I saw Gone Girl the other day and still had the same reactions I did when I read the book a few years ago. Everyone around me was all “ahhhHH this is the craziest shit I’ve ever been exposed to” but throughout most of the story my only reaction was “… true.” My friends took it as a cautionary tale against ever, EVER getting married and I took it as a classic cautionary tale about poison disguised as candy. Or, more aptly, regular humans disguised as Cool Girls.
“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.
"Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they’re fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl. For a long time Cool Girl offended me. I used to see men – friends, co-workers, strangers – giddy over these awful pretender women, and I’d want to sit these men down and calmly say: You are not dating a woman, you are dating a woman who has watched too many movies written by socially awkward men who’d like to believe that this kind of woman exists and might kiss them.”
It’s way overdue, but I’m finally done. I’m done with Cool Girl. I’m ready to be out of college and out of my twenties, a phase where life is a precarious balance between trying hard to be a better person and trying hard to be cold, implacable, and above all, cool. I’m tired of emotionally crippled man-boys. I’m tired of deeply insecure girls-who-don’t-want-to-be. I’m tired of romance being a constant game of who cares less, who takes longer to text back, who can out-sociopath the other person because admitting you care about someone other than yourself is somehow a weakness and a sign of not truly being independent.
Cool Girl is a trope. Cool Girl in her full, silver screen glory is an affected personality put on by insecure twenty-somethings who desperately need to be liked and seen as something different than the rest. Cool Girl measures her self-worth by the men who say they love her because she’s not like other girls, even when she knows they have shallow love for an equally shallow facade.
Haha, Cool Girl says, I am distant and hot. All other girls are clingy and emotional and they will TIE YOU DOWN and then your life - your own, College Boy trope of a life - will be over. But not me. I let you do whatever you want and take everything and give nothing and have no needs of my own because I am not a real person. I am never unreasonable. I am one-dimensional, once you see past the blatantly obvious “if you have to say you are, you aren’t” veil of mysteriousness. BECAUSE I AM NOT A REAL PERSON.
Let me tell you what happens behind the scenes, when the rest of the cast goes home and the camera crew packs up for the night. Cool Girl cries when you treat her like shit. Cool Girl is not effortlessly a size two - for each joke about pizza, there’s DAYS spent despising the way she looks and skipping dinner. Cool Girl hates your sexist comments but hates not being a Cool Girl even more. Eventually, this gets tiring. Eventually, Cool Girl would prefer to be treated as a living, breathing, feeling human, and not as a rare and prized commodity.
“The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.” I believe this. I want it to be okay to be simultaneously feminine and complex. I want it to be okay to love someone openly and want to be loved in return for the person you are. I want to stop pretending I’m so unready for the commitments and responsibilities of the real world because I really, really don’t like being the fake person that living in the “fake world” requires.
I’m done with the Cool Girl because I’m ready for us all to grow up and become the person - the real person - that we will be. And to realize that, for all your “uncoolness”, you really like who that is.
Although I have felt compelled to write things down since I was five years old, I doubt that my daughter ever will, for she is a singularly blessed and accepting child, delighted with life exactly as life presents itself to her, unafraid to go to sleep and unafraid to wake up. Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearrangers of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss.
I think what most people don’t understand is that everything in life is just really, really insane. Or funny. Really, really funny.
One night you get home from the bars and you’re crying in public for the first time ever. Over a guy you used to see. Not because of things that happened in the past, but because he used to be really cool but now is just selfish and tedious and you’re mourning the loss of a person who wasn’t a total wang. The doorman asks you what’s wrong and you drunkenly yell “I can’t believe I used to shave my legs for that asshole” and then you both laugh hysterically at the fact that so many problems are mundane and objectively funny and human like that when you boil them down.
And then the next day you’re roped into a mystery via the postal system involving mysterious letters written in Korean, federal prison, assumed identities, and Rancho Cucamonga.
Exactly what part of life is not insane.