It’s not unusual to be usual

It takes blood and guts to be this cool
But I’m still just a cliche’
–Skunk Anansie/It Takes Blood And Guts To Be This Cool

Thunderbolts and daggers!
–Jane Austen/Sense and Sensibility

Not being a cliché can be a challenge. Sticking out can be a problem for survival, even in a species with advanced survival skills like Homo Sapiens. This makes it unbelievably convenient and easy to slide along in life without an original thought or act to your credit. In fact, in environments like schools and businesses you are rewarded for conventionality. Sometimes it seems like the pull of life tugging you toward blandness is almost impossible to resist.

When I feel like I’m blending in a little more than I am comfortable with, I say something weird at work. Actually, the saying something weird part pretty much guarantees that I never reach a state of comfortable anonymity at work. Since I tend to say something weird pretty much any time I use words, I stick out any time I am talking. Does that make it a good or a bad thing that I usually don’t talk very much?

Defining conventionality, or rather unconventionality, is a little slippery. If someone points up at the sky and says “what do you see up there?” a conventional person might answer “a big fluffy cloud” or “it looks like it’s going to rain.” Someone unconventional might see anything up there. A fetus. A platypus eating a beaver. Jesus descending from Heaven to kick some ass. The snow in Montana. Anything.

Someone unconventional might not care that much about things like normal standards of grooming or hygiene. They might have flexible notions of time management. They might have a system of logic that is different than most people’s. They might be willing to do things without thinking about them very much. Or in spite of having thought about them too much. Maybe they’re an out of the closet atheist in a town full of Baptists. Maybe they’re willing to speak their minds even when other people are going to disagree.

Being cool is also hard to define. It’s harder to be cool than it is to be unconventional. I guess. I am pretty sure that I’ve never been cool, although there are people who are very insistent that I am. So one thing we know about “cool” is that it’s subjective. All of the cool people I know are also very unconventional, so there is a ton of overlap.

I have a lot of questions about defining cool.

Should cool just be? Or is it acceptable to try to be cool?
Does it take blood and guts? Yes, it does take metaphorical blood and guts for the part of cool that involves being different. No it doesn’t for the kind of cool that involves being a jock and knowing where all the good parties are. In my opinion only the “being different” type of cool really qualifies. Subjective. It’s my blog, though, so my opinions are given a lot of weight here. It’s funny how the cool kids mostly aren’t anymore, though, isn’t it? Some of them are very nice people, but not cool.

The coolest people in the world were probably never considered so by anyone they grew up with, so cool is something that you maybe have to grow into a little. Patti Smith, Lou Reed, Billy Zoom… I’ll bet they were a bunch of rejects and geeks. Billy Zoom plays multiple instruments and is into amp repair. I’m pretty sure he would have been a band geek. Patti Smith? Tall and gangly. Awkward. A little homely. Into poetry. Probably viewed as a total loser in school.

Billy Zoom never seemed to be trying all that hard. His guitar spoke for itself. Patti? Eh….there was a lot of working really hard at finding used copies of Baudelaire and Rimbaud and making sure she was poor. Spending that last dime on coffee and pie at the diner. Not a lot of people would dispute that she is cool.

Cool can tolerate being a little bit of a poseur, especially when the budding cool person is still just a kid.

So if you’re one of those people who feels like it’s a sin to deviate from standard in any way? I pity you, and advise having your head shaved.

Go on. It’s medicine.

PS No, it isn’t your imagination. I just sort of stopped writing without a graceful exit. I feel like reading. Right now. Sooooo, I was done and I stopped.

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