Bimmer Lite - October 2008
My Mini is not cute. It's tough.
by Marc Biunno (aka Bimmer Lite)
Reprinted courtesy of Marc Biunno and Roundel Magazine
Don't call my car cute. I promise you wouldn't like me when I'm angry – all 160 pounds of scrawny rage coming right at you; I'm wily and ready to fiercely defend Vini S. Cooper's honor. I've seen lots of Van Damme films, and I'm pretty sure I'd connect with some deft maneuvers. Plus, calling my car (and me, by proxy) cute is affront to my manhood. But the truth is the truth. As much as some of us (it's quite possibly just me) hate to admit it, the Mini is a cute car. Blame the designers, blame ourselves for buying it, or blame our misplaced insecurity; whoever is responsible, there are angry people piloting these cute cars across the country, and we should probably just accept it. I hope to one day come to terms with my adorable car and why I hate it when people label it as such. My goal is to get to the point where I don't prepare for Kumite (koo-mee-tay) every time someone looks at my car and says, “Aw, it's so cute!” Ugh. This could take a miracle (or some intense counseling).
I don't think I learn the lessons I'm supposed to absorb. You would think I've figured out how to not engage someone in a subjective argument over what is cute and what is not. You would imagine that I, someone who teaches students to appreciate multiple perspectives, wouldn't flinch at a conflicting viewpoint. You would think wrong. Recently, as I walked out of a waste-of-tuition graduate course, I introduced my Mini to a classmate whom I respect very much. I had high hopes for this classmate; we disagree often, but when it comes to important stuff, we're united. Until now. “It's so cute,” she promptly announced upon setting her eyes on Vini. I responded as I normally do in these situations, “Really? Don't you think it's sort of, you know, tough looking?” I figured I'd give her a chance to redeem herself. “Tough? Ha! No, look at it – it's cute.” This proclamation was not acceptable; clearly, she wasn't looking at the details. “Look at the aero-kit – that gives it a more aggressive look. Take a gander at the wide tires and the racing brakes. Those brakes are for racing! Cute cars don't race! Here, look at it from the back; the stance is downright mean.” My flawless reasoning had no effect on her, and yes, I use “gander” in everyday conversation. I drove away defeated. To date, I have not been able to convince a single person that my car is not cute. I'm an estimated zero for forty. If I were a Yankee, I'd be Robinson Cano during April, May and June. Not pretty.
Dictionaries offer no solace. This inner battle is not one where you can find an actual definition that makes you feel better about a word. Cute is generally defined as “attractive in a pretty or endearing way.” Fair enough, but it gets ugly when some sources use synonyms like “dainty,” “darling,” and “twee.” Twee?! Look it up - you're not going to like what you find. I can buy that my car is attractive. I can even accept that it's endearing since so many Minis have names and personal attributes. Acceptance, though, is not the cure in this situation. Words carry more than their definitions and make up meaning that goes further than the sum of their synonyms. The angst lies in the fact that we (I?) equate comments about our cars to ourselves.
Babies are cute, most of the time. Kittens are, too. Puppies are so cute it's sometimes painful. Reasonable readers can see the differences between the aforementioned items and a car. A car is a ton of metal, rubber, plastic, technology, and white-hot speed. You don't look at a car and hope it smiles back. Babies, kittens and puppies are cute because they can't do anything else but sit there and be cute. That's it – that's what they do! Has a baby ever apexed a corner? Does a puppy produce intoxicating supercharger whine? Peeing on the floor, crying, and scratching holes in furniture are not as cool as accelerating, braking and turning. A Mini is a performance machine designed to rip up the corners. Sure, it might look cute, but that doesn't mean it is cute. So we have a dilemma of identity here. Now we're getting somewhere.
On the surface, the Mini is cute. Beneath the surface, it's athletic and ready to perform. Is it surprising, then, that when an outsider sees only the cute exterior that we (the male ownership) have to make sure that these ignoramuses also understand the car's underlying potential? Obviously, we're just trying to educate the unschooled; how would they know what lies beneath if they've never driven one? They wouldn't, poor souls.
If this rationalization hasn't worked (be afraid of yourself if it has), and if you still shudder to think that you drive a cute car, there's an ace in the hole: the Smart Car. I parked next to one and laughed. It's adorable, and what's better, unless you put a 130 horsepower motorcycle engine in it (pure youtube fun), it's completely incapable of outperforming the Mini in any category besides daintiness. The Smart Car is lovable, sweet, and cuddly. If it had cheeks, my Italian aunts and grandmothers would pinch them. It's brilliantly designed to make people wonder how it actually is able to putter along at all. It looks cute, and unlike a Mini, its performance is cute, too. It's like when a baby makes a noise similar to a word; to everyone around, it's truly an accomplishment. Oh look at that little car drive, it's just so darling. It drives on the same roads as real cars! There's no need to come to terms with our own insecurities when we can just project the same feelings towards something else – it's the mature thing to do.
So I guess I have learned something. If someone disrespects my car, I can just remind him or her of the Smart Car instead of replicating Frank Dux's whooping of Chong Li in Bloodsport. Because I could if I wanted to; that spinning roundhouse kick thing is completely within my ability. I might not look like it, but I can do it - just try me.