EAU CLAIRE, WI–Sharon Sczerba evaluates everything on the basis of cuteness, sources close to the 36-year-old Eau Claire woman reported Monday.
According to friends, Sczerba uses the word "cute" more than 150 times a day, applying it to everything from such traditionally cute items as infants and stuffed animals to such non-traditional items as board games, soft-drink bottles, and art.
"I remember one time, she said she liked Van Gogh," said neighbor and longtime friend Emily Cone. "I thought it was great that she was getting into art other than Anne Geddes photos, but then I found out she just thought his 'Sunflowers' painting was 'really cute.'"
When informed that Van Gogh had cut off his ear in a fit of madness, Sczerba reversed her opinion of the Dutch master's work, calling the painting "not so cute anymore."
When judging music and movies, cuteness is again the overriding factor, weighing more heavily than style, substance, or meaning.
"I know I'm a little old for them, but how could you not love 'N Sync–they are just darling," Sczerba said. "Speaking of darling, have you seen Bridget Jones's Diary yet? It's such a cute movie. Renée Zellweger is absolutely adorable in it."
Sczerba recently purchased an iMac for her home finances despite the fact that a PC would have better suited her needs.
"Isn't this computer the cutest thing? It's tangerine," Sczerba said. "When I saw it, I just had to have it. Why would you get a boring old gray box when you can get a precious little see-thru one like this instead?"
Cuteness was also the major determining factor in Sczerba's recent car purchase.
"When I saw the VW Bug, I thought it was the most adorable car in the world," Sczerba said. "Everyone told me I shouldn't get it because I'd need more trunk room to carry things to work and back, but when they showed me one in the cutest shade of yellow, I couldn't help myself."
Added Sczerba: "Know what Volkswagen should do? They should make a red VW Bug with black dots so it would look like a ladybug. That would be the cutest thing ever."
A donor to numerous charities, Sczerba evaluates organizations' worthiness on the basis of adorability.
"I joined PETA, because every time I see a baby seal, I just want to hug it and never let it go," Sczerba said. "But then, in the latest PETA newsletter, they were going on and on about how they're trying to save this rare species of crab, and I was like, 'Why? That thing is disgusting!' Before long, it became clear that half the things they wanted to save were either scary-looking or slimy, so I stopped giving to them."
According to psychologist Dr. Harold Backlund, Sczerba's cuteness fixation may prove destructive in the long run.
"Sharon's need to immerse herself wholly in that which is precious is indicative of an inability to deal with conflict and pain," Backlund said. "One day, she is going to face an ugliness in her life that she cannot turn away from, and when that happens, it will send her entire world into a massive, irreversible tailspin."
Sczerba is unfazed by the possibility.
"Whenever I'm feeling down in the dumps, I just take one look at the picture I have of a baby dressed up as a pumpkin, and everything's all right," Sczerba said. "There's no problem a picture of a baby in a pumpkin suit can't fix. Talk about cute!"