A Cool Digression

    Marcello Mastroianni got name-checked in my last post. He, perhaps with Steve McQueen and Robert Mitchum also at the apex of their celebrity, possessed the easy to notice but nearly impossible to attain quality of cool.

    They radiated it at the height of their movie careers. Plenty of my male contemporaries entering the most potent phases of our lives aspired to be one or the other. Ah. A lot of us aspired to carry ourselves and be regarded on the same levels.

    Truth be told, in our affluent suburb, we could get and drive flashy wheels though were too callow to pull off the right effect in suits. Apparently one even needs a certain comportment to properly fit in tailored garments. These manifestations within our characters remained unformed until later in life.

    Yet we had the excessive and selfish living part down early. To the ultimate detriment of Baby Boomers, our parents succeeded sparing us character building exercises. They did their utmost to make sure we lacked little. Which best explains why we’re spoiled as adults today.

    My previous Mastroianni mention encompassed drawing envious attention and enlivening the atmosphere at a lounge. A nightclub or party would’ve sufficed just as easily.

    Cool itself is hard to define. To quantify. It’s also hard to achieve, harder to maintain, and fades too soon. For a moody moment, though, it’s easy to recognize and succumb to its sway. However, if you’ve been fortunate to have borne cool in your prime, then becoming distinguished or dignified is the latter-day acknowledgement.

    While women present, men project. Except one can’t really project cool. One exudes it.

    Caprice bestows the trait. There is no method by which one can acquire cool. Indeed, it’s sui generis.

    Strivers can ape the attitude, practice the moves, pray the suit drapes just right, hope all the effort sufficiently impresses the gullible, but in the end aren’t the gestures empty and the steps unsure? What greater pleasure is there than watching flop sweat bead upon the foreheads of those recognizing their fake cool isn’t making the cut?

    There are templates yet these designs are beyond most of our ken. It’s not only weariness Mastroianni achieves in La Dolce Vita or La Notte. Despite the available bounty swirling around him he makes us conscious of its meaninglessness. Under similar circumstances who among us wouldn’t just shrug our shoulders and willingly go to seed by submitting?

    Okay. Maybe that’s a European conceit. A theme of a Thomas Mann story maybe? It’ll take American civilization centuries before we understand merely devouring plenty is simply empty gorging. Until then give us bigger and shinier stuff.

    From my observations, the decisive determinant should be an ease within one’s own skin. Only obsessive personalities clamber for perfection. When they fall short, which often happens, it’s not the failure which upsets them but their own fallibility. We all have limits. Recognizing and working within them curtails awkward moments.

    There is confidence. And then there is awareness. The first all too often leads into foolhardiness. The second fosters clarity which begets admiration.

    Who hasn’t heard that clothes make the man? No. The man wearing those fabrics increases their attractiveness. Designer labels confer shallow prosperity. Without proper presence, someone filling out Brioni can come across as basura in raiment.

    I guess that explains cocaine’s popularity with the inept, backwards and clumsy. Snort enough bumps and even schlubs are transformed into royalty. Unfortunately, the Highness these flights summon most is Edward VIII.

    Doubtlessly Mastroianni, McQueen or Mitchum never seriously regarded themselves as cool. Maybe they put on star-struck observers with some cool-daddy behavior, but weigh down the inexplicable with gravity? Nah.

    It would have been uncool.