At the time I’m writing this, I’m working in a tea shop a few blocks from campus. That I’m writing in public while drinking tea seems to lend itself to the idea that I’m pretty hip, some might even say “cool.” They wouldn’t be right, but I’d be flattered they had said that. In reality, I’m definitely the least cool person at this particular tea shop. It should also be noted that this tea shop isn’t even my go-to one, which is way cozier but not open today, and that information should not factor into the overall evaluation of my social ineptitude.
I think looking at other people provides a good opportunity for some self-examination. And that’s what I’m doing. It’s proving to be a real downer.
The barista here has cooler hair than me. Mine isn’t cool, nor did I make any effort for it to be cool, but the apparent coolness of hers highlights the fantastic uncoolness of mine. Kind of like when you invite someone over to your house and suddenly realize you haven’t scraped the tear-stains from your desk, and your guest can clearly see the sodden outline where you usually lay with your cheek to the comfortable, impassive wood. She’s got that thing going on where her hair is two colors, and while part of mine is also white, it was not a deliberate decision for that to happen.
There’s a woman sitting in one of the little window nooks, and her posture is more relaxed and comfortable than I’ve ever been outside my bathroom. I can’t imagine being able to lounge in public, being comfortable just letting my body go slack and not caring about who sees. I’ve been sucking in my gut since 2004.
There’s someone who looks like another student. They’re on a laptop and sitting at the counter, and they’re actually doing work. I’ve been covertly staring at their computer screen for a few minutes, and they’re clearly working on some intimidating spreadsheet thing, and in all the time I’ve been clandestinely observing this person, they have not once looked up from their work. They took a sip of their tea without even looking at it. I’ve broken two keyboards with that kind of behavior, but they’re just rocking it. How can I measure up to someone who can treat tea as secondary to work when I’m over here staring at someone else’s screen and writing weird shit on my own instead of doing anything productive.
A dog just walked in. It’s attached to someone by a leash, but a person has never mattered less than when they are holding a dog. This dog is wearing a little black vest that says “service animal” on it, and how amazing is it that this dog has got its career all figured out already. It can’t be older than 4, and it already has a great job, stable housing, and visits really hip tea shops. I’m in that stage of post-school panic where I’m applying for jobs, and how can I compare my totally uncertain future with that of a dog who has everything in life figured out before he even turns 5.
I know from the outside I might appear like I belong in this hip tea shop. I’ve got a sparkly coat and some trendy pins, but my coolness ends at the superficial level. I wear cool like an egg wears its shell, a temporary cover hiding something frail and goopy.