Wednesday, July 27, 2005

radically uncool


About a hundred years ago, back when I was in college, I remember an afternoon sitting in my friend's apartment on a day that I probably should have been in class instead of smoking cigarettes with Kelly, one of those girls who was infinitely cooler than I would ever be, just because she was born that way. I don't know what it was about her that made me intimidated by her. She was pretty yes. Very fair and blond with grey blue eyes that always looked like she needed just a couple of hours of more sleep. And had sort of an Angelina Jolie body that was lean and curvy at the same time. Boobs that guys would follow you home for. But it wasn't her physical appearance that struck me so much as she was just a straight shooter. Called a spade a spade. She would look at me out of the corner of her eyes, squinting as she took a drag off her cigarette, and I would feel her cool blue eyes piercing right through me, seeing me for what I was, an insecure girl of the sheltered Korean-American variety where rebellion meant not coming out to bow to my father when he came home from work. I wonder if she ever knew I was awed by her. That I was trying so hard. That my bawdy wit and accounts of partying and other deviant acts were all attempts to make her think I was cool too. Like her. Anyway, what I remember about this afternoon was leaning forward in my chair, proselytizing about how I had joined an anti-graffiti league. Trying to convince her to join it with me. I thought I was doing something important, painting over graffiti, putting up murals, doing my part to elevate the ghetto from a social nightmare one street corner at a time. My vision of radical activism. She didn't say a single word throughout my spiel which I took as encouragement to say more. I got all puffed up. But when I was done, she just looked at me and casually said "Why would you want to paint over graffiti?"

There are moments like this when someone utters a single sentence that wreaks complete havoc on your worldview. This was such a moment. Of course. How suburban of me. Thinking within the limited confines of normative society. I just felt so. . . exposed. Such a poseur. Since that time I have never looked at graffiti again without thinking of Kelly. In fact my whole view of the city was completely transformed by that single interaction. Now I find graffiti to be impossibly beautiful. It talks to me and tells me a story of sadness, oppression, creativity and defiance. A rich narrative that I would never have considered without her. I saw Kelly a few years back at my friend's wedding and she was still cool. Not the same but older and even cooler in a way that made me realize that while I may never catch up to her, at least I can even out the playing field by just being myself and being honest about how radically uncool I really am. Because if nothing else, it takes true guts to accept it and I think I'm almost there.

5 comments:

Immortal Beloved said...

This was so beautifully written. Completely open.... you expose yourself in a graceful manner.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in awe of someone too--myself. Ha ha. OK I worshipped Sting.

Anonymous said...

starbuck, you're just feeling radically uncool these days because you can't stop watching BG (not that anyone would want to). the feeling will pass, and you will realize once again that you're cooler than cool.

~Rachael said...

The 'next blog' button finally did well for me. Hi, I am Rachael. Nice to read you. :)
Anyways, I think it’s interesting that you still recall being an intimidated young lady. I think we have been there. I remember times that I was, however I am also very independent and hard headed so I don’t think I was in that state as much as others. I was always in my own little world. Still am…
Maybe I should still be there…not quite old yet. But I got to say that your buddy that you ditched class with to smoke probably thought that you were something special as well.

minsuhson said...

Forgive me if I take a Gomer Pyle moment here to snort and say "Aw shucks"...