Friday, August 21, 2009

The Day the Cuteness Died

Little kids know they're cute, and it doesn't take long for them to really get a handle on the sort of power with which their innate cuteness imbues them. Most kids know how to use the puppy dog eyes and the crocodile tears to their advantage, and many have a favorite aunt or uncle or friend-of-a-parent wrapped tightly and mercilessly around their tiny little finger. Cuteness is some powerful stuff.

Until it wears off.

My aunt Kathie, known to me as "Aunt Kas", used to adore me. She noogied me and hugged me and kissed me, and just generally ate me alive whenever we went to her house for the holidays. The routine was always the same; I'd run ahead of my mom to ring the doorbell next to the big French doors of her home, and I'd listen to Kelly the Collie barking and the sound of footsteps growing closer. Then, Aunt Kas would swing open the door and make an exaggeratedly surprised and delighted face, as if she hadn't known I was coming, and scoop me up into her arms as she exclaimed, always, "It's Jena Jo!"

That went on for about five or six years. For five or six years, on some level, I thought I was really something. I never thought I was particularly cute -- I had a goofy eye that wandered when I was tired and made me see double, and funky reddish hair that never seemed to stay neatly braided, and a perfectly normal little-kid body that always seemed, to me, a bit too round in the belly and butt -- but Aunt Kas did, and for those five or six years, I rather enjoyed it.

Then something snapped. I don't know what it was -- I don't recall growing a hump on my back or a third eye or breaking out in a contagious rash -- but after age six, the cuteness must have worn off. I distinctly remember the Christmas Eve when it happened. I stood there, at her big French doors, waiting to be swept off of my Mary Janes and called adorable. Instead, Aunt Kas opened the door, smiled a little, squeezed my shoulder with one hand and said, "Hi, Jen." That was it. That was all I got. I had lost my touch. The glamor of the Cute Life was gone, and I was just a six-year-old kid with a wandering eye and messy braids. Ho hum.

This sort of thing still happens to adults, unfortunately. Human beings have rather short attention spans, and it seems we fall in and out of attractions with the shifting of the breeze. Just this week, I read a friend's post about her boyfriend of three years who had decided she just didn't do it for him anymore. She just wasn't enough. Her appeal had worn off, as far as he was concerned. I have several friends whose spouses decided, after many years, that they wanted a change -- they had a taste for a different flavor, so to speak.

Ouch. No one like rejection -- neither the insecure six-year-old or the middle-aged exec who seems to live above the threshold of emotional fragility. We want to know that we are loved. Wanted. Desired. Adored. Appreciated. Valued. Cherished. And we want to know that our status as such is not subject to change. Unfortunately, few things in this life offer that sort of insurance policy.

"I'm absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love..." (Romans 8:39, The Message)

There we go. There's something stable, something changeless and solid and unshakable. There's a love that isn't contingent upon my cuteness. I can't make myself endearing enough to earn it, and I can't become so ugly as to lose it. It is what it is, because God is who He is. Period.

Had I known this love when I was six years old, it might not have rocked my world so much when I outgrew my cuteness and lost the power I thought it had given me. And if you know it now, maybe you can rest in this same assurance: You are loved... and your status as the beloved is not subject to change.


  1. Jena Jo,

    You are so right. I don't even notice the hump on your back anymore.