Rebirth of Reason

Sense of Life

A Different Viewpoint on Kilbourne's Article on "Being Cool"
by Jake Moore

I greatly enjoyed James Kilbourne's article, and agreed with it to great extent.  But after some thought, I decided that I'm in a position in age to expand on this topic, and to illustrate that it's a deeper issue than merely "being cool" that motivates teenagers to act the ways that they do.  I was a teenager not long ago, and remember all too vividly the circumstances of high school life.  Being uncool can be devastating in so many ways that "being cool" in itself is of very little importance.  Mating is one reason people want to be cool, but to say it's the only reason, as someone said in response to Kilbourne's article, is an over-simplification.

When I started writing this article, it was just a small response shedding light on the "rational why" of kids feeling the need to be cool, but as I went on, I realized it was going to take more than a few lines to develop my argument.  By the end, I realized it was more than just an excuse for teenage behavior and had become an understanding of the phases of maturity.  Assumptions are immature judgments that people make, and teasing and physical attacks are the immature actions that assumptions can lead to.  Some people mature by the end of high school, but many do not.  This is one of the many reasons why college is a great next step for people to take after high school.  Any maturation incomplete after high school can be completed in college.  Retardation of maturity is one of the problems this great country faces.  Racism, sexism, religious fundamentalism, etc... are usually issues of immaturity.  I began this as a simple expansion, but it quickly became more complicated.  I hope at least some of you can relate to my experiences here, and appreciate that being cool is much more than just "being cool."

At the age of 22, high school is still a fairly fresh memory to me, and I know that being cool in high school can save you from verbal harassment and teasing, as well as physical assault in the hallways.  While I agree that sincerity is far superior to coolness, I think that the world of the modern teenager is set up in such a way that sincerity is a sign of weakness and an invitation to teasing and other mistreatment.
I remember "cool" kids in the halls of my school walking through, shouting hurtful comments at "ugly" kids, punching the arms of "wimps" and fat kids, and then high-fiving each other in celebration of being cool.  I was never a part of the "in" crowd in high school, because I despised every one of them, but I came into my freshman year 6'2", 285 lbs, and a basketball player, so I wasn't teased so much.  After shattering an ankle, however, I was no longer a ball player, and those who used to call themselves my friends and teammates were being inducted into the cool crowd.  Before I knew it, they were making comments behind my back, which were relayed to me through the grapevine.
A man of my size is, surprisingly, a number one target of the shortest and lightest members of the "in" crowd.  Knowing that it would look like barbarism if I beat them to a pulp, the little bastards consistently harassed me verbally.  I never let it bother me, and soon enough, I was left alone by the bullying types who'd rather pick on someone who will react; after all, the response is the pay-off to the hard labor of teasing.
The popular kids were only one end of the spectrum, though.  As a non-smoker, non-drinker, and non-drug user, I was also targeted by the "outsider" crowd, who would consistently bash me for being "too good to hang out with them" or for being a "spoiled brat."
The latter of the claims wasn't so far from the truth; my mother had worked very hard with little reward for herself, setting aside money for my college education, thrift shopping to save money, while trying to give me the stars growing up.  I never got everything I wanted, but I got a hell of a lot, and I always felt bad that my mother sacrificed herself so much just for me.  But at the same time, I was proud of my mom, because she was never in debt.  We lived in a house that was paid for, her car was paid for, she didn't have a million credit cards, she didn't have a mortgage, and she didn't have loans.  She worked hard and only bought what she could afford.  And she did it all for me.
These kids would see me riding my shiny bicycle or playing basketball on the hoop outside my house and assume that I must be rich, and that I thought I was better than them.  I never thought I was better than any of them until they made such assumptions, and even then it was never an issue of my thinking I was better than them because of money or education or anything like that; I began to think I was better than them because I wouldn't engage in such exchanges of negative comments.
My sophomore year of high school, since I couldn't play basketball and was in need of a new hobby, I began playing bass guitar.  I caught on fast and started a rock band with some friends.  Because being in a band is "cool" I was now accepted by the "in" crowd, and because being in a band is edgy and rebellious, I was accepted by the "outsiders" as well.  I had accidentally achieved a "cool" status.
I remember being a senior and sitting in study hall next to a girl who read books all the time.  Always reading.  She didn't talk so much, like the rest of us, and she wasn't ugly but not particularly pretty, and she was a little overweight.  I wanted to befriend her, not for mating purposes, but because I was genuinely interested in who she was.  I used to joke with her and prod her to talk a little more, and it was working.  She was amazing.  She was such a sweetheart, and after getting to know her, I thought she was beautiful.  She didn't care what anyone thought, and she wasn't out to make herself cool by picking on anyone else.  She was who she was, and I admired that so much.  She's still the coolest person I've ever met.
When I got to college, I didn't want to assume anything about anyone.  I got to know a lot of people, and hardly any of them fit into the stereotypes they probably fit into in high school.  A few people I might have expected to be jock assholes turned out to be very sincere and very accepting.  A few that I might have expected to be the sweet, quiet, book-reading type turned out to be know-it-all jerks.  I am who I am and I know there are plenty of people who like that about me, and I love that about them.  I think assumptions get people into trouble, and college many times provides a clean slate where many new students can shed all the assumptions and just be themselves.
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