Friday, May 12, 2006


So today’s blog will feature a looking-a-gift-horse-in-the-mouth-rant. Some of you may judge my sob story and say, Oh boo hoo. Suck it up, buttercup. I get called worse things every day before 8am.

But it’s my blog, and I can incessantly whine if I want to…

At work today, the other folks in my office (who I don’t actually work with, they just share office space with my unit) were out in the common area eating some of my birthday cake –which is fine. Even I can’t eat a whole cake by myself. I know I have a reputation for gluttony, but, really, even I won’t eat a whole delicious, white almond cake with white frosting on my own.

Anyway, as I come out of the office, my office mates thank me for the cake and say “happy birthday”. Great. Then as I’m walking away, I hear one of them saying to the group, She’s so cute.

What?! She’s so cute?! Huh?! How about you say, Sweet Mother of Mary that woman is brilliant! She’s so professional. She’s so competent. She’s so organized and knowledgeable.

How about you don’t say “She’s so cute” when the assistant vice provost for minority affairs is at the table, eating MY cake.

For goodness sake, I’m in my 30’s. I’m a professional. Sure, I’m friendly and positive. Some days I’m even a hard worker trying to prove herself in a new environment. I am NOT an intern playing dress up or even a young whippersnapper at her first job at a well-respected university. For good or ill, I am actually employed at said university with a fairly decent non-entry-level position.

I do not aspire to be cute in my professional life. In fact, I’m fairly certain that I’ve passed that up in my personal life as well. As you might recall, I’m going for sexy intellectual these days.

I imagine that part of the reason that I got the stupid “She’s so cute” comment is because I am a bit smaller than the average female bear. I’m not an pixie, an elf - my name would apparently be Seremela Calanor, a munchkin, a sprite, or any other assorted small person, but I am on the wrong side of short.

Let me give some examples to support my assertion that short = cute. My friend Ellen is at least 6 foot tall with long legs to die for. People call her elegant and sophisticated. My friend Tonia is probably around the same height and can be referenced as attractive and dignified. Lsig, also taller than me, is saucy and striking. I don't believe any of these women are considered "cute". However, my friends Brenda and Zinger Zapper – none of us top 5’ 2½ ” – well, we’re Keebler Elves of cute.

I know I’m being overly sensitive about something that was actually a compliment and well-intentioned, but there is a history to this “cute” thing in my professional life.

Scene 1: After a meeting with the board president of an agency that is sucking wind fast and about to go down the tubes, my supervisor and I get up to leave. I explain that I’ll be following up with him on our suggestions re: organizational development and am available to offer both board and staff training on various issues related to non-profit agency administration. Said board president looks at my boss and says, Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to come here to help us out. I really appreciate your expertise and thoughtfulness. This guy then puts his hands on my shoulders and says to me, Thanks to you too, Zany Mama. You just look so cute there all pregnant. Good luck with that baby.

Scenario 2: Soon after coming to my new job, I’m at my first meeting with the muckety mucks and a dean says, Okay, Zany Mama, did you get that in the minutes? Even though I’m at the head of the table without a notebook in my hand.

Scenario 3: (within 3 days of scenario 2) At a meeting where I’m taking over part of the administration duties for a particular scholarship fund, the fiscal person says, Oh, I’m sure Zany Mama will file these things for us. She then makes the statement several times, even after my boss corrects her in front of the group.

I’m sure the above incidents were a complex mix of racism, sexism, and she’s-cute-as-a-june-bug-ism. I probably wouldn’t even care except that I am trying to prove myself in the very hierarchical environment of academia when my background is social justice, and I don’t have a PhD.

Comments like, She’s so cute, don’t help my case.

I hate people -even well-meaning, complimentary people.

And, SRH, here's a warning, if you comment back with, But you're so cute, I will cut your heart out and eat it. How's that for cute?


SRH said...

You are just soooo adorable...

but not cute.

klm6022 said...

Some days I'd do anything to be called cute. Being 5'11, it's a name I've never been called. "Big Bird", yes, "Jolly Green Giant" yes, "Cute, no! But I can understand in a professional setting that it may not be so welcome.

Lsig said...

"Saucy and striking"? Dude. Thanks!

I get "cute" a lot though, but I think that's a personality thing for me. I'm also called "cheery," "cheerful," and "perky." *sigh*

Mom said...

lsig has one up on you, Zany Mama. Even though "cute" seems bad, "perky" is a death knell to seeming professional.

Kick 'em where it hurts, lsig!

Zany Mama said...

srh -
Sleep with one eye open, big man. One. eye. open.

So, what you're saying is that you're the jolly green giant to my sprout? Indeed, I believe that lying at either end of the spectrum - being either short or tall- could be a disadvantage. Folks apparently appreciate "average" and "normal" a great deal.

Yeah well, red, don't let it go to your head.

Part of me does wonder if the "cute" thing is partly personality. Even still, I say "ouch" to cute, perky, cheerful, and cheery.

I'm smiling loudly because you can turn even the most unlikely occurence - getting patronized at work - into a competitive event. :) However, I do entirely agree that whoever said that lsig was perky deserves a swift kick. Except that I'm an anti-vioelnce activist, so just forget that last sentence. Okay.

zingerzapper said...

Okay, I believe that although I do run under the 5'3 range (at which point people actually see more than the top of your head) cute is not a name people frequently use with me. I'm not sure why (okay, yes I do and now I will tell you). You and Brenda are very cute and nice. When you lose the "nice" the cuteness tends to fade. I have thankfully been blessed with a Wall of B****. For some unknown reason the Wall tends to keep people at arms length. Now I may get called many other unfriendlier names but cute isn't one of them. I say build a Wall (I think you need one at said University) and dare them to let the word fall out of their mouth. As for perky, I say find the culprit/s and offer to make their tea/coffee (they expect it anyway) with a sample of perkiness floating on top. That ends my tirade. P.S. SRH you can call me cute anytime.

zooland said...

What goes around comes around. Remember when you called my brilliant, very serious, completely goofy, 6', bald, 67 year old partner "cute"?

Zany Mama said...

zingerzapper -
I hate to say it, but you're awfully cute when you're indignant. :) Just kidding.

Anyway, you are mostly right. You are the "bad cop" to my "good cop" and that attitude may keep people from characterizing you as cute. However, I do have to tell you that whenever you are around children that you love, the wall comes down and you could be characterized as - by persons less sensitive than myself - cute.

Crud! This is what I get for letting my friends know about my blog. They totally rat me out.