Thursday 16 January 2014

Once we were cute...

When my daughter was little, people used to stop us in the airport and say, "Aw, how cute!" I would glow with pride, as if I was the first mother ever to have a cute child. Then it was my son's turn. I still remember the holiday when he started to garner all the attention, after my daughter tipped over from chubby toddler into gawky school-age child. Now, no one stops us anymore. Our collective 'cute' factor is pretty much zilch.

There are, however, consolations. Scoring zero on the cute scale means that my hand luggage no longer contains an impressive, Mary Poppins-style inventory of nappies, baby wipes, calpol, healthy snacks, toys, books and a fresh set of clothes (for everyone). These days it's just an ipad and a packet of sweets.

And when the kids go back to school at the beginning of term, I actually miss their company. There's a good reason why small children are cute: they are also HIGH maintenance. As scientist Konrad Lorenz argued in the 1940s, infantile features, such as big eyes and chubby cheeks, are designed to trigger a nurturing instinct in adults. These days my children may not be so adorable, but they can self-entertain during the holidays. 

Labrador puppies
Just look at those little faces!
It's the same with puppies. If my new Labrador hadn't looked so damn cute while he was weeing all over the kitchen floor and chewing up school shoes, we would have given up on him long ago. He's big and brawny now, but a lot easier to look after.

Last November I attended a forum on women in the media, where BritMums co-founder Jennifer Howze challenged the panel on why young women reporters tended to attract more attention. "Once you're not young and cute, you're not a superstar," she said. Lisa Markwell, editor of The Independent on Sunday, responded that newspapers were changing, with more focus on comment and opinion, a trend that would "play to older women [journalists] with experience". 

In our youth-oriented culture, it would be nice to think that age and experience are making a comeback, but I'm not holding my breath. Like anyone else, I'm a sucker for a sweet face, but I am also learning to look at the complete package. There is some virtue in being older, wiser and considerably less cute. For a start, non-cuties are house-trained, much easier to look after and have more to say for themselves. What's not to like?

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