There’s a certain breed of female, recently made quasi-famous by Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. She’s the type of girl who acts like “one of the guys,” asserts that she doesn’t have a lot of female friends, insists that she’s “not like other girls,” and loves all the “right” things — like football and video games and beer. She seems too good to be true, and this is because she is. This girl is as fictional as a surf enthusiast from Kansas City for the simple reason that such a black and white archetype can only exist in badly scripted rom-coms. And any girl who is delusional enough to believe that she is, in fact, the “Cool Girl” has merely fallen for her own lies. She’s too far into her charade to differentiate between fiction and reality.
Here’s the thing though. It’s not the football/beer/hot dog gorging that makes this façade problematic. For one reason, there are obviously girls who genuinely like football and beer. Secondly, everyone who has ever had a crush is guilty of feigning interest in something their date loves. We’ve all uttered “oh yeah I love that band!” when, in actuality, we’ve only heard one song. For the most part, that sort of behavior is harmless.
The real problem with the Cool Girl ruse is the piece that involves pretending to be so chill about everything.
What does that mean exactly? Flynn’s novel Gone Girl, and the subsequent movie, contains a riff on the Cool Girl phenomenon that has been quoted, paraphrased, and referenced countless times. The crux of the issue can be summed up perfectly in that monologue.
“Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.”
Cool Girls, then, are immune from feeling pissed off. They never worry about “petty” things such as questioning why he hasn’t texted back, and they don’t even care if they get stood up. They shrug everything off and breeze through life without flinching. Guys love them because there’s zero drama, right?
But here’s the problem: A woman doesn’t necessarily need to have zero emotions by nature to be a Cool Girl. This isn’t really possible, after all. We all have plenty of emotions, so unless she’s a robot, this is out of the question. No, in order to be the Cool Girl, a woman has to consciously bury her emotions. She is not allowed to get upset, angry, jealous, or anxious; therefore, she executes the greatest self-mutilation to remove those feelings from her body altogether. She is supposed to respond to everything with a flip of her hair and a bright chipper, “No worries babe!” In order to attain Cool Girl status, a woman has to figure out how to dig deep into her heart and break it all by herself.
To be a Cool Girl, a woman has to be so laid back that she’s horizontal. However, she’s not just drifting through space whimsically; she’s using every last ounce of energy to stay afloat. It takes so much effort to be the Cool Girl, and the mask does not come without pain and exhaustion.
The girls who claim to be one of the rare Cool Girls are ruining it for the rest of us. These girls are perpetuating the myth that this type of female actually exists. It makes it harder for the rest of us to show genuine and normal emotions, such as insecurity or jealousy, without appearing to be the antithesis of the Cool Girl: the dreaded Crazy Girl.
Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, the Cool Girl aesthetic is impossible to sustain in the long run. Eventually, all of the pretending and masquerading will catch up with them. Their hearts will crack under all of the pressure of suppressed emotions, and they’ll find themselves screaming about why their boyfriend hasn’t taken the trash out yet, or something equally petty and banal. They’ll catch a glimpse of themselves in the mirror and wonder, when did I become this horrendous person?
The bottom line is this: Let’s stop pretending to be who we think others want, and let’s pretend to be the people we actually wish to become.
Let’s stop perpetuating dating culture myths and let’s stop squashing emotions. Let’s stop idolizing apathy and start celebrating honesty.
Let’s stop pretending to be the Cool Girl, and realize that who we actually are is even cooler than that.