Apologies if you have clicked through or scrolled past the title expecting some top tips on achieving coolness. I have no idea. I have existed for all my 39 years on the periphery of something that can barely be called tepid, let alone the ice white coolness we all seem to crave.
It is a cruel truth we reveal to ourselves when we admit we are not, and will never be, cool. What we don’t understand is that coolness can only be awarded by other, less cool people. You can’t proclaim it of yourself and even your supposedly cool peers don’t get it. Coolness comes from those looking up at you in admiration.
What limbs I would have torn off and donated to medical science to be considered cool at school. I thought it would be the answer to everything. To have bullies blind to me, except in adulation, to have all the other cool boys and girls – not to mention the desperate no-hopers – all gently swaying to my rhythm, entranced by everything I said and did. But it wouldn’t have been real.
Whatever trainers or jeans I wore that would’ve given me my cool demeanour – my intelligence and wit were never welcome at any parties and nobody ever wanted to fuck my GCSE results – I would still have been me, unsure, worried, ugly. I wore what I thought were the right clothes, had the right hair, passed the right subjects, smoked, even caused a few problems in my French class, wore Joop to school (helloooo again to the nineties) and yet coolness eluded me. The entrance criteria changed by the second, becoming more convoluted and confusing with each iteration. Coolness saw through me just as I saw through it, and we never got on.
And, unfortunately, maddeningly, cliques follow you once the school doors slam shut for the last time, be it among your own friends, or in the gym, at work or on social media.
The social media cool-botherers are the most transparent of them all. The bantz and the hashtags and the memes and the in-jokes and the ribbing and the hangover sympathising and the congratulation and the fake inspo – it is all exhausting. They must be very tired. They’re at pains to show everyone else just how cool they are, and because you’re super-lucky, you get to sit in on all their conversations, like Madonna leaning over – in the cinema no doubt – and letting you read all her texts to Kanye.
It must feel lonely watching all this going on and not being quite a part of it, especially if you really want to be. I see it myself, watch someone try to join in and be shut down, usually through a lack of reply. A new twist on ghosting.
I try to reply to everybody who mentions me because unless they’re rude or bothering you, it’s impolite just to ignore. Sometimes I don’t reply because there may not be anything to add, or someone is being kind of creepy, but, y’know, you’re not a fucking rockstar – you probably have the time. But the terminally insecure have to get their kicks where they can and I often see interlopers frozen out or receive the passport to social Siberia that is the pity-favourite.
And doesn’t it burn.
But we can never be cool, as I said. Even the supposedly cool ones are not cool at all because, and this is the most delicious part, there will always be someone out there who thinks their attempts to be cool are, frankly, deeply uncool. Off-the-scale uncoolness. Lukewarm at best.
Every clique that thinks it’s amazing has someone watching from afar rolling their eyes at them and thinking they’re a pack of dicks.
Nobody is cool. Not really. We are all scared superannuated teenagers, hoping everyone will like us, or praying we won’t be found out – that really we’re nerdy and awkward and wipe our noses on our sleeve and would definitely have sand kicked in our eye by the hunky lifeguard at the beach in a teen novel. We’re all massive dweebs and we should be glad. The cool kids at school always turn out to be nobodies as adults – with tragic lives and taste in clothes and embarrassing meme-sharing on Facebook.
If you want to be cool, I have one suggestion: act like everybody else is just as cool as you. Get over the idea that it’s a competition, or that your time is worth more than anyone else’s. Avail yourself of a clue, don’t be frightened of humility. Accept the fragile superiority your perceived coolness has given you to be but temporary, that it could be whisked away from you at the earliest opportunity.
Making somebody uncool feel like they’re every bit as cool as you – that’s the coolest thing of all.
Until someone reminds you that nobody is saying “cool” any more, of course.
Disclaimer: This does not mean I am going to reply to everybody, ever.