June and I were waiting for our connecting flight at the airport over New Years when an older man walking by bent down to pick up a small object that had been accidentally dropped by two girls sitting across from us. The girls, 20-somethings, both wore heavy bangs, mod inspired minidresses over striped tights.
The man, who looked to be in his 70s, handed the object back to the girls. I couldn’t see what it was, though I imagine it was some unbearably cloying token of cuteness like a pair of heart shaped sunglasses or a tiny plush deer. One of the girls received it in her hand. She thanked him. The man nodded. As he walked off, her friend remarked, “Awww, he is so cute.”
I swear I saw the man’s body seize up as he walked off.
Unless an older person is dressed as the Easter Bunny and cavorting with a litter of kittens and bunnies, never, EVER call them cute. It is so patronizing! This girl thought she was paying him a compliment but what she was really saying was, “Awww, look how feeble and ineffectual he is! He’s so cute. Like a small woodland animal! Like a Furby!”
There are many adjectives to describe those older than us — wise, wonderful, experienced, lovable, eccentric,wacky — but “cute” and “adorable” are not among them. It conveys the opposite of what is implied.
I’ve always inwardly cringed when I’d hear a younger person describe an older person this way, and this man’s physical reaction validated my conviction. It’s no different than when some young dope says to an older woman, “And what can I get for you, young lady?” Translation: “Damn, you look old.”
I pity the person who ever calls me cute or young when I’m 70. I will beat them over the head with my handbag.