It is a rainy, chilly Monday morning. I have to drive downtown to see my dentist. I’m killing time before I leave, playing 8 Ball Pool on Facebook.
My opponent is DarkFeelings, and his avatar looks slightly like a Smurf. I’m guessing DarkFeelings is a male, because this game is the realm of mostly young or youngish men, rock star or gangsta wannabes.
I wonder what they think about my avatar: a meme of Gromit with a caption that says, “Knitting: It makes everything better.”
Nevertheless, I sympathize with DarkFeelings. I have some Dark Feelings of my own.
See, I was left off a Cool Girls List.
In times past I have been a Cool Girl, times when I immersed myself in a culture (or subculture) which eventually consumed me.
Right now, I am not a Cool Girl. In fact, I’m practically invisible. Since my dad’s death four months ago, I have been rebuilding social stamina. I’m not there yet.
But being left off this latest list felt a lot like adolescence, when I was always too something. Too outspoken. Too nonconformist. Too alpha female (whatever that is).
The truth is, I like those things about myself. It’s when I’m ashamed of them that there’s a problem.
DarkFeelings scratches the cue ball and I run out the game, leaving him with five on the table. I offer to play again but the Smurfy avatar vanishes.
My next opponent has a name I cannot decipher, because it is in Russian. It could be Kevin but it could also be Katie. (There are a few women on here.) This player’s avatar is a photo of two young boys holding hands. It’s possible I’m playing one of the boys’ parents.
But on Facebook one just never knows.
Between shots I ponder the old, familiar feeling of shame, a straitjacket from my throat to my ribs. While Kevin/Katie lines up the next shot, I Google “cool girl.” One result takes me to an article, which I passive-aggressively publish to my Facebook page. It theorizes that coolness is borne of practice, a kind of covert conformity to a very subtle standard.
I do not try to guess the identity of the next 8 Ball player. Drawing conclusions from the wispiest knowledge set me up to step off Monday’s curb into a funk. Making assumptions about what I am and ought to be is just no way to get rid of Dark Feelings.
Instead I discuss it with my Higher Power. And I recall that Jesus Christ was a Cool Girl — until He wasn’t; that is, when He was too outspoken, too nonconformist, too alpha male (whatever that is).
I recall also that He was always hanging out with people who would never have made the Cool Girls List.
Then I pick up my knitting.