Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Hip Hop Havarti

After a day of intense seminars by judges, academics, practitioners, and educators, the attendees of the conference were in for a treat.

The suits piled into the small space behind the flimsy room divider in Ballroom #2. An elaborate wine and cheese spread had been arranged. We began politely sipping our wine and chatting in hush tones about the day’s themes.

Then, from the corner of the room, under the large luminous chandelier, using a patch of the ubiquitous leaf-patterned carpet as their stage, three young hip hop artists emerged. Bandannas. Baggy pants. Running Shoes.

We fell silent. A piece of gorgonzola dropped out of the gaping mouth of the elderly fellow beside me.

The artists sprung to life to the loud repetitive beats blasting from the large speaker that had been set up beside the performance space.

I looked around at my shell-shocked colleagues. Those who had begun the wine and cheese in casual conversation, now appeared to be huddled together for support. Some looked bemused, others fearful.

A few tried to ignore the music and kept chatting. Some began to clap along to the beat. One woman began doing what looked like a jig. The rest of us exchanged furtive, sidelong glances acknowledging how incongruous this scene had just become.

But as I started to catch the vibe being thrown out by this music group, I was beginning to tune into the vibe from the audience that was now coming into stark relief:

The vibe of collective uncoolness.

I have always been interested by this elusive concept of cool. I enjoy studying groups and figuring out who is the alpha in the pack. I’m fascinated by that hair-clipped poof that women in my area are wearing. But most of all, I’m interested in the way in which people’s perceptions of their own coolness shape their interactions with others.

Certainly, M & I had plenty of time to contemplate the concept during the high school prom while waiting out the slow songs in the girl’s bathroom. M was my unofficial date. S, who wore his grandfather’s kilt to prom, was my other unofficial date. When our friends lined up for a big group photograph at A’s garden pre-party, he stood (about half a foot) behind me. In the photograph, rather than the intended illusion of him being my date, S appears to be some random guy in the background who happened to stick his head in the frame and smile.

I’m not the only one who has made a study of cool. My friend Y has an elaborate theory about "Cool" with a capital "C" and "cool" with a lower case "c". Her theory is that the former is a main-stream type of high school, highlighted, lululemon Cool. The latter is a post-prom counter-culture anti-establishment cool. It is far better, she says, to be little "c". She assures me that this is what I am.

According to research, while true coolness is innate, it can be studied and copied. Author Neil Strauss has written a book, "the Game," for men who are not innately cool. The author studied cool men in their natural habitat and has wrote a guide to emulating cool. Apparently, by following a few simple rules, men can effortlessly bag women.

In reality, my interest in coolness has lost any emotional force and has become purely academic. I no longer feel sorry for the prom girl me who spent ten minutes with her hands under the dryer, while Stairway to Heaven droned relentlessly in the next room. I would like to think that if I were to attend the prom today I would wear a funkier dress, avoid that awful chicken, and, with or without a date, I would dance.

So why couldn’t I get into the hip hop today?

The heels - just couldn’t do it in the heels.


Blogger Lisa said...

I'm sure that in this particular scene, you were looked upon by your colleagues as being "C"ool. Hey, i've dragged you to hip hop aerobics. I know you knew better than any of those old folks (like the one who gasped with cheese)how to groove to the music.
Dont be so modest, sis, you are a hip hop-ing, capital "C" Cool gal. Or perhaps I'm just that much bigger of a loser. Perhaps.

8:51 AM  
Anonymous M said...

OK...we weren't total losers at prom. At least we went....and hey...I was the one that was greeted at the front door by none other than the "Prom King" himself (who was also my ex-boyfriend)with a "Gee I heard you weren't coming. That's great that you came"....
I was not amused. You were still a better date than that ass. And we had fun at the after-party, despite you refusing to take out your very expensive french twist, because you wanted to get your money's worth out of it (ok maybe that part wasn't cool). If only those high school jerks could see us now....

3:30 PM  
Blogger Nadine said...

Ha! I had forgotten about the after-party - though I had not forgotten about my hair spray helmet.

Remember that wierdo twin you were dating who came to the hotel? He was so terribly concerned that you were going to rob him of his virtue...

8:00 AM  
Blogger Andrew said...

Small "c" cool and effort are inversely related -- the harder you work at it, the less cool you are since the source of cool is being oneself without self-consciousness -- autrement dit, authenticity. Were your colleagues small "c" cool, they would have laughed in delight at the incongruity of the moment and begun to sway (however awkwardly) to the beat with cries of "Props!" and "Yeah you know me!" However, since they were working so hard to be big "c" Cool lawyers, small "c" coolness escaped them like a leaf whirled away upon a gust of fall wind.

6:57 PM  

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