On being cool

I like to believe that I have always been the coolest person I know. Being cool has always meant being the first to do something, so that when everyone else caught up you could tell them, “I’m too cool for that.” I never used training wheels on my bicycle, instead learning the art of balance by rolling down a hill on a banana-seated two-wheeler and into the splintery throes of a wooden fence. My siblings, also insistent on making me cool, exposed me to a variety of “cool” things early on, like how to jump out of moving cars (age 7), smoke Marlboro reds (age 11), and most effectively beat the pulp out of anyone (I’m still not saying sorry to Bobby Cleveland, age 9). My peers eventually learned these skills as well (some, I may say, more effectively than others), but it took them some time to catch on.

It came as a surprise, then, when I was in high school, that no one ever caught on to loving hair metal as much as I had during seventh grade. Eighth grade came and I was slowly getting weaned off hair metal in favor of a more aggressive black metal, and I thought that perhaps it was just too soon for them to get it. But then there was ninth grade, then 10th, and people weren’t wearing their ripped up T-shirts from last night’s big Poison concert. Something was wrong.

I was beginning to feel uncool, a feeling that only worsened when even my well-intentioned siblings tried to tell me I was at least a decade too late. I started breaking out the old T-shirts. I cut my hair into a punk-rock mullet that I teased up with hair spray (a haircut that, minus the hair spray, may or may not still exist today…). I wanted to try again, and I thought that I might have some more success this time as commercial music television broadcasters began airing specials saying all kinds of wonderful things about Cinderella, Winger, Quiet Riot, and Warrent. I could watch the “Sweet Cherry Pie” video after school, and be impressed with myself for “getting it.”

The thing is, though, even with the TV specials and all the “classic rock” radio stations in Philadelphia that would spin the life out of a Boston or Europe (or Kansas or Asia or London) record, I couldn’t help but feel a little cheated when I went to see Motley Crue during their “Carnival of Sins” tour in 2006, and none of my classmates were there.

Even with all our technology, I still believe there is no replacement for the face-melting shreds, ballsy bare chests, and blatant creepiness involved in videos like Winger’s “Seventeen.” I’ve been waiting nearly a decade now for hair metal to be in style again, making it nearly two decades since its heyday. Now, I’m not saying you all need to feather your hair, but maybe you should, maybe you would like it. I’m just asking — please, let me be cool again. Listen to more hair metal.