Has anyone ever called you “cute”? Was it the kind of delivery that might have occasioned a barroom-style brawl should you have been gratefully relieved of all inhibition?

I got the “too cute and pretty” line the other day from a prospective agent I’d gifted with a sample of my writing and a headshot (they all want pictures these days).

Prognosis: Declined (I think).

Diagnosis: Too cute and pretty (or so they say).

Now that you’ve got the context I should tell you that while I may look pretty in pictures I’m more “interesting” in person. I’ll take “striking” (because I’m tall, I can understand that) or even “stately.” But “pretty”? Not so much. Factor in the adjective, “cute,” only two words away and I can hear that death knell in a deep slumber from across the country. I mean, no one in California should be calling anyone outside their state “too cute.”

So this raises the question: Should I wear glasses in my next headshot? Should I submit an alternate pic with mousy locks and my dorkiest pair of specs? No more highlights in my hair or vigorous lunchtime swims under the bronzing Miami sun? Maybe I should have a professional take my picture…instead of my boyfriend.

I think of pretty as a plus, generally. After all, you can always turn the volume down (think Charlize Theron in Monster—I mean wow). That’s what makes me think they just didn’t like my writing. Maybe they were just looking for a good way to give me the soft axe. (As if I’m so easily denied my right to experience appropriately stiff rejection by suffering an insult instead.)

Next time they should just come out and say it: Your writing style is sophomoric and self indulgent and your looks are at odds with your profession’s high level of respectability. Now there’s a statement I can take to the bank. 

But here’s the rejoinder: Why can’t a professional have some cuteness to be credible? Look at celebrity chefs like that sexy spitfire, Giada de Laurentiis, or the syrupy Rachel Ray, not to mention the low-watt light bulb that is Sandra Lee (of half-baked fame).

Why can chefs, news anchors, actors, writers and other hard-working high-profile professionals be drop-dead gorgeous (or menacingly cute) while vets have to endure the expectation of frumpy-crunchy respectability in their appearance. Is there a mold we have to squeeze into before we can exit vet school and enter the sphere of credible professionalism?

Now look, I’m not complaining (not too much, I think) but it’s not as if I’m auditioning for the next big gig on Animal Planet (though I’ll take it if it pays well) I’m just trying to write a #$%& book. Use my high school yearbook photo if you need an ugly mug on the back cover—just publish me, darn it!