From the moment you turn 13: you’re taught about the Cool Girl. You want to be her, but you also start hating her: she’s everything you can’t be. You spend your teen years torn apart between trying to be the cool girl, because validation comes from the male gaze, and wanting to be loved, and seen by men. And men only respected the cool girl, the one who wasn’t “like other girls”. But is it really respect? Because as Gillian Flynn in Gone Girl describes it painstakingly:
“Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. 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.”
Who is the Cool Girl?
Cool Girl is effortlessly sexy and easy to love, her personality is perfectly tailored to her partner’s. If he loves Star Wars, paintball and whiskey, she’s down to put on a stormtrooper costume, and grab a paintball gun in one hand and scotch in the other (Looking at you Robin Scherbatsky from How I Met Your Mother), or maybe she’s a gamer girl who loves rap or a hippie girl who adores the same poetry as he does. It’s not that these are activities that girls don’t enjoy as a rule, rather it’s that Cool Girls on-screen rarely have likes and dislikes that are not shared by their partner, and definitely not those that would be considered girly. The Cool Girl is perpetually happy and never settles because she doesn’t have wants or needs outside those her S/O can fulfill easily. As more and more celebrities, notably Mila Kunis and Jennifer Lawrence, adopt this personality in public, the screenwriting trope becomes a standard for women to live upto.
Off-screen, women have been raised to believe their worth is determined by the men around them. Whether that’s fairytale happy endings that always coincided with the entrance of true love, or a Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’s explicit messaging that post make-over Anjali trumps pre make-over Anjali. If you already believe your happiness is derived from your partner’s, making yourself smaller for their happiness starts to seem reasonable. We compete with other women and ourselves, ending up believing if we become attractive enough, chill in a I-totally-don’t-care-about-labels way, the boy will see us from the crowd of women and pick us, and give us the validation we need.
Dating the Cool Girl
Cool Girl seems like a realistic ideal at the start. You match with someone on an app, or catch someone’s eye at the bar and it feels easy to laugh at the right time and go along with what they’d like. Then it’s your first date, and you spend your energy trying to be liked rather than evaluating whether you even like them. Then they start to fall for this version of you, and the pressure to keep up the facade only mounts. Yes, I can keep pretending I don’t ever get insecure or like talking about my feelings. I can talk about sports for hours over beer and fried chicken, wear casual clothes, and manage to wear just enough make-up so he doesn’t actually think I’m wearing any, but still meet his standards of pretty. Throughout all of this, Cool Girl is content, she finds no flaws, needs no assurances because DTRs really just stand for Down To be Rejected.
And then you’re in bed together, because ofcourse Cool Girl would keep sex and emotions separate. Here’s where it gets even trickier though: the vulnerability involved in a sexual encounter is almost a given- you’re naked and your moans and expressions aren’t entirely in your control. In the movies, all of this comes off as unintentionally sexy. Everything the woman does is beautiful and in sync- and above all else Cool Girl aims to please. What if in the midst of everything our immaculate ‘cool girl’ image crumbled and our partner saw us for exactly who we are and it wasn’t what they wanted? Think Maddie in Euphoria imitating the ways pornstars move and moan in bed, or the rest of faking our orgasms. There is too often a prioritisation of our partner’s ego that leads us to fake whatever it takes to make them feel desired and thus desirable. Being the Cool Girl means you don’t say no – whether that’s sex on the third date before you’re ready or trying a kink you’re not into, all while having a seemingly great time. Being the Cool Girl means prioritizing our partner at our own expense, but the charges are paid under the table.
Cool Girls Don’t Cry
Being the Cool Girl is above all else exhausting. It’s a commitment to a personality that’s just a mirage. We internalise it till it feels a natural fit, the way we break in our heels before we go out partying because accepting the pain would make us weak or lesser women. It plays out in what we choose to wear, the jokes we make, the jokes we let slide, it’s all chosen to create an image. The parts that don’t fit the box are just discarded, your weird interests, your difficult emotions, who you are before you put on that “natural” make-up look. The most painful part is that if you do it for long enough, and try hard enough, it’s no longer about someone else rejecting these parts of you, it’s yourself.
- Cool Girl doesn’t last. You spend enough time accepting your partner while squashing your own feelings down, you’re bound to start to resent them for it, and even if you resist the urge to go all Gone Girl and fake your death to send your partner to jail, the relationship will crash and burn.
- Cool Girl is boring- add a little spice! Imperfections and outbursts and awkwardness are what make up our charm, and make our relationships interesting.
- Cool Girl lets the other women down. By making men think that such a woman exists, we contribute to the perpetuation of the crazy girl trope- you know, the one who actually voices her feelings?
We spend so long caught up in the chase that we forget the point is to be caught. There is no value of men loving my Cool Girl personality if they didn’t love the rest of me. Like everything else this too comes with a catch- you have to give them the chance to love you, and you have to decide to love yourself even if they don’t. Being the Cool Girl is great, but being exactly like every other girl is pretty damn special. I haven’t met one I couldn’t love yet.