I’ve come to accept — I’m not cool.
I’ve never been a trend setter, I’ve never been a source of gossip, I never draws gasps of oohs for my attire; my cost centres don’t nod their heads in approval as I shimmy delectably on the dance floor, I have never been profound in my contemplations. Nor am I the friend every woman wants as their bestie.
In fact I need to come out of the closet. I am the opposite of cool as I am a lover of cringe. And when you are in such a harem, there is no overlap with cool.
For many years I tried to hide this vein of my personality; deny and pass it off as ludicrous. Because of course — who doesn’t want to be cool. But in recent years I’ve decided it is time to come clean, to myself more than anything, because so what if I am ridiculous or tacky? It’s a part of me. My social capital may be shot but if I’m asking my cost centres to be themselves and not to worry about what other think of them, surely I should also walk the same talk?
Although the term cringe means something that causes you embarrassment or awkwardness, we are continually re-defining what it encapsulates. What is cringe seems to vary dependant on your tribe but is also influenced by the waves that ripple through society which are not always visible and can be hard to define. A New York Times article flags that cringe can be playfully wrong and other cringe can be faux pas wrong dependant on who you are trying to impress. The article goes on to say the term cringe has increased in use in recent years particularly since 2012 when the cringe emoji appeared. Amusingly, the word is an adjective, verb and noun : a cringey moment, the film is cringe, a cringe song.
The Guardian had a thought provoking piece about this topic and why we feel this emotion though it still isn’t obvious to me the evolutionary imperative for its existence. ‘The moments that make us cringe are when we are yanked out of our own perspective, and we can suddenly see ourselves from somebody else’s point of view. Often in these moments we are reminded that there can be a stark difference between the way that you see you and the way that others see you’. The psychologist Philippe Rochat terms the gulf between these two perceptions ‘the irreconcilable gap’. The article further discusses why this causes us embarrassment and suggests it arises from a ‘distinction between the lived and the corporeal selves: the former is in your head, whereas the latter is out there in the real world. You can pretend that these two selves are one and the same, until some kind of awkward mishap occurs and yanks you out of that fantasy. Then the me walking around out there does not always do such a good job of living up to the standards of the me that exists in my imagination’.
Hence the sentiment of cringe emerges from the fear of rejection by society. It is why we feel it and why others use it as a way to gauge a person. In some ways cringe demands us to be the same as each other as it pokes fun at those who aren’t. It is partly why we go through life attempting to limit our embarrassment.
To sum up. cringe is a product of our self consciousness, social anxiety, insecurity.
But why do others feel cringe for us? In 2012, Reddit started a cringe repository with content which was ‘hard to watch, embarrassing or impossible to sit through’. It has over 1.3m members who essentially are engaged in judging others. I imagine on viewing, their excruciation for us emerges from these three factors :
Someones ignorance as to how embarrassing they are.
Empathy for the person being humiliated — though appreciative it isn’t them.
Wanting to feel intellectually superior.
This has made me realise although superficially cringe is benign, it can have sinister undertones whether you are the person feeling it for someone or for yourself……..According to Vox we should be wary of dismissing cringe as harmless. For example they believe the Reddit repository provides ‘content deemed humiliating on account of the poster’s looks, behaviour, or talent, and the lack of apparent self-awareness about those things’. That is, someone feeling cringe on my behalf may be judging me less for my social gaff, but more for who I am and I feeling cringe may be doing the same about myself.
I realise I’m stretching. I really don’t think too seriously about cringe other than believing you should be proud of who you are and what makes you you. Worry less about other people and their judgements. Long live shameful enjoyment!
Here I am proud to list, are some of my bad tastes or cringey moments.
The films Armageddon, Independence Day, Grease
Preferring original Kit-kats over fancy, high end chocolate
Loving Kylie Minogue and The Backstreet boys
Secretly practicing pop video dance moves
Identifying McDonalds fries as one of the world’s greatest inventions
Open and proud of being a ‘Pushy mum’
‘Squidging’ cost centre 3’s pert bottom when she lets me
Singing like I’m Beyonce as I’m walking in public with my headphones on
Wearing us much sparkle as the eye can manage in my going out outfits
Drinking sparkling wine in my favourite glass which is not a Champagne flute because it somehow tastes better….(my French friends despair)
Having a joke routine including this classic…..’Did you hear about the frog that had a dna test. He found out he was 48% English, 48% Irish and a tad pole….’
Though come to think of it — perhaps my enjoyments are so cringey I’m actually almost cool? Well, that’s for you to decide….