To the “It’s Cute” people,
I still remember the pair of pink ripped tights I was wearing. I remember my favorite gray dance shorts. My high pony tail. My very, very dead pointe shoes. Ones that could be bent with a feather and supported my feet as much as flip flops did.
I still remember the hand-made T-shirt that was created the night before with lots of friends from my home ballet studio – You remember the kind. The ones with acrylic paint, hand-cut fringe, handkerchief fabric, and glitter. Lots of glitter. Those were like…the coolest. Except when they weren’t. And let me tell you, I remember the day that they weren’t anymore.
I was at my high school theatre. I stood in the front row, the day of our opening night dance show. The bright purple rhinestones glued on my T-shirt sparkled in the stage lights as I marked the dance combinations in my pointe shoes. When the teacher cut the music, we all turned and listened to the corrections. But all I could hear were giggles and muffled whispers from behind me.
I received confirmation that the giggles were, in fact, about me when you and your best friend looked away immediately when I turned around. Your concealed smiles and nudging elbows were all the proof I needed.
When the music started again, we all began to dance. It only took three small hops when…“BANG!!!” My shoe gave way, and my rear end slammed (and I mean – slammed) on the stage floor.
My eyes immediately flooded with tears that only come from embarrassment, and my ears buzzed with gasps from around the stage. But it was only a moment until I heard you behind me laughing hysterically. As someone helped me up, you both came over giggling and asked if I was okay.
When I told you that I was fine, you asked, “By the way, did you make that shirt?”
Holding back tears, I replied, “Yes.”
Your gaze quickly drifted towards your friend and then back to me. Your eyes slowly scanned my body from head to toe. Then, you left me with a comment that I’ll always remember.
“It’s cute,” you said with a big smile on your face.
You both left. The class continued. I don’t remember what happened the rest of rehearsal. But still, I remember your words a whole decade later.
Does anyone else struggle with “It’s Cute” people as much as I do? I’m not just talking about the mean fifteen-year-olds in your high school days. I’m talking about the people that force relationships to get something they want. Their words are soaked with disingenuous compliments, questions, and concerns about your life in order to keep up appearances. They mask their hidden motives with condescending affirmations and humble brags. They never admit they’re wrong. Despite their heroic actions or kind words, when an “It’s Cute” person does something for you, it somehow always makes you feel misunderstood and undervalued.
I can write about them, because I’ve been one. I’ve been one way more times in my life than I’d like to admit, even after that humiliating mean girl experience.
Simply put, disingenuous people want two very opposing things. For example, the girl from my story wanted to be cool enough to put someone down, but nice enough not to do it to her face. This way, she could be known as both cool and genuinely kind; she wanted both reputations, but these desires are like oil and vinegar. When mixed, they don’t combine, but create this harshly divided combination. The taste that this combination leaves on your mouth and heart? For people who don’t know better, perhaps it tastes wonderful. But for those who do, it tastes sour. It leaves you feeling bitter.
Another tell-tale quality of disingenuous people involves putting personal image, goals, or well-being in front of everything else. Oh, how I have done this. This mentality causes me to do whatever it takes to achieve what I want. Even at the cost of my identity. To put my desires above all else, sometimes I must change or conform to be liked by other people. Other times, I must refrain from speaking my mind so I don’t upset someone else. Oftentimes, I must overwork myself to achieve a title that is only recognized in my prideful head.
In the disguise of innocence and perfection comes this toxic character of condescension. As I try to grasp both conflicting desires, it becomes impossible to be honest with myself and others. I am left pouring water endlessly into a bucket with a hole. No matter how much water I seem to put in – no matter how much work I put forth, the bucket is quickly emptied.
I began this post with certain people in mind, but like God always seems to do in his kindness, he reminded me that so often, I am just like the “It’s Cute” girl.
It’s a hard pill to swallow – being your worst nightmare. And it’s definitely terrifying to take a hard look at yourself in the mirror and look into the depths of the dark shadows you cast. But in order to grow, we must learn to lean into those parts of ourselves that are confusing and scary and real. In the embrace, we realize that sometimes, we can, in fact, be the dreaded “It’s Cute” people – but we can also grow to know that all parts of ourselves belong.
To cast a great light in the world also requires a long shadow.Father Richard, as quoted in The Sacred Enneagram by Christopher L. Heuertz
In casting your light, I hope you, too, find the areas in which you waver to deception. I hope you give yourself grace to see the dark shadows in your midst. Also, I hope you know that I’m no longer holding a grudge against you and your opinions about my glittery homemade shirt.
May you and I not be people who serve only to be recognized.
May we not be people who say one thing but mean another.
Finally, may we not be “It’s Cute” people, but may we be courageous enough to be “It’s Too Glittery, But I Like the Creativity” people.
Or something like that.