I Officially Give Up. For the past few years, I have spent far too much time and money doing things that I thought made me cool. I began reading socialist-yet-somehow-still-vaguely liberal articles on my laptop in cafés, looking like I didn’t want to be disturbed. I developed a bad habit of ordering Pabst Blue Ribbons at bars even though I was never a huge fan. I’ve purchased several $60 t-shirts from various designers because GQ recommended that I do so. I even expanded my musical horizons, buying Arcade Fire, Kings of Leon, and LCD Soundsystem albums in an effort to have something even remotely cool to talk about with the cute, femme-rocker clerk at a nearby record store. When that didn’t work, I branched out more: purchasing via iTunes, God help me, Pitbull and T-Pain singles. The logic here was simple: I wanted to have Top 40 music on my laptop/iPod in case anyone, you know, ever went through my digital library.
However, at the end of all of these escapades, I have come to a single conclusion: I’m tired. I’m folding, or whatever it is they say when they give up in poker, which I’ve never really made the effort to learn and has surely only increased exponentially in coolness since my having started writing this article. Does folding mean quitting?
Fact is, besides tucking the bottoms of my pant legs into a pair of Jordans, buying super-skinny jeans and wearing large, silver cross necklaces from Aldo or some other sort of Douchebag Outlet, I’ve probably tried every popular fashion trend out there. I’ve attempted preppy, hipster, hood, business cas., high-roller, and even hybrids of the above mentioned. I stopped shaving my face, let my hair grow out a little and began wearing (referred to at the time as rocking) beanies, hoping for an edgier, possibly even punk or rock n’ roll look. I started looking at deeper-cut v-neck t’s, but the handful of chest hairs I have looked awkward poking out of the Akira shirt as I stared at myself in the mirror sampling a variety of casual, nonchalant poses in an effort to make this particular look seem, well, effortless. This endeavor in particular was not successful. I tried bracelets of charms and rings, but ended up looking like a broke, Hispanic pimp on welfare. I visited Express more often because I thought the guys in the brochures I had been receiving in the mail always looked so cool. Have you ever looked at the tags on Express jeans? Eighty bucks! That’s $40 a pant leg! I prefer shopping in the Urban Outfitters sales section, where I continually, constantly am finding Levi’s at ten bucks a pop. Saving money is cool, right?
Approaching my final year of college, I realized that I didn’t have many shots of being cool left in me; there were only a few more times I envisioned myself getting up, dusting myself off, and trying again.
I remember once sitting in a bar in either Wicker Park or Bucktown (both very cool neighborhoods), attempting to listen intently to one of those solo-acoustic/wailing-anti-corporate-america-banter-and-recommending-doing-nothing-with-your-lives-instead-because-it’s-more-fun set and, almost suddenly, becoming surprisingly content with the fact that I wanted the five bucks I paid for cover back. Not that I’ve been counting, but this precise time was probably the 536th I had found myself in that exact situation, sitting somewhere I didn’t want to be in an effort to show myself and any number of strangers in peripheral vision that I was totally into what was going on. I took a look around and saw these exact scenarios play out, only reinforcing to myself that I didn’t want to be there:
- Plenty of cheap canned beer being consumed by people in designer skinny jeans and Tom Ford plaid shirts.
- People bragging about not having a television and riding their bikes everywhere.
- Severely broad discussions about foreign policy between two stoned hipsters.
- Guys making a point of ignoring cute girls in hopes of getting their attention while possibly trying to convey to these girls the vibe that they were much more intense than their boyfriends.
While at a Club Recently (I’ve come to learn that $20 covers at the door and $150+ bottle service are both apparently very cool), I saw some very old, damn-near elderly men trying to dance with women far out of their leagues. Men who obviously haven’t understood, possibly even just haven’t yet come to terms with, the fact that they’re no longer as dashingly handsome, agile and, iconic as they once might have been. Their ambition was nevertheless there, which I guess I sort of respect, but still: Being cool or, in my case, trying to be cool feels forced. Will that ever change? Probably not, but I feel I’ll be able to accept age with grace.
Getting out won’t be easy. I’ve been buying the myth of cool for almost a decade now and I know I won’t get clean overnight. I still have lapses of judgment and, if I come across some extra cash, will consider getting something solely because it’s cool. Each day is punctuated by a thousand tiny decisions that seem simple but carry much weight.
Moment: Should I buy this pair of Sperry boat shoes? They’re quite the essential piece for any summer wardrobe. I can wear them to work, out to the bar, or even to a family event of whichever girl I’m seeing at that point in time.
Tiny decision: When my father was my age, he had a wife, a two-year old son and bills, rent, and groceries to cover every month. No, I will not go for the Sperrys.
Moment: Should I buy this $60 J. Crew skinny-knit tie? It’d look great on a solid white button-down. Match that up with some khakis and I don’t know that I’ll pass anyone on the street who won’t mentally undress me with their eyes.
Tiny decision: My mom raised me as a single parent, juggling two jobs and everything else on her plate with making my Halloween costumes from scratch year after year. No, I will not be spending sixty dollars on a tie.
So After Not Investing as much time and money into what I thought made me cool for some time now, I find myself with more assets and energy. I stopped doing things that were supposed to be interesting only to find myself doing things that actually are interesting. I enjoy writing, it turns out. I like traveling and do it constantly. I love architecture and reading blogs so I keep up with both as much as I can. I have an apartment, my own room, my own bed, and my own self-bought wardrobe. It’s great! I can’t tell you the names of any of the members of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah or if that’s even the band’s actual name. I have no interest in your Top 40 iTunes collection and am perfectly fine hitting the repeat function on my iPod while listening intently to the likes of Stone Temple Pilots, The Strokes, and The Black Keys. The long road of mustering determination to be the hippest person on the block is paved with dads and uncles who still get high. Well, guess what? Nowhere, ever, will you find weed stashed in a sad little wooden box in my apartment.
Truth be told, most of us tend to put pressure onto ourselves based solely on the fact that we believe that those in our peripherals actually notice what we do. So I’m finally, confidently, ready to remove the word guilty from the phrase guilty pleasure.
Dear readers, I am willing to admit, publicly, right now, that currently, I sincerely, without any hipster irony, really enjoy wearing fedoras. Call me Bruno Mars, call me Baby Bruno, I don’t care.
Damn, that felt pretty good. Okay, I’ll try another one, check this out.
I love the $5 Box at Taco Bell. I know it’s not really that big a deal, but I’m Mexican and my family gives me crap for liking that place. I’m pretty sure my mom contemplated disowning me when I told her. I love having the $5 Box with a large-ass Brisk Iced Tea drink. Last time I was at the Bell, they were playing The White Stripes as I was placing my order, and I was enjoying it all: the anticipation of my Box, the cool, refreshing sips of my iced tea, the sweet jams on the Bell’s speakers, all of it. Loving it.
Man, this feels awesome! Alright, I’ve got one more in me.
I love I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! butter. I was ready to hate the fake butter, but it tastes better than butter, and I honestly Can’t Believe It’s Not. It’s so good. It’s so good it should have been called Goddamnit, Are You Seriously Going to Look Me in the Eye and Tell Me This Shit Isn’t Butter?
Okay, reader! Now, you! You say one!
C’mon, you do one!