Guise of Polit eness

Then you should say what you mean,” the March Hare went on.
“I do,” Alice hastily replied; “at least-at least I mean what I say-that’s the same thing, you know.”
“Not the same thing a bit!” said the Hatter.
-from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

I am fascinated by dishonesty in the guise of politeness. Not the lies we tell to avoid getting fired or to get laid more expediently – but the sociological dishonesty that we are taught in order to tolerate each other better in our day to day lives.

In the name of civility, we never tell anyone they look fat in anything. We always love their new outfit. We also never tell anyone when they have food on their face. (Is this so that we can enjoy the tiny ballet it does on their chin when they speak?)

If we tell our friend that her kid really is NOT cute when he crayons the walls, will the fabric of our society crumble? Will we immediately begin cooking and eating each other or screwing in the road?

I have noticed that there are certain keywords that we often use in our patronizing peace. “Nice” and “cute”. If someone says, “that’s nice” to you it most likely means that you have bored him until he has completely lost the will to live.

His only hope – short of strangling you with your necktie, which is by far the most intriguing thing about you, and which he has been staring at for the last half hour in the false hope that it would sway in an interesting manner – is the flag word “nice”.

He hopes that, when you hear this word, you will see that if you do not shut up this very moment, he must and should kill you to spare the rest of the free world your mind numbing, dumb assed story.

But, I must say, that the word “cute” is my favorite by far, because it has so many well known yet unspoken meanings. It is a very a simple word with limitless undertones and subtle shadings.

Here are examples of three meanings of “cute”.

Your friend Shelby introduces you to her boyishly handsome new man. When you speak to her on the phone later, you may volunteer that Patrick is “cute”. Of course, in this particular case, you are in all honesty and politeness saying to your good friend, “If you and Patrick EVER have a fight, I’m going to sleep with him.”

The next day your friend Shelby comes over. She says she and Patrick have had a lovers spat. She says, “It always cheers me up a little if I do some shopping. I bought this for only $65.”

She pulls out of her shopping bag a clear plastic beach bag with the word “hot” on it in pink neon. You say in dishonest politeness, “That’s cute.” You mean, of course, that although her bag is very stupid indeed, it is not as stupid as she is for fighting with her God of a boyfriend, and is certainly less offensive than her other beach bag which says “cool” on it in orange.

A week later, Shelby comes over to pick you up for the beach. She is carrying her stupid bag, and is wearing clear plastic sandals with the word “hot” on them. She asks you directly what you think of them.

You say, “They’re cute.” You mean, of course, that they are the absolute most magnificently pathetic and idiotic thing you have ever before seen in your life, and you wish fervently, in the name of all that is holy and good, that you had never seen them, or that you could somehow scrape the image of them off of your cornea. Or, that failing, just scrape out your eyeballs entirely.

Then, feverishly, you realize that even without eyeballs you could still visualize those shoes, and you scream out in your mind , “Oh God forgive me my trespasses, and take away the horrible imprint of that footwear!” (The pun is intentional, and allow me to apologize in advance.)

Then, lost in a silent prayer that you could remove your brain from your head, wash off the ridiculous, life sucking image and then shove it back in through your ear or something, you realize you did the right thing sleeping with Patrick. He deserves better.

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