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Embracing the Skin I’m In: The Curse of “Cute”

It’s just a matter of time before “the curse of cute” will become “the blessing of beautiful.”

Nicole A Schmidt

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“I hate my voice, I sound like a 12-year-old.”
“I think it’s cute.”


For the first time in over 30 years, I took it as a compliment. But in the past, “cute” has been a curse. Let me explain.

Imagine a high school English teacher, only 5’1, 115-120 lbs, with blemishes from adult acne, add the voice of a middle schooler and viola – you have me. Over time, my professionalism, and expertise garnered the respect it deserved, but initially, it was an uphill battle. Parent phone calls were the worse; I could hear the shock and disbelief on the other end as I updated parents about their students progress, or lack there of. I distinctly remember hanging up on one parent when I covered the front office because she actually laughed at me even though I was the one “standing” in between her and the administrator who had her daughter’s cellphone. Let’s just say email communication was a God-send; not only did it create a paper trail for all communication, it also saved me from mockery.

But long before my voice was “cute”, I was “cute”. The oldest among my group of friends, yet the smallest and least developed. Puberty was, in fact, THE DEVIL! While my friends were rocking Cs and dag near Ds, I was rocking As and Bs. Great for high school grades, but depressing for a high school body.

Guys ignored me to talk to my friends or speak to me last when my friends were disinterested. If asked what they thought of me, the response was always, “She’s cute.” Never beautiful, never pretty, simply “cute”. Puppies are cute, newborn babies are cute…it was sad in my teens and down-right frustrating in my twenties. I never wanted to be a sex object, but I definitely wanted sex appeal…but I seemed to have NONE.

Maybe if I were of a different background, it wouldn’t have mattered as much, but being African American only made it worse. “Cute in the face and thick in the waist”. Well, 1 out of 2 ain’t bad…LIES! My “cute” face didn’t matter when paired with “cute” features.

But I digress. I was reminded of all these feelings when we bought staff t-shirts. In China, clothes run even smaller than in the States so the extremely tall men and well-endowed expats usually get slighted. As my co-worker lamented about not having a shirt and life being unfair for full-figured women, I felt the need to stand up for “cute” girls. Being a 0 or 2 ain’t all it’s cracked up to be…finding clothes can still be difficult. Clothes fit my thighs, but be too big for my waist or too long for my legs.

The truth is, we are at polar ends of the same beauty spectrum. When I finally put on weight, my doctor was concerned because it was too much for my height. Ultimately, health, not appearance matters most. As long as you are healthy, your appearance is what it is, after all, “beauty IS in the eye of the beholder.”

It’s just a matter of time before “the curse of cute” will become “the blessing of beautiful”.

Nicole A Schmidt is an internationally-acclaimed educator currently teaching English China, documenting her experiences along the way. Also a published YA poet/author, she continues to reach out to and advocate for those who cannot do so for themselves. Traveling to China, like other endeavors and accomplishments, was/is not only her chance of a lifetime, but an opportunity to empower teens and young adults of color to pursue chances of their own lifetimes.

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