Oh, To Be Cute!

The other day I heard a woman telling her friend about a 95-year old customer. She said that he loved to dance every week. “That’s so cute,” her friend responded. I immediately smiled as I conjured up the image of this aged gentle of gentlemen rockin’ it on the floor with his cane and perhaps walker. Yet, what really made me smile was not just the image but the word cute used to describe him.

I began to think how the definition of this word changes depending on the circumstances. My dimply chubby thighs were cute when I was ten months old, but they certainly aren’t cute now.

My little boy at two shouted a profanity at just the right moment in his frustration. I immediately said the appropriate remark, “We don’t say that word. Why not use “XYZ#*W” instead.” I smiled to myself thinking that it was so cute that he knew to use the word in just the right place for just the right reason. Today, my little boy is all grown up, a man, and it’s not so cute when he uses this same word.

Once a friend (now an ex-friend and not because of her use of the word) came over to see our new house decades ago, and her first words were, “It’s so cute.” My ears perked up and I pondered her definition. Knowing where she lived, I determined that her meaning was as follows: A tiny, itty, bitty house, which is cottage-like and decorated with all the sweet little doll-like amenities-and definitely too small for her. Of course, I could have given her the benefit of the doubt, but because I learned of her affected nature and phoniness, I still believe my definition was correct.

I used to be a cute little girl with a pixie haircut framing my round little face. No one uses this same word for an older woman. I was even called cute in my 30s and perhaps in 40s, but somehow, this word disappeared from any description of my being unless the word refers to my shoes. But even with my shoes, I have had to face the fact that while they are cute in a size 6, the same boots on my large feet, size 8 1/2, aren’t quite as cute.

I-pads are now cute, and their cases are even cuter, but not our 8-year old PC in the kitchen, which has become a dinosaur; and rarely do we use the word cute to describe something prehistoric. The IPhone is cute, too, especially the new ones with different colors and sizes. I suddenly realize, though, it’s not cute to have a landline. It’s just old-fashioned.

Why is it that my old, torn up jeans aren’t so cute, yet the ones for $200 with the same types of rips are cute?

A baby that is screaming and howling certainly isn’t so cute, yet the same little one, sound asleep in her mother’s arms is absolutely quite cute. My grandchildren are cute–no discussion!

Food isn’t generally cute. A cute hamburger is just over-priced. I have yet to see a cute egg. Garnish can be cute (a carrot cut into a figure of a flower).

Cute completely depends on the circumstances:


Diamonds might be cute when they are small, but do we want cute diamonds or larger ones?

My husband burping once or twice-cute. Repeatedly? Not so cute.

Dogs, cats, and bunnies– for sure! Lizards and snakes? Sorry, not too much.
Lady Bugs? Absolutely! Spiders? Ugh!

Generally clothing, depending on the size (unfortunately) and who is wearing it.

Televisions are only cute if they are tiny and can fit into our pockets.

A cute television in my den is too small to comfortably watch.

Angels are beyond cute-they are adorable, yet when does cute become ‘adorable’?

Self-Agreements Throughout the Year

This is the time of year of making New Year’s resolutions, which I also used to do, but it has been quite a while since I decided to stop. In my younger years, my resolutions were the ‘usual’: lose ten pounds, join a gym, etc.…But when these same items appeared on my lists year after year, I decided that my resolutions were not productive. Instead, I created ‘self-agreements’ and I make them throughout the year and in doing so, they help me organize and prioritize my life.

In a conversation with myself, I agreed to the following over this past year (in no particular order and not an exhaustive list):

1) Because I freeze a lot of leftover foods, I agreed to label everything I place in the freezer with the item’s name and preparation date. I have kept this promise to myself all year long, making my life so much easier. My husband, too, appreciates knowing what he will be defrosting and eating. No more mysteries.

2) Once I retired (June, 2017), I agreed to remove the word ‘should’ from my vocabulary. I do not have any more time left to have ‘shoulds’ in my life…no longer will I make decisions based on what I should or shouldn’t do. So far, so good.

3) I walk every day, making sure to notice the simple beauty of the flowers, the gorgeous bougainvillea (not ours) and the magnificent trees whose strength continue to uproot our sidewalks as a reminder that they will endure beyond us.

4) In my volunteer work, my focus is on helping and enlightening others, so I continue to give of my time at the Museum of Tolerance. While my efforts might be just a little drop in the bucket of humanity, I can share my knowledge and our need for tolerance and understanding, which our society needs now more than ever before.

5) I continue my writing every day, for when I don’t write, I feel off kilter, out of sorts, the same way someone feels without exercising.

6) I continue my reading, attacking the stack of books that I have been salivating over, but never had the time to read during the semester when I was teaching and grading countless essays.

7) I spend as much time as I can with my two grandchildren, knowing that time is fleeting, that soon they will be in school and will have activities, play dates and their busy schedules will not provide me with such treasured one-on-one time.

8) I stay in touch with dear friends who don’t live near me, yet are close in my heart. I connect either through email or phone calls or both.

There are more agreements, but for now, these are the ones I would like to share. Unlike New Year’s Resolutions, I make agreements whenever the need arises, whenever I want to commit to making an idea into a habit.

Barbara Jaffe author writer

Reflections on My Writing, Myself

Barbara Jaffe author writerFrom the time I was a little girl, I knew I wanted to write and I also knew I wanted to write my book. My favorite piece of furniture was my desk. When I got my ‘big girl’ room, my white lacquer 4-drawer desk was my pride and joy. Within the drawers were my diary (in which I wrote daily); my stationery (I loved to write letters); inspirational says (I used to write proverbs, trite but sweet); and a variety of pens and pencils (collected by my dad from dry cleaners and businesses). All this paraphernalia was the foundation and preparation for my future book. My teachers would tell my parents what a wonderful writer I was. I would dream of seeing my name on a hardbound book, always mesmerized by the rows and rows of books in the library. One day I, too, would have a call number under my name! I loved the way books felt, smelled, the way I could turn the pages from the corner with that slight ‘swish’ of a noise. I was on my way to authorhood; I could just feel it. Continue reading “Reflections on My Writing, Myself”

My Mother Showed Me

My mother Margie showed me the importance of a close family and companionship. My earliest memories were with my mother and Nana Bea, another strong female in my life. Whatever I wanted in terms of my newest trend, whether it was a special nutritional regime or a new outfit, my mother supported me.

My mother showed me how to shop, how to have a sense of style, and how to coordinate, making sure that everything matched. She taught me about jewelry and how a simple gold ring or necklace could mean so much when memories were attached to them.

My mother showed me the importance of female friendships through her own example. She was close to all her aunts, “the aunties” and shared very close, long time friendships with so many wonderful women.

My mother showed me the closeness that sister-in-laws can have with each other, as she loved Aunt Mary so much. She showed me the closeness of a brother and sister, with her own dear brother Harold.

My mother showed me compassion for children by loving my three sons unconditionally and being there to tell me of how great they were—all the time. She would always say, “Don’t put your head on their shoulders,” reminding me that they are their own men, as they should be.

My mother showed the grace of a long-term commitment and devotion to a spouse, especially through the eight years of caring for my father after his stroke.

My mother showed me her path in the world and I then learned that I needed to take my own path as a woman; we acknowledged the differences in our paths, yet I knew she felt pride for what I have done along my journey.

My mother showed me that we, as children, get to choose our childhood and adulthood memories of our parents that we can then carry with us for the rest of our lives.