"Cool" is a word which I hear from all sorts of people: middle management, over 50s, teenagers, and people like me - normal, unassuming 30-somethings with nothing better to say. When I looked up its definition on Dictionary.com it informed me that in its vernacular and slang use, it means:
a. great; fine; excellent: a real cool comic.
b. characterized by great facility; highly skilled or clever: cool maneuvers on the parallel bars.
c. socially adept: It's not cool to arrive at a party too early.
About 18 months ago, I was working as a Special Needs Teaching Assistant before I realised that getting beaten up on a daily basis and being called a 'fat slag' wasn't my idea of fun when all I was trying to do was help the little pukes to pass their GCSEs. One day, a couple of the year 9 pupils described me as 'cool'. Well, as someone who has never, ever reached the epitome of 'coolth', I was rather gratified by their description, as well as taken aback. I have to confess nobody but Sadie and Stacey has referred to me as cool since...
In my time, I have aspired to 'coolth' and worked jolly hard at it...
When I was 13, I wore my hair in a very long pigtail right down my back. My hair was so long I could sit on it. At the time, a BBC comedy called The Young Ones was aired, and one of the characters was a dirty, smelly hippy called Neil. Having the longest hair in the school, I was immediately saddled with the nickname, Neil, and it infuriated me.
I demanded a hair cut forthwith and despite my mother's protestations that "a girl's hair is her Crowning Glory", I got my own way. Off to the hairdresser I went, armed with a photo of how I wanted my hair to look. I suspect my mother had primed her hairdresser because I ended up with shoulder length hair in a middle part, dead straight, no fringe - and looking even more like Neil than ever. My first attempt at shaking off my uncool image had landed me even more in the lukewarm category.
Next year, perms were in. I jumped at the chance and got a very pleasant wave put through my hair which finally allowed me to resemble a female instead of some unisex Flower Child. I started to move into the cool zone and at one point became quite a popular young Agnes with the Year 11 boys who established an Agnes Appreciation Society (AAS for short, with a silent R)...until they noticed my socks. Being Deputy Head Girl of our school, I pompously felt it a duty not to kowtow to the current trend of wearing socks rolled down à la Fame/Flashdance and insisted on having them pulled up to my kneecaps. I was thus demoted to lukewarm again and didn't get a snog at Potter's next party.
At around this time, my brother had passed his motorbike test and had bought a rather flash bike which he whizzed about on wearing his leathers and a rather demonic-looking black crash hat with smoked screen visor. I was very proud of my brother whenever I saw him in this get-up and would frequently show off to my girlfriends about how sexy he looked - they tended to demur at my opinions, but there is no accounting for sisterly love, is there? One evening, when I knew I couldn't get home from my drama rehearsals after school, I asked if he would pick me up so I didn't have to walk the four miles home. I was like a cat on a hot tin roof all through the rehearsal as I knew all the in-crowd would see me riding pillion with my brother. What I didn't account for was the crash helmet I was handed: bright orange with a pop-fastened peak, no visor and just a black chin-strap...oh the ignominy.
My father decided to give up smoking. He didn't do this for his health - he did it in order to purchase a new car. I waited in eager anticipation of the new car, wondering what we would get, showing off to all my friends that we were going to be the proud owners of an 'X-reg' on August 1st. I was horrified to discover that father was purchasing a Kermit Green Skoda Estelle, one of the crappest cars the motoring world has ever seen. My father, for once, decided that we would have a day trip out - in the new car. I didn't want to go - he did; therefore, we all had to go. Whilst pulling up in the Llangollen car park, people stopped and stared. "Oooh," cooed my mother, "everybody's staring at us because we have a new car." I knew different. Everyone was staring at us because we had a brand new car and we had voluntarily opted for a Kermit Green Skoda - how uncool could we be?
I would like to have been cool (as opposed to 'cold' ref my last post) but I now deem myself a bit too old to be faffing about with such vanities. My girls tell me I am the antithesis of cool, even though I have heard of Panic at the Disco, Gwen Stefani, Pussycat Dolls and their ilk. Probably because I listen to Radio 2 from the BBC and adore Terry Wogan; because I do not consider my car an extension of my personality, more as an extension of my rubbish bin; and because when I get a bit high-spirited, I tend to burst out into songs from the musicals or, even worse, sing "Some Day my Prince Will Come" in an almost perfect impersonation of Snow White in the Walt Disney film.
Well, I shan't worry about it. Worrying is just too uncool to be cool.