Thursday 3 December 2009

Nice and cool.

At school, we were taught about acronyms by taking each letter of our names and using the string of initials to choose the adjectives that best described us. Our form teacher then read them out to the class, while we collectively envied Tak Tran for having such a short name and giggled at David Derbyshire for beginning his with ‘debonair’. (Have you ever met a debonair 13-year-old?)

I was goofy little Lisa McFarlane back then and, if my memory serves me correctly, the adjectives I chose were: loyal, impatient, silly, ambitious, modest, cool, friendly, amiable, reliable, light-hearted, accident-prone (I really struggled with the As), nice and enthusiastic.

I don’t think there’s anything hugely ground-breaking in that; they’re pretty much the first adjectives that would spring out of any early teen’s mind.  (Or, in the case of ‘amiable’, spring out of a pocket thesaurus.) Generally, I don’t recall a lot of what I was taught at school (hell, I’ve got an A-level in German and don’t remember a word of it), but this lesson has stayed with me. And yes, anything English-language-related was often better than breaktime for me, but in this case I suspect my impressive memory is more to do with one of my adjective choices: cool.

I’ve spent as long as I care to remember striving to be cool. And it’s taken me even longer than that to realise that, in fact, I’m anything but cool. Because cool, as I’ve finally figured out, isn’t actually about subscribing to Grazia, having a dedicated iPhone pocket in your Marc Jacobs tote and wearing an Obama ‘yes we can’ pin on your Julian Casablancas-inspired blazer. Nah, cool is an attitude; a state of mind; an ability to stay stoically unruffled, whatever the situation. Cool is Jay-Z opening a controversial Glastonbury headline set with Wonderwall. Cool is knowing how to walk in six-inch heels. Cool is stifling a grin and staying composed when you’re offered a payrise.
I ain’t cool.

‘And you’re travelling alone today?’ asked the airport check-in guy earlier this year.
‘Yup,’ I answered.
‘Well there’s good news – your flight is full, so we’ll be offering you a complimentary upgrade.’
‘That IS good news,’ I enthused, slapping my hands flat onto his desk. ‘Brilliant. Smashing. Nice one, cheers, thanks.’
‘And you’ll be able to use the executive lounge before you board.’
‘Really? Wow. Are you sure?’ I gushed.
‘Of course,’ said a smirking Check-in Guy, demonstrably entertained.

I’ll say it again: I ain’t cool. Cool would have been to say, ‘ah, thank you’ and waltz off into the executive area with an air of I-do-this-all-the-time nonchalance; not to skip cheerily up to the lounge desk with a McDonald’s take-away in one hand while texting ‘HA! UPGRADE!’ to my kid bro with the other.

I couldn’t even manage to be cool at Derby County this weekend, when our folks took me and Jamie along to watch the game from the directors box, as part of the auction prize they successfully bid for at my Super Sweet 30th. My usual spot for the match is several rows behind the directors box, up in the stands with the paying supporters who don’t have the luxury of a leather seat or cheese and wine at half-time. And every time I’m at Pride Park, I sit and watch who’s taking their places beside the directors, mouthing ‘you jammy bastard’ into my Bovril as they walk up the steps, all imperturbable in their local importance. I, however, hopped up those same stairs grinning like a tipsy loon, elbowing my brother as I went. ‘Padded seats! We’ve got padded seats! And a free programme! And isn’t that Frank Lampard’s dad? Mum! Look! That’s Frank Lampard’s dad!’ Even less cool was then having the audacity to shush Mum when she started shouting commands at the midfield.

And then there was yesterday’s meeting with my publishers.
‘I loved your post on telling Smiley Surgeon about your book,’ said one of the team charged with selling The C-Word into bookshops.
‘Ha yeah,’ I snorted. ‘It all came out at once – I just couldn’t say it calmly.’
‘Just like you can’t be cool right now, you bloody great dork,’ said the voice in my head.

The voice is right. It’s not just in front of Smiley Surgeon that I act like a goon. Granted, I save my most exceptional levels of goondom for him, but still – it seems my uncool rears its embarrassing head around pretty much anyone I’m trying to impress. When my publisher talked about moving the publication date forward, I squealed and clapped my hands. When the marketing manager talked about competitions and discounted offers, I stuttered my way through an emphatic agreement. When the publicity team mentioned contacting Women’s Hour, I tittered like a 12-year-old who’d just been passed a pencil-drawn willy at the back of maths class. Because, you see, it’s especially difficult to be cool about something so enormously exciting.

And so I’m sorry, 13-year-old me, but I’m giving up on cool. (At this point, I suppose, it’d be cool to declare that uncool is the new cool, but I don’t think even I’m uncool enough to pull that off.) You might have thought you were pretty awesome in your beaded Doc Marten shoes, baggy T-shirts and that bloody awful silver star dangling from a long bootlace around your neck, but believe me, your relentless pursuit of cool just isn’t worth the chase. And yeah, adolescence might seem like a cruel trick designed to continually catch you at your most goofy – and in many ways, I guess it is. Which is why I hate to break this to you, Lisa Mac: your thirties aren’t much different. But, by heck, there ain’t half a lot to be uncool about.


HildeSol said...

Not being afraid of showing joy and enthusiasm IS cool! ;)

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this wonderful post. And I totally agree with HildeSol: Showing joy and enthusiam IS cool. It's even better than being cool. It's so much more fun to just let the happy feelings out and not trying to keep it all locked up inside. Took me a long time to figure that out myself though.

lilianavonk said...

Cool is highly overrated. Being able to express your joy at unexpected good fortune is far more noteworthy (and especially commendable in a British person ;).

Particularly when it comes to items of a fangirly nature, I've described myself as reacting like a thirteen-year-old girl on a massive sugar rush (and I'm a fair bit older than you!) yet somehow my nieces seem to persist in thinking of me as the arbiter of cool in all things.

I think this just goes to show that you're only as cool as others view you as being...which in your case signifies that your relative coolness hit stratospheric levels quite some time back. :)

Fen said...

I call it wearing your heart on your sleeve and it's lovely. Who wants an uber cool ice queen anyway, that's boring.

billy said...

I'm not cool but that's ace news! Yay.

Anonymous said...

I love your posts - they never fail to make me think and, despite never having had cancer i find myself as a thirty year old smiling with recognition a lot! Thakk you. Cant wait for the book.

Clare said...

Hi Lisa, I've been lurking away here for a while. I absolutely love your blog and this post made me giggle. I show my lack of cool on a daily basis to groups of stroppy Spanish students who are constantly rolling their eyes at me.

Being cool isn't really me, I've finally come to terms with the fact it never will be!

Anonymous said...
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Ant said...

This was such a brilliant post. Apart from your usual fantastic writing, it's the details like your silver star necklace that just make me laugh out loud. You're the best Macalicious. I am beyond BEYOND excited about your book. Well done love, you deserve all of these exciting things and much more. Upgrade upgrade upgrade xxxxx