There was this recent article in The Guardian about a new exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery on what defines ‘American Cool.’ Portraits of Debbie Harry, Elvis, Lauren Bacall, Frank Sinatra, Tony Hawk, Walt Whitman, Miles Davis, Billie Holiday and, of course, James Dean, make the cut. I love portraits and I love most of those people – Funny how the majority of them are artists, huh? But beyond my fan-girling of Frank Sinatra, the article got me thinking about cool. The elusive cool.
COOL: Something I just wasn’t in my high school years. Something I think I really was in my early twenties.
Being in LA, I find myself regularly meeting “cool people.” But more than half the time, that cool seems fabricated. Calculated cool. Which is the opposite of cool, just so you know. It’s not cool to be judgmental. It’s not cool to be pretentious. It’s never cool when you coolness is clearly something you’ve orchestrated. (Now would be a good time to start a drinking game for this blog post – Every time you read the word COOL take a shot!)
The reason I’m going on and on about coolness is because mine was suddenly and unexpectedly called into question recently. I was suddenly back in high school, following the cool kids across the quad, pathetically hoping they’d accept me. It felt bizarre. And it made me feel compelled to blog about it – This foreign feeling that I haven’t felt in over a decade, yet felt so familiar, like an old blanket taken out of a trunk in the attic.
So what’s the moral of this rant? Well, I just had to get my definition of cool out into the void. I guess if I have to sum it up, I’d say that, to me, coolness is the antithesis of anything disingenuous. It is the opposite of ego. It is being true to oneself and not apologizing for it. It is being free to do what you want, be who you want, dress how you want, listen to what you want, watch what you want, without the constricts of some “image” you’re trying to portray.
I may not be cool, but at least I’m genuine.