Throughout my four years at Marlborough, I’ve pretended that I don’t notice the competition for grades, that I’ve never competed with another student for a teacher’s attention, that I’ve never pushed past people in Café M to get my lunch first, but there’s one kind of competition that I’ve never been able to ignore. And that is the competition for who’s cooler.
Sometime around the end of 8th grade, it no longer became valid to simply like what was on the radio. That wasn’t original enough; it wasn’t cool. Now I loved the radio. I was, and continue to be, Lady GaGa’s number one fan. Nicki Minaj? Yes, please. But my heartfelt renditions of “Poker Face” were no longer acceptable. “Oh, you still like that song?” was a recurring question. Yes, of course I still like that song. I liked it last week…what could possibly have changed? But I began to shrug it off. “I like it ironically,” I say. “I like it, but I’m kidding.”
So I began to change up my music taste. Granted, I still liked my pop, but I displayed a whole other set of interests to the world. I immersed myself in Scottish punk; I got into Elliott Smith; I learned every word to Beirut’s last album. I genuinely like that music and still do; who can’t like Elliott Smith? But it seemed cheap to pretend I only like that sort of music when every day after school I listen to Jay-Z to cheer me up.
But believe me when I say that I wasn’t the only one. The competition to be the coolest was on. Lunch became a rapid fire discussion of who knew what.
“You haven’t heard of that movie? Shame. It’s totally brilliant”
“Oh…you don’t know that band? They’re so cool.”
“You really should get into this obscure band nobody knows about.”
Oh, I am guilty of this. I have repeated the phrase “you really should get into this” more times than I care to count. And then when people “got into it,” I was angered because I was no longer the only cool one who could recite the ending speech from Inglourious Basterds. So my desire to be cool destroyed my cool because the things I liked stopped being my obsession and became everyone’s obsession.
And then it hit me. Okay, it wasn’t that instantaneous. You could say it hit me as I wrote this article, but, fanfare please, I realized something life-changing.
First off, competing to be coolest is stupid because if you’re really trying that hard to one-up other people, you are acting just like everybody else. Nothing original about it.
Secondly, I want to listen to what I like, damn it. When Justin Bieber comes up on shuffle I don’t want to pretend that I bought “Confident” accidentally.
Having confidence in what you like is a hell of a lot cooler than denying the fact that you actually love Bridget Jones’s Diary more than anything else.
I still get a little squeamish when people ask me why I know all the lyrics to so many Ke$ha songs, but I’m getting there.