Being smart never goes out of fashion.
I shivered, reading Michelle Obama's words.
"I never cut class. I loved getting A's; I liked being smart. I liked being on time. I thought being smart is cooler than anything in the world."
The words echoed as I felt goosebumps on my body. My heart shriveled up as if aching from old pain, and my mind raced fast. I know what it means to cut class. I know what it entails to chase cuteness. I know how it feels to get an A. And I now know that being smart never goes out of fashion. It's the safest bet, actually.
When I was in high school, I was a victim of the 'cute syndrome.' I was all of 16, and there is something about being 16. A lot is going inside, and then there is a threshold that you never get to know when you have crossed. There is a big ' YES' your heart says for every 'NO' that your mind says, and you oscillate like a pendulum. I surrendered to many YES’s only to realize later that I lost out on class, grades, and A's.
The effort to look cute, prove cute and live cute is exhausting. All the more, if you are not god-gifted cute. :) I wasn't. One can channelize efforts only in one direction. Somehow cuteness and smartness don't go together. If they go, tell me how? I cannot go back and do much about the past, but I can always gain wisdom.
My mom comes from a small town, and while she wasn't a simpleton, she was simple… in her appearance, mannerisms, thoughts, and feelings. She was a professor of Zoology, and I somehow couldn't see that the simplicity had a smartness to it which people around her respected. At 16 you hardly notice anything good or praiseworthy in your parents. Her simple words and pieces of advice fell on my deaf ears. What does she know? She comes from a small town, after all.
So, I dumped my grades to embark on the expedition to look cute. Boys and their attention swelled me up with vain pride; every eye that checked me out top to bottom bloated my self-esteem, and with every step towards cuteness, I wandered away from my academics, my painting, and my sports. Did it bother me? NO. I had bargained well… or that is what I thought. My ranking kept slipping, and I kept wondering. I wasn’t feeling good. I wasn’t feeling right. What was it that made me feel so belittled? Why was I not liking myself anymore? Above all, where were the boys?
My cuteness wasn’t helping me. The expedition left me empty from within. The boys found me chick but shallow, voguish but trivial and cute but available... all that I didn't see coming. Perception? Maybe. But I had to live with it and get bruised in the process.
Around the end of high school, as if thrown from a cliff, I hit rock bottom, the nadir. When you see the report card with big red marks, you know you are not YOU; you feel ashamed. You feel your image, your reputation, and your self-respect tarnished in endless ways, and it punctures the grand bubble you seem to be nestled in. Boom...you are flat on the ground, boys have vanished (they come and go at a much faster speed than light travels), and you have the flimsy, cheap, and tattered sense of self to live with. What's the value in being attractive but not respected? What's the fun in being cute but not smart?
I fell, I hit, I got cut, and I rose.
I topped the entire school district, got admission to the no.1 college, a top-notch MBA school, and never looked back again.
Being cute is okay, not okay, whatever.
Being smart is a must. Being focused, being industrious, and being responsible never goes out of fashion. It never has; it never will.
Michelle Obama- “There is no boy at this age that is cute enough or interesting enough to stop you from getting your education,” she said. “If I had worried about who liked me and who thought I was cute when I was your age, I wouldn’t be married to the president of the United States.”