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On not being a Cool Kid

There are people who sail through life as if it were a party thrown just for them. They get noticed. They get remembered.
Always.

Then there are those of us who are surprised that we were even invited to the party and think there must be some kind of mistake. Some of us do stuff designed to get noticed and make fools of ourselves. Others hide in the shadows so we won't get noticed and exposed as crashers. And we hang on the edges hoping that some of it will rub off on us.

Been there all my life. Don't know what to do about it.
If you really want examples, ask me off line some time.


GHR

Comments

( 37 comments — Leave a comment )
katyhh
Oct. 27th, 2006 10:55 am (UTC)
I understand what you mean. There is not all *that* much one can do about it except working on accepting and loving oneself, but one should, once in a while, believe one's friends when they tell you that you DO get noticed and remembered and are loved. They wouldn't be good friends if they just told you that to shut you up / calm you down, right?
Otoh you are right about some folks just sailing through life in a way that seems effortlessly. But then - do we know about their hidden fears and worries? We don't.
Let's take a good example, our crazy beloved smac. He's charismatic, he's loved, he gets noticed and remembered (not always for the things he WANTS to be remembered for, mind you *g*). You know just as well as me about doubts he feels, at times. Why should it be different for others ... And myself - well. I am just as convinced that I am not cool or interesting anyway.
It's a self-image thing. And others aren't necessarily responsible for our self-image. Sometimes we want them to be, though.

I love you. We really never had the chance to get a lot closer, but still - I *feel* close. You are very important to us.
And now I run out of things to say that don't sound sappy. *HUGS*
scarfman
Oct. 27th, 2006 11:15 am (UTC)

I tell my kids, the trick to being cool is not caring whether you're cool.

ohiblather
Oct. 27th, 2006 12:06 pm (UTC)
I don't consider myself one of the Cool Kids, either. In fact, I hate the term because its purpose seems malicious to me somehow, a division of the filk community. I know it's not deliberately malicious, but so far every instance of its use in this discussion in LJ (not just yours) certainly seems to have been. The term is also unfortunate because it also draws on the emotional issues surrounding the whole Cool Kid thing back in school, when (face it) most fen had a hard time.

I was never asked out back in school, never went to any of the proms, never included in the reindeer games. I was pretty much a loner. It didn't help that I was the only Asian in all my classes in an overall Caucasian suburb, it didn't help that I was one of the only sf/computernerd geeks. I was definitely the only sf/computer geek GIRL.

For me, a lot of the whole life attitude change came when my Mom died of cancer and then my brother and his wife died in a car accident. Sounds morbid, but it's true. That shook up my life and the life of my (diminishing) family so much that I can't even begin to explain explain it boiled down to the fact that I began to pay more attention to the Big Picture.

Suddenly all kinds of things that had been important to me before faded into insignificance, including my continuing efforts to want everyone to like me and my frustration that they didn't. It's not that I stopped caring...it's more that my focus turned to finding everything that is GOOD about life rather than focusing on the bad. I had to do that or I'd go mad. Mad with grief, mad with the hopelessness of it all.

What I found: that it's not hopeless. That the good things and the good people in life still outweigh the badstuff, even if the badstuff seems overwhelming sometimes. That the deaths of close family members wasn't meaningless, that I wasn't going to let them be meaningless.

People sometimes ask me how I can be so happy and positive all the time. For one thing, it's not true (just ask my husband *wryful grin*). But the main truth is that it's because I've vowed to live my life focusing on the Big Picture and (at the risk of cliche, but cliches have to come from somewhere, y'know) to make every minute count. To embrace life rather than let it slide by.

I would never, ever recommend this method for finding life focus (losing loved ones), but would hope that there's something in this rambling and somewhat incoherent posted comment that might help anyway.
tibicina
Oct. 27th, 2006 06:19 pm (UTC)
*hangs her head* I am so sorry that I introduced the term. I was not actually a 'everyone should use this'... it was 'this was what I am some of my social group had been using which seems to map roughly onto what you're talking about'. And, honestly, I should probably have explained it better at the time. I plead tiredness.

It was never meant to be divisive. And it was never meant to really reflect anything but admiration. I could give you my own personal list of 'cool kids', but that wouldn't really be helpful. And you'd certainly be on it.

Honestly it was something which Callie and I had used to try to explain the slight bewilderment one Consonance when we somehow managed to seed a filk room which ended up with pretty much everyone we'd want there who was attending that con. I believe it was specifically "How'd we magically end up with the power of 'summon cool kids' tonight?"

Now, the definition of Cool Kid will change from person to person... and there was at least one other filk circle that night who all seemed to be having a great time whenever I happened to notice. So obviously we didn't have everyone's Cool Kids. Honestly, at the moment, I don't remember all the people who were at that circle, just that we kept looking around and going 'we get to play with them!'

And it's been useful in discussions with other people occasionally to express that feeling of 'Wait, wait, *I* get to play with *them*?!' And part of what I did initially try to express was the strange dynamic of multiple people doing that to each other... to the point of being unsure of asking for harmonies or support or whatever from the other people, because it didn't occur to them that they were one of the Cool Kids, too.

I don't actually think it's a derogatory term at all. Nor do I think everyone's insistance that they aren't one is a sign that it is. I think it's a sign that as geeks and quirky people most of us have had it drummed into our heads that we are not and can never be cool... and even in something like Filk or Fandom where cool is defined radically differently, we can apply that to other people, but not ourselves.

'Cause most of the people telling me they're not the Cool Kids would be on my personal list. And it isn't that the're 'too cool for me', because that was NEVER how I meant the term. It's because they're the people who make me go 'How'd I get to hang out with all these cool people? And if they want me here, does that make me cool too?'
(no subject) - ohiblather - Oct. 27th, 2006 06:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
ohiblather
Oct. 27th, 2006 12:33 pm (UTC)
Sorry, shouldn't have used the word "malicious". But the whole Cool Kids term certainly seems to be dividing the filk community right now.

But the fact that no one wants to admit they are or ever HAVE been a Cool Kid certainly is indicative of the negative connotations of that term right now.

:-\
katyhh
Oct. 27th, 2006 01:26 pm (UTC)
Hm. I don't really think so. I do know that for some people, I probably belong. For others I don't. It is always a matter of who's there, how you and others feel that weekend, who hypes about whom ... Very various thing, that, and possibly varying from convention to convention, but at least from "season to season".
I just don't SEE myself as a "cool kid", is all.
(no subject) - ohiblather - Oct. 27th, 2006 01:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - filkerdave - Oct. 27th, 2006 07:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
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shannachie
Oct. 27th, 2006 12:53 pm (UTC)
Hugs.
Actually, I find you very cool...
blueeyedtigress
Oct. 27th, 2006 01:22 pm (UTC)
Hey, I'm not cool, either. I Am A Geek! A Misfit! A great horrible Weirdo!

We outcasts should stick together ... wait, isn't that how fandom started?? ;]
ohiblather
Oct. 27th, 2006 01:34 pm (UTC)
EXACTLY. :-)
(no subject) - allisona - Oct. 27th, 2006 02:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
mdlbear
Oct. 27th, 2006 02:12 pm (UTC)
That's what fandom is all about, really. I spent my recent Toastmaster gig struggling to remember everybody's names and terrified that I'd be exposed as a fraud. I still don't know whether I succeeded.
alymid
Oct. 27th, 2006 02:38 pm (UTC)
to a certain extent I think some of us (and yes that includes me) are always looking for acceptance from someone. And I think its hard when we are always looking for some external validation that we can't seem to give ourselves.

I try hard to validate from the inside, because I can't count on other folks to do it for me. There are some people in my life that I will constantly feel like I am chasing for acceptance, and there are some that will only do it if I jump through stupid hoops that would make it much harder for me to be happy with me on the inside.

It might interest you to note, that while I was dating S. I always felt like I was trying to earn some acceptance from you and Bill, knowing how important you are to him, I always felt like I was trying to prove myself as "acceptable Girl friend material".

It was an interesting experience for me having nominal acceptance on S's arm in circles where I hadn't "earned" it. And how that changed once we weren't attached anymore. There were some people who completely either didn't remember me, or had no need to keep up being social once I wasn't S's partner. And others to whom my change of status didn't seem to make any difference to the slightest.

I think you can guess at who I cultivate as friends now.
cflute
Oct. 28th, 2006 12:02 am (UTC)
S was the vector by which I met you; that's the only link in *my* mind between him and you. I liked you then and still do, because of *who you are* (and 'cause you seem to like me and have been nice to me). *HUGS*.
(no subject) - alymid - Oct. 28th, 2006 12:25 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cflute - Oct. 28th, 2006 12:32 am (UTC) - Expand
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on S's Arm - qnvhrtz - Oct. 28th, 2006 03:05 am (UTC) - Expand
markbernstein
Oct. 27th, 2006 02:54 pm (UTC)
First, I want to echo what Debbie said. But I'm also responding because I don't believe your first sentence. It's true that some people are more outgoing, some more naturally upbeat, some more talented, and all of those things make getting noticed easier. But I no longer believe that anyone finds it effortless. As far as I can tell, every single person I've ever met in fandom, let alone filk, has experienced the feelings you describe in your second paragraph. I certainly have.

In fact, I think I'm a pretty strong example of someone who used to feel "on the fringe" and underappreciated a lot of the time, and now feels like a solid member of the community. And I've learned a couple of things in the process:

- Standing in the shadows and waiting to get noticed never works. And there's no reason why it should. If I don't believe in myself enough to put myself forward a little, why should anyone else believe in me? (And I note that you have a good basis for some belief. You are, among other things, the most widely recognized and respected filk dealer in the Midwest, a co-winner of a Pegasus Award and, entirely on your own merits, an inductee into the Filk Hall of Fame. Not to mention a member of a certain beret-wearing group that's notoriously picky about its membership. And, last but certainly not least, an intelligent, talented, caring person.)

- Sometimes, you have to be the one making the first move. It can be hard to walk up to someone and say, "Want to have dinner together?" or "Would you accompany me on this song?", because it risks rejection, and rejection hurts so very, very much. But I've learned that acceptance feels so very, very good that it outweighs the risk. And I've found that if you extend enough invitations, it increases the likelihood that you'll receive invitations in return. It also has given me enough confidence that, for example, I no longer have a problem walking into the OVFF hotel restaurant alone during the breakfast buffet, and asking a not-quite-full table of people I know if I can join them.

- You get what you give. The old cliche is "To have friends, be a friend," and there's some wisdom in that. Putting aside the official things I do for the community (Interfilk auctions, juried one-shots, vocal workshops), there are habits I've worked to develop. I try to be generous with praise. Everyone loves hearing "I love that new song" or "You did a great set" or "you look fantastic in that dress", and will remeber you for saying it. (Of course, you have to be telling the truth when you say any of those things - people can tell.) I try to congratulate every Pegasus winner at OVFF, and every Hall of Fame inductee at FKO. (At the very least, all the ones I know personally.) If I happen to end up in a conversation, I try to listen more than talk. That sort of thing.

I'm not famous. I'm not one of the writer/performers who fills the concert room, or attracts people to a circle. And I rather doubt that I'm universally loved. But I've made people laugh (as have you), and I've made people cry, and I have a circle of friends who I love and respect, and who I have reason to believe love and respect me. And that's Enough.

Thus endeth the rant.
cflute
Oct. 27th, 2006 11:47 pm (UTC)
I agree with what Mark said both about the not-effortless and about the impostor feeling. I can relate to both.

And I'd just like to say that I think you're *both* really cool folks, I've enjoyed the time I've spent in your company at various cons, and I hope we have the opportunity to do so again, and more frequently, in the future!
(no subject) - markbernstein - Oct. 28th, 2006 12:40 am (UTC) - Expand
jeff_duntemann
Oct. 27th, 2006 04:14 pm (UTC)
I hope you won't mind if your sole sibling weighs in at some length on this, even though I'm outside the filk community.

Much of this has to do with self-perception. I've always perceived myself as an outsider, though looking back across 54 years this seems a little odd: I was the leader of the Fox Patrol in Scouts at 12, the president of the Lane Tech Astronomical Society at 15, and when I got to De Paul and found no SF club I created one and ran it the rest of the time I was there.

And yet I always felt oppressed by the Cool Kids, tho I didn't call them that. I scratch my head sometimes, wondering, "What the hell did I want from them, anyway?" Acceptance? If so, why was their acceptance so absolutely critical? That's still a mystery.

Though I wonder sometimes if evolution isn't trying something new here: A sort of low-level telepathy that enforces a social hierarchy. I got the idea from Colin Wilson, who hypothesized in Mysteries that certain young men seduce women using a kind of subconscious sorcery, and while "sorcery" may be too strong a word, he may be on to something. Let's postulate a sort of mental cloud that surrounds certain people who have the crucial gene, and this cloud demands deference. They have nothing else to warrant deference; one thing I find remarkable about the Cool Kids with whom I crossed swords over the years was their utter ordinariness.

The only evidence I can put forward is that such a gene would be self-defeating, since after a few thousand years to work, a majority of people would have it, and it wouldn't work anymore. Instead, with all those Artificial Alphas trying to telepathically beat one another down on the social hierarchy, social civility would break down--and we're certainly seeing that in the world today.

People like us who don't have that gene have to prevail by producing results, which is why so many in the geek community are so brilliantly creative and successful in a society that increasingly demands results over intimidation. I'm also guessing that the gene is now infiltrating the geek community, with the result that we have our own cohort of subconscious telepathic sorcerers to deal with.

I don't know what's to be done about them, though I've observed that they spend most of their time at one another's throats now. We may still inherit the Earth from the Cool Kids. Patience, patience.

In the meantime, stand on your record. You are a gracious and extremely talented woman, with a length of steel up your back that I wish I had. I doubt I need to say that you're well-known and highly regarded in the filk world. Don't forget the guy I met at a trade show in Arizona eight or ten years ago. He said he was a filker, and when I mentioned your name as being in the filk world, his eyes grew wide and he said, "You're Gretchen Roper's brother!" Interestingly, he didn't remember any of my songs (he was still breastfeeding, if that, when I was writing "The Zero-G Polka) but he remembered you.

Coolness may, a thousand years from now, be remembered a short-lived genetic defect. Don't let it get you down.


patoadam
Oct. 27th, 2006 04:29 pm (UTC)
OT comment
Just want to say that I love your Space Opera song!
ex_hrj
Oct. 27th, 2006 05:44 pm (UTC)
Not so much a direct comment as a comment on topics in the thread. I tend to think that -- very much like the phrase "politically correct" -- the phrase "cool kids" becomes problematic at the moment that it stops being ironic self-deprecating humor and it starts being intended as literal description. But as you suggest, a lot of people in fandom have deep wells of ancient pain, and what began in light humor still cuts too close to the bone for many. Once buckets start going down into the well, there's still a lot of pain to slosh around. (I sloshed a bit around myself yesterday -- breaking a self-made vow not to visit that well any more.) I may ponder some of the less hazardous side-topics in my own journal further.
daddy_guido
Oct. 27th, 2006 08:17 pm (UTC)
so...
In high school I belonged to multiple cliques (this IS possible, if you attend a HS with more than 5000 students) some of them were "cool" and some of them (gaming club, chess club, debate)were NOT. 20+ years later, guess who I still talk to? and who the most successful people are? Not the "cool kids", I can tell you.

I realize the seeds of your discontent are sown in the filk field, an area of fandom I have never been involved in, other than to listen to one of my friends sing, more becaue they were my friend than from any actual interest in the music.

But the filk community cannot be SO different from any of the other fannish "clubs" - GT, DI, etc. All of them have subgroups and politics. At some point you just have to say "fuck it, I don't care what these people think" and just do your thing, and them that likes ya, likes ya. And them that DOESN'T like ya, can shove a hungry pirhana up their ass.

For what it's worth, I think you and Bill are phenomenally talented people. YOU, specifically, have lots of gifts - the music, the crafts, the humor, the acting - and those are just the PUBLIC facing gifts.

The truly important ones, such as how well you treat people, even when they don't deserve it, and how you dote on the people you care about, will never win public acclaim, but make you a good friend, a good wife to Bill, and soon will make you a good mom to your child.

Regardless of what the filk community thinks of you, know that you have a LOT of folks that think you're Damn Cool.
dek9
Oct. 27th, 2006 11:27 pm (UTC)
I'm not involved with filk, and I've even been uninvolved with fandom for some time, although I'm working on that. I could throw in "me too"s with all the people who have said they didn't belong to some grouping of cool at some time. But this isn't about me.

It's about one of the most beautiful (inside and out), amazing, incredibly talented, sweet, energetic (yes!), funny, and even outgoing women I have ever had the GREAT pleasure to know. I will stop and chat with you in the hall at a con anytime, any day. Heck, I'll seek you out, and have.

Having said that - in another month, you will have someone in your life that will make this all seem significantly less important. Not because you're going to be busier than you ever imagined. Not because you will be sleep deprived. Not because you will be staring at you favorite shirt wondering if it's possible to get Apple Sweet Potato out of silk. But because when that person looks at you, you will realize that, to them, you are the most beautiful, amazing, incredibly talented, sweet, energetic (yes!), funny, and even outgoing woman ever. And you will realize that you are the center - the very center - of their universe.

And when they get a little older, and their world expands, you still will be. And I - and many other people that I admire and respect - will still seek you out.
cflute
Oct. 28th, 2006 12:05 am (UTC)
Geez, I seem to be really out of the loop here. Gretchen's gonna be a Mom? WOW!!!!!! *BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE* That's SO COOL! Congratulations!
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