You know what I’m not? Cool. I care too much.
Being cool is all about not caring. It’s been that way since someone invented coolness, back in, like, the late fifties, I think. Wait– I feel like there were a few cool people in the Great Gatsby, so maybe it goes back a few decades farther.
There are a lot of variations on not caring. Kids are really obvious about it. They’re constantly standing around in mall parking lots rolling their eyes, going, “Whatever…” People in their twenties show how little they care mostly by wearing slouchy shoes. And then later on you prove your coolness by getting drunk the way you used to get drunk when you had less responsibilities.
I’m pretty sure.
(these should do it. source)
Sometimes I worry about myself, because I want to impress people. I want them to like me. It’s a little pathological. It’s a sign that I will not succeed at things. I am always hoping that I’ll grow out of it, and so far, that hasn’t happened, so I’m concerned that it might be permanent.
I want to be kickass. How you do this is by not caring what other people think of you. That’s how you become great. You blast your way to the top, and if some sucker gets incinerated in the flames, then, yeah, whatever. Too bad. That’s life. They got what was comin’ to them. You’re not really livin’ until you’re livin’ on the edge. (I don’t remember what it sounds like to be tough, which is why I can’t write it. I always think it requires a lot less g’s.)
(she doesn’t care what people think. She’d wear that even if she was alone. It’s part of the superpower… source)
People in movies almost never care what other people think. They snatch a newspaper out of a stranger’s hands because they need to see the wedding section, in case their ex-fiance is getting married. They knock people over, running to catch the plane the person they’re in love with is leaving on. They yell at people just because they feel like yelling. They ignore people who are talking to them because someone gorgeous walked into the room. They stand up and give an impromptu mean toast at their ex-fiance’s wedding, which they’re now crashing.
People in real life are sometimes fantastically rude, too. They go on three dates with someone and then disappear without a word. They punch someone. They don’t hold the door. My own brothers have mastered the right amount of rudeness. I’m so jealous. They can ignore people who are bothering them and focus on people who make sense to focus on. They can fight back when someone picks a fight. They can come out of it feeling good, pretty sure they won.
I can do none of these things. There will never be a movie about me. I am the person who fishes the newspaper out of a snow bank and hands it back to the person it was snatched from. We then share a quick conversation about the wretched weather, and I realize I am late for an appointment with my gynecologist, but stay a few moments longer, anyway, so that I don’t have to cut the other person off.
I’m not sure how I got this polite, but I know it has to do with caring too much.
There are plusses: I will always leave a generous tip. I will listen to your problems even if you’re a stranger who is telling them to me on the subway when I have to get off in one stop. I will probably be a good mother of babies, before any discipline is involved.
But I will probably never be a force to be reckoned with. Or a force of nature. There’s a decent chance I won’t be a force of any kind. I will never be badass. I will never be super chill. And this is really disappointing. Sometimes I hate going through life being so affected by the world. It’s lame. At any moment, my eyes might get misty– because something is beautiful, or delicate, or just sad. At every moment, I am vulnerable, because someone might yell something cruel for no reason, or push me out of the way to get to the subway turnstile, or cut me off midsentence to go to an appointment at the gynecologist.
I’ve been told, over and over, that people need thick skins. And mine is so thin. I can see the veins right there, just under the surface, a complicated, faint blue webbing under the translucent pale skin of my side. As though I am not fully evolved. As though, if scratched in passing, I might lose too much blood.
I have always wanted people to like me. People seem important. They seem full of possibility. Who knows where someone might lead.
To this day, when someone gets on the elevator with me, my mind starts to race. What should I say? What can we talk about? We should have a conversation! And then, when they get off, I chirp, “Have a good day!” after them, and they turn halfway back, started, and grunt something before continuing on their way.
I wonder, do I really have to start a conversation on the elevator? How much does it matter, in the scheme of things? Why does anyone bother to be nice? Why does anyone care what the woman behind the counter at the grocery store thinks of them? Or the friends of a friend who are most of the way to totally drunk at a party. What is the point of caring?
But then someone rushes to unlock the building door when I’m carrying too many things.
And then a woman in the elevator awkwardly strikes up a conversation, and suddenly we are talking about how weird it is to live in a building where no one ever wants to talk. And how weird we feel sometimes, being the ones who try to talk. Who fail again and again, embarrassing ourselves.
And I am smiling when I go inside.
Those tiny, seemingly insignificant moments of connection– I admit it— they make everything worth it.
I can’t help it. Even though I’m not an elderly woman, lonely and alone, or a guy who’s about to jump because life isn’t worth living anymore, or an orphan out of a traditional cautionary morality tale, or someone who’s lived through a war. Even though I’m this totally regular twenty-five year old who lives in the big, fast, rude city, has friends, has love, and has plenty to do, I care.
I care a lot. I hope we all get along. I hope you like me. I hope it all turns out right, in the end. And right now, in the elevator.
(let me get that for you! brr…it’s so cold out! isn’t this weather annoying? source)
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Unroast: Today I love my clothes. I think that maybe I’ve finally gotten to the point where I have something to wear.
P.S. I have been sick the whole weekend. I am a machine of endless snot production. I have watched so much Planet Earth that the music that plays on loop during the menu is playing on repeat in my head. I know a lot about bat droppings. I had to share this with the world, because it’s hard to bear it alone.
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