"Hazel, you're SO cool," said Alice to me today. She said it with a laugh. Her job title calls her 'intern', but she's just a junior just-out-of-school version of Jenny and me, which means they get to pay her less. I'd been discussing my plans to take music to Cornwall to play with a Real Piano and my intention to sit in front of the telly (new Wallace and Gromit AND Doctor Who on Christmas Day!!) with my crochet. She clarified my coolness as 'in a retro sort of way'. In a mad maiden aunt kind of way is what she meant. I have no problem with this; it's definitely the direction I picked for myself without really thinking about it at some stage. I aim to be my brothers' children's favourite aunt. I'll add it to the ambitions list. I'm quite looking forward to the idea.
Is it bad that I was thrilled to be called cool? I've never really imagined anyone thought I was cool, especially a popular and chatty 18 year old - even when I WAS one. Well, when I was a chatty 18 year old anyway. I was always too weird to be popular. I had friends - a few very close ones and a big circle of people I could talk to - but I was never 'popular'. Which is a hard concept to break down, because it isn't really about how many friends you have, though that's part of it. It's about being looked up to by other girls. Boys aren't so much a feature, but the popular girl needs to have a few about - picking the cream of the crop and leaving a the leftovers for her posse. She's probably sporty, that's always acceptable, whatever level of society. In my school, everything else was a bit dependant. I think the most popular girls were sporty, but didn't really stick out in other things. As a school we weren't good enough at drama for that to matter much, though some people did become popular that way. Music was a good wheeze, if it was in the right way. There are different sorts of being musical. Not too academic, but not the bottom of the class. Enough money. Able to go out at weekends. Boys, but not too many. There's a difference between popular and a slut, at least at a north London independent school for Nice Girls. Being pretty, or a certain sort of pretty, is important too. Who am I thinking of? Dani, I guess (her surname escapes me...that's bad, I spent an awful lot of time with her - she played lacrosse). And Ellena Spyrides, in a different way. Others. Jenny Aylard had a coterie, too. Laura Harding? Never quite got it polished properly. Chloe Carberry had a shot, but she could put her foot in it. Vicky Leverett. She had the polished prettiness required, and the boys, and the otherwise middle of the road progress through the school.
I should say, being 'popular' isn't an indictment. I could probably have put the above in a nicer way, not that I think any of those people will ever read it - as I say, I was never popular. And if they weren't the top of the year, it was because you were rarely popular up there, and in our school, coming in the top third or so was still an achievement; it was an academic place.
'Cool' changes. I wasn't 'cool' for being weird at school, but I get to be cool for being weird now. I like that. Obsessions with choral singing, books, cooking and yarn sports makes me cool. I like that. And I don't think I'm quite the housewife those hobbies make me sound.