Saturday, November 21, 2009

On being cool, pretension and personal integrity

So it occurred to me this morning (in the car for a change), that being cool is all about the being able to conform with your subcultural norms effortlessly. Or at least so that it appears effortless from the outside to the other people in that subculture. I say this as a person who never was cool, partly because I never could quite decide which subculture I thought I should be part of while still desperately desiring the approval of people who seemed to occupy a consistent subcultural position. So I often came across as very, very pretentious as a young adult because I was desperately pretending to be something (anything) other than what I was. What I was pretending to be was someone who knew what kind of person they were. And I didn't.

At the same time, I desperately wanted to be an honest and decent person. I still do desperately want to be an honest and decent person but I feel like I compromise on things all the time. But it is much easier to live up to a sense of self when it actually comes from inside rather than outside. It's harder to be utterly pretentious when you are actually doing things that are important to you rather than feeling like you should do them because they are important to someone else. Of course.

And no insights here, but I'm dead sick of being given all these aspirations and coolnesses and false consciousness about what kind of person I should be to be a person worth something that have nothing to do with my idea of what is honest and decent. Or even stylish, for that matter. And I greatly dislike the future teenage years that the Noodle must face as he tries to negotiate all this stuff and every kid has to deal with it as best they can and best never seems quite enough.

And this post was inspired by Ampersand Duck's post on music of the 1980s and 1990s and what happened to her son last week and watching Spiderbait on Rage last night and thinking about all the time I spent as a yoof trying to figure out what other people thought so I could think it too, and how it is much nicer to be a grown up and just think stuff without second guessing every single second of the day and wondering 'am I good enough' all the time.

On the other hand, I really miss wearing flanno shirts in winter, and I had really, really good early 1990s hair.


Ampersand Duck said...

o dog yes, it is sooo nice to be grown up and through the tunnel of cool. Although in my field of work, there are still coolness hurdles to jump and I'm afraid that I knock them all over rather than soar. Still, very few people point and snigger, which is what they would do in high school, and for that I am intensely grateful.

Noice post. And I still wear flanno shirts, although I probably wouldn't if I worked in an office, poor you.

Roger Parkinson said...

Now that you are all grown up you can do your '90s hair if you want. For now we know that coolness is being the way YOU want, whatever that is (which inevitably includes being kind and decent).

When I was 20 I had shoulder length hair. A few years back I let it grow again. I also wear a silly hat everywhere.

Courtney said...

Pretending to be someone who knows who they are... That's marvellously put. I think everyone has experienced that feeling.

Penthe said...

Yep. It is so nice to be grown up. And I do have the same hair style I had when I was 21 really anyway. Sydney made it go in ringlets, which was fun.

Sydney was also fun. People there don't bother so much with cool as assuming that they are just so much more fabulous than you that it's not worth discussing. So I hung around with people from Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia mostly.