travel with me from SAHM to working mum….
I have just taken a test to determine whether I am ‘Cool at 40?’. I suspect that, although elements of what I do, say, wear, eat… might be described as ‘cool’, much of what is truly hip is flying straight over my head. Ok, I don’t buy my jeans from M&S or Gap, but at a proper jeans shop, or at least a concession in a department store; I tweet – gotta up that digital profile if I want to be a writer; I don’t listen to Radio 2 and am currently in a battle with my soul between Radio 4 (talking) and Absolute (rock music station aimed at White Van Man); I am pretty up-to-date on the most talked about tv shows and box sets: Mad Men, The Killing (in Danish), Homeland…
This quiz was at the end of an interview with Jon Hamm (Mad Men’s Don Draper) by Amy Raphael. Now, Mad Men is undoubtedly cool, with its stylised wardrobe, sets and excellent script. Don Draper is very sexy in a distant, pre-feminist, I-can-tame-the-bad-boy way, a Mr Darcy for the early-1960s, but is he cool? Jon Hamm is, well, is as Amy describes him. He lost his mother at 10, his father at 20 and feels he was raised by the local community is St Louis so success after these heart string tugs is definitely ‘cool’ (Urban Dictionary definition: worthy of approval). When the interviewer meets him she describes him as looking a bit ‘rough’, unshaven, dressed down, slugging black coffee. She goes on to mention that, when he first arrived on the set of Mad Men, some of the writers thought that he was a delivery boy due to his baseball cap and shorts.
This is the most important consideration when trying to be cool. Don’t try, or look like you’ve been trying, too hard.
When I discovered that Jon Hamm was a year or two younger than me and had grown up in St Louis, Missouri, like my University friend, I texted her, excitedly: ‘You might have gone to school with Don Draper!’ We continued our textersation and she remarked that: ‘Of course you are cool. But the cool don’t have to think about it. Effortless, baby…’ Now, she is incredibly cool in the way that only confident people who have shifted cultures and countries throughout childhood can be. They have to rely on an inner sense of style when faced with constantly changing peer rules. Self-preservation. And, as she remarks, she doesn’t even think about it.
As for me, obviously thinking very deeply about the subject, how did I do in the test? Well, I engineered ‘mostly As’ which means I am ‘cool in exactly the right way for a forty-something. [I am] age-appropriate cool.’ Ok. So just call me ‘classically middle-aged’. Note to The Times newspaper: Don’t tempt me with quizzes promising flattering character revelations, I’m not cool enough to resist.
(I will link to the article, but Rupert Murdoch hides the Times behind a pay wall, so good luck!)