The Songwriter often complains that I walk too fast. I suppose he’s right, I do tend to bob and weave through crowds like a racehorse on a Derby track - but only through crowds. I think I’m always subconsciously attempting to escape them, so I go faster and faster until I’m nothing more than a pale blur. Otherwise, I’m decidedly a stroller. But my stride was lengthening on a morning last week as I made my way through the overstuffed cosmetic department of Bloomingdales on a birthday present expedition. I had just spotted daylight and was heading for the door when my speed was slowed by a lady offering a sadly unwanted perfume sample of Acqua di Parma. Reed thin and bejeweled, she was a woman of an indeterminate age with lips an impossible red and a French accent as thick as bouillabaisse. I smiled as I passed, gently refusing her gift of a heady spritz and that’s when I heard it: “Oh, my dear!" she exclaimed. "You are zo cute!”
Cute? Cute! I almost stopped cold, grabbed her by her St. John lapels and demanded she elaborate. Cute? One might be grateful for a compliment of “cute” when one is a toddler. One might even welcome it as far up as sixteen. But to be called “cute” at this stage of the game was downright unsettling. I indulged in a sideways glance at the mirrored wall alongside me. Black and white espadrilles, wide-legged white linen trousers, long black linen shirt, one lone strand of pearls, big white vintage earrings, hair up. I had been going for “unstudied elegance” and all I got was “cute”. In a French accent, no less.
“Cute”, in my definition, is a word dangerously akin to “twee”, an adjective that calls to mind lace doilies, grosgrain ribbon, and kittens. But apparently, “twee” has become a thing now. Who knew? There is an entire movement of “twee” happening at the moment; a possible reaction against the “hipsters”, those aficionados of white belts, mismatched plaids and the razor-thin moustache. It’s rather disconcerting to read a list of things considered to be twee as quite a few of them veer too closely to my own tastes.
Let’s see now, according to the Chicago Tribune, cats are twee. (Edward gallantly guarantees I’m safe there.) So are cupcakes, mittens and scarves. (As a knitter, those last two are worrisome. Come to think of it, knitting is probably as twee as it gets. This is not looking good.) The state of Connecticut is twee. (What? The entire state?) Also, Wes Anderson movies, indie rock, and Paul Simon. (Uh oh... I adored Wes Anderson’s, Moonrise Kingdom, which is supposedly the twee-est movie out there.) Otters are twee, bless them. (Photo above.) Happily though, after mentally perusing my other favourites, I came up with a highly un-twee list. Virginia and Vita, Leonard Cohen, Glencoe? Certainly not twee. Saint-Saens, Seamus Heaney, Great-Horned Owls? Hardly. By the time I got to Alexander MacQueen and Isabella Blow I was feeling much better. So thankfully, it seems in totality my tastes are not quite twee enough to demand my automatic inclusion in that camp.
Having always shunned categories of any kind, I am naturally reluctant to label myself as either twee or un-twee. I have to admit, the French perfume lady did cause a momentary wrinkle in an otherwise smooth morning despite the fact that I quickly decided her use of the word “cute” was undoubtedly due to the unfortunate paucity of her American vocabulary. Nevertheless, in response, I did what any normal woman would do. I bought I pair of shoes. Black with gold flowers. Very Elizabethan. Very elegant. In no way twee. In absolutely no way “cute”.
I wonder.... how would you react to being called “cute”?
Would you happily embrace “twee”?