I have never been one of the cool kids, mostly because I was never willing to adapt to the ever-evolving shapeshifter that is “coolness” at the expense of being who I really am.
Yet even now I notice the pressure to play it cool, and the battle that goes on in my own psyche. Particularly in my line of work, many in my professional peer group are supremely cool. They wear the right toe-crunching, sexy stylin’ shoes and coif their hair just so. They slip in under the velvet rope at the VIP lounges, while sipping on the right trendy cocktails. The way they write and the things they blog about and how they communicate and who they hang out with and the very air of how they present themselves—on stage and in life—is just so damn cool.
I’m not prone to making comparisons, but it’s enough to make even the most secure girl feel uncool in her comfy brown Teva Mary Janes with her hair in a ponytail.
Being A Chameleon
Ten years ago, I was on Match.com for all of three days and met not only my current husband but also this really cool guy who used to work at Studio 54, who was so hot I could hardly breathe around him. I really liked Cool, Hot Dude, but my antennae went up when Cool, Hot Dude said to me on our first date, “I’m like a chameleon. I can adapt myself to any situation so I fit right in.”
While this skill sounded handy—even enviable on one level—I found myself feeling distrustful. Not until that moment did I realize that I wanted to be with the kind of man who was himself all the time, whether he was at the White House, at the Oscars, at a soup kitchen, at the company Christmas party, at church, at home with his family, or hanging at the local pub with the guys. Any guy who could adapt himself to be cool, whether he was hanging with supermodels or preschool kids, didn’t ring quite true for me.
So as attractive as I found Cool, Hot Dude, I wound up choosing to be with Matt, who is the same down-to-earth, unpretentious, goofy, adorable, essentially uncool Matt, whether he’s watching my daughter’s Waldorf school play, hanging in the green room with me at the Hay House conference, hosting Easter for the neighbors with me, or eating lunch at French Laundry in Napa Valley, where they made him wear one of the stodgy blue coats with gold buttons they reserve for the uncool guys who show up not knowing it’s jacket-only.
When Cool Becomes A Mask
I have nothing against cool people. In fact, I have great admiration for those who are authentically cool—they just embody cool naturally, and you can tell it’s not an act at all.
I am not one of those people—and never will be. I want to rub their heads and hope a little of it rubs off on me. So far, it hasn’t worked because that’s just not me.
But I suspect naturally cool people are rare. The rest are all trying to hit the bullseye of a constantly moving target of coolness, which means staying on top of trends, comparing yourself to others, sacrificing what you really love for what you think others love, and essentially selling your soul for the price of admission into the Cool Zone.
It’s a heavy price to pay.
Cool can become a mask that covers up the real you, hopefully replacing the real you with someone others consider more socially acceptable. Cool can become your cover, and as long as you’re cool enough, you might spend the rest of your life protecting the real you from ever getting seen—and possibly rejected.
I Am Not Cool…
I don’t wear the right shoes (see: Tevas above). I wear the ones that feel good.
I hang out with the people I love, not the people who might improve my social status.
If I care about someone, I don’t play games. I tell them, even when I know it makes me look uncool, and even when I’m not sure if the affection is reciprocated.
I say what I think, not what I think others want me to say.
I vote for whom I respect, not for whom others think I should vote.
I sometimes meditate cross-legged and closed-eyed in public, even though I know it makes me look like a hippie freak from California. (I am.)
I’ve had the same Jennifer Aniston haircut from her early Friends days for almost two decades because it looks good on me. I’d probably still have a Farrah Fawcett haircut and a perm if it had ever looked good on me. (It didn’t.)
I sometimes order the duck when I’m eating out with vegans.
I wear clothes that are five seasons old and completely out of style, just because I still love them.
The guy who just waxed my skis raised an eyebrow because my skis aren’t parabolic enough to look like I bought them in the last decade. (I didn’t.) But they’re also not vintage enough to be cool on Retro Ski Day.
I yell, “WHEEEE!!!!” when I’m skiing down the hill in my uncool skis just because it feels so good.
I do cartwheels on the beach when I’m way too old to do cartwheels.
I don’t buy my daughter’s birthday cake at the cool bakery where the cool mamas go.
I don’t get invited to the cool parties in my hometown.
I don’t have the perfect comeback when someone insults me. I just look openly hurt because I am.
I don’t look cool when I cry. Which is often.
I sometimes snort when I laugh hard. Which is often.
But Uncool Can Be Cool
I may not be cool, but I’ve kept the promise I made to myself six years ago to be unapologetically ME—100% of the time—and in my opinion, that’s pretty dang cool. Personally, I love people who let their freak flag fly, even when it flies against the norm. For me, it just doesn’t get any cooler.
Being uncooly cool isn’t always easy. Often, I feel tempted to pretend to be cooler than I am so I won’t feel like such a misfit or wind up hurt. Like everyone else, I want to be loved and accepted. I long to belong.
But not at the price of selling out who I am and replacing the real me with some plastic version constantly recreated to fit today’s elusive cool factor (which you can guarantee is different than yesterday’s).
I finally realized that it takes real courage to be unapologetically uncool—and that there’s really nothing cooler in my book than someone brave enough to be who they really are, even when it flies in the face of everything popular culture commands you to be.
Come Out Of The Uncool Closet
If you’re one of those naturally cool people who just radiates coolness when you’re being completely authentic, more power to ya! High five! (Or is that uncool?)
But if you’re more like me—uncool and cool with it—will you please raise your hand? Come out of the closet, my love. Let us see your real face. Tell us how uncool you are—and be unapologetic about it. Forget that— be flippin’ PROUD of your uncoolness—because it takes courage to be uncool—and there’s nothing sexier than that.
Proud to be uncool,