I have never been cool.
For the most part, it’s no longer a struggle to admit that. In a coolness-obsessed society, it can be such a relief to simply step out of the race. When I was the kid dancing alone in her room in front of a poster of Michael Jackson, that wasn’t the case. Or when I was secretly listening to classic rock, knowing that it put me in the same category as the kids in baseball caps and shitkickers, a category outside the bounds of cool in our college-centric town. Or dating someone who wished I looked like the girls on the Ultimate team, and still clinging to him because I was sure no one else would ever find me interesting in any way.
Back then, my lack of coolness hurt.
I blame homeschooling for part of it, but not the part that people assume. Homeschooling didn’t make me weird. It made me honest. Homeschooling meant that I didn’t learn to compare myself to other people. There were no rules about what to like or not to like. By the time I transitioned into school, I wasn’t very malleable, but I also wasn’t very guarded. Bad combination for a kid.
In movies, the not-cool kids were either the joke, or they were swans-in-waiting. The Breakfast Club didn’t rock my world. No one loved Ally Sheedy as she was; they loved her once she was remade. And I was pretty sure that a hairband and a bit of lipstick wasn’t going to evolve me into someone who got asked to dance.
Personalities can be hard things to grow into. They’re ungainly, they never look quite the way we imagine they should, they fit funny in places. They require alterations, though never as many as the world would make us believe.
So, here I am, a lot of years later and still no cooler. Small talk is not my thing. I don’t know much about vast swathes of pop culture. I love books that no one else does, because all it takes to woo me is a line or two that resonates. Same with music. I’m not easily disturbed by bugs, or mice. I’m happiest in jeans and a tee and sneakers. Hiking boots if I’m looking to feel a little tougher.
In my own life, all this works. I am happy. I’m often not what other people want me to be, but they’re often not what I want either. I expect myself to be kind, and to listen. I’ve figured out how my personality fits. If I were going to say something to my younger self, it would be this: You are never going to be just like anyone else. The best you can do is to be wholly yourself.