Neither hot nor cold, not too much of anything. But somehow appealing. Somehow interesting. Containing that je-ne-sais-quoi, that makes a person instantly appealing. But, without trying to appeal. Difficult? Definitely.
And the more you try to figure out that elusive and desired characteristic of “cool”, the more it escapes. And if you intend to be cool, you soon realize how ridiculous you feel and probably seem. You can’t force cool, you can’t act it out. But even though you know it, you keep trying. Everybody does. A little bit less of passion, that’s not cool. A little more arrogance, you don’t want to show too much of yourself.
On the other hand, to some people it seems to be a second nature. They just ooze coolness with all that they are. Some of them become the symbols of cool. Think Steve McQueen. You look at them, and it is effortless. And sometimes, you can’t put your finger on it to define what is so appealing about them, all you can say is that they are cool.
On the other spectrum are the wannabes. Those who try too hard, following the latest fashions, religiously using the latest formula, whatever that may be. Is it wearing a certain type of outfit or a brand? Or maybe having an interest in something quirky? Or a particular attitude to life? The wannabes think that cool is a fashion accessory. But fashions are temporary. They change and then they change again.
The older I am the less I care for being cool. And the less I care, the more I understand the need to be cool and how putting effort in it is exactly what makes you fail. We want to be cool when we have no idea who we are and what we want. We look around us and try to copy what appeals to us, whether it is something diametrically opposite to us, or something that we would like to be but are too afraid, shy or unready to try. We want to stand out but we think that blending in by copying the current definition of cool is going to make it happen.
If I think about people I thought of as cool when I was a child, and through my youth and those that I find cool now, only few of them stood the test of time and continue being cool. Many faded into forgotten and sometimes even mocked fashions. Those who stayed, just like Steve McQueen who I mentioned earlier, have one thing in common: integrity. Fearless integrity. That is the one single ingredient of cool. Sometimes it is recognized and sometimes it isn’t.
Few (lucky) people get to that point of personal integrity easily and early. Some struggle. Some spend their life in the struggle using all the tricks in the bag, never succeeding to get there, focused on trying to find it outside of them. The search for that integrity and everything that each of us has to go through to finally arrive to our own selves is hard. But when you find it, you don’t need to follow fashions, you don’t need validation to feel good in your own skin. And that’s cool, isn’t it?