Chasing the Cool


When I took Merle to the park alone for the first time, I had a nervous hesitation like on the first day of class. The park closest to our apartment is on a hipster block, frequented by local academics and their families. In University City, these are the cool kids and even as an infant, the kids we want Merle to brush elbows with. For a city, it’s a pretty closely-knit community and it’s tough to break into the in-crowd.  I anxiously did figure eights around the park, explaining to Merle what was going on in the environment around us.  She cooed happily in the sunshine, watching the older children play tag, swing, and speed down the slides, obliviously to my feelings.

And then it happened. Another mom came up and talked to me. Inside I was doing my own little happy dance, but on the outside I kept my composure and the conversation was over within minutes. Walking home from the park, I replayed the interaction in my head over and over. Did I say the right things? Was my outfit stylish enough without saying overdone? Was Merle’s outfit cute? I left high school more than a handful of years ago, but all this time later I was still concerned with being one of the cool kids. I find my college friends in new cities scrambling to become a part of the ‘scene’ in their chosen destinations, striving to be posh in New York or glamorous in LA. For the first time in my life, I was quickly and painlessly taken into the in-crowd, but should it have mattered so much to me? Does the need to fit in ever go away? 

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