Are you cool? I know I’m not. Naming what makes someone cool is tricky: it’s one of those attributes that I recognize when I see it. Cool is subjective, a feeling that defies definition – nailing it down is like trying to capture a burp in a butterfly net. There are certain people who just have the X factor, though: they’re confident, likeable and invariably popular. There’s a social desirability about them: they’re the quintessential connectors, flourishing their adept social skills, minus a cocky or edgy attitude. We want to be near them, hitch our wagons to their star power.
There is also the rebellious cool, epitomized by the likes of the (real) Miles Davis or the (fictional) Don Draper. They’re composed, detached, disaffected. Everything they do seem effortless.
Then there’s the rest of us; we strive to be cool, but inevitably, we stumble because if we have to work at it, desperation reeks like a back alley the day before garbage pick-up. I see it in parents who, anxious about their growing irrelevance, look to their children and grasp at whatever these youthful oracles of our time are doing. Some strive for cool parent cred – “I’m my daughter’s BFF!” – that, in my opinion, is not a sustainable (or healthy) parent/child relationship. Let’s not kid ourselves… there was a time when we thought our parents were hopelessly uncool (and celibate), so why oh why would we imagine for one minute that our offspring would think of us any differently? I’d far rather be interesting than cool in my sons’ eyes.
Trying too hard to be a hip parent is only one of the many ways aging boomers crash and burn. Not being able to keep up with modern music and the daily changes to technology render many of us the tuba player on the descending scale of cool. I used to chuckle at my dad who never could figure out how to use the ATM (so instead, went inside the bank to “talk to the girl”), but really, I have my own Waterloo – most social media. I should just don kapp and apron and join my people – the Amish. Hashtags confound me; the proofreader in me sees Flickr and Tumblr as typos. When my Mac or iPhone hiccups, I screech for “Help Desk Steve” to figure out what’s wrong and to fix it. I don’t know what twerking is. I have no idea what YOLO means. I overuse emojis. It took some not-so-subtle chiding from my sons before I stopped signing my texts, “Love Mom”. I have been known to announce to these same men, “I’m jiggy wit dat!” – accompanied by an enthusiastically executed inverted peace sign – only to be rewarded with faces registering equal parts pity and mortification.
Because uncool feels slightly less dorky in good company, I reached out many of you, dear readers, asking if you’d share your unhippest behaviours. For those who imagined yourselves the embodiment of uber-coolness, I suggested – ever so gently – that you may have a wee blind spot that could potentially be uncovered by asking your children. Thanks to all for your hilarious confessions!
1. I say “oh my good heavens”, “what a palaver!” and “I’ll retire to bedlam.” I want to buy saddle shoes, but can’t find any on eBay. I used to wear Star Trek pyjamas – and still would if I could find some.
2. I chair dance to music on the radio while driving in my car. This includes shouting out and pointing to other cars and pedestrians in an attempt to engage with them. What’s more painful is that I rarely know any of the words, which I make up in a new language – a combination of something sounding vaguely Danish with a smattering of Asian. Oh, and apparently, I’m out of date with T.T.Y.L.
3. Where to start? I watch “America’s game” – Wheel of Fortune – and wish I could be a contestant. And you don’t want to know about my undies! Bridget Jones has nothing on me when it comes to wearing Granny’s undies.
4. When I dance I ball my fists and sing along to everything in the style of Robert Goulet.
5. I canvassed my – and a few other – kids and they came up with that predictable “don’t-be-so-affectionate-with-me-in-public!” complaint.
6. My use of emoticons is totally embarrassing to my kids. When watching movies or television with my family, I get really involved in what’s going on and talk a lot. According to my son, I’m like the “Added Commentary Bonus Feature they put on DVDs except that we don’t have the option to turn you off!”
7. I consulted with my son. It seems it is hard for him to pick one thing, and then he decided it wasn’t in his best interest to answer the question. I will let you know if he decides to spill.
8. When I get excited, I clap my hands like a three year old. I still like to wear pantyhose when I wear a dress.
9. Apparently I crack up a couple of my co-workers with some of my dated references; what 27 year old doesn’t know why I’m calling them Grasshopper? I sent the 27 year old away with homework – “what cultural reference is ‘Grasshopper’ from?” – and bless her little cotton socks (you can use that one, too), she looked it up and now wonders what Kung Fu is. Toodles (yet another one)!
10. The uncoolest thing I do is changing up the closing phrase on my emails to my son or daughter. Instead of saying, “Love Mom”, I like to switch it up at times and sign off with “Yo, Mama”, “Rock on” or “Peace”. I’m relieved… I expected harsher feedback (Tip: read #7).
11. I asked my nine-year-old if I was “cramping his style” or if he was “down” with what I was planning. He looked at me like I had grown another head and asked me what on earth I meant. Pretty sure he also rolled his eyes. It was awesome. I thought I had at least until he was 12 before I got the “you’re so uncool” eye roll.
12. Moonwalking at my son’s first Valentine’s Dance.
13. Pretty much everything to do with running is uncool. The short shorts, running tights and florescent coloured singlets. Thirteen year old me would just shake his head.
14. I can’t function without being continually surrounded by every gadget known to man. All I need is a poorly-kept beard to really complete the stereotype. Although I don’t think that makes me uncool because my mom often tells me that I’m cool and everybody likes me.
15. Uncool, let’s see: hair (growing out of my ears), clothes, car, vocabulary, bad back, attitudes, opinions, Tilley hat, techno savvy, trend awareness, 1974 calculator, mobile device (lack of), phone books, dictionary, min/mile – whoa, I need an image makeover!
16. Well for as cool as I would like to think that I am. My 15 year-old daughter would say that my taste in music is way uncool! I really don’t get why ‘90s rap music isn’t appreciated by this generation! LOL – but it always gets an eye roll. I still think Beastie Boys are solid gold!!!
17. If my wife was talking she would say the way I dance is uncool. I leave it all on the dance floor – you need to let the coolness get into the vertebrae. That brings me into the next uncool thing about me (according to my wife). My hip, urban ‘90s lingo:
- For shizzle my nizzle
- Drop it like it’s hot
- I’m just a squirrel trying to get a nut
- Whoomp there it is
- Pretty fly for a white guy
- PHAT (Pretty Hot and Tempting)
- More bounce to the ounce
The last uncool thing about me is that I actually went to band camp. And my wife hates it when I start a story “This one time at band camp…”
18. I asked my older son if I did any uncool things. He thought and thought and then announced, “Hmmm, you are bad with the Internet. But, other than that – I can’t really think of anything.” I looked at him with a smug expression and said: “I’m a pretty cool mom, aren’t I?” And he said: “That. Right there. That’s it.” I said: “What’s it?” “You telling me you’re a cool mom.” And, he’s right. Often my son and I will be at a concert, or a comedy show, or enjoying the same song, and I’ll turn to him and announce: “You’ve got a pretty cool mom, don’t you? Aren’t you lucky you have a cool mom?” I’ll smugly marinate in my supposed hip and cool aura – all of this being incredibly uncool. Final note: If you have to ask your kids if you’re cool – you’re not.
Huey Lewis gets the final word: “It’s hip to be square.” And that’s good News to my ears.
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