What does “cool” really mean?

I’ve looked it up and it is officially an adjective ranging from the obvious of “moderately cold” to “calm” and “under control” to “disinterested” and “unaffected by emotions”.  It makes a slang reference to meaning being “socially adept” and “highly clever.”

Most of us cannot define cool into words such as these – we just know “cool” when we see “cool.”  For example, Matt Damon in the Bourne movie series, walking around all brooding and mysterious – COOL.  A guy throwing shoes at our President – not cool, even if you didn’t vote for the man or cannot wait until the new President’s inauguration day.  Michael Phelps winning eight gold medals in one Olympics – awesomely cool, whereas the previous record holder, Mark Spitz, not even showing up to congratulate or cheer him on – unequivocally not.   Parachute pants and black checkered vans in 1980ish- very cool.  Try wearing the same thing today and it would very UNcool.  Ed Hardy t-shirts or perfume – cool; Ed Hardy purses – not so much.  Linus’ speech in A Charlie Brown Christmas is sincerely cool in a sentimental way.  TV preachers hacking their wares heavily in order to make their mansions larger off true believers, wretchedly opposite of cool.

I’ve always attributed the word to something deeply existential within that cannot be specifically delineated into a tried and true formula for determination.  It is a either cool or it is not.

As far as my generation is concerned, the word can no longer be classified as slang.  It is part of our vocabulary when describing almost anything or even for simple interactions between folks.

“Wow – that’s a cool car,” the mother of two said as she walked past a Mini Cooper convertible.

“I’m going to order pizza tonight – cool with you?”

“Hey, please don’t take my kid’s bike – that’s uncool!”

The trick tends to be that in most cases, one needs to be cool in order to differentiate cool.

I’ve always wanted to be cool.  I have had times in my life where I think I’ve come to the precipice of cool and almost crossed into it for a time being.  Unfortunately, something usually snaps in my psyche and I lose all ability to allow myself the misconceived honor of being cool.

Believe it or not, I do feel as though I am getting closer to this mercurial veil of comfort in my own skin the older I get.  I am intimidated less, not nearly as afraid as I was even as recently as a few years ago and I find myself worthy to wear a leopard print faux fur coat even if someone laughed at me while I was wearing it.  I don’t care – I find it to be wonderfully cool.  I love writing haikus and know that if Bascho’s spirit is wandering around somewhere, he would declare them ultimately cool concise flashes to whisper inward expressions.

My whole point to today’s blog is that I am still unable, in some areas of my life, to adequately know whether or not I am “cool” or down right “goofy.”  In many cases, I still check with my friend and fashion expert (IMO) on what I can and cannot wear together as an ensemble.  I give my kids’ teachers space so as not to appear like I’m one of “those kinds of parents.”  And I am not able to respond if someone by chance asks me if “I’m cool” with something if the question’s base resides in one of the few remaining areas of anxiety for my brain.  I might be “okay” without reaching the same level of “enthusiasm” that someone else might.  But does that serve as an equal to “being cool?”

This is the question that has haunted me today and nearly brought me to my proverbial knees…fun, huh?

P.S.  Blogging on the human condition with an honest attempt to connect with others and include a bit of humor – hopefully cool.  Unable to answer a simple question without taking the entire day to ponder it and then end up vaguely responding under a pseudonym in a blog read by about three people tops – not necessarily.

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