* a poem *
You are free from many things,
but you are not exempt from the rules.
Even you, yes you, have rules to follow.
and the results are infinite.
See that boy over there?
His crossed arms,
slightly alcoholic breath masked by minty freshness
and unfairly long eyelashes
mark the beginning
of an identity
that he will hold onto
for as long as he can.
He wants to follow the rules.
Rule Number One:
Let nothing impress you.
Whatever it is,
Just walk by it.
Make fleeting eye contact.
Shrug your shoulders.
Do not smile unprovoked.
When you receive a compliment,
Do not say thank you.
You already knew that.
Rule Number Two:
Let nothing scare you.
Thunder and lightning?
Teachers and principals?
Make them cry if you can.
Wear a tie.
You got this,
Rule Number Three:
Hang out with other people who
and Smoke Pot.
Have Casual Sex.
Slip your hands into your pockets
and leave afterwards
with a shrug.
Maybe you enjoyed it.
(But only maybe. You can’t be impressed by her, remember?)
Rule Number Four:
Think highly of yourself.
If the moment comes when your self-opinion falters,
fill the empty thought-hole
with knowing guffaws
and sit on the couch next to someone who is
not as cool as you are.
Which brings me to Rule Number Five:
Remember that most people in this world are
not like you.
When you can help it, do not give them a chance.
It is like you are human, and they are bug.
Make them cry if you can.
(But only subtly. They must think you are sort of nice).
And Rule Number Six is implied in Rule Number Five
but sometimes you forget
because nobody is perfect
so I will advise you loudly and clearly:
Do Not Get
one of them.
Because this is what will happen:
It will start on the phone.
You will talk to her
and she will listen to only your voice
and she will not see your shrugs
and she will not remember who you are
and you will start to forget who you are
and you will sit across a table from each other
and you will share your French fries
and you will make lasting eye contact (no!)
and you will smile unprovoked (I told you not to!)
and you will be impressed with something she says (no, no, no!)
And before you know it,
you are not even having sex
because she has limits
and you are drinking more with your friends
because you can’t drink with her
and you are opening yourself
because she has the key
and you are facing yourself
because she holds the mirror
and you can’t you can’t you can’t do that
so you open the car door
and push her out
because she has threatened to impress you;
she has threatened to scare you;
she has threatened to change you—
but the ice has frozen over and it is too late.
You will always be cold.
Rule Number Seven:
Commit to nothing and to no one.
Except to these rules.
* * *
Inspired by my experiences as one of them and by the spoken word poet Sarah Kaye, who says in her Ted Talk: “The number one rule to being cool is to seem unfazed. Nothing scares you or impresses you.”