I guess I have always felt cuteness, like any preordained demeanor promotes a fallacious veneer. I strive for something more real – like chicks that don’t shave and music that’s truthful, (which often coincides with monotonous acoustic guitar ballads of unrequited love and shit badly-tuned garage bands.) And although hurt inevitably inhabits the realm of reality like brutal truth, reliable friends and open secrets, I accepted my choice a long time ago.
Maybe it was the unseasonably warm weather which regurgitated all old summer memories into a bowl of cold leftovers, but recently I found myself thumbing back though old family photo albums.
However it wasn’t until I stumbled on a family album of baby photos I saw the exigent design of my own cuteness and realised how much of myself I’d ignored for so long, and how I’m misled myself for all this time. Looking back over baby photos, I slowly recalled my ambitious jejune self and my blinding dedication to the art of cuteness to survive being raised in the middle of a large Catholic family.
As images and memories surfaced to bob in the swaff of my desultory recollections I was reminded how vital cuteness is to surviving a large Catholic family – a preternatural device to consolidate stature that is crucial to establish and defend from day one.
Let me explain…
By the time I was born I already had an older brother and sister. Being cute didn’t exist in their array of tactics. Why would it?
My brother was first born. He didn’t have to do anything – he was special purely by existing.
And my older sister may have unwisely presumed she would retain the distinction of being the only daughter in a strong Catholic family.
Not that I cared at the time, because I was already set to expose their weaknesses. My commitment was incorruptible and my focus unyielding as I put my plan into action.
And Man – I was blisteringly cute.
I worked hard. I put myself in challenging situations.
And I expanded my range of looks to keep me versatile and super cute looking.
My brother was clever enough to discern there was something to this cuteness game. But by then he was getting old.
Now he was contending with a master survivalist. And any vestiges of residual cuteness he may have possessed in his youth had eroded, along with his chivalry.
My sister also must have sensed the elements at home shifted since my arrival but clearly she wasn’t savvy to all the rules – not even the most basic rule of surivival.
Be the centre of attention!
I feel somewhat reluctant and rueful to mention such an elementary and obvious tactic – and looking back over family photos I should feel a penitent pang for the magnitude I profited from this basic strategy, but I don’t.
Of course over time I transcended even these fundamental principles to epitomise cuteness in any situation. And when my younger sister came along I must have been too immersed in my mission to own cuteness in our large Catholic household because I barely recall her arrival.
I don’t remember feeling jealous and have been given the impression I behaved in such a manner. It’s surprising in a nice way, because I thought I was precisely the type. I was six years older and must have been beyond the seduction of envy. Yet we all succeed at being creatures of pride and instinctively I felt the need to hold my own.
This is one of my most accomplished looks I call Avaricious Ambivalence, and would serve me well through my youth. But graciously approaching retirement age, I realised the importance of adaptability and improvisation and saw my younger sister as a protégé of sorts.
Through my guidance she became adept at sliding fluidly from urbane poise to a cunning carelessness – and developed fastidious care and mature reflection when revealing her portfolio of endearments and adorable charms.
I’m not sure what she was trying to achieve here, but I encouraged her to keep doing whatever it is she was doing.
I must have been quite the influence culminating in this sublime example which even threatens me in my prime.
As old family photos indulged unfettered childhood reminiscing I began to appreciate the foundation I had built. And as the pages of the photo album turned over to a new epoch – one where my youngest sister existed I felt the validation that follows one’s legacy.
By the time my youngest sister was born it was a new era with different looks and rules.
We had 21 Jump St and 5¼ floppy drives. Innocence was out – Insouciance was in! Basketball was popular and I was ten years old.
But as Saleem in Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children astutely noted, ‘the eternal truth that for every ladder you climb, a snake is waiting just around the corner.’
And following this photo I tragically tripped and irrevocably and regrettably fell through the following phases in order:
- Thinking aqua was the coolest colour of clothing
- Ruining photos with stupid faces
- Hiding obscene finger gestures to ruin photos
- Refusing to be in photos
When I realised what had passed I had turned twenty-seven. But in reality photos capture nothing. They are simply alluring reflections that like a temptress alter contrast and hue in sympathy with the mutable eyes of each beholder – the same way a panorama is beholden to a setting sun.
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