Now That's Just Adorable

We’ve been having this long, ongoing discussion in my family - for about three months now - about the use of the word adorable.

It’s not an argument really, but we all have lots and lots of opinions about adorable and how it’s used, who’s allowed to use it, and what conclusions you can draw about people who shouldn’t use it but who do anyway.

We haven’t made any final decision about adorable yet, thus the ongoing nature of the discussion. Sometimes we talk about it at dinner, sometimes we mute the TV and pick up the thread for a commercial break, and sometimes we ask that everyone take out their earphones in the car so we can talk about it some more.

My son is of the strong and rock-solid opinion that men as a gender should not ever call something adorable in any circumstances for any reason, no matter who they’re talking to or about, and no matter how undeniably adorable the thing actually is.

I think it’s a little bit more complicated than that. Plus, I’ve grown accustomed to trying to find exceptions to my son’s edicts. He has equally strong, unyielding opinions on what should be considered a sport. If you think it’s weird that we’ve had a discussion about adorable going for three months, try three years on the What is a Sport discussion.

I think that some things are simply adorable and if you want to make that observation, you’re going to have to use the word or be misconstrued. Like the Eskimos have 30 different words for snow we have many different words for cute, and adorable is one of them. If someone is adorable and you decide to call her cute or sweet or precious or darling, you’re not going to be correct.

When something or someone is adorable, it means that cuteness has gone one step further in a specific direction. For example:

Kittens are cute. A wet kitten with a tilted head is adorable.

A 6-year-old girl with her front teeth missing is cute. A 6-year-old girl with her front teeth missing and a Kool-Aid mustache is adorable.

All babies are adorable, even the unattractive ones. The babyness alone gets it there.

A black and white photo of a little boy in the 1950s with a cowboy hat on in front of the Christmas tree is cute. A black and white photo of a little boy in the 1950s with a cowboy hat on in front of the Christmas tree, crying his head off is adorable.

During one of our discussions I told the story about the time I got a creepy note from a maybe-would-be-stalker when we lived in Virginia. The fact that the note said I was adorable led my husband and our friend Ijaz to conclude that the stalker was a woman, even though the note specifically said he was a 6-foot-1, 185-pound man with blond hair and brown eyes.

“A man would not say you were adorable,” my husband said. We sat around our kitchen table and tried to decide what to do about the note. My husband wanted to throw it away and forget about it, quickly, before it went to my head. Ijaz wanted to look up the phone number in the Haines reverse directory and find out who it was. I wanted to start wearing makeup when I ran into the grocery store, because I looked like shit the day I got that note and I started to realize that people were actually seeing me when I ran in to grab some diapers or baby formula or wine real fast. Sure, the people who were seeing me were creepy, note-writing, rapist kidnapper stalkers, but still. You always want to look good.

The day I got the note, I was driving our Jeep and I had my two kids with me, 5-years-old and a baby. (Now that I think of it, maybe the note was for the baby . . .) I was wearing sweats, I was still carrying about half of the 30 pounds I had gained while pregnant, my hair was greasy, I was wearing my glasses, and I was wearing no makeup. I’m pretty sure there were no accessories going on, either, other than the Michaelangelo Ninja Turtle bracelet that my son had made me.

I parked the Jeep, got the kids out, went into the store, bought a couple of things and came out, put the kids in the Jeep and saw a note on the windshield. I thought somebody had crashed into my Jeep and left a note, so the first thing I did was run around the Jeep in a stealthy manner, looking for dents. Then I picked up the note. “You’re adorable!” it said. Then it described the writer (who seemed slightly overweight, but who was I to judge?) and gave a phone number.

Are you kidding me? I could barely get my eyes off the word adorable. I was just about the least adorable thing in Fairfax County at that moment. I was light years away from adorable. If adorable had been anywhere in my town that day, it would have gone to everyone else’s house before it came to mine. And if I had started out close to adorable, my little laps around the Jeep pretty much sealed the deal. I think I may have picked my nose, too.

During our most recent discussion, my kids - all grown up now and with no recollection of how truly bad I looked back when I was a novice stay-at-home mom with babies and toddlers - could not believe I had such a note on my car at all. Man or woman, with permission to use adorable or not, they just can’t see their mom as the stalkable type.

Although someone did suggest that I should have taken Ijaz’s advice and looked up the phone number, if for no other reason than to get a hold of the guy and tell him he’s seriously abusing the language.

Everyone in the family agreed that the baby was adorable, except for all the men and the people who just thought he was precious. If you want to see more of these adorable newborns, see French photographer Thierry Bouet’s adorable series.