Monday, June 28, 2010

Cuteness is as cuteness does

One of the things I disliked about growing up in the south is the cute thing.  There are many ways that women can be in the South, but one of the favorites is cute, in a way that would be entirely unacceptable if you lived in, say, New York City or Seattle.  Southerners love perky women, adorable women.  And they probably wouldn't use the word "women" in this context, but I'm so used to it that I can't imagine a different way to say it.  Maybe gals.  I remember the first time I moved out of the south, it was such a relief to be able to dump the whole cute thing.  I suppose everyone has their cute moments, but generally speaking, I am not cute.  I am definitely not perky.  In my natural state, I'm kind of grumpy and prickly.  And I'm not talking about looks here.  Although being physically adorable helps, cuteness is a State of Mind.

My dad has always loved women--ladies, gals-- who were cute and perky.  The cynical side of me wants to add: women who catered to him, buttered him up, flirted with him and teased with him.  He also liked women who were "tiny."  It was the adjective he used most often to describe women whom he found attractive.  But my mom, my sisters and I are not tiny.  We are not huge, and none of us is really overweight, but we are relatively tall-- all four of us within an inch of  5'7"-- and we are not reed thin.  We were never described as tiny.

My dad's second wife is tiny. She is funny, lovely both within and without, with a heart as big as all outdoors and a laugh that you can hear from the other side of the house.  I don't in any way mean to criticize her; her generosity of spirit and her utter zest for life come through in everything she does.  But she is about 5'2" and can't weight any more than 105 soaking weight.  She is tiny, and cute, and at times you could even call her perky.  She comes by it honestly; she is a naturally extroverted, bubbly person.  And my dad finally has what he always wanted.  He said to me today, "She gets her hair up in a ponytail and gets in her Jeep [convertible], and she's the cutest thing in town."

And on the one hand, while part of me can get angry about the absurdity of a man who is 78 years old who still wants his wife to be "the cutest thing in town," another part of me has to admit it hurts.  I'll even admit to being jealous.  I wish to hell I could say that I'm beyond all that, I have my own self-esteem, it doesn't matter what he thinks, but it would only be partially true.  All those years that I tried and tried to please him, tried to twist and mold myself into being the kind of woman that he would admire.  I didn't always know exactly what it was that would do it, but I tried.  And it turns out all he wanted was something my sisters and I could/can never be.  Someone tiny and cute and adorable.  Someone not us.  He is happy with her.  He was not happy with us.

I can rage about it and I can be mad about how unfair it is, but I can't change it.  And after I let myself feel the anger and the jealousy and the unfairness of it, I just have to let it go.  I've been in therapy, I've read Oprah Magazine and plenty of self-help books.  I know how this works.  He is who he is.  It is far too late to change him.  He is happy with his cute, adorable wife, whom I love very much.  And I'm so, so glad that pleasing my dad is no longer high on my priority list.

So I'm feeling the pain and letting it go.  Wish me luck.

1 comment:

  1. I visited my dad recently. One night I slipped in the main house, we were out back in the guest house, and he came in brushing his teeth and said, "Thanks for coming cheery-o. This has been delightful." The next day I mentioned it at the table with a couple of other people and teared up, that's how much it meant to me. Which made it hurt that much more when after that, twice, he said to me, "The thing that has meant the most to me during this visit is the way the boys (my half-brothers) have made a point of spending time with you, cheery-o. Not many guys their ages would do that."
    I don't think he meant it to be MORE important than his delight in my visit ... but that is sure the way it came across. Fathers can be incredibly stupid.