I don’t know about you, but I have an affliction: when I try to be cool, I end up looking like a fool.
I think this all started at the end of junior high. Until that time I was a confirmed bookworm who never had time to think of things like being cool—my nose was always in a novel so I rarely registered where I really was in time or place. Nor did I care about how I looked or what I wore. Not until the day I saw Gloria wearing a cool sweater with a dickie collar. Wow, I really wanted one!
The poodle skirt phase was before my time, but I craved having a dickie collar.
I think I probably also wanted to look like the girl in the picture below. She was so white–so American. From her loafers to her plaid skirt to the shutters on her house, she personified the kind of girl who scared me to death. But I wanted to imitate.
Next thing I knew, I really wanted to shop at the Bon.
None of this was happening for me as my mother was against all of it. She thought shopping at Lerner’s was just fine for me. Somehow I wangled white bucks out of my dad.
The coolest was the white buck bag that accompanied them—it came out in almost every class so I could apply a little of whatever that powder was to my shoes, whether they needed it or not.
My mother did loosen up enough to buy me pedal pushers and saddle shoes, which was a great victory.
I was 14 when I started high school—being young was a disadvantage to coolness. I joined this high school sorority to be cooler and started smoking to be cooler still. But it really didn’t work.
I still wasn’t cool. Which was fine at Garfield High School. Just getting to go to school there was cool enough.
In my heart of hearts, I was still a nerd who loved being in the library more than anything.
This continued on into college. I loved to study. Well, maybe not loved—but I admit to liking it a lot. At the University of Washington, I used to study at Balmer Hall—it had big tables where I could spread out my books, notebooks, three pens with different colored inks, index cards and ruler. I remember one day acting very cool as I walked by a group of guys, pretending not to see them. I walked straight into a huge ash can that tipped over, spreading sand and cigarette butts across the floor. I can still hear the clang of the metal as it bumped over the floor. Not so cool, after all.
As I get older, a lot of my “too cool for school” episodes involve falls and/or being a know-it-all. My mother always said, “Pride goes before a fall,”—it seems my karma is to act that out again and again. It’s not that I’m unsteady on my feet…yet. I go to yoga to practice my balance and work out to keep my strength up. No, it’s more that I don’t pay attention to my surroundings.
Usually, before it happens, I’ve just congratulated myself on my fitness, and that my skinned knees and elbows have finally healed. (It takes so much longer now.) I’m thinking things like, I’m doing pretty darn well for a 70-year-old!
Like on our 50th anniversary. I wore a flowing dress and my new diamond ring—I felt youthful and beautiful.
As we walked up a few stairs into the oceanside restaurant, I was handed a glass of champagne. How sophisticated and cool is this, I thought.
I stepped forward to take the champagne, not realizing I was on the edge of the lanai. Yes, I stepped into empty space. I tried to get back onto the stair and keep my balance, but couldn’t quite do it. I started falling backwards and decided the wisest course was to just go with it. Fortunately it was only a short distance into the flowerbed. The horrified onlookers did give me points for the gracefulness of my descent. Except for a few scratches and a rip in my dress, I was just shaken, but unhurt.
My final point about being cool or being a fool concerns my fondness for getting things right. It’s not that I say, “I told you so,” (although I do roll my eyes quite a bit). Like when we were traveling in the Galapagos and Peru with friends. I was wise and ate according to the rules we’d be given. The rest of them ate off the street and tried the national dish, guinea pig. What fools, I thought, as they all succumbed to Inca Revenge, and asked to borrow Imodium.
I, on the other hand, was so cool that I had nary a stomach cramp. Until we got home. Then the 105 degree fever that goes with malaria hit me. Not so cool after that.
Another problem is that I try to stay current technologically: I’m so cool that I use the Internet all the time. This leads me to buy gadgets, which I can’t figure out how to use. Like this electric wine opener. You have to admit it looks cool and very high tech, but I can’t even figure out how to put it in the charger unit. Now, I don’t know what to do with it.
I hate to say it, but being cool is just not my thing. At this point, it’s a battle to keep from making that old saying true: There’s no fool like an old fool! 🙂