I met Breanne Ward in high school. We both worked on the school play, Laughter on the 23rd Floor, by Neil Simon.
She was in grade 12 and I was in grade 10. I looked up to her.
Breanne was a total dork and probably would have been called a hipster had the term been part of the mainstream consciousness at the time. But she was never haughty, disaffected or uncaring.
What I liked about her was that she openly loved the things and people she cared about. She wanted to share them with others. She wasn’t apologetic about her flaws.
These traits are contradictory to the popular, Clint Eastwoodian idea of what “cool” is – someone that’s cool as a cucumber doesn’t show emotion. A cool customer doesn’t let their guard down. Someone that doesn’t lose their cool is stone-faced in a scary situation.
Which is fine in the movies. I don’t watch old Westerns to see characters grapple with their anxieties.
But day-to-day life is another thing. Cool is usually just a thin veneer hiding the fragile egos of needlessly angry men, such as Clint Eastwood.
Moreover, it seems no one I’ve ever met never lets their guard down. To spend any significant amount of time with someone requires some emotional investment. We want to relate to our friends. We don’t want to look up at them as impenetrable fortresses. One of the easiest ways to relate to each other is through our weird interests.
When Breanne and I would hang out, we often talked about the music we enjoyed. Pop culture is, if you think about it, a pretty nerdy thing. Take American Idol. Millions of people watched a bunch of earnest, okay-sounding singers duke it out for like 10 years.
All of those millions of people were projecting their desire to be famous onto the competitors. Not a single one could ever be called “cool.” And that’s okay. It’s better that way.