A lack of imagination

Orlaith Darling rails against the prevailing “cool” aesthetic in Trinity

Illustration by Caroline McKeon


“If normal is the dreaded anathema avoided by every arts student ever, then being extraordinary now requires a surgical excision of ‘cool’.”

We all have that friend who spent a summer abroad on a noble volunteer programme, where half the money raised was used to fund flights and excursions, and who came back having found themselves and a whole new wardrobe made of dreamcatchers. We all have the friend who, though perpetually broke and unemployed, manages to find the money to spend on gin and tonics and macaroons instead of the cheapest lager going.

We see these people swanning around the arts block in assorted knitwear and fishnets, desperately hoping that onlookers will believe that their granny knit the jumper that they in fact paid a slightly ludicrous amount for in Folkster, or that the rips in their tights are from that epic night in The Workman’s Club , not from the Urban Outfitters catalogue. For those of us raised by an Irish mammy, the word that comes to mind is “notions.”

I am a chronic poser

You may ask if I am writing this piece as a credit to myself. Am I saying that I have escaped the plague?  You are right to question, as I am beginning to sound self-righteous. The answer is “no” (although I did buy my moon-speckled Doc Martins when I was twelve, before some hipster proclaimed them cool). Mea culpa — I am guilty.

I often listen to music that is, in fact, woeful, trying to find a redeeming feature simply because I know that it’s cool. I also commit the cardinal sin of pretending to know who the hell Pink Fishes are, saying that “I love their first album”, only to be informed that they are not, in fact, a “they” at all, but a one-man synth band. Did I take a ludicrous number of photos in the Nomadic Gardens in Shoreditch when I was in London, gleefully littering the internet with evidence of me being cool (and did I take a strange sort of pleasure from being able to reiterate it just there)? Yes.

So there, I am a chronic poser. However in a world where the Glam Squad, innumerable beautifying filters, and a socially acceptable form of the erstwhile ridiculed “duck face” exist, I think I’m safe from being too much of a complete prat. Cue the Phil and their glitter adorned faces and ever-present Kodak cameras. Is it only me who thinks it’s a bit odd to take a polaroid photo, then take another photo of the photo with an actual camera in order to get a new propho? #getphilthy.

“The Pandora-bracelet-toting brigade”

In fact, a classically stereotypical breeding ground for notions are all girls’ schools, where Roxy school bags and Gucci watches are substituted for the fact that we have a bottle green uniform. When I get to college, I naively dreamed, I will be free from notions once and for all. Surely, my youthful innocence bid me yearn, people in college will have better things to do than pose.

My erstwhile experience of the Pandora-bracelet toting brigade was merely supplanted by the painfully self-conscious and self-proclaimed “free spirit’’ wafting around the campus, asking her friends to take “candid” photos in which her hands just happen to be hovering in the air à la Kate Bush. The Facebook posts glorifying their reckless abandon in leaving essays until the night before, knowing that anyone who reads of their spontaneity will instantly wish, “Why am I not that cool?”

I truly believe that I would be an exponentially cooler person if I had delusions of grandeur large enough to barge dramatically (because cool people never enter a room at a reasonable volume) into lectures twenty minutes late carrying a coffee cup from some café with organic beans, outrageous prices, and an industrial-chic interior.

Dammit, why did I set my alarm this morning? Now no one will regard me with a hushed reverence as I’m too bloody normal (note to self: bin the A4 pad and somehow procure a quill and leather-bound notebook in order to fulfill the “starving student scribbling in a garret” image).

Trying too hard to be different

We all want to be different. It’s such a human impulse to send out vibes of desperate distinction. And yet, we all feel a need to be accepted. However it’s a sad day when the only way of exception, and the preferred way of making an impact, is to assimilate to everyone you see around you.

My favourite part of a new friend request on Facebook is to look at their profile pictures. They generally form a spectrum, with images becoming more artsy, more glittery, and more distressed-denim-jacket-clad as they go on. You can almost immediately pick out the moment the person entered Trinity, as there is a jump from a happy Debs Dress shot to a “candid” shot with a self-conscious caption ~written like this~ |or this|.

The point is, to incoming first years, please, please, PLEASE for the love of God, have some imagination. Trinity is supposedly an institution of great thinkers and independent minds, but sadly we need you to make sure that it doesn’t morph into a Grimes music video. Think of it this way: if normal is the dreaded anathema avoided by every arts student ever, then being extraordinary now requires a surgical excision of “cool”.