The Elusive Quality of Coolness

Writing the previous post opened up a can of worms in my head. I have mostly conquered the feeling of being an outcast, but the journey has been fairly tortuous. I pulled up some chronicled events from my old blog that shed some light on that journey.

First up, my analysis of my erstwhile status in school:

Uncool in School

I was having a chat with an old school friend the other day, and we started reminiscing about our school days. The ‘good ol’ days’. Except they weren’t. Good, I mean. Then it started a chain of thought that continued after the conversation had ended. Why wasn’t I cool?

Zipping to the present day, I have found myself on the fringe of any group, in class, in any gathering involving people of my own age. And I find myself standing outside, looking longingly in. Somehow, I cannot muster up enough courage to insert myself into a group. And it’s a direct result of the agonies of my pre-teen years. I don’t blame anyone in school, but I am merely wondering how different my life would have turned out, if I was ‘cool’ in school.

I remember when I was very little, around 6 or 7, I was very popular amongst my classmates. The kind to be picked first for teams, the one everyone surrounded at break. Then zip forward to when I was 12. In a matter of 4 years I went from centre of attraction to wallflower. And then I started putting on weight.

As I can see it, there were a few factors that contributed to my dismal status in school (I was never even close to being ‘A’ list).

1. I didn’t listen to the right music – very simply I didn’t have satellite TV at home, seeing at my family barely spent any time at home, what with jobs and school and staying far out in Sharjah.

2. I didn’t watch the right TV shows – same reason; but this had the effect of making any conversation about shows like the X-files totally incomprehensible.

3. I didn’t have a friends’ circle that went out regularly – I stayed too far away again, and plus my parents always insisted on a chaperon. Makes sense, in retrospect, after all we were a bunch of little girls.

4. I put on loads of weight – Ah, my nemesis even now – my mother fattened me up, because I was a scrawny little thing and I was on the verge of being malnourished.

I remember making some tentative forays into making friends, and was met with such out and out derision for my clumsy efforts, that I retreated further and further into my protective shell. Slowly but surely, my self esteem completely eroded away.

Now over 10 years later, I find myself in a strange situation: I am now ‘A’ list. But it so seems that I’m the only one on the list. Spending much time on my own, has taught me to be comfortable with my own company. I go about my activities singly, without any need for support. In a word, I am a loner. I have some close friends who I will cherish for the rest of my life, and I know that I will receive all the unconditional love from them, that any heart could possibly desire.

But, there is uncomfortable thought niggling in the back of my mind: I find I need to prove that I’m not a loser to the folks who made me feel like one, all those years ago.

And second, a dawning ability to find and be comfortable with my own place in the world:

Stay (Un)Cool

I often feel very uncool. Possibly because, in school, I was the very definition of uncool – short (ish), long (LONG LONG) hair, braces, chubby and bespectacled. Not precisely a recipe for hotness. Also, when I was in school, it was cool to, well, rebel. I never rebelled. EVER.

Not that I blamed my classmates – rich, spoilt kids, mostly higher-middle class. Both parents were always busy with their own lives, and had very little time to spare for miscellaneous offspring. Our school was practically full-day, from 7:30 in the morning, to 5:00 in the evening. They rebelled, loved it, and painted anyone who didn’t with the unanimous brush of uncool.

My parents have always been there. I had (and still have) great relationships with all three of them (I consider my mom’s twin my ‘second mom’). My dad never yelled, my aunt showered me with love and my mother yelled till ceiling tiles dropped. It worked. We had fun together, and my parents were by far the hippest lot I knew.

(I’m totally serious. My mother thinks I should live with a bloke for six months before marrying him. UNHEARD OF in Indian society. Apparently I need to know whether I like his smelly breath and unshaven mug early in the morning. Her words, not mine.)

I have lived in hostels/paying guest accommodation/alone for the past 10 years. And in the last year, I moved back home (joint family decision). My teenage self sometimes asks whether I am violating my own sense of cool by living here (and enjoying it). All my peers are moving out, getting married and setting up lives FAR away from their parents. I, on the other hand, am getting more comfortably ensconced in my parental abode. I have no romantic plans, which I find a HUGE relief.

Then today, I heard my father cough (ex-smoker – GRRR!). I saw my mother’s knees stiffen after sitting for too long. I saw my aunt press a hand into the small of her back and wince a little in pain. It made my heart twist.

I may be the queen of uncool, but my place is here.


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