One of the main reasons I had children was so I would have someone to pass on the things I have learned throughout my oh so long life. In case I get hit by a bus or something, I feel the need to document some of that advice somewhere.
Today's lesson - the secret of being cool.
I was an unpopular kid. My unpopularity tortured me during my grade school years. With older, wiser eyes, I look back on those years and try to see from an outsiders perspective what made me so unpopular and what made the cool kids what they were.
Everyone knows what it is that cool kids have that the uncool kids don't - confidence. But what does that mean exactly? How does confidence manifest itself in a way that makes you cool? When you don't have it, but you try to have it, you generally become an arrogant asshole, and while arrogant assholes sometimes give off the appearance of popularity and often have the general public fooled, in quiet corners everyone is whispering about how much they actually hate the popular assholes. Even their "best friends" are getting in on that hatred.
A couple of things I remember being cool in the third grade - these little flocked teddy bears and playing with the wax from those individually wrapped cheeses. Everyone had to have those cheeses for lunch to get the wax to play with and everyone had to collect those stupid little bears. Why? Who started it? Who decided those were cool? I dunno, but I have an idea. The person who decided they were cool simply enjoyed them and had no idea she was supposed to be shy about enjoying them to see if others would agree with her before going public with her enjoyment.
Her lack of apology, of question, of seeking approval convinced the entire class that these things were simply cool and she was cool. Why? Because she said so. I fell for it hook, line, and sinker. I don't even like cheese but I requested my parents put them in my lunch every day because the cool kids had them. I had the biggest collection of those stupid bears in class. Did that make me cool? Not even close. I was a total poser.
Collecting the trappings of being cool will not make you cool. It's something I struggle with to this day. My instincts tell me that if I can have the best / be the best fill in the blank cool thing, I will be cool and people will like me. So I had the biggest Barbie collection, sticker collection, stupid bear collection, I was the best at tetherball, and doing spinning tricks on the play bar. I had all the trappings, and I was still a nerd*.
*Kids, back in the day, being a nerd was the worst thing you could be. It's not like today where being a nerd or a geek is something to be proud of. If you watch 80's sitcoms, you'll find that all the characters are the cool kids, and each one has that one nerdy friend. The purpose of the nerdy friend was to make the main character likable, to demonstrate how even though they are an awesome cool kid, they are nice enough to allow a geek to hang out with them. In real life, those cool kids would never lower themselves to be friends with a nerd. I'm looking at you Silver Spoons and Family Ties.
So what changed? What turned the tides and made the geeks the kings of the world that they are today? Is it the money they earned being smart? Eh, that helps, but no, that's not it. I'm pretty sure it's the internet. All of those geeks, with their unpopular enjoyment of nerdy games and sci-fi suddenly went online and found out that they weren't the only ones creating detailed maps of the Starship Enterprise. When they discovered they weren't alone, they stopped being ashamed of what they enjoyed. They reveled in the knowledge they had acquired during their study of whatever their joy was and found others who were impressed by that knowledge. Communities of geekdom where "geek cred" was cool. The apologies stopped, the shyness and shame stopped, and the moment those things stopped, cool started.
Personally, there came a moment where I simply gave up trying to figure out cool. I just couldn't figure it out so I stopped trying. I said "fuck it" and just started spending my time how I enjoyed spending it. I spent my highschool years in the theater and pottery rooms. Did suddenly saying "fuck it" make me cool right away? Not that I know of. If I was, no one bothered to mention it to me. But I had some good friends to watch Monty Python with and generally enjoyed myself. Years later, people look at the work I put in for years becoming good at pottery and now think it's really cool that I can do it. Did spending hours upon hours alone and covered in mud make me cool? Well actually I probably was pretty awesome but I was alone so again, no one around to tell me how awesome I was being while enjoying my cool hobby.
So that's the secret to being cool. Enjoy what you enjoy and don't apologize for it. Rock out to the band that others are laughing at. Master that hobby that sitcoms use as a punchline. Play that game that others pretend they've never heard of. If I'm right, and you sincerely make no apologies for enjoying what you enjoy, you will soon find yourself surrounded by people marveling at how cool you are. And if I'm wrong, who the fuck cares? At least you've spent your time enjoying yourself instead of wasting your time trying to collect the biggest stupid bear collection in the class.
And for all the totally cool nerds out there, please spend the next 3 minutes celebrating your nerdiness with Weird Al. One of the first people to become totally cool by being weird. White and Nerdy video.