The Goddess Is Not ‘Cute’.
My niece, at six years old, is a scientist who picks up huge fish skins and bugs, a fashion model in her mother’s shoes, a singer and chair-dancer in the back of my car.
She has a fire in her eyes, and she watches all with a deep knowing. She is a gifted empath. She can feel the disappointment of the world, and she does a cartwheel to entertain.
I stop her and say, “You are not an entertainer. Find your power. Find your breath.”
She looks at me with deliciously bright blue eyes, curious.
“Oh, you mean this, of course.” She takes a deep breath closes her eyes, and puts her hands to the earth to do a cartwheel from her very being.
“Yes, that is it!” I say. She jumps up and slaps me hard on the head in excitement.
“Ouch!” I respond. I do not hide the weight of her actions, I know she is strong enough to bear them.
“Say sorry. Own your actions.” She is quiet, with her head down.
“Sowwy,” she whispers with a lisp that is not her own.
I look at her, and I do not hesitate to call out her strength.
“That is not your real voice, use your woman voice.” She looks at me and waits. Thinks I might back down and let her feel silly, small, let her feel cute. Though it’s easy to do, I will not let her fall into that tiny place.
I just wait.
I say to her: “Like this: I’m sorry.”
She whispers it again, “I’m sowwy,” from her baby voice, a voice I have heard many brilliant women use. A voice that I have used for the majority of my life as to not scare the shit out of people.
She watches for me to back down and just laugh, but I hold space for her strength to come forward.
“I’m sorry,” she says fiercely and looks me directly in the eye.
“Yes, that is who you are,” I say with a smile, “I forgive you totally.”
So often we try to protect our girls from the weight of their actions, and allow them to show up in tiny, simple ways, and call them cute for all their efforts.
When I was three years old, everywhere I went I was told that I was so cute. Women, men, complete strangers, would pat me on the head, pinch my cheek.
It would enrage me.
I screamed at my mother, at three years old, mind you, begging to be taken seriously, begging to be seen for more than my adorable face: “I am not cute! Puppy dogs are cute!”
And this created a huge wave of laughter that bellowed out to all the adults that surrounded me.
My arms crossed, face hot. I received more accolades, more praise. My mother explained, “They are not trying to hurt you, honey! They just appreciate you so much!”
Fast forward to a few weeks back, when my husband saw me in new clothes and said with a warm smile, “You just look so cute.”
The old hot rage came up to the surface of my skin, the rage that I buried for years to be appropriate, to not be that bitch who gets angry when she’s complimented, like the one I was at three years old.
Then it was precious, now, not so much.
Instead of being appropriate, I chose to hold the rage, to communicate it, to see it. I told him never to call me cute again, and he got the message quickly. I did not back down, or laugh when he tried to.
He has since honored it, despite his conditioning to call grown women, with incredible brains and smiles and breasts, adorable or cute.
I cannot blame him.
We all have been conditioned to put girls and women into the category of cute.
“I love your shoes! You look so cute!”
“Look at her dress, she’s so adorable!”
“That smile! So precious!”
I know I have said these things more than I can count.
These adjectives, though completely well-intentioned, are dangerous. They are keeping our women and girls in boxes that they do not belong in. Making their thoughts trite, their bodies ornaments, their beliefs secondary.
It is also infantilizing women, negating their womanly beauty and vibrancy and power.
Why do we do this?
As a society, we are always eager to put women in boxes: sexy vs. pure, cute vs. bitchy.
We tell our girls and women to smile for pictures. To look nice. We train them that they should look a certain way for the world, and only when they look that way, they will be good enough to have attention, to be validated.
We use baby voices when we talk to our girls, not our boys. We act as if our girls will crumble when they fail, and we slap our boys on the back and tell them to try again.
We need to make a collective shift from treating our women like wilting flowers to warrior goddesses, whose feminine power can literally shift the course of our lives, if we let it.
We must hold their truth in our hands, and delight in it, instead of throwing it away and asking to be presented with a prettier, less offensive truth that keeps everyone happy.
I, too, have struggled with holding my truth, instead of falling into the cute trap. I have felt guilty when making statements, and have turned them into questions. I want this, is that okay? Does that offend you?
I have come groveling with my voice barely a whisper, afraid of being seen as too powerful. I will take back all my needs, thoughts, wants, as long as you feel comfortable, as long as you like me and include me in your world.
I sacrificed the joy of being alive to be seen as polite.
This is because I come from a culture that punishes women for doing what they want, for speaking out, for being exactly who they are.
As children, we are terrified of our fathers, wanting to please them, wanting them to be nice and not take another hit at our fragile egos and bodies.
This translates into walking on eggshells when we enter society, trying so badly to not offend and recreate the female-bashing of our childhood.
We learn to play it safe and hold back our truth so as to not make it harder on ourselves.
It takes time, the un-conditioning. It takes time to teach ourselves how to let out our truth and not hide it behind niceness, or stuff it down and away with food or any other thing we use to hide our true selves.
We can help each other in this, into stepping into our deserved power, by believing in and breathing life into each other’s souls, and not just complimenting each other on our choice of hair color or clothes.
We must step out and stop giving other women empty compliments, but instead call out the deepest part of their beauty and bask in it.
But I, too, have to fight my impulse to want to downplay and simplify a woman’s gorgeousness by immediately calling her cute. I’m not sure what it is:
Does her beauty make me feel small?
Does it make me uncomfortable?
Does it make me jealous?
Does it make me so dumbfounded and in awe her deliciousness that I can’t help but find the word cute to describe it?
At times I have used the word cute in order to bond with females, in order to seem normal, in order to not seem like a threat. Conditioned that the powerful ones will get trampled on, I’ve done my best to conform and fit into the status quo.
Do I want to be the weird one who corrects people when they compliment me? Do I want to be that asshole who thinks it’s her job to teach everyone a thing or two? How can I hold my truth without thinking I need to rub it in everyone’s face?
That’s a tough place.
But guess what? Rub your truth all up in someone’s face, woman. Get dirty in it.
Sisters, we have spent so much time being appropriate, being politically correct, polite, trying not to ruffle feathers, that our true selves are melting behind a facade of politeness and feigned smiles.
It adds up: all those moments we pretend a compliment doesn’t creep us out, when we pretend we are not hurt, when we pretend that all is okay as we fade away into in La La Land.
We have forgotten our wild natures.
Let’s remember: the part of us that eats hungrily licking our fingers sensuously, the smile that shines from our whole being sexily, our words when spoken ferociously, saying a bit more that we should.
The part of us that is not easily satiated, but hungers to be treated as nothing less than the powerful warrior women we were born to be.
That is the woman we want to feed, nestle, love, call out.
Be exactly what you want to be, without apology.
And for Goddess’ sake, find something new to say other than cute…
… like, “She is stealing my goddamn breath with her beauty, her power, and her truth.”
Maria Palumbo is a healer. She is a dancer in the dark. She lovingly guides women in the retrieval of their own souls through coaching, workshops, and community development. She celebrates freedom from shame in body, mind, and soul. Her work is fun and delicious, making the journey of healing gorgeous and satisfying, like a kiss under the Full Moon. Fall in deep love with your soul by connecting with her on Facebook or at her website.