Thursday, October 3, 2013

Cute Meets Kawaii: UT Tyler Edition

Over the weekend, I went shopping with students from Shimane University here in Tyler at the Broadway Square Mall. This is not the first time I went shopping with students from Matsue, but this group of students was different than the first group I escorted to the mall. It was a new experience for me entirely.

The infamous Octo-Cutie
The first group of students (Group A) had both young men and women in it and they were randomly divided amongst us eager GATE students by whoever wanted to go to which store and who showed up at what time. When my group first showed up to the mall, our advisor Ashley instructed us to find the Shimane students in Buildabear. This baffled us, but once we got to Buildabear, we found our pair of students to show around the mall. One was quite puzzled as he looked at a pink octopus/squid hybrid with lollipop wings and the other student was standing beside him holding a little skeleton costumed hedgehog as though trying to understand why in the world such things would exist. Upon asking me what it was, all I could think to say was: “It is cute.”He smiled, content with my answer and repeated it back to me. “Cute. Kawaii?” While before he wasn’t entirely sure what I was saying because of the language barrier and acting out what we were trying to say with charades, he got the message clearly. 

It's looking into your soul!
After a little deliberation amongst themselves, the two young men from Shimane University asked us to take them where they could buy casual shirts. As we browsed through the racks of JC Penny for men’s clothing, he brought everything that was pink, sparkly, or animal print to my attention with one simple word: “kawaii?” In turn, I tried to figure out exactly the look the two were after. There were so many options: polo shirts, t-shirts, long sleeved shirts? The (all girl) GATE group I led searched relentlessly, finding all kinds of cute t shirts and business shirts, each time the question asked was: “do you like it? We think it’s cute!” Each time, we struck out.

 It wasn’t until we tried Old Navy (where I discovered the fox sweater) that we found the perfect look. It was a simple white collared shirt, with brown shell buttons. Suddenly it clicked with our group. This was the perfect shirt for what we were looking for! Both groups looked at each other and asked the following: “Do you like it? We think it’s cute.” The shirt was so simple and so clean that we fell in love with it instantaneously. While not initially what we (GATE) was looking for, the purity of it was what made it so special. After a makeshift fashion show in the middle of Old Navy, they bought the shirts.

To an onlooker who had no idea what was going on, it would look like a field trip and nothing more, nothing less. To us, it was something more than a quest for a shirt. We could’ve played charades all day trying to figure out what each group was saying, but at the end of the shopping trip, we were both searching for something we found “cute” or “kawaii” that each other liked. The friends that shop together, stay together.

Universal Cuteness <3

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