the secret of cool uncoolness

Most of my friends, if asked, would claim to fall firmly in the uncool end of the spectrum. They'd say it with conviction, too, not just out of false modesty. They'd be all, nope, I'm not cool, never have been, and there would be the tiniest bit of pride coloring the outer edges of their tone as they said it.

Cool doesn't really carry a lot of weight with them, you see. Or, I guess it does, but it's a different kind of coolness. They live where cool meets warm. Where the real fun is getting excited about things, even (especially!) tiny niche interests or the feel of a rare drippy rain on your face or the way the light is falling right now on that piece of sidwalk stop I have to take a picture! Or a funny sign, or obscure Japanese movies, or some weird thing you made in your kitchen with leftovers, a really pretty colored piece of yarn you'd forgotten about, or music made with something that no one has ever thought of as an instrument until you put it in your mouth and puffed out your cheeks and made it make a noise that surprised everyone and made us laugh.

That was cool, when that happened.

For someone who has, historically, worked very hard (and failed in all the wrong places) at hiding her real emotions to shield her delicate snowflake heart, it's maybe a little surprising that I like to surround myself with people who care a lot about things. Not as in material stuff, although if you have a collection of something profoundly uncool, like old Doritos bags, well, at least you have a thing. (And if you are into things that are generally recognized as cool, but it's just because you really really love 70s glam rock on vinyl or mid-century modern lamps, and not because they'll score you points with whatever crowd you're trying to impress, then that's also a cool thing. Even if you didn't discover it before anyone else.) Mostly, I'm talking about "things" in the broader sense, of ideas or genres or whatever.

Being genuinely interested in something, anything--and also, lots of somethings, it doesn't have to be your personal brand, like Classic Car Esther™ or Vintage Norwegian Stamp Louis®--is the secret to making the uncool cool. I had a friend in Italy who was all about those phone cards. Something that, to me, was just a piece of plastic laminate to be thrown in the trash as soon as it stopped allowing me to make calls, was a source of joy and interest for him. He had giant albums of carefully curated pages of cards in various themes, color schemes, motifs, from all over Europe. I couldn't care less about them, and he didn't change my mind, but his happiness made me happy.

Even silly moments, or things that strike your fancy once and then disappear as soon as you turn your head and catch a glimpse of something shiny out of the corner of your eye. It's totally so-uncool-it's-cool to laugh at your own joke or be delighted by the ephemeral. You don't have to sign a contract or anything, just be willing to let yourself go in the moment.

Ennui is dull as dirt. Show me someone who isn't afraid to be interested in things, and express that interest openly, and I'll show you a badass who thumbs her nose at ironic detachment. Someone who is totally, unabashedly cool.

Someone I'd probably like to count as a friend.