I saw a woman wearing this on a t-shirt today and it made me laugh … and reflect on my relationship with the word “cool.” I’m so uncool I use cool more frequently than any grown woman should to express admiration. If you followed me for a week and wrote down everything I called cool you’d a) be worthy of a restraining order b) wonder what dictionary definition I was using.
One of my early bosses once said he bet I was one of the popular girls in high school. I have no idea why his perception of me was so far off reality other than his cool-dar was way off. I’ve never been one of the popular girls, never wanted to be, never been comfortable with a large percentage of the population. My best friend and I used to sit by our lockers and make snide comments to each other about the “hairspray girls” as they passed by, those heavily made up and follically teased girls who went to the bathroom in packs. They were (theoretically) cool. We were in the segregated International Baccalaureate classes, which made us the poster children for uncool high schoolers. I was so uncool that when a vice principle called us the Bobbsey Twins as we sat by our lockers, I had to point out they were fraternal boy/girl twins so the comparison was off — predating my tendency to point people to Snopes when they spread misinformation. I know that’s uncool — turns out no one really wants to know the truth, Mulder — and usually refrain nowadays.
I’m not part of the cool uncool who love video games, graphic novels and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I don’t follow Wil Wheaton or Felicia Day on Twitter. I don’t lay claim to coolness of any sort, uncool cool or not. But what I have found in very recent years is I’m more comfortable embracing my interests — travel, science, reading, web geeking, animals, cable TV, volunteerism, whatever. And there’s a certain type of person — the kind of person I find cool — who finds that cool.
I’ve known people who maintained the same definition of cool they had in high school – valuing the right music, the right clothes, the right car, the right tastes and things — and to me they are the epitome of uncool (the uncool kind of uncool). I knew someone who created a Meetup group and hosted a murder mystery event so she could meet more people in her new city, and while I’d rather have poked a fork in my eye than attend, I thought the idea was cool: she felt a lack in her life and did something she thought was fun to rectify it.
That is, in the end, how I would write that dictionary definition of cool: people who enjoy things unironically, whole-heartedly, non-judgementally, and without using their specific passions as a secret handshake for entry to their friendship, trust that the people they find cool will find them cool for that.