It all started in the kitchen. I was alone and it was night and it was dead quiet. Suddenly, there was a ghostly sighing in my ear. Every time I moved, someone or something could be heard to sigh deeply. The sigh was mournful and lost, as if all hope had been abandoned. It was all a bit strange.
I started to move around more deliberately to see if I could learn more about the strange ethereal sigh. Every time I took a step, I got sighed-at. No, wait, every time my right foot took a step…
It turned out that it was my shoe. The soles have some kind of air cushioned component and one of them had apparently sprung a leak. When I lifted my foot and then pressed it down onto the tiled floor, the air in the sole came out with a gasping sigh.
Time to get a new pair, you might well say. But no, not yet. I only ever own one pair of shoes and I wear them until they die. The definition of death, in this case, is when the water starts coming in. That hasn’t happened yet. Air out? Yes. Water in? No. On we trot.
My main reason for telling you this little story is that it’s cute. And I’m a bit worried that I’m well on my way to being cute. In this instance ‘cute’ is not any form of self-praise. Quite the opposite. More than anything else, it’s an age-thing. We get older, we get irrelevant, easily defined, readily categorized… we get seen as cute.
Atisidasophobia - a fear of Cuteness. I think that's what I have. Scott Walker singing Jacques Brel wanted it; to be 'cute-cute... in a stupid-ass way'. Not me, though, not me.
I start to see the tendency in my own sons. Now grown, highly educated, young and smart. I like to hold my own, I like to keep up. Generally, I think I do. But I see it in their eyes, that same look I used to give my old man when I thought he wasn’t looking. “You’re so off-the-mark, Dude. So quirky-comical. So damn cute.”
You need look no further than the Friends Reunion show. Matt LeBlanc is, what? Damn it he’s only 53. Yet, here in Ireland, he was instantly (and, in fairness, quite amusingly) cast as the benevolent throwback uncle with his familiar string of platitudes and minor prejudices. Matt (or Joey, take your pick), that one-time poster boy for male sexuality, for the sake of putting on a few years and a bit of timber, has all-of-a-sudden become cute.
As I said, it’s an aging thing. There will come, to all of us, some moment when our transition to old is complete. We will no longer be the complex, angry, funny, loving, hating people we always were. We will have become one thing and one thing only; we will have grown old. Sorry, two things, we will be cute too. Those things that make us angry, amused and all the rest will be lessened and diluted by the inevitability of our age. We will tumble into irrelevance and take on the mantle of the decrepit, shambling onward in our infirmity and in our interminable cuteness.
Nah-hah. Not me sunshine.
Whenever I hear the poem, “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”, I can’t help think that it’s more about aging than about death. Although the words do kind-of say otherwise. I see it it is an exhortation to not fall into the trap of embracing the ‘old’ and ‘cute’ tags that society has waiting for us. Rage, rage against the fuckers, I say. Be yourself, forever.
One of the biggest culprits in being branded ‘cute’ is all that allegedly empowering stuff we see on our tellys, mostly in adverts. Old people living their best lives. They are a big part of the problem, those buffered-up husks with their firmly fixed dentures and their leak-proof knickers. They are just reaffirming this global view that old people are predominately cute. (I’m 57, by the way).
There’s a big problem, too, with not being cute. There seems to be only one viable alternative to the cute option and that it the curmudgeonly one. The Victor Meldrew type who will never, and can never, be cute. I don’t want to be that either but, by golly, I’ll take it over cute.
I just want to continue to be me. I want you to continue to see me as me and not some archetypal geriatric. (Again, in case you missed it, I am 57). I’ll play my part. I’ll continue to be me for as long as humanly possible. I promise. So, just play your part. My shoes may fart at me and I may refuse to change them but I am not cute. I’m Ken. And I’m going to keep battling to be just that.
And when I end up in a care home, as I well might, I’ll be telling them that I don’t want to hear bloody Al Bowlly or Vera Lynn echoing through the hallways. Let’s have some Lou Reed, a bit of Tom Waits. Something good.
And when the grandchildren come to visit and they say, “Mum, they’re playing The Sex Pistols, isn’t that so Cute?” and I tell them to feck off?
Well I guess, at that point, I’ll have lost the battle.