“That’s so lame!” has been edited by Suraj Zala.
I open my laptop after an emotionally jarring experience – I want to write about it, to get it off my chest. I am at that absolute point where I have already been swallowed by my emotions. As a writer, I cannot wait to put out this turmoil or heartache into words. But the screen is crowded with internet tabs about part-time jobs, restaurants that I can order food from, and a spreadsheet of my deadlines. It’s as if the world is telling me – again – that my feelings are irrelevant. That they are lame. You know the word. Every other person will say that something is “lame” just to look cool. In our world, the definition of cool is too cool to care. Cynicism is cool. Blasé is cool. Being dispassionate is cool. Being disinterested is cool. I’ve even seen apathy be cool.
Maybe that’s why, in our world, mental illness also exists. It is a by-product of our attitudes. We teach our children that big girls and big boys don’t cry. We bully our classmates for being softies or liking emotional music. We laugh at young men for wanting to watch romantic films, at grown men that cry at their wedding or get excited at their child’s first recital. We are embarrassed when our parents gush over us at our football matches and we are disgusted at people who “publicly display affection” for their partners.
One of the most searched things on Google today is, “how not to give a shit” and one of the more popular phrases used by young people is “CBA”. Especially during your teenage years, you’re practically a nobody if you don’t listen to heavy metal or any kind of angst-filled music about people who don’t care about things anymore, wear black and grey clothes and slack people off, wandering about in a devil-may-care, rebel without a cause attitude. Feelings are lame. Emotions are lame. Ask any fifteen-year-old. Titanic is lame. The Notebook is lame. Forrest Gump is lame. Celine Dion is lame. What’s not lame? The Fast and the Furious. Need for Speed. Mission Impossible. Linkin Park. Green Day.
Come on, don’t tell me these weren’t the things you idolised at fifteen. Don’t tell me you weren’t proud of yourself when you could pull off saying “Ugh, that’s lame” with a complete devil-may-care attitude and out of the corner watched the little kid look up with awe at the big kid who was too cool for anything. Remember how your school’s social hierarchy got overthrown by some new kid? There would always be that one guy who was cooler than the rest. Everyone looked up to him and he walked with the arrogant knowledge that he was better than you.
But then, one fine day, a new kid walked in, looked at something Mr Cool was doing and went, “oh, that’s lame”. What?! You’re cooler than the coolest guy here? Bam! Hierarchy overthrown. Because if you think that’s lame, then what kind of a life do you lead? In a way, I guess, that is what being cool is all about – to portray that, “I live an extraordinary life and compared to what I’ve got, nothing here impresses me.” This is just so you know that I am better than you. Though the only proof you’ll ever have is seeing me unimpressed with your world.
Even in dating, they say that people are more attracted to those who don’t seem interested in them. And once they are interested, you don’t want them anymore. Maybe taking someone who doesn’t care and then journeying with them emotionally to a point where they do, is the achievement we’re after. That’s probably why us girls want to find a bad guy, marry them, and turn him into a good man. We want to be given a bad child and through our selfless care and love, make them good. We want charity cases so the world can validate us on seeing how “kind and caring” we are. For us, these achievements would mean that we constantly live in the knowledge that out of love for us – that man or that child loved us so much – that they changed their way for us. It’s some twisted validation that by some charming quality of looks or intellect, we changed a person who didn’t care.
It’s not just that. We even have movies that glorify the lack of expression, preferring to idolise overly stoic manliness, like anything with Vin Diesel in it. These days, (I’m going to say it) we even have movies that often glorify mental illness. Because let’s face it – movies are a glorification business. Beyond some extent, anything that is shown in movies is glorified. If you are in a movie, you are cool, even if you are the villain, and with the amount of young, attractive women who face depression in our movies today, making pretty pictures wearing pastel dresses in vignetted sepia frames or vintage faded Malibu “drinking away my troubles” scenes, mental illness seems to be quite a status quo thing now. If nothing else, at least, it is a good enough excuse for you to not be cool in any other way.
So, when I open my laptop screen, it’s not as if I didn’t open those other tabs myself. It’s not as if I wasn’t the one searching for jobs or food to eat tonight or organising my deadlines. But that was me in the morning and my morning-self didn’t close the tabs because she assumed that I would still want to do this at night. Why? Because it’s practical. It’s an efficient use of time, and the other alternative would be to wallow in my own emotion. And quite frankly, my morning-self thinks that is lame. So, now, when I open my laptop, I dread the consequence. I dread, in this human moment of emotion, being reminded of the formality of this world. Of the fact that the skills I should aspire to acquire should be transferable, like time management and organisation. That my morning-self was right in scheduling an efficient use of time. That it is more important to be practical than anything else. But mostly, I am reminded of the cold and dry world I live in, where executive officers do much better than writers and musicians.
To read more by the author of “That’s so lame!”, click here.