Wide Awake: Side Parts, Skinny Jeans
Discovering what it means to be cool

A few days before we record our podcast, we each get an email with the topic and a few questions to help flesh out the content. The last episode was on being cool, and the first question was “When did you realize you weren’t cool?” What?

I immediately emailed back: “Oh, I am cool.”

What’s fun about this is I was emailing my daughter Klein, our digital editor. So to her, the thought of me being cool is just wrong. (Even though it is 100% right.) She had chosen this podcast topic because young TikTok’ers are saying side parts and skinny jeans are no longer cool, which has a lot of millennials – including Klein and Elyse Notarianni, who are both on the podcast along with myself and Jayne Feld – a little shocked. Seems being told at 26 that you aren’t cool hits hard.

I was still taken aback by the question when I said to Joe: “When did you realize you weren’t cool?” Without hesitation he looked at me and said, “I am cool.”

Later that night, Joe and I were watching a show we had been bingeing on Netflix, “Blown Away.” It’s a competition among glass blowers and while it isn’t a show I would normally watch, it’s pretty fascinating. There is one woman on Season 1, Deborah, who kept catching my attention. I wasn’t sure what to think of her initially, but I now happen to think she’s awesome even though I recognize she’s very quirky, very different and sometimes a little abrasive. I know some people can’t get past that abrasiveness.

But when she begins a glassblowing challenge, she is able to block out everything and everyone to become fully focused on her art. She also has ideas that are one in a million, sometimes they are as quirky as her, and usually they have a feminist message. So I really like her. And as I was preparing for the podcast it hit me: Deborah is cool. Even though I don’t think a lot of people would call her that. I don’t even think she would describe herself as cool.

So I was trying to explain on the podcast my unique criteria for being cool, which has nothing to do with what you wear or how you style your hair.

I know there was a time when I bought into the young people’s definition of cool – and that would be when I was young. But when I look back over my grade school years, then high school years, then college, “cool” meant something different at each of those times. And then, as you know, trends come back and what was cool 15 years ago is suddenly new again and now called vintage, and that’s cool. It’s a little exhausting, but when you’re young you adhere to it faithfully. There just comes some point when the definition changes, and what you admire in other people, what you think is cool, has suddenly evolved.

Take Deborah. What I liked about her was how her mind worked. Her creativity was endless and intense. In one challenge, the glass blowers were asked to make a robot that would have a functional use in the future. Deborah made a womb that would allow men to have babies. (I mean, how do you come up with that?) The finished piece of glass was beautiful, but the radical idea was what caught everyone’s attention.

In each episode, Deborah stood out from the other competitors, and she seemed to be most proud of that. It became obvious that she liked being different. It was her strength. It gave her confidence. I imagine Deborah has never paid attention to what was cool, and she probably never cared if anyone ever thought of her that way. She just created this very unique, very interesting life.

That’s so cool.

New episodes of our podcast “South Jersey Girls” drop every Tuesday. I hope you’ll listen. (Some people have told me they aren’t used to listening to podcasts. I listen when I’m getting ready in the morning. It’s like chatting with friends before breakfast.)

Read more Wide Awake here

March 2021
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