I used to be cool.
Really, I did.
I know that normally, anyone who utters those words probably never had a cool bone in their body. But in my case, I swear it’s true. A long time ago, in a galaxy not so far away, I was cool.
My hair was stylish. Strangers would stop to compliment me and ask me where I had it done. My clothes were on trend, without actually being trendy. Maybe my outfits were a little outside the box, but that’s what made my fashion sense edgy. I wore well-cut blazers and angular cardigans. My jeans were rough and tight, but I would gleefully pour myself into them each day knowing that I looked good. Other people thought I looked good, too. When my mother would buy new clothes, she would ask me to come over and offer my opinion before she removed the tags.
I was once “with the band.” You know, that mildly irritating person who shows up at the venue with her guitarist boyfriend, or tags along with the singer that she is kinda–sorta dating? That was me. I was that person. I radiated coolness.
But at some point, quite unexpectedly, something happened. I woke up one day and realized my coolness was gone. It had been stealthily replaced by something else entirely: parenthood.
These days, I’m no longer the girl rocking out with the band. Instead, I am the woman with the red minivan, who plays the soundtrack to the Disney Channel just a little too loudly for 9 a.m.
My clothes are all the same style now, something I like to call, “Can you tell these are actually pajamas?” I have done painstaking research into how a 35-year-old woman can successfully, yet casually, wear a headband (they can, by God, I know they can). My mom doesn’t ask my advice on clothes anymore. Instead she swings by my house with bags full of her hand-me-downs, which I eagerly go through after she leaves. My well-cut blazers have all been donated, my skinny jeans long since abandoned, and the sharp cardigans replaced by an oversized sweatshirt that says “allergic to mornings” — this is my parenting uniform, the entirety of Target’s athleisure department.
It wasn’t becoming a mom that cost me my coolness. At least not originally. It was a process, a transition that took place somewhere between the first and second kid. Which is weird, because if I described my current self to my teenage self, the latter would be impressed. I’ve got visible tattoos and an asymmetrical pixie haircut. How badass, my younger self would say. I’m wearing octopus leggings and a snarky graphic T-shirt. Hell to the yes, 16-year-old me would think (a saying almost as old as ‘da bomb).
Teenage me had no way of knowing that I would end up looking like every other mom around. Indeed, this look of mine isn’t particularly unique. Millennial moms have pretty much perfected the whole look of a messy ‘do paired with obnoxious leggings and a shirt that says “Tired AF.” In other words, too-cool-to-care messy hair and anti-establishment shirts are today’s equivalent of the mom at Disney in 1989 wearing a Garfield shirt that says, “Ugh, Mondays.”
I am not a cool mom. I am every other mom.
When my mom was raising me, she was all feathered hair and shoulder pads. But when I think back to how I saw her through my eyes, I remember her looking like Princess Diana. Sure, I also remember her in front of the mirror with her Mary Kay make-up kit and hot rollers. I don’t really remember her being cool or uncool, I just remember her being beautiful. I wonder if she felt cool, or did she feel just like every other mom. Did she feel like her days of peace, love, and rock-and-roll were behind her? A decade of peanut butter and fluff sandwiches on her horizon.
The other day I put on make-up and did my hair. I got dressed in actual clothes and had my husband take my picture. Later, when I sent it to my friend, she said, “You look like a mom. I mean, a cute mom, but a mom. Is that what you were going for?”
Maybe it was the charm necklace showcasing the names of my daughters. Maybe it was the way my hair was pinned back to keep most of it out of my face, far more about function than form. Maybe it was the bags under my eyes. Who knows? And honesty, who cares? I am a mom.
And what does cool even mean to me anymore? It’s more than just wearing a shirt that says, “They whine, I wine.”
I am almost 36 years old, and my days of caring what strangers think of me are rapidly coming to a close. Raising two young children and Googling the pros and cons of deferred annuities are the things that really matter to me now, and that’s okay.
I’ll still kill some time during late-night nursing sessions hunting through Pinterest for new ways to style my hair, and I’m always on the lookout for a good deal on a “smash the patriarchy” shirt, but I am done worrying about being trendy. My husband (who is not in a band, but is still the greatest thing to ever happen to me) thinks I’m funny, my parents and siblings all think I’m kind, and my kids don’t want to miss a single thing I do, which leads me to believe that they have their own metrics for cool, and that somehow I make the cut. That’s more than enough for me.