No one knows exactly when it happens. You look around, look at your life choices, clothes, entertainment, music, and what you do for fun when friends come over. And suddenly, it hits you.
You're not cool anymore.
It didn't happen all at once, of course. There's no single event you can point to and say "That's the day I started acting like my mom." It's more of a slow creeping erosion, like how the tide steals a little more of the cliff each year, until your house of cool falls into the sea of mom jeans and dad shorts.
It takes longer for women. One day, you're in your mid-20s. College is behind you, you've got a job, you're up on the latest fashion, the coolest music, and the best places to drink and dance.
A year later, the car that got you through college is nearly dead, so you upgrade. You move into your own apartment so you don't have to share, and you realize your paycheck doesn't go as far as it used to. So you squeeze one more season out of your wardrobe. You go out with friends once a week, not three. And you're tired of the constant "oonce oonce oonce" of the clubs, so you try a quieter bar and sit on the patio instead.
Besides, what's wrong with staying in once in a while? Do we have to go out every weekend? I just got the new Reese Witherspoon movie. Let's eat ice cream and watch "Miss Matched Southern Belles."
Later, you're worried you haven't seen your boyfriend in a while, and you have to get ready for the wedding, because these invitations just won't mail themselves, and you're still coming, right? We'll have a good time at the bachelorette party, and kick it like we were 21 again!
Months later, you can't go out for drinks because you "have a big announcement," so your friends throw you a shower and make all those "oooooh" noises whenever you hold up anything tiny, which is pretty much every single present.
Except your single friends who just roll their eyes and mumble "lame" when one of your mommy friends tells that cute little story about what Jeremiah did during poopy time, and when you follow her outside for one of her many smoke breaks, she tells you, "you used to be cool, and now you're just one of 'them!'"
Meanwhile, guys hang onto their cool a little longer, but the loss hits us harder. Your husband has spent the last several years hanging out in sports bars, eating wings and drinking beer, because that's all guys ever really wanted to do. Unless he's one of those husbands who's deliriously happy to come to the baby shower, in which case there wasn't much cool to lose in the first place.
After the baby comes, his friends don't see him unless he bumps into them at the grocery store with the baby strapped to his chest like some poopy time bomb.
He's no longer Captain Macho, he's become Dad Man.
And it doesn't get any better for either of you. By the time your kid is six, you know the names of every Disney Princess, every Thomas the Tank Engine character, and every word to every freakin' kids song ever made. Which you hum to yourself while waiting six hours in line for tickets to Yo Gabba Gabba.
You give it all up, all of it, for your kids, to give them a loving, nurturing home that offers every developmental and educational advantage in life, until your little brats inform you that you're not cool, and you probably never were.
Here's what you can do.
When they're old enough to understand "do as I say, not as I did," you'll tell them what life was like B.C. — before children — and all the cool stuff you did when you were in your 20s.
You embellish stories about how you hung out with your favorite band for hours backstage, when really it was just a rush-through, after winning passes from the radio station.
Or you — wisely — tone down those stories, smiling quietly to yourself at the memories.
You show them the photos of all the fun times you had with your friends. You tell them how their own kids will laugh just as loudly at their teenage haircuts. You talk about how you and your spouse met, and what life was like while your family was growing.
And then the coup de grace — you'll tell them what brought you to your sad, sorry, frumpy, uncool state today. You'll gesture at yourself, at your mom jeans, at your dad shorts and dark socks, with a battle weary sense of hard-won pride.
You'll say, "All this happened because of you. I stopped being cool because I became a parent. And it will happen to you too. Welcome to your future."
And the looks on their faces will make your 20-year fall from cool totally worth it.
The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and my other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.
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