Published on October 30, 2013 | by William Thomas


Is it ‘cos I’m (un)cool?

ALN online chief sub-editor, William Thomas [Emanuele Giovagnoli]

When my editor asks: “Wanna go to a press launch party?” it sounds like a top night; free drinks, good food and an excuse to do something in an evening that would otherwise be filled with me drinking by myself or laying semi-comatose watching Mad Men back-to-back.

However, the next part of the sentence is “…in Shoreditch?”. That’s when I realise it’s going to feel like 2009 again.

A problem of mine is only having confidence when someone I trust is with me, so I dragged my friend along to the ever-so-cool-and-trendy Queen of Hoxton.

We silently hovered outside for a minute or two, putting off going inside.

When we reached the rooftop there was a huge wigwam with strings of lights everywhere and fire pits dotted around – I have to admit, it was pretty cool.

‘Cool’ seems to be a recurring theme here. Maybe I’ll run with that.

As the sun went down, the Nordic-themed night kicked off with glasses of hot gin punch and a projector blasting out east London’s very own Aurora Borealis.

The people surrounding us were mainly the type of person you see at every launch party, pop-up fashion show and bar that is cool to be seen at around these parts.

Everyone was a recently-graduated twenty-something – “I’m now writing for this really cool new magazine…”

I don’t know if it has become apparent yet, but I’m quite the cynic.

For me, high school years were spent in a never-ending state of jealousy of everyone I and the school clique system deemed to be ‘cool’.

I didn’t necessarily want to be friends with them, nor was I ever going to be. I also never really wanted to be cool; it was more a case of wanting to be noticed – for the right reasons – by anyone but that girl who no one wanted to fancy them.

Unlike every other student in the country, I am a product of three-tier schooling. So rather than starting high school pre-awkward, I had to make a pretty detrimental move just as puberty began to ruin my life for a few years.

Even now at 21 – having lived in Italy for a year, and endured two years of university in London – I can’t say that I’m feeling any cooler than when I was 16.

In contrast to the six-foot-four statuesque figure that I cut now, I was surprisingly small and weedy and never looked my age. Only recently have I begun to facially look anywhere over 18.

I endured the obvious bullying that you’d expect any seven-stone, five-foot-six, 14-year-old boy who hated football – and most other team sports – would receive from the sporty, but air-headed guys.

I always wanted to be seen, but you easily sink into the crowd when you’re that size and have such babyish good looks.

You can imagine my relief when I finished my GCSEs and started sixth form.

No more uniform that was way too big for me, the air-heads had left for plumber training or sports college and I began to grow and put on weight!

Surely my transformation to cool was imminent and it could happen any day.

Turns out becoming taller than everybody, wearing clothes that fit and getting a girlfriend I didn’t mind fancying me still didn’t have me feeling very cool.

Sixth form wasn’t helpful when it came to popular cliques; we had the ponies, the ‘IT’ club, and the Bridport lot – these can only be described as Dorset’s answer to the hipster.

So this all trickled down into social groups who, yes, were popular but were also open to be infiltrated.

By me.

I find myself wondering if I’d played football or been two stone heavier, would it have made a difference to my adolescent life?

Even now at 21 – having lived in Italy for a year, and endured two years of university in London – I can’t say that I’m feeling any cooler than when I was 16.

I probably still have an uncool taste in music. I lead a fairly uncool, middle-aged life. I wear clothes from M&S, Downton Abbey is a permanent fixture on a Sunday night and I make a bottle of Merlot last an outrageously long time.

Even worse is that I still feel painfully uncomfortable in such social situations, surrounded by dozens of people I don’t know who are – in my mind – judging me.

I used to think that I didn’t care about these trivial high school things, but reading back over this, it is strange how one launch party can raise such contradictory and irrational feelings.

Well, this has been disgustingly uncool. Time to stop for Downton, I think.


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