I have never been one of the cool kids, mostly because I was never willing to adapt to the ever-evolving shapeshifter that is “coolness” at the expense of being who I really am.
Yet, even now, I notice the pressure to play it cool and the battle that goes on in my own psyche. Particularly in my line of work, many in my professional peer group are supremely cool. They wear the right toe-crunching, sexy, stylin’ shoes and coif their hair just so. They slip in under the velvet rope at the VIP lounges, while sipping on the right trendy cocktails. The way they write and the things they blog about and how they communicate and who they hang out with and the very air of how they present themselves – on stage and in life – is just so damn cool.
I’m not prone to making comparisons, but it’s enough to make even the most secure girl feel uncool in her comfy brown Teva Mary Janes with her hair in a ponytail.
Being A Chameleon
Ten years ago, I was on Match.com for all of three days and met not only my current husband but also this really cool guy who used to work at Studio 54, who was so hot I could hardly breathe around him. I really liked cool, hot dude, but my antennae went up when cool, hot dude said to me on our first date, “I’m like a chameleon. I can adapt myself to any situation so I fit right in.”
While this skill sounded handy – even enviable on one level – I found myself feeling distrustful. Not until that moment did I realize that I wanted to be with the kind of man who was himself all the time, whether he was at the White House, at the Oscars, at a soup kitchen, at the company Christmas party, at church, at home with his family, or hanging at the local pub with the guys. Any guy who could adapt himself to be cool, whether he was hanging with supermodels or preschool kids, didn’t ring quite true for me.
So as attractive as I found cool, hot dude, I wound up choosing to be with Matt, who is the same down-to-earth, unpretentious, goofy, adorable, essentially uncool Matt, whether he’s watching my daughter’s Waldorf school play, hanging in the green room with me at the Hay House conference, hosting Easter for the neighbors with me, or eating lunch at French Laundry in Napa Valley, where they made him wear one of the stodgy blue coats with gold buttons they reserve for the uncool guys who show up not knowing it’s jacket-only.
When Cool Becomes A Mask
I have nothing against cool people. In fact, I have great admiration for those who are authentically cool – they just embody cool naturally and you can tell it’s not an act at all.
I am not one of those people – and never will be. I want to rub their heads and hope a little of it rubs off on me. So far, it hasn’t worked because that’s just not me.
But I suspect naturally cool people are rare. The rest are all trying to hit the bullseye of a constantly moving target of coolness, which means staying on top of trends, comparing yourself to others, sacrificing what you really love for what you think others love, and essentially selling your soul for the price of admission into the cool zone.
It’s a heavy price to pay.
Cool can become a mask that covers up the real you, hopefully replacing the real you with someone others consider more socially acceptable. Cool can become your cover, and as long as you’re cool enough, you might spend the rest of your life protecting the real you from ever getting seen – and possibly rejected.