So Prince is gone. Let me say he was the very epitome of what is Cool. For me, and many in my generation, he literally defined the word. Today, while mourning, I was browsing some photos of his best styles. I will never be as stylish as him, many of us won’t. I won’t, not because I can’t, but because I won’t even try. Some people try, my sister-in-law is ridiculously stylish, and I say let them. I am not, nor will I ever be, extraordinarily stylish. But that does not mean I didn’t look up to Prince, and admire him for the beautiful peacock he was.
Was. Oh it breaks my heart.
Anyhow. What prompted me to write about Prince was looking back over those styles and thinking of the first time I saw them. I’m about to get as honest as I can here.
I grew up in the middle of nowhere, in the South. I’d like to say my home state has progressed beyond the attitudes it held in the Civil War, and I know for a fact that many of its people have. I am sorry to say many haven’t. So, me a kid in the eighties, surrounded by mostly people who haven’t. Kids are prone to feel the same way about things that their parents and elders do, and my mom is from the West, and my dad was from the wonderful, beautiful city of Charlotte. So as I remember it, my parents were fairly open-minded, for the area of the country we lived. That’s probably how I grew my progressive attitude. I fully feel each generation improves upon the attitudes of the one before it, and I know that’s true with Millenials and my own Gen X.
Now I’ve dated myself. You’re welcome.
So while I see myself as pretty progressive, I am admittedly still nearer the center than some. And as a child I was even more so. I had limited access to the outside world, as there were about four stations on my TV. And three radio stations, most of which were country. Seriously, I did not get a rock-n-roll radio station that wasn’t oldies until high school. Besides my parents, I had other elders who I looked up to, who were not progressive nor liberal in any way, shape, or form. With limited exposure, it was sometimes difficult to understand mold-breakers. When I first saw Prince, I remember thinking he was a weirdo.
I told you, honesty.
I remember a family member, I don’t know if it was an uncle or not, calling Prince just that when we saw him in that awesome police hat with the chains. Remember?
And, while my head went, “Yeah, what a weirdo”, I know a part of my heart said, “but…” In middle school I finally realized the fact that I didn’t fit in, no matter how hard I wanted to. That I was never going to be one of “those people”. And in high school, I became OK with that. I began to embrace it. And the part of my heart that had said “but…” reminded me of people like Prince. It told me it was not only OK to not fit in, but to embrace it. To become whoever the f*ck you wanted to be, because you could. It was then that I began rebelling against everything around me, which is, now that I look back on it, a completely normal thing to do. And I feel a little bit bad for people that never did. That just fell into the mold and stayed in the mold and never questioned or were too afraid to break it and run away.
I don’t live where I grew up anymore, but the place I live is not a particularly progressive place. Some of my friends live in Washington State, and sometimes I think it must be pretty nice to live in such a fabulous place with awesome people who are cool. But then again, since I grew up in a non-progressive area, and I live in one now, it’s not like I think it’s that bad. In fact, it continues to remind me just how important it is to believe in yourself, and know who you are. I love it where I live, by the way.
The social attitudes of others no longer define me.
I define me.
So when I think back on that kid who thought maybe Michael Jackson was weird, and maybe Prince dressed too much like a woman, I feel a bit ashamed. Because these days I feel quite the opposite. But if I sit here and tell you I always loved them, that is called revisionist history. They were not cool to me then just because they are now.
But their differentness stuck with me, and it made me question. And for that, mold-breakers, people like Prince, will always define Cool.