I wanted to write a node about how to be cool.

I realize that this desire presumes a few things:

  1. There is a standard definition of cool
  2. I know what this definition is
  3. I know how to impart this ability on other people
  4. The act of attempting to be cool does not, by definition, make one uncool

These problems should probably be ignored for the entirety of this node. Trust me. Thinking about them just gives you a headache.

I have a feeling that many baby noders, like myself, believe themselves to be either cool, or capable of making others cool. We may or may not be right in this belief. I think I do a good impression of a cool person. I have a feeling that many of the techniques I use in pretending to be cool can easily be passed on to others.

So, in the interest of self discovery, I'm going to attempt to give you a few tips. Please note, these tips work best for creating a sort of artsy-intellectual college cool. They probably won't make you very popular at the average frat or sorority house.

Funes' Magical Cool Potion

Read stuff, in appropriate situations. Never read in a situation which is social in any way - books create a barrier between you and other people. Good places to read - under a tree on the quad; at home; on a long bus ride. Never read during or between classes, never read during lunch. Always carry an easily portable book, with the dust jacket removed. This gives people a chance to ask you what you're reading, or at least make note of your excellent taste.

Read cool books. Foreign authors are good. Foreign authors who you've never heard of are better. English and American authors who write about problems with the Western world are also pretty damn good. Some good starting points: Jorge Louis Borges, Milan Kundera, Stanislaw Lem, Daniel Dennett, Philip K. Dick, Abbie Hoffman, Anton Chekhov, Vladimir Nabokov, Thomas Pynchon, Mikhail Bulgakov, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Joey Comeau. When you're reading these authors, remember to read any book recommended by the author. Then read any book recommended in that book. Keep doing this until you've read, skimmed, or at least read the summaries of many "good" books. The process can probably be done thoroughly in a few years; a superficial understanding of a wide range of authors can be gained in a few weeks.

Remember that other people matter. Listen to their opinions and recommendations. They will take note of your interest, and return it. Never lose a chance to learn more about someone, no matter how useless or boring that person may appear.

Smile at people. Not all the time, but if you notice member of your favorite sex glancing at you more than once, take the time to smile. If you engage them in conversation, keep the talk casual, and always speak less than the person you're trying to impress.

Get a tan. I don't care how. Just get a tan. No one likes pale people.

Be in shape. While it's true that unfit people can be cool, it is much easier to be perceived as cool when you are basically attractive. On a side note: walk everywhere. You'll thank me later.

Join groups when possible. If you see some interesting people standing around talking, listen long enough to learn the subject of conversation, then unobtrusively enter the conversation. Try making a few witty comments - stuff designed to show your relative lack of knowledge compared to the people around you. Even if you know what you're talking about, never speak more than a sentence or two about the subject of conversation unless you are implicitly asked to. Do not be one of those boring people who never knows when to shut up. Be one of those people who's fun to talk to, but must be drawn out by their listeners.

Don't be predictable. Don't be crazy either, but try to maintain a balance between the two. Do fun and weird stuff from time to time - try sitting on the roof of a building with a group of friends, climbing a tree on the quad, taking a walk in the rain, organizing drunken sing-a longs, go on a thrift store expedition. While these things may not seem "cool", their coolness lies in the unusual nature of the action, and the enjoyment of breaking out of the ordinary with a few friends.

Do not read books about unicorns, dragons, or fairies. These books are inherently uncool. Try to avoid any book with a picture of any animal on it. Also, try to avoid books with pictures of half naked men and women.

Keep your schedule mysterious. This is useful because it allows you to avoid events which aren't fun or cool. If you must go to a party or something, and you aren't sure it's worth your time, show up an hour or two after it's started. Try not to be at any party before midnight.

Keep your friends mysterious. Never hang out with the same group all the time. Truly cool people seem to transcend the normal cliques of college life. They know everyone, and everyone knows them.

Compliment people.

Pay attention to your physical appearance. Things like tattoos and piercings are always cool. Fashion sense is useful. If, like me, you don't have any sort of fashion sense, try asking a friend, sibling, or girlfriend for advice. Take people shopping with you - they'll keep you from buying horrible clothes, saving you cool points and money.

Listen to good music. I personally enjoy Neutral Milk Hotel, The Unicorns, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Death From Above 1979, Godspeed You Black Emperor!, and Broken Social Scene. Your tastes may vary, but I would suggest giving a few of those people a listen. Liking Neutral Milk Hotel is basically a requirement for any cool college student.

Misguided Thoughts and Analysis

Obviously, following this node will not make you instantly cool. Being cool is impossible for a good portion of the population. We just don't have that certain special spark which cool people are born with.

This node is useful in that it may get you started on the long path required to become a cool, or at least interesting person.

If the list seems overwhelming, try picking one item a day, and following it as closely as possible. I think of this as the Benjamin Franklin method.

I realize, as I finish writing this node, that this list mainly includes behaviors which I find "cool" or attractive in a person. This guide could probably be more accurately called, "How to Impress Funes". Let's just hope you manage to salvage some universally applicable advice from the whole thing.

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