On Cuteness

She was a lovely girl. Perhaps she had bright, shining blue eyes, or maybe they were warm and hazel, with long, dark lashes. I don’t care about her eye color, that’s for you to decide. She either had wavy brown hair, or a sweet blonde pixie, or else vivacious red curls. Those details are irrelevant; she looks exactly as you want her to look. The point is that she was an attractive young woman, and everybody knew her as such. Her expression was reminiscent of a certain forgotten innocence, the type of chastity that has long since gone out of fashion, and her lips curled up into a wide smile that every man longed to cause, and longed even more to kiss. Maybe she had charming freckles, or perhaps smooth skin that was the perfect shade between porcelain and ebony, with just a touch of red in her cheeks. But however she looked, she was not an exotic beauty. Not a foreign princess, nor the leader of a long-lost Amazonian tribe. Her appeal was in her cuteness, because everybody wants cute. Too many men are intimidated by true, natural beauty, and no woman wants to be seen with a girl who is blatantly more stunning than herself. But the appeal of cuteness is universal, and Lilly was cuteness in tangible form, with her small, agile body and easy laughter.

She wasn’t the most creative or the most intelligent girl around. But it was adorable when she rejoiced in an accomplishment, and even more endearing when she was frustrated by a failure. After all, her frustration was the perfect opportunity for the nearest boy to try to cheer her up, to remind her that every little thing is gonna be okay, because she’s cute and cute girls always end up on the winning team. So sometimes she celebrated and sometimes she sighed, but wherever she was, there was always someone waiting to make her smile.

Lilly had a good life. She lived someplace sunny, and her days consisted of smiling and being smiled at, with brief interruptions for pleasant conversation here and there. But of course, like all seemingly perfect people of whom others are envious, Lilly wasn’t nearly as happy as she appeared.

In the Dutch language there is a word for that point in life when you’re middle-aged, you have a good career, a nice house in the suburbs, 2.7 children and perhaps even a pet dog, but sex with your spouse is just sex. The Dutch are wise to recognize the necessity of passion and to warn of the boredom of the bourgeoisie, but they mistakenly assume that only the middle-aged fall prey to this plague of easy existence. Lilly had already reached this point in life, and she was only twenty (or perhaps she was twenty-five, or sixteen or eighteen – whichever you prefer). She was desirable and desired, but the desire in her was dormant.

So she did what she could to make life more exciting, and started dating Sam, who was quite cute as well, albeit in a much more meaningful, mature, masculine sort of way. He had dark eyes and an intense jaw line, and was very clean-cut during the week but let some scruff grow on the weekends. Sam’s friends already knew of Lilly’s cuteness, so instead he bragged about her loyalty, obedience, and affection. Sam knew exactly how Lilly liked her back to be stroked before they went to bed, and Lilly knew the perfect spot on Sam’s neck where he liked to be kissed. For a short time they were very happy together; he was pleased to be pleased, and she was pleased to please.

Sam’s adoration for Lilly was endearing, almost as beautiful as Lilly herself. But the problem with beautiful things is that they exist as if they were intended only for the pleasure of the viewer, their sole mission in life to be seen, to be played with, to amuse. Like a fine painting that hangs on the wall and is relished when guests come for dinner but ignored during long, lonely days, and even longer, lonelier nights. So too, was the fate of the lovely Lilly, whose cuteness disappeared the moment there was no one to observe it, like a tree that falls silently in the woods.

At this point, you’re probably waiting for something exciting to happen. Perhaps you expect Lilly to run away, to have an affair with a dark foreigner whose moderately abusive treatment liberates her from her suburban slumber. Or maybe you’re in the mood for something sadder, and you’d like Lilly’s tears to affirm your own grief, because you’re looking for a character whose fears justify your own decisions. Maybe a fatal disease would help Lilly and Sam to realize their true love for each other and move past the dogmatic confines of domestic expectations. Perhaps a pregnant ex-lover of Sam’s should show up to shake Lilly’s world.

I’m sure you’ll be surprised, perhaps even disappointed, to learn that nothing exciting happened next. In fact, nothing exciting ever happened to Lilly and Sam, because bored as she was, Lilly wanted to be cute just as much as others wanted her to be cute. And who can blame her? After all, no tree wants to die silently. So Lilly chose cuteness, because that’s who she was, and if this story wasn’t about a cute girl then it wouldn’t be about Lilly.

Thus, being Lilly, she continued her routine of nodding and smiling, and waited patiently for Sam to come home every evening. She’d wait by the door, spying on the neighbors through the window in an effort to satisfy her desire for entertainment (after all, if fulfillment isn’t an option, then entertainment is the next best thing). And when Sam finally came home, she’d wag her tail, throw her paws around his neck, and kiss his face in the exact spot where she knew he liked it.

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