I have come to the realization that I am not cool.
This is not a stunning revelation for the world at large, since no one has ever thought of me as cool. But on a personal level, this information has both saddened me and been a bit of a relief.
Like most people, I have painful memories of trying to fit in as a child. I wore, said, and did pretty much what everyone else did. My goal was to not stand out in any way. I aggressively homogenized myself. I did not aspire to be "cool." That was the lofty stuff of a Clint Bajakian, or a Paul Slye—classmates of mine. I wanted only to avoid being "uncool." A second-tier matador doesn't worry about vanquishing the bull; he concentrates on survival. So was my approach to "coolness."
For the better part of my adult life, I proudly avoided nerd/nimrod/goober status. I was always just cool enough.
As I gained success as an actor, my coolness quotient remained essentially the same. Notoriety did not bring extra coolness, only more awareness that I was nominally cool.
And then it happened. I found myself in the men's clothing section of Target (a store I cannot leave without making at least a nominal purchase). There they were: cargo pants. One hundred percent cotton, three colors from which to choose (tan, dark tan, and khaki), and pockets. Lots and lots of pockets. I wanted these pants.
But wait. Cargo pants? Surely I couldn't be serious. These were not what other semicool men my age wore. I wasn't a world explorer, or a photographer. I didn't work at a zoo.
I loved them, though. Especially the gigantic pockets on the legs. Perfect for a wallet, sunglasses, lip balm, keys, can of soda, cell phone. No, wait—there was a sub-pocket specifically designed for cell phone portage. These pants would be mine.
And they were. In all three colors. With that purchase went every glimmer of hope that I would ever be seriously cool. Steve McQueen did not wear cargo pants. Nor did Cary Grant. Legend has it that JFK once wore cargo shorts at the family compound in Hyannis Port. But Rose demanded that he change.
Maybe the coolest people are the ones who don't care about being cool. Maybe I will start a new trend. Perhaps I'm so out, I'm in. Nope; that's a lie. I've just given up trying, and I am content in my failure. And besides, I can carry around a meatball sub in my pants.
More Big Realizations
From the August 2012 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
We Hear You!