Too School for Cool

Sarah puzzles over what it means to be cool.Scan 60

There was one period when I desperately wanted to be cool. It was sometime after I had phased out of the homeschooled jungle freak stigma and just before the time when I counted down each day until I’d leave primary school behind.

Being cool is something that I think we all want at some stage. Some people chase it all their lives. Some just own it effortlessly. Yet there is something deluding about the concept of cool. There is nothing constant about it. Trends are continuously evolving, and not in any logical sequence or with any visible structure. Eras are revived again and again, expressions are feigned and thrown about into the atmosphere and certain political stances become the totally validated opinions of people everywhere, as they nod unseeingly in agreement. There’s a warped desire here to conform to what becomes society’s expectations of what is cool, which ironically quickly turns from sweetly refreshing to yesterday’s news. It’s difficult to keep a firm grip on just what is top notch and fresh, before it all too quickly fades away into a mere memory.

When I reflect upon the 00s, I feel a myriad of emotions. I’ll have flashes of a younger version of myself, desperately falling balls deep into the fads of the noughts. In the middle of this era, I was just a ten-year-old girl, seeking satisfaction in keeping current. I followed my peers, not wanting to stray from the pack. I adopted their habits of disclosing ‘not’ on the end of supposedly false statements and utilizing ‘your mum’ as a valid comeback. I crafted scoobies like those plastic woven rods would save my soul. I wore bedazzled boot cut jeans on free dress days. I bought bargained standard black connies with white laces ($14 motherfuckers) and wore them as proud as a new parent, with identical feet to everyone else. I coerced my parents into giving me a Nintendo DS for Christmas (“It’s educational; look, it’s a brain game with an Asian doctor”). I flipped through the pages of Total Girl, soaking up the thoughtfully written pieces on what to do when “your bestie is being a bitch” (Forget blatant sexualising, WHAT WAS THAT DOING IN A MAGAZINE AIMED AT GIRLS AS YOUNG AS FIVE?).

I am not sure of exactly when I stopped caring about what everyone was doing, and developed my own ideals of just exactly what cool was. Perhaps it was after my twelfth tamagotchi pet vanished into virtual pet heaven. I discovered a little band called Fall Out Boy and decided their angsty Americana sounds were the essence of life. I started wearing a black fedora with a skull printed on the side that I had found in an Ekka Exhibition showbag (Kobi plz, I was young and stupid). I carried a notebook with me everywhere, and conscientiously noted my observations on everything because there was obviously a dire need for my unique  and painfully poetic perspective to be recorded. I tried to convince my parents to switch to solar power, as global warming was happening and totally real and we were going to melt really cute penguins’ icy homes. I reread Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City multiple times, internally wising to become as fearless as the albino heroine, to be part of a gang of intelligent and defiant girls.

My 12 year old self makes current Sarah want to drink the liquids in the bottles under the sink to save herself the embarrassment of self reflection. However, there is something in that little girl’s spirit that I can admire. I still wanted to be a cool cat. The difference was that now I didn’t envisage being cool as being an identical clone of my classmates. I saw it as adopting what I saw as embodying all the shades of the rainbow of excellence, which sometimes featured entirely different colours to anyone else’s dream spectrums. This was not significant. While it initially hurt that I was being marginalised as a nerd and an utter weirdo towards the end of primary school, I soon couldn’t care less. I was developing my own tastes. I was becoming my own person. And this in itself, is cooler than anything else.

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