How "Delightful" is Overtaking "Cool" and Why This News is Good for Our Kids

Photo credit: Meredith Carroll
I often describe my daughters as delicious and delightful

Megan Garber over at The Atlantic recently wrote an interesting piece on the renaissance of the word “delightful,” and how it seems to be replacing “cool” in the minds and actions of many.

On the one hand, “delightful” suggests not just charm, but the best kind of charm there is; “the kind that isn’t trying to be charming. The kind that takes you, just a little bit, by surprise,” Garber writes.

But going a bit deeper, “it likely has to do, at least in part, with the fact that ‘delightful’ now has a decidedly retro affect,” she said. It’s “the lexographic equivalent of artisanal pickles, or horn-rimmed glasses, or Zooey Deschanel: It seems to be visiting us from another place and another time.”

Both of my daughters have old-fashioned names because my husband and I are suckers for a simpler time. Admittedly, we never really lived in that time, but we read and reminiscence about it like we are card-carrying members. We’re suckers for a less-complicated life with kinder people and smaller, more-attainable goals. It’s not necessarily how we live, but if we had our ‘druthers, it’d be something we’d delight in, for sure.

Part of the “delightful” appeal to me is as a mom to two young girls, I’ve often felt they’d be better off growing up Tina Fey-nerdy than, say, Gwyneth Paltrow-cool. To me, there’s too much effort and heartbreak that goes into the kind of cool where you’re admired for your hair, clothes and friends. It’s like being on stage and never being allowed to get off. It’s a never-ending quest that usually means you’re working hard to impress others by being someone you’re usually not.

If you do achieve some kind of cool status, the pressure to stay on top is often intense and the odds are stacked against you, which will probably result in a painful fall. Sure, there are lessons to be learned in dusting yourself off and moving on. But why not focus on worrying less about the admiration and envy of others and instead train your energy on happiness — pure and simple?

Living delightfully, I think, is about being unconcerned with what everyone else is doing. It’s pursuing meaningful interests without cluttering your day with what the in-crowd is eating for lunch, with whom they’re sitting and how to finagle your way into their group. It’s less painful in the long run. It allows you to establish a more purposeful identity that has a shot at staying powerful and genuinely happy.

Take cool out of the growing-up equation and the pressure isn’t off entirely, but with fewer eyes trained on your every move, you have more freedom to explore what interests you, and not because you think it’s what makes other people find you interesting. You have the ability to fail without an audience, some of whom would otherwise probably enjoy watching you suffer. You can measure your results against yourself and no one else. There’s so much to achieve, value, and enjoy other than exactly what others say is “hip” and “in” and “right now.”

To me, avoiding “cool” is positively delightful. It’s a kind of fulfillment I wish for my kids, and one I hope they’ll relish for — and delight in — themselves.

Photo credit: Meredith Carroll

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