I have never been cool. I’ve tried; but I just can’t pull it off. Not when I was a kid, not as a college student, not as a thirty-something, not now. I’m geeky, wear what I want, do what I want (currently within the bounds of my responsibilities at home), and I’m not at all interested in most of the things that American culture says I should be interested in.
In school, while other kids were passing notes and giggling about boys, I was reading every book I could get my hands on, and playing at home with my new microscope, or writing a new story or play. I put on puppet shows. My mother made me wear my hair cut very short, and she picked out my clothes until I was 14 or so.
In high school I wrote poetry, and was on the student council. I was in the French club, and on the Drama and Debate teams. Total geek (or nerd, as we were called then). I worked and bought my own clothes, and my mother gave up on the hair thing. So I didn’t look like a loser anymore, but I still wasn’t cool.
Which is not to say I didn’t have good friends, and actually I got along okay with everybody in my class. I smoked, so there was common ground with the “burn-outs,” and my best friend was a cheerleader, so I had an “in” with the “popular/jock” kids. True Aquarian–everybody was my friend. But I was still not cool, and I knew it. Sometimes it bothered me, sometimes it didn’t.
In college I was wild about computers and journalism. My roommate was cool, and I got a little “cool” benefit from her, but mostly I was really into school, but not really that into the social aspects of school. I didn’t have very many friends, but I didn’t really care that much. I got along okay with the girls on my floor, and later with my apartment-mates, and we had a lot of fun, but mostly I was more involved with the sort of obscure things that interested me, and not much into the things that went on around me.
My college boyfriend was a geek at heart, but was still trying really hard to be cool. Mostly we just did our geek stuff, and talked endlessly about computers and writing and how we were going to save the world from itself. But coolness was always very important to him. He was a “yuppie” before the term was even invented; and we just couldn’t bridge that gap. Ultimately we parted ways. It took me a while to get over it.
I have always been drawn to the people on the fringes. They were usually the people who were interested in the same things I was. The ones just trying to find their way; certain that there was more to life than all the superficial stuff going on around them. They accepted a lot in me that at the time was hard even for me to accept–depression and self-doubt, especially.
So I have been fortunate to know some extremely interesting and unusual people, and now I’m able to understand that they are the cool people, after all. They (and I) didn’t fit in with popular culture at any time, but that’s okay. For whatever reason, we had to make our own way, and when we were able to do it together that was great.
So, I’m a little past middle-aged now, and not worried anymore about being cool. I worry about being a decent human being and my health, and that’s pretty much it. I still have long hair and I still wear what I want, without worrying about whether I fit in. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.
It’s okay either way.
Maybe people should worry about whether they fit in with me. Who knows, maybe those of us who are a little bit “out of it” are the “in-crowd” after all. Ultimately I think we’re all okay, and there’s room for us all on this great big planet. Cool or not, in or out. We’re all just us, doing the best we can, and that’s what really matters.
Your (wonderful!) post reminded me of ee cummings: “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.” Having had a similar experience to yours, I can say with some confidence that we were LUCKY to not quite fit in, because it made us blaze our own trail — and find interesting people along the way, too. I’m grateful you’ve been true to yourself, and that you share your truth with us here.
Perfect quote! Thank you for sharing it. ee cummings is a favorite, but I’ve never come across that quote before. Yes, I think we are lucky, and I wouldn’t trade a minute of my life to this point for that very reason. I’m feel lucky, too, to have encountered you along the way. Thank you always for your wonderful insight, understanding, and support. 🙂