Cute

Sometimes life is to be lived, not written about. The past few weeks have been fully experienced, so no posts to this blog. But now let’s start again.

Cute

At the moment, I am surrounded by the child-like energy we identify as ‘cute’, not the usual aura for us old fuddy-duddies with grown children and no grandchildren, a harried lifestyle, and anti-social tendencies.

The word comes from a shortening of ‘acute’ – implying quick-witted intelligence and perception, relating it to the word ‘cunning’, which has two interestingly dichotomous meanings, both of which are related to the word ‘know’ – connaitre in French, gnosis in Greek – a cunning politician and a cunning baby.

Our 12-year-old nephew has been spending some time here this summer, and he is cute in the smelly sox, hair-across-the-eyes, finding-his-way manner of that age. Actually enthusiastic but trying to be cool, he is cute to us knowing adults because his nascent social stratagems are so obvious. Loves sports, hates to lose, loves to fish, hates ‘girls’ (Riiiiight – actually his sexuality, just cracking the husk of latency, has a hidden, almost predatory nature to it – we hate girls at that age for the power they have over us.).

Different from the ‘cute’ of the five and a half year old who showed up last week, a Chinese adoptee, whose sensitive but earthed father came to help me teach a class. He is totally besmitten, and why not? Mya is sma-art, a gifted mimic, disarmingly frank about her weaknesses or yours, and totally comfortable in her body. This is a kid to root for, one of the ones who will save the world.

Put them together, and Mya drove Joseph. When we stopped the boat at the picnic spot, she was the second over the side after her father. Though Joseph was unfamiliar with the sea, expressed a fairly profound fear of sharks, and clearly was opposed to exposing his body, he could not be outdone by Mya, and jumped in grumpily only to enjoy himself thoroughly.

(Another day, we took Mya out again, without Joseph, and she wouldn’t go in the water at all – the drive works both ways, I guess.)

But can anything compare with a kitten for cuteness? Hermes is the first animal I‘ve ever chosen for any house I share with Quan. Angelina was ostensibly ‘my cat’, but actually Quan brought her by when we were still just friends, 16 years ago: “You have Misty here sometimes – she has to have an animal.” I travel so much, I didn’t want the bother. Quan didn’t so much insist as simply act as if I hadn’t spoken – a trait I should have recognized before I married her, though it is one I have come to adore, and have watched her use on many other people besides me. It’s surprising how often she gets her way, and how often her way was better than what she didn’t bother to oppose.

Anyway, Misty is four and up for a visit, Quan shows up with three kittens, saying I can choose any one, but that one’s spoken for already and anyway you should really have two to keep each other company, and drives away leaving Misty and I with the impression that we had ‘chosen’ Angelina and Josefina, whereas Quan had simply delivered the cats she chose for us.

We have had a succession of maybe a dozen cats since then, sadly lost to old age, cars, and woodland predators, including Josefina. As well we’ve had horses, a hundred plus rabbits, a couple of chinchillas, the occasional wounded bird – not one of which have I had a hand in choosing. So when the doddering Angelina finally lost it and died this spring, I determined I would choose my next cat.

Quan tried to steer me, but I am by now hip to her ways, and went to the shelter myself. She still tried handing me one she liked. I saw Hermes right away, but you want to be fair so I checked out all the cats, a heart-rending parade of cages with cats showing all the five stages of grief, the newest giving their best ‘take me!’ silent appeals, hard on a cat’s dignity.

You can’t take them all, so I took Hermes – the Greek messenger god, associated with Loki in Norse mythology, Coyote in Native American lore – and what a love he is turning out to be. No point in detailing how he crawls up your pant leg (or, for a short time until he learned, your leg if you’re wearing shorts) or tears around after a feather, or how he won over the other cats – it’s all familiar.

Mya and Joseph both loved Hermes, so they were all cute together. Cute implies innocent – in its original sense of ‘no harm’ – and – every parent’s fervent and useless prayer – may none of these cute beings come to harm themselves. We can’t expect cute to survive – Hermes is growing out of it in cathood, and both of the children will hit puberty and become explicit about the inherent sexuality in their nature, and the long journey upwards to conscious use of sexual power begins.

Childhood sexuality is a hard subject. Of course we also describe our first sexual honeys as ‘cute’, but we don’t mean it in the same way as I have been using it. The British tabloids – I am told, we don’t see them here – have had Gary Glitter’s guts for garters for his having sex with pubescent girls in foreign climes (aging glam rocker – think a cross between Boy George and Paris Hilton 20 years from now).

While Hermes is definitely asexual, and Joseph stands on the edge of explicit sexuality, what are we to make of Mya? She is not asexual, she simply has a different relation to sexuality. All human energy is at base sexual – read The Selfish Gene. I have certainly seen young children with a high sex drive – disconcerting, how do you handle it without either playing into it or squashing it? I can understand an attraction to it, meaning I could find some resonance with it in myself, though I have zero desire to act out, and haven’t since I played doctor in 4th grade.

Then of course there’s the other side: Are these girls being sold or duped into sexual slavery, or are they choosing among options? It is very difficult in that pubescent age (people mature earlier in 3rd world countries, they have to) to determine what’s ‘choice’. I am told that each of the prostitutes in Bangkok supports an average of 22 Thais in the countryside, often their families of course. What would they say about the sex tours that provide the money that they send back home? It is easy to be righteous from the safety of our Calvinist homes.

Mya, growing up in America with the very best of parents, will escape this choice which some of her Asian sisters will have to make. May nothing or no one violate her trust of the world, but may no one stifle her natural energy either, as mine was carefully curbed, snuffed, and buried by my well-meaning parents.

In the course of my career as a therapist, I have treated many survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Here’s the surprising thing: for many of these women (it is predominantly women), it is not their relationship to sexuality that is disturbed by these early events – many of these women are orgasmic and perfectly normal sexually. What is always disturbed is their relationship not to sex, but to power. Every one of these people has a problem relating to power, wounded in either responding to it or wielding it, though how it manifests differs markedly.

The problem with sleeping with your clients, or children, or your groupies is not the sex per se, but the power differential in the relationship. Here’s where my own sexuality reaches its natural curb: I can find no desire in myself for a sexual relationship where I have to overpower. The heat for me comes with the joyous mutual consent – fully-informed consent as they say nowadays – and without it I would be a limp puppy.

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