It had to be the shorts. It was the only possible explanation and even that was a stretch. I tremble and shake as Lucy, my 3-year-old daughter, tried to explain the situation.
“Lucy, why did you grab that man’s hand?”
“Daddy, I thought it was you.”
“What do you mean, you thought it was me?”
“He looks like you.” I stand up from my crouch and stare; my head tilts left then right. I look back to Lucy.
“You thought HE, looked like ME?” She nods. “That guy, right there?” She nods again. I’m confused. This man, this being, didn’t resemble me at all. Black socks and flip-flops, a yellow Polo shirt which was being swallowed by a “purplish” cardigan, Packers cap backwards, and shorts…the shorts were fine.
She thinks HE, looks like ME. After a pause I suddenly realize what is happening. A panic builds, my palms begin to glisten with sweat and the playground begins to spin. This is not about a stranger, or how he looks, it’s what he represents. It’s his complete lack of coolness that she was drawn to. I know, in seconds, my run with Cool will be over with.
From a very early age Cool had always eluded me. In high school, people came up to me all the time and said, “Hey you look just like that dude from the Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” I remember thinking, yeah I can see that. Then I’d get a really hip swagger and begin to imitate Ferris… he was cool.
“No no no… not Ferris,” they’d say, “The other dude, his friend, Cameron.” Yup, I was Ferris all right; smooth with the ladies, smart and suave. I could totally see the resem…. Wait what!? Cameron!? Oh no no, I’m a Ferris! Cameron looks … he’s just, well, he’s NOT COOL!
Thank God, sometime during my twenties the guy who played Cameron turned 40ish and thus, I was relieved of my duties as his un-cool doppelganger. However, I soon evolved into an apparent dead ringer for Joey Fatone (You know, the fat guy from the boy band). Unbelievably, this resemblance extended my coollessness streak to 16 years.
The idea of “cool” changed drastically after Lucy arrived. As soon as she was old enough to use the word, I became the definition. Everything I did was “cool.” Driving, dressing, eating with a fork… there were no limits. For the first time in my entire life, I was 24-hours-a-day-cool. Eat that, Fatone! My ego was as big as ever, but eventually all good things must come to an end. Today Cool was needed elsewhere; he would have to jump ship. Somewhere close a child is about to say the word that will change an ordinary unsuspecting man into an unstoppable force, he will become a cool dad. Little does he know, holding this title will be his toughest job, because Cool doesn’t stay around forever.
I grab Lucy by the hand and watch as a man crosses the monkey bars in front of his son, “Cool, dad.” Just like that, it is done. I wave at the smiling man, who hesitantly waves back. As we turn to walk away, I’m sure he’s thinking, “Who was that nerd?”