Cute doesn’t mean anything to an Aspie.
My mother was clear from the start: life was all about her. We were just put in her life to stop her from being happy. Everything was put in her life to stop her from being happy. If we really loved her, we would make her happy. Failure was the only option in her life, so it was the only option for those around her, too.
My father was always happy and loving. but he was also always disconnected from what other people were feeling. His primary role was to try and make my mother happy, but that, of course, was an impossible task, because only she could own her own happiness. When I came back to take care of them for their last decade, my goal was to help my father take care of my mother so she didn’t break him with her needs and demands.
I started having to take care of my parents and siblings from a very young age. There was no place in my family for a childhood.
Most children, at least those who are not adultified early, get a time when they are seen as cute. They are loved, enjoyed, and valued just for who they are, not having to worry about doing things right or managing the distress of a parent. Getting what they need, including love, is not conditional and demanding, rather it is their birthright.
I was in a bar with TBB. TBB was having a great time, between happy hour and heavy pours. I was less open, less safe, less relaxed.
“The bartender knows that I belong here,” TBB said to me. “He isn’t so sure that you belong here.”
I wasn’t at all sure I belonged there, either. The bar is a place where cute reigns, where people let their hair down and just become one of the party. I have no idea how to do that, how to trust mt own cuteness, because from a very, very young age, cute was denied to me.
Most people can’t imagine the experience of never being allowed to own their own cuteness. If you cannot believe that you might actually be adorable, how can you ever just let someone adore you?
My sister and I have spoken about this and identified where this deficit cost us dearly, affecting all my siblings. Not owning our own cute cut us off from other people in a profound and disturbing way. We could never just trust in our own attractiveness, our own native playfulness, our own cuteness.
There are many deficits that you can make up for with a conscious reconstruction of your life, thinking things through, understanding deep context. Being denied your fundamental cute, however, is not one of those things. Counsellors are used to helping people move beyond cute to thoughtful living, but helping people trust in and own their own cuteness isn’t something they know how to do.
I tried to help my sister by shoving my cheek in front of her face as she was leaving, demanding that she kiss it. She would mock disgust, but she understood that I wanted her to think of herself as someone who was cute enough to kiss someone’s cheek. I wanted her to feel safer in acting cute.
The lesson of not trusting my own cute has been reinforced in many ways over my lifetime. I know that people have tried to explain that my performance of self didn’t fit, that I wasn’t really just a crusty curmudgeon, that I was cute on some level, but it was impossible for me to own that, especially when I kept having to go back to my parents and keep my defences in place.
Those defences, of course, were all centred around the denial of cuteness. I learned early that being cute would get me creamed, so instead of being flirtatious and appealing, I had to be smart, cunning and even manipulative. It’s not that I wasn’t cute, rather it was that I had learned to not trust cute, seeing it as inherently dangerous and flawed. I was surrogate-spoused by my mother which reached a zenith with open robes in my teens, unpleasant and terrifying.
People doing “law of attraction” style programs are asking you to depend on your essential attractiveness, your essential cuteness. For those of us who were denied cute, for whom cute seemed to be a trick, it is easy to see that approach as a steaming pile of kaka. While any approach can be misused, there are benefits in opening up and trusting your own attraction, your own cute.
Having the cute squeezed out of you, or at least having the freedom to trust it taken away from a very young age, it becomes almost impossible to get it back, to have what most other humans take for granted. From experience, I tell you that most people don’t understand how anyone could be completely deprived of knowing that, somewhere, they are cute.
When other people go through cute removing transitions — aging, smart, management, transgender, whatever — at least they have a reservoir to return to, some muscle memory of a time when they were cute. If you got cute punched out of you early, that’s not as simple.
Cute doesn’t mean anything to an Aspie. It just doesn’t exist on their radar. Living in a world where other people value cute can be frustrating to them, so frustrating that they get angry at cute and the expectation of it.
My siblings and I not only didn’t have our cuteness valued, we learned early that it was a trap. I’m comfortable with the fact I learned to want to be respected more than to be liked — I think that’s a good balance — but not learning that I was likeable, adorable, cute left me with a real deficit that still cripples me.
Where does a grown-up go to learn to trust their own cuteness for the first time?