Growing up in the 1980s, ‘cool’ was the thing I most wanted to be. Cool like the Fonz, in his signature leather jacket and pompadour… but in a 1980s way – fingerless gloves and legwarmers.
Cool was as much an attitude as an outfit.
It required this aloof detachment – never being too excited or moved by anything and slightly disdainful of anyone who was.
Being really into anything made you a geek. Showing emotion made you a dork. And hanging out with either of those made you a loser by association.
These were all unspoken rules of course, social conventions I stumbled into and had to figure out as I went along. Typical teenage pecking-order nonsense one might think, and yet years later I am embarrassed to notice that I may never have grown out of it.
I am still trying to be cool. Not so much with the on-trend fashion as you will notice, but clearly those early formed ‘rules’ of cool ran deep.
Cynicism and intellectualism are my go-to responses; critical judgment gets mistaken for intelligence. I distance myself from everything through a layer of thinking. Spending so much time judging and evaluating in my head leaves little room for experiencing life with my heart - which is surely more pleasurable and fulfilling.
People who get really excited about stuff still make me slightly uncomfortable: closing their eyes as they clap along to music, dressing outlandishly (or even slightly out of my conservative norm), having strong convictions or being too enthusiastic. I feel like I could never do that – as much, at times, as I secretly want to, something holds me back.
In theory, I promote embracing our passions, but clearly have a subconscious passion thermostat of my own that clicks off when I get too close to expressing myself beyond my bounds of cool.
And this is the irony of it: I am so verklempt about being ‘uncool’, but it’s me who set the rules of cool and who am I so worried about being uncool in front of?
I realise that nobody is actually paying any attention – they’re off busy dealing with their own limiting beliefs.
It’s only me and my imaginary code that are keeping me trapped in a half-life of distance and disdain, perhaps still somehow trying to protect my vulnerable teenage self from rejection – yet I’m rejecting myself before I even begin.
How much am I missing out on and how much emotional energy am I wasting, worrying about what I think other people might be thinking?
The truth is, Fonzie wasn’t cool because of his outfit or for being superior or distant. There’s a classic scene when he’s on the phone and a gal asks him what makes him think he’s so cool. He simply hangs up the receiver. Moments later, of course, she calls him straight back. “That’s why I think I’m so cool,” he says, coolly.
It’s the very fact that he doesn’t care what other people think. He dresses how he likes, hangs out with the dorky kids he likes, watches The Lone Ranger because he likes it.
Henry Winkler himself once said in an interview, “I think, after all these years, that is how I define cool. It is being authentic. That is powerful.”
Being the Fonz isn’t going to make you cool. Being yourself will. Here’s to Happy Days of being our authentic selves.
•Julia Pitt is a trained success coach and certified NLP practitioner on the team at Benedict Associates. For further information contact Julia on 705-7488, www.juliapittcoaching.com.</i>