Friday, June 5, 2009

On Becoming Cool

There are those qualities that define a person - gentleness, sweetness, an over-the-top talent or sense of humor - qualities that become synonymous with a person's name, or that we equate with the person whenever they cross our mind. I'm not sure what my own defining qualities are, and I think I kind of prefer that sort of ignorance and lack of self-awareness. It would be just like me to dislike the list and covet the defining qualities of my friends. Coolness is one of those qualities that you either have or you don't have. From where I sit, coolness isn't learned; it's innate.

I'll admit it: I wish I were cool. I don't think I am. And the very fact that I wish I were cool proves this to me. Cool people don't think about being cool. Cool people don't think about what people are thinking about them. Because really, there is nothing quite as uncool as self-consciousness. I struggle a little with self-consciousness. A less charitable observer may say that I am a neurotic mess. I tend to think it must be so liberating to live on the other side of the fence - to be one of the few truly cool people in the world who are untethered to their need to please others, to be accepted and well-liked and agreed with. These are the rebels of society - the men who dare not to stifle their tears in the interest of virility, the women who dare to lounge on the beach in confidence, regardless of the size of their buttprint in the sand. These are the few who live above the threshold of coolness. It seems almost tragic that they don't know it, and wouldn't care even if they did.

An old classmate of mine from high school told me last week that, although we had only known one other casually from performing in a play together, she could remember wishing at the time that she were cool like me. I blushed a little when I read that (and blushing, by the way, has never been cool), and I told her that I never had any idea that I was cool. The fact is, she had me all wrong. I'd fooled her. Which means that, while coolness can not be learned, it can be faked. And faking coolness, I suspect, is what most of us do on a daily basis. We just don't admit it, because that kind of honesty would make us feel as uncool as we secretly know that we are.Think about it. You're walking down the sidewalk, shopping bags in hand, and you trip over an uneven patch of concrete. So what do you do? You break into a little jog, pretending that you meant to do that. The trip was merely your launch. Or how about when you're sitting at a stoplight, and you reach up to scratch your nose (for the sake of maintaining our collective fantasy of coolness, we won't deal here with words like 'pick'), and you turn to the side and see that you had an audience in the car next to you? Oops. Busted.

The people-pleasing thing keeps coming up for me. It's obviously a tether that God wants to bust me out of. And I suspect that if or when my memoir makes it to publication, the poop (can't say that other word, or my more conservative Christian friends will really think I'm uncool) is gonna hit the fan when it comes to keeping everyone pleased with me. I'm a tad more liberal than about half of my evangelical friends, and just a hair more conservative than the other half. Which, I guess, means that not all of them can think I'm cool at once. Can't please all the people all the time; might as well quit trying. Might as well put my feet up and relax a minute.

No, I'm not cool. Not the organic, innate type of cool, anyway. My friend Heather has a teeny little nose ring, and wears it as though she were born with it. If I pierced my nose, I would look like I'd had a freakish accident which left shrapnil behind. I can't learn to be cool any more than I can learn to be black or learn to have a different blood type. I can only be me, and embrace the fact that I trip over cracks in the sidewalk and pick (there, I said it) my nose in the car and tend to obsess over the width of my buttprint in the sand. And then, to make matters worse, I write about these things, which one could argue, makes me a peddler of TMI.

But exhibitionism sounds kind of cool, really.

1 comment:

  1. I know the feeling. I've been overly self-conscious since about 5th grade. Wouldn't I just LOVE to release that tether?! What's stopping us? Habit? or Fear? I wish I knew what to do about that one Jena. Let me know what you figure out! By the way, I think your super cool.