Coolness resides in character

Cool. The word so easily drools from our lips, capturing that all-important something that we all recognize but canâÄôt quite define. Take a second to think about it. What exactly is âÄúcool?âÄù Who is cool and who is not? Who decides? What is your meaning of cool? Definitions vary and any single explanation is sure to be too slim. A list of synonyms offers little help: composed, relaxed, dispassionate, levelheaded and my favorite: phlegmatic. Do any of these scarce adjectives capture the essence of cool? Somewhat, but only in one narrow form, they donâÄôt speak to the cool youâÄôd apply to the energetic goofball, or the animated comedian. The dictionary also provides us with little help. Incomplete descriptions include âÄúnot excited; calm; composed; under controlâÄù and âÄúnot hasty; deliberate âĦ lacking in interest or enthusiasm âĦ socially adeptâÄù and the slightly derogatory: âÄúaloof or unresponsive; indifferentâÄù I certainly wouldnâÄôt associate any of the latter terms with anything complimentary âĦ but Webster obviously knows better than me. IâÄôm no Frank Sinatra âÄî not Arthur Fonzarelli either. I do not purport to be an authority on all things cool. In fact, âÄúcoolâÄù and its application, seem subjective. What one may think is totally cool, another may find to be completely lame. To be sure, there is no âÄúcoolâÄù independent of the observer. Cool is a variable word, changing from time to time, place to place, and generation to generation. âÄúCoolâÄù is surrounded in ambiguity and a universal definition is all but impossible. I believe there is one thing we can all agree on about being cool: The harder you try, the more you ainâÄôt! Cool is not a measure of determination. ItâÄôs not something that if you practice enough, you get better at it. If at first you fail, to âÄútry, try againâÄù will surely not help your effort. ItâÄôs more likely that the only way to measure whatâÄôs âÄúcoolâÄù is not what is but what isnâÄôt. In case you were wondering, having a private conversation loud enough for the entire bar to hear is not cool. Just to clarify, sporting two polo tees and popping both collars is not cool, man. Spiking your hair to appear taller, come on. Offering your opinions in class without having anything to say; do I even have to say it? To those appearing scantily clad in public, only to act as if you donâÄôt want any attention, you know thatâÄôs not cool. If youâÄôre making sure everyone you pass in public knows just how mean you are, they donâÄôt, but itâÄôs still not cool. Professing your love for the environment, but polluting the air with your body odor, while I admire your commitment, is not cool. Trying to be cool may seem like a harmless effort, but too often this forged persona is marked by condescension. Unfortunately, IâÄôve noticed that the people who care to prove to others how cool they are, ultimately treat others poorly in an attempt to display it. Obviously, this is prevalent nowhere more than in the tormented halls of high school. While most understand that coolness is an unrealistic and unattainable aspiration, we still find an excess of chest thrusting and inflated self assurance around campus. Seemingly marked by youth and immaturity, insincere assurance seems to be a fall back for the young and lacking confidence. If youâÄôre uncertain of yourself, just act cool. Seems to be their thinking? WeâÄôve all seen these types âÄî beyond being obnoxious âÄî they are easily identifiable. Counterfeit coolness comes in many varieties, shapes and sizes. You have probably seen him or her in the following forms: The muscle-bound tough guy, head slightly cocked back with a slight sneer; or perhaps the pretentious art major with a haughty air of quasi-intellectualism; or maybe the disapproving Goth type who wears a permanent grimace; and of course, the worst of them all, the self-satisfied, pedantic, wanna-be writer. ThatâÄôs only to name a few. We all know these people, these unbearable persons, those persons who define themselves by the degradation of others; weâÄôve all encountered these people in one form or another. ItâÄôs all terribly transparent. This is cool according to the social distinction theory. This cool only exists in comparison with other people who are less cool. In other words, âÄúIâÄôm cool because youâÄôre not!âÄù This sad approach, beyond being divisive, is bred from insecurity, in which cool is created out of a need for status and distinction. These are the people that aim to make you feel inferior because you are outside their narrow lane of existence. In their superior eyes, their attitude and collection of tastes is far better, thus cooler, than yours. What malarkey! Coolness does not come from a certain privileged knowledge base or special skill set; it is not exclusive to any one social group or school of thought. If youâÄôre truly cool, you wonâÄôt need to remind yourself by demeaning others. So if we know that coolness doesnâÄôt reside in any specific crowd or collection of traits, perhaps we can agree on a few common denominators. Most importantly, when attempting to be it, believe me, youâÄôre not. Secondly, itâÄôs about holding your head high not looking down on others. Lastly, understand that whoever you are, not everyone will think youâÄôre cool, and if you truly are, then you wonâÄôt really care anyway. So to the muscle-bound brah, the proud art major, the grimacing goth guy and especially the pompous writer: Stop trying so hard, nobody is buying it anyway. Take a chance; try being yourself. And if thatâÄôs not cool, itâÄôs at least an improvement. Ross Anderson welcomes comments at [email protected]