Remember that cute little film Juno? There is one scene where Juno (played by the adorable Ellen Page) tells her love interest Paulie Bleeker (played by the hilarious Michael Cera) that she digs him because he is so cool without ever trying. Paulie responds that he tries really hard to be cool, all the time in fact. Unknowingly, or perhaps on purpose, Paulie has exposed one of the cornerstones of the Modern American Male mentality: the constant strive toward maximizing coolness.
I’m sure you already know that guys put a lot of emphasis on being cool or acting cool or appearing cool, but what you ladies don’t know is how deep this desire is engrained into the male subconscious, bordering on fanaticism. Pursing coolness starts at an early age and continues well into adulthood. As soon as the male becomes aware that he has a public image, he starts romanticizing being cool, usually around 10 or 11. And this continues until the male realizes that he no longer has to make an impression on anybody, which happens around retirement.
A more important note is that guys define “cool” as what they perceive women want, not what women actually want. Some guys think that women want the nonchalant, irreverent, pseudo-bad boy who talks off the cuff and has the body to back it up (think Tyler Durden). So they will go to extremes to embody this image – getting some ink done, hitting the gym for some P90-X and rocking an Ed Hardy hoodie. Some guys think women want the uber-cute, semi-hipster, lonely-boy intellectual with a heart of gold (think Dan Humphrey). So they will do the New York Times crossword on public transportation, get some thick-framed glasses and buy skinny jeans in a dark wash.
From so much exposure to clichéd gender roles, guys have developed a warped view of what women want and they subsequently behave that way, for better or worse. In countless movies/shows/videos over the decades, guys see that flippant bad boys get girls and therefore they mimic this behavior. The character of Don Draper (from Mad Men) is the epitome of cool, and yet he is also a misogynist and an alcoholic. Yet look what Don Draper has done: guys from Murray Hill to West Hollywood are trying to imitate him. (Ironically, Don Draper was also voted Number 1 most influential male of 2009 by AskMen magazine!)
The pursuit of coolness lies at the core of an incredible amount of guy behavior, from the clothes they buy to the intonation in their speech. But the important thing to remember about coolness is that perception is what drives male behavior. Once you get to know the guy you may be surprised, pleasantly or unpleasantly, at their true nature. The gym rat meat-head could end up being a closet dork and a certified Dungeon Master. The soft-spoken boy next door could be an egotistical womanizer. Guys will put in a lot of effort into presenting an image of what they think that you think is cool, but the reality could be far different.