What happens when cool ends?
As a 25 year old constantly juggling my job, my hobbies and my social circles, I find the idea of cool to be increasingly redundant and frustrating. Not because I think it is elitist/exclusive, but more because I think it stunts the people it burdens with the accolade. Allow me to explain.
Growing up, I was blithely unaware of the idea of coolness being an actual life-goal for many people. My parents are both science people, and perhaps that’s why cool was not something I had even heard of as a destination.I wasn’t living under a rock, I was perfectly getting along with my life and friends and had nothing to complain about. In my late teens I began meeting people who thrived on the concept of cool. I saw merit in their argument : someone was doing something differently and without care for approval and because they enjoyed it and it didn’t get in anyone’s way it was great! I liked cool. I liked the idea of cool, of people trying to figure themselves out and expressing themselves in ways that were authentic. I enjoyed conversations with the people who had unpopular opinions but stuck by them, with the people who carried free-trade goodies but didn’t make you notice that they did, with the rebels and the conformers, with the free-thinkers and the keepers of cool.
Unfortunately over time, the ‘cool’ ones that I met as a teenager are still doing the same things, behaving the same way and living the exact same life as they were years ago. At 25, the cool of college begins to look like a sad fading rock star, intent on reminding you of his heyday. I began to see many of them stuck in their ways, taking up unpopular opinions just because they thought it would look cool, looking down on what people enjoyed because it would make them look cool, and just behaving in ways which were no longer authentic or even really cool. You are not cool because you’ve spent a week in bed watching documentaries about aliens and forgotten to take out your trash. If you have a hundred unanswered texts and emails, you never return phone calls and you take pride in being indifferent, you’re not cool -you are stunted.
There’s something about acknowledging and wearing ‘cool’ as a badge that instantly reduces a person’s need to seek more, do more and be more. The cool guys became the indifferent guys, the people who didn’t realise that they were cool at a certain time because they were doing something cool. Cool is not forever, but the complacency it induces can be.
I see it in friends who have hardened, taken their own talents and successes too seriously, have neglected emotional growth in favour of keeping up the cool machine, have chosen to be uninvolved even at the cost of losing relationships and friendships they truly care about. The cost of maintaining an image becomes such an engulfing need that everything else must scale itself down to fit for size or be banished. I have had several conversations with friends who have been too afraid to refuse an invitation to stay back home with a partner, too afraid to say they need time off or they need rehab because they are too afraid of not looking cool.
The cool people of my youth are burdened with their own insecurities, about emerging from underneath the umbrella of cool-dom into another kind of personhood. There is so much ambiguity in ‘cool’ that you don’t find in ‘kind’, ‘loving’, ‘courageous’ or even ‘batshit crazy’. When cool becomes a descriptive for lack of being able to commit to another adjective, things have gone downhill
The tribe of cool have fallen into the very trap that cool was meant to be the key out of. Cool was for the ones who blaze their own path, the ones who are comfortable being themselves, the ones who did not have to pretend for fear of looking uncool.
What happens when cool ends? Perhaps, life begins again.