Yesterday I wore slippers and flannel pajamas in a non-ironic way. I got into bed and covered myself up with the bedspread I got from PB Teen, three years ago, when I was twenty-one and definitely not a teen. The model in the catalog was wearing a shirt from Aeropostale.
When I woke up, I put on jeans from Express. I buy all of my jeans there because they carry the “short” fit and also because I’m too lazy to look anywhere more interesting than that. I opened my computer and put on a Spotify playlist of top pop hits. And then I came to the crystal-clear realization that I will never, in fact, be cool.
It’s a very broad and general word, yes. But at the same time, being labeled as “cool” seems to require a very specific way of looking and existing. Your appearance should fit into certain requirements of what is considered attractive, but you should simultaneously be extremely unique-looking. Your style should be loose and relaxed, or chic but carefree, or chill but like, in a beautiful way. Your hobbies, your likes, your preferences, your music, your favorite books, the decorations in your room – they should all be unexpected and impressive and have a deep meaning behind them.
There’s an endless list of what you need to look like and what you need to be like and what you need to just like in order to be considered cool. This list will never end and it will always be changing. And you just have to be it. You can’t try to embody it or try to look like it or try to act like it – some people just appear to be effortless and carefree and cool, and other people are me, sitting on the couch in a bathrobe I bought from Gap in eighth grade, while I watch Dance Moms with my roommate.
Coolness has become a currency that is on par with beauty, or wealth, or status. People want it, desperately. People admire other people who are cool. People spend hours thinking about them and stalking them and wanting to be like them, wanting to be them. People do things that they think are stupid or boring or pointless, all because they think it will bring them to some level of coolness and social wealth that doesn’t even exist.
Being cool isn’t real. It’s unattainable. It’s not a thing. You will never be cool. No one will ever be cool. Because being cool is subjective. The minute you become cool, there will be people admiring you or fawning over you or wanting to be you. People will watch what you do and try to emulate it. People will be jealous of you. But there will be just as many people who don’t think you’re cool. People who think you’re silly or annoying or fake. People who think that the stuff you like is stupid, the way you dress is stupid. Sometimes they’re trying to purposely be mean and judgmental. Sometimes, they just honestly, harmlessly don’t think you’re cool. That’s how the world works.
When you can see this, when you can accept that there’s no right way to be, when you can understand that the girl you’re sorta (definitely) obsessed with on Instagram is cool in your eyes but you can simultaneously remember that your eyes are subjective, you will be free.
You will be free because you will understand, in this moment, that you are chasing after something that does not exist. You are pining for something that will never happen. You will never be cool. There will never be a case where every single person in the entire world will agree that you’re cool. Everybody will have a different opinion of you, including you.
Attempting to follow a recipe for social acceptance and approval is a waste of your time. Sure, it could work initially. Some people might thing you’re cool. But some won’t. What you think is cool is different from what I think is cool is different from what Jennifer Lawrence thinks is cool. And none of us is more right than the other.
Some people really do like to go thrifting. Some people really enjoy listening to obscure bands. Some people like to read Ernest Hemingway in the park while they wear thick, black-rimmed glasses. Some people like to go to music festivals and wear flower crowns on their heads. They honestly enjoy doing those things. Awesome. Good for them. None of that sounds fun to me, but I can think of plenty of people who would think they were cool.
On the other hand, I like to watch the opening credits of comedy shows and see who wrote the episode and then spend the entire episode half-watching, half-stalking the writer on the Internet. I like to wear the same plaid, red shirt multiple times a week, usually with a pair of pajama pants that look like they’re from Limited Too. I enjoy sitting on my childish bedspread and looking up commencement speeches on YouTube.
These things don’t make me obscure. They do not make me cool. They especially don’t make me effortlessly attractive. They’re just things about me. Some people would think they’re interesting. Some people would think I’m stupid. Some people would think I’m trying to be cool. It doesn’t matter. Because I enjoy doing them. There’s no purpose for me doing them, there’s no motivation to appear a certain way or to come off as deep or nerdy-chic or unique or, for the love of God, cool. The only reason I do these things is because I just like to do them, for fack’s sake.
I will never be cool. You will never be cool. That girl on Instagram will never be cool. Even freaking Oprah will never be cool. Because cool does not exist. What exists is you, in this moment, doing whatever the hell you want to do.