Saturday, October 29, 2011

The First Rule of Cool

Awakening from sleep, yet another start of the week.  The harassing noise of the alarm clock jars my comfort and rallies me quickly to silence the piercing buzz.  Semi-coordinated, I scuff down the hall to the bathroom for my lava hot shower in order to come to.  The light sting to my skin lets me know that I have the optimum temperature as I stand under the water.  I close my eyes and soap up, pondering my schedule.  As I shut the water and throw back the curtain, I relish the cool waves that wash over me as I reach to find my towel on the rack.  I wrap my over-processed, long black hair in my towel and with a flip and a toss, my turban positions itself firmly on top of my head.

I find my reflection after a wipe with my hand over the mirror.  My shoulders let down as I stare at my blemished face.  Just once, God, could I have nice skin?  Why does my complexion seem to always know where to position a red spot that will distract me from socializing for the week?  I roll my eyes and prepare to primp.  I'll have to do the best I can to make this mess look like something I can live with.  My makeup becomes a mask that I can hide behind.  I feel comfortable now that it is on.  No one can see me.

Next on my list is my hair.  Not to be outdone by any other Heavy Metal Princess, I delight in my home-dyed mane.  Black as pitch.  It is the bane of my mother's existence but it is my jeweled crown.   I need at least 45 minutes to comb, dry upside down, spray, tease, curl, tease some more and then solidify in place with at least a half a can of Aqua Net hair spray.  Once I am satisfied that it is high enough and has no chance of moving or listing in any way, I weakly smile and leave the bathroom.

Last is my costume.  I need to dress the part.  Leopard skin jeans or the ripped ones, maybe a concert t-shirt, lots of studded belts and my favorite, cowboy boots with chains and spurs to complete my look.  I want to look like I walked out of a video on MTV.  If I can't be pretty, then I can be shocking to look at. Either way, I have your attention.  I am so uncomfortable with my appearance that it is easier to look like a freak than a pudgy, ugly girl who tried too hard to look like a homecoming queen.  I am in my garb.  One last fluff of the hair and some hula-hoop sized earrings and it is out the door for me.  No breakfast, I am fat enough as it is.  Coffee and a cigarette will be my only sustenance.

Settling in to my moss green '78 Chevy Nova, the Love Pig,  I make my route to pick up all of my friends that would gladly take a seat in my beater than face ridicule for being over 16 and still taking the bus.  After I have filled my car to the brim, we pull into the parking lot.  It looks like a parade as most of the upper class makes its way from the parking lot, across the green of the town square and into the high school.  Rockers, Jocks, Nerds, New Wavers, and of course the cool kids.  As they walk by, I smooth my clothes and shake my head.  They look my way and my eyes cast down.  I'd rather not see their look of disapproval.  At least no one makes fun of me, to my face anyway.

That was my academic career from '86 to '90.  Every day a Ground Hog Day experience.  Nothing ever changed.  I longed to suddenly become one of the cool kids but it never happened.  I chalked it up to it just being my station in life.  I was nothing special. I was just a sight.  Being named 'Class Individualist' was the highlight of my time there.  I was also noted in the yearbook for my 4'x6' self portrait that to my horror, Miss Lee, my art teacher, proudly displayed in the front hall of the school.  I would have had an easier time if she asked me to strip naked and greet everyone who came in the door.

Years later with the birth of Facebook, I'd make online friends with some of the cool kids.  You know, the ones who always had it all together, got invited to the parties at all the cool kid houses.  Turns out, they didn't live the good life I thought they did.  All those feelings of isolation, rejection, feeling different, like an outsider, they felt all those things too.  That's weird. I thought it was just me.  After I regained my composure from this revelation, I made my peace with the fact that maybe most teenagers just felt like that even if they were cool.

Days ago, I ran into someone from high school.  She was alight with enthusiasm to see me again.  She gushed over and a smile covered her face as she chirped questions and danced in place as I answered.  I kept talking and politely asking about her life, trying to figure out who she was. She looked familiar but I couldn't place how she would have known me.  My mind was a cavern of vague as I grasped at any solid memory.  A conversation, a class,  maybe homeroom or study hall?  Nothing.  I asked a friend of mine about her and she couldn't recall either.  I was ready to end the call when she uttered these words, "She probably just idolized you.  We all did.  You were so cool.  I was so jealous of you."  In my complete disbelief I laughed out loud.  I thanked her for flattering me as I gasped for air but she pressed on with confession.  "I was, I was cool?  Me?"  She seemed to irritate, "Yes, we all thought you were."

Cool is in the eye of the beholder it seems.  Like everyone is trying to attain some status that just never can be found.  All the cool kids were just doing their damnedest trying to live up to the coolness of other cool kids.  A relentless circle of nothingness and eternal frustration especially for the hormonally challenged teenager.

The number #1 rule of Cool is there is no cool.

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