Monday, July 29, 2013

Quest for cool

Here I am being cool with my son.
After 30 years of wondering, I finally felt for a brief moment how it feels to be cool.

I had pulled up at a gas station with my iPod on shuffle. Some bad 70s song had just finished playing as I got out when, suddenly, Lil Wayne started playing loudly from my car’s speakers. Even I was surprised until I remembered my adult daughter had recently shared her eclectic music collection with me.

The young guy next to me turned to give me a look that I interpreted to be of respect.

“That chick is cool,” I’m sure he was thinking.

I nodded and mentally said, “What’s up?”

Then Wham came on, and the moment was gone.

I’ve failed at being cool most of my life. In elementary school, I sat outside on the bleachers and listened as kids made music behind the door. I was one of three without an instrument, rendering me unable to participate in the band. I watched out of the corner of my eye as they filed out after class, chattering excitedly about who’d made first chair while me and the Jehovah Witness kids pretended not to care. By the way, I’m not sure if playing an instrument was against their religion, or if they, like me, didn’t have the funds. Regardless, learning to play one is still prominent on my bucket - or as I like to call it - adventure list.

From that point on, my school career became very much like Sue Heck, the character on the television show The Middle, who is known for failing with gusto. I tried the basketball team – nope. I had to be a cheerleader – back then that was not cool. It was punishment because it was open to anyone who couldn’t make the basketball team where all the cool kids played.

I also became fixated with the 8th grade show choir. They came and did (in my mind) an incredible production of “Puttin’ on the Ritz” at my elementary school. I saw them dance, heard them sing, admired their shiny costumes, and knew that’s what I wanted to do. Problem was I couldn’t sing or dance.

“Just smile,” my mom said. “That’s the most important thing.”

So, I practiced singing “Zip-a-Dee-doo-Dah” while grinning ear to ear only to show up for the audition and learn that I’d be singing and smiling from behind a screen. Request for coolness: denied.

Later on, I tried my hand at high school color guard. Do you know those flags are very heavy, require a lot of coordination and that it gets pretty darn hot in Georgia during summer afternoons when try outs are held? I made it two days.

You’d think once I grew up and had children of my own, that the quest for coolness would wan, but the truth is the pressure is even greater. Moms are each other’s worst critics. They judge you for the type of sandwiches you make for your kid’s lunch, how you look in your yoga pants, where you have your child’s birthday, whether you work at home or full-time, who your babysitter is, how often you use her, and the list goes on and on. I’m sure I’m ranked somewhere near the bottom.

If being cool means being able to do it all, then that ain’t me, and it never will be. I’m a mess. When we aren’t eating out, I am burning dinner. You don’t want to know the condition of my kids’ closets. My lectures “never work,” according to my son because I usually end up doing what I’ve advised them not to (like the time I stomped on the mushrooms after telling them to leave them alone).

At work, I’m not much better. I recently bent down to talk to the vice president’s daughter and realized I was so sore from working out that I couldn’t get back up. So, there I sat on my knees even after his little girl had lost interest, wondering how I was going to tell him I needed help. I was down there a good five minutes before a friend came to my rescue.

It wasn’t until I started to write columns about my misadventures that I learned I’m not the only one on this quest. From the comments I’ve gotten, it seems that most people want the same thing that I do – to feel as if they belong, to be included, to be thought of, to be invited, to be loved. I think that desire is at the heart of life.

So, I will continue on doing the only thing I know how, and that is being me. I may never learn the positions in football or know where the best restaurants are or speak French without a Southern accent, but I will be a good mother. I will be at all of their games, travel miles out of my way to find them a Chick-fil-a and save money monthly, so I can travel overseas to accompany them on their school field trips.

My kids may not think I’m too cool, but I want them to know that they are. They belong, are included, thought of, and most of all, loved, by this awkward mom.

(Side note: Lil Wayne can never top George Michael.) 

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