With an effortless gait, he ambled onto the sun-drenched patio, his long blonde hair billowing out from a multicolored bandana. His technical apparel was the perfect mix between expensive and worn-in; his sunglasses the right balance between stylish and cheeky. He was handsome, in the Californian sense, and, with his blasé attitude, he inspired envy in the après-skiers whom he greeted and those who wished they knew him. He was the archetype of the modern ski dude and he was exhausted, not from the mediocre skiing that he did, but from the effort of trying to look like he had it all. Achieving the status that he sought for so long had brought him no peace. He wished to again be uncool.
The denizens of mountain towns live in a prolonged adolescence that can last well into, and even past, middle age. It is in many ways a blissful existence, partially separated from the reality that plagues that other world. Our bodies stay more fit than our flatlander peers, our spirits remain untamed. But, as a consequence, we tend to lapse back into the behaviors that characterized our actual youth. Although we no longer dine in cafeterias, we still want to be at the cool kids’ table.
In our quest to be admired, we become mired in those conflicts that tormented us when we roamed high school halls. There are petty jealousies, hormone-induced fistfights, and purposeful exclusions from events. There is backstabbing and name-calling and rampant defamation, legally actionable and otherwise. The maelstrom is intensified by the ubiquity and ease of social media: now the cattiness plays out in real time and to the whole world. The mad dash for the top of the social hierarchy creates a vortex of drama that would be right at home on daytime television. Mind you, this is not limited to the bro-brah, rah-rah twenty-something crowd. Indeed, it may be worse with those who have reached their seventh decade.
While many sacrifice themselves at the altar of popularity, it is the people who abjure the cult of cool who are in fact the coolest. These people pursue their lives and activities for their own sake, not because it makes them look better in the eyes of their contemporaries. They are quirky because that is the truest reflection of their personality, not because they desire to be a manic pixie dream girl. Rather than seeking compliments, they dole them out genuinely. They may be verbose or recalcitrant, but their wisdom is spoken for the benefit of the recipient and not for their own aggrandizement.
We have lost too many community members whose desire to be rad outstripped their sense. The truly cool adventurers are those whose quiet confidence leads them to back away from unnecessary danger. Their compadres may think them uncool, but they will live to seek new challenges. They should be an example, not a punchline at the bar.
You are cool just the way you are. If you want to wear a pocket protector, rock on. Do not hesitate to bury your nose in an engrossing book that is on nobody’s bestseller list. Spend time knitting with your mom, learn some corny jokes from your dad. Ditch the A/T gear and telemark. Above all, do whatever is in your heart: that is the epitome of cool.