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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

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Janet

Does anyone ever really define himself as "cool" or do we all think other people are cool and strive to be like them? What is "cool" anyway?

One version, when I was learning the rules, was to be rich and have an important daddy and go to exclusive parties. Another was to be aggressively anti-authority, whether that was represented by parents or teachers or just dressing well and making good grades.

I was never one of the cool kids, certainly according to those definitions. I made good grades, I wanted to be successful, I didn't do drugs, I wasn't some senator's daughter, I wasn't rich. I liked alternative music but wasn't part of a scene. My politics were hardly fiery. If there was an all-encompassing "youth culture," I was kinda out on the fringes.

But I knew it. I began to define myself differently early, maybe in middle school when my wild hair couldn't be the straight-cool locks of Susan Dey et al and my already-hippy body couldn't be forced into student-cut Levi's. I realized that wanting to be "cool" was setting me up for a lifetime of unhappiness.

Don't get me wrong. It was a painful lesson and took a long time. But eventually, I understood that cool isn't a postive: It exists only in opposition to a negative. We don't care what makes us cool, we just don't want the consequences of being "uncool": Being disliked by, made fun of, or left out of a group we want to belong to.

Finding ourselves not measuring up to a self-imposed ideal.

The trick is not wanting to belong ... or rather, not wanting it badly enough to change in order to do it. Laziness, finally, made virtue. The irony is that, sometimes, not caring enough to belong makes you really ... cool.

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