"?!? Cute has its place in our lexicon. You are not any less a man for uttering this beautiful four letter word. Cute post, Stephen! ;-)
By: Daniel LaFrance on September 28, 2015
yeah, i've been called cute a few times in my life, too.
By: TexWisGirl on September 28, 2015
As far as I know, I'm still a female, and I'm not into cute. If I used the word cute with Willy Dunne Wooters, he'd probably walk away in disgust. But that's not what stope me. I'm just not into cute. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on September 28, 2015
I was thinking that the actual address for the acclaimed Jubitz Truckstop was in Troutdale, but what I found online has it as just Portland. Anyway, I was so disappointed when I finally made it to the place after seeing the billboards across the west that gave how many more miles it was to get there. No, the place was not all that. It may have been 20-30 years before, but by the time I made it up there in the late 80s, the place was really run-down. I am still glad to say that I have been there, and I hope it has been revitalized.
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on September 28, 2015
A caveat to your rule of cuteness; men should be careful if, when and how they use the word. I told someone I saw recently I thought a film was cute! (knowing their sense of things I figured they would disagree if I said it was good or great) So, when I said it was cute- a subtle way to induce them into seeing it-my wife interrupted like a shot and said "Cute! I wouldn't say it was cute. I'd say it was very good." The moral? When it comes to cute you can't win for loosing!
By: Tom Cochrun on September 28, 2015
Well, if pushed I would certainly say that baby is cute. SO cute! Adorably cute, actually!
By: Jenny Woolf on September 28, 2015
Have I used that word...YUP! Guilty but it is more of a woman thing. If my hubby used that word, I look at him as if he was suddenly possessed by Liberace. I think most babies look like Churchill. There are few that look ....good. Now as for animals-I could hold them and hug them and squeeze them just the the Abominable Snowman hugging Daffy Duck
By: Birgit on September 28, 2015
I would feel awkward using cute. I'm with you. Some parts of our society use cute too often.
By: red on September 28, 2015
Yeah..."cute" is kinda overused. But there are worse things to be called.
By: Pixel Peeperp on September 28, 2015
That's how we feel when you guys point out old cars to us. It's a car. Look around. There's a million of 'em.
By: Val on September 28, 2015
Damn you, Chatterbox. Now I have the word "cute" in my head, and it wants to write itself in my comments. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on September 28, 2015
A great post, had me laughing.
By: John on September 29, 2015
I don't tend to call things "cute" but a puppy, kitten, or baby usually hits the mark for me. I might try to "butch" it up a bit by saying, "Hey, what a cutie," but who am I really fooling? I guess, not being a straight man, it's more acceptable for me anyway. As for Mrs. C's critique, I KNEW that's what she was going to say. And I'd really like to know what the "cute" thing was behind the glass.
By: Mitchell is Moving on September 29, 2015
It's better than 'nice' I guess. Or maybe not.
By: Ellen Abbott on September 29, 2015
What do you mean you didnât know what it was? It was a kitten with a couple of ducks!!! It's not so cute as you, though.
By: Snowbrush on September 29, 2015
I used to get called "cute" all the time, and I HATED it. I want to be taken seriously and that's not "cute." But then people stopped calling me "cute" and started calling me worse things. I miss being cute.
By: Robyn Engel on September 29, 2015

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