I am an uncool person.
I may, in fact, be the most uncool person that I know. My four children will all vouch for me, or at
least I know that they would have when they were young and through at least
their teenage years. But, I am fine with
being uncool, always have been. There is
something freeing about realizing the truth about yourself and being
comfortable with that.
I learned that I was uncool in the eighth grade. Looking back on it I suppose a sociologist
would describe my class as one of cliques.
The cliques were a bit complex because they were divided a number of
ways. The most important divider was
family income. The cool kids had fathers
who were professionals who made very good money. They lived in the big houses. They talked about having their own bedrooms –
even having a telephone and perhaps their own color television set. The uncool kids had fathers who mostly worked
in the paper mills. We shared rooms with
siblings. Our smaller houses had one
phone – usually hanging on the kitchen wall, and one television, possibly still
black and white, that was in the living room.
Although the girls wore school uniforms, the boys
didn’t have one. But most everyone’s
clothes were similar. It was the extras
that drew the lines of difference. For
example, the cool kids downhill skied on the weekends, and they wore their lift
ticket collections like merit badges hanging from the zippers of their brightly
colored ski jackets. The uncool kids
went sledding at the park on the weekends.
I had a dark brown corduroy coat, chopper mittens and buckle up
But I don’t recall ever getting upset about being
labeled uncool. And it really took a lot
of pressure off of me in high school.
Uncool kids weren’t invited to the beer parties. I didn’t have to figure out how to get and
hide cigarettes, and I always had my homework done.
After high school I didn’t really think about being
uncool again until after I was married.
To be precise it was when my oldest son Jacob was in the fifth
grade. That school year he began
complaining about his clothes. They
weren’t cool. He wanted to wear as much
black as possible. But the biggest fight
we had with him was over the snow pants.
Jacob and his younger brother Nathan walked about five
blocks to school and back home each day.
So, being uncool and practical parents that wanted to take good care of our
children we bought Jacob and Nathan snow pants.
When he learned that he was expected to wear the snow pants on his walks
to and from school Jacob went ballistic.
Through tears and great sobbing, he exclaimed that all of the other kids
at school – all of them no less – were going to laugh at him. Cool kids don’t wear snow pants.
In my sensitive, father-knows-best manner I considered
his argument carefully and pronounced it “Nonsense”! You are going to wear your snow pants when
you walk to and from school and that is all there is to it!” Argument ended – but not argument won, I
found out later.
I don’t remember why I was home from work that winter weekday. I do remember that the snow was deep and it
was cold. Jacob and Nathan went out the
door in the morning headed to school wearing their snow pants without
fuss. I watched them walk up to the
corner where Jacob stopped, stripped off his snow pants, rolled them up under
his arm, and then went on his way.
Curious, I was watching for him in the afternoon after school. Sure enough – I saw him reach the corner with
his snow pants under his arm. He
stopped, pulled them on and then finished the walk home. He was completely oblivious that I watched what
he had done.
It was too funny to get mad. I decided not to mention what I had
witnessed. No doubt that remained his
routine for the rest of that winter. I
realized that there must be a lot of pressure if being cool is important to you. I hurt for him.
Now, Jacob is a father who has no doubt encountered
the pressure of coolness through his own children. I think he has done well in knowing when to
let things go and when to clamp down.
He is a great dad. He has great
kids. That’s cool. And I am fine with that.
His Peace <><
Photo by Greg Rosenke on Unsplash