The Myth of the Cool Girl – by Lucy Watson

Film Title: Scott Pilgrim vs. the WorldI just want a girl who’s really cool.

Guys, I’ve heard a lot of you say this when describing the kind of girl you want to be with. On the surface this sounds great. You want a girl who’s interesting and fun and intelligent. You want a girl who is passionate about something cool, like music, or literature, or comic books.

You want a girl who plays in a band, or is a published writer. Someone you can take to parties, who your friends will think is cool. That you can have long intellectual chats with over coffee. That you can sit up and drink whiskey and play records with. Which is all fantastic.

But for some of you, that’s not all you really mean when you say this, is it? You also want a girl who will do her own thing, and not want to hang out all the time. You want a girl who doesn’t get all emotional about stuff. You want a girl whose confidence never wavers, whose happiness is unshakeable. You want a girl who’s there to bring light into your life when you need it, and be somewhere else when you don’t.

And the problem with this is, this girl doesn’t exist. Oh there are cool girls. There are amazing, strong, independent girls who are writers, filmmakers, or musicians. Who have fantastic, fascinating jobs they love. Who do their own thing, and have lots of friends, and they’re doing just fine on their own. But these girls are also people. And they have feelings. And sometimes, when they are in a real relationship, they will probably have expectations of a partner.

Why shouldn’t they? They’re beautiful, capable, intelligent women. They’ve waited a long time to meet someone who might be the right partner for them. They just want to enjoy being in a relationship with you. To feel that they can rely on you.

Sometimes she will go off and do her own thing, be with her friends, or want to have time for herself. And sometimes she will want to come home from a rough day, and be with you. She will want to be vulnerable, and feel like you have the strength to hold her. To take care of her. Not forever. Just for that moment. Just for that night. And then she can go out and face the world again.

Sometimes she will want to be there for you. Look after you. Support you. Just sit and be with you.

Sometimes she will need to work through an issue. And want you to listen. Maybe talk it out with her. You might not be able to fix it, but that’s OK. You’re there.

Sometimes she won’t like something you do, and she will tell you.

Sometimes she will want to move forward in the relationship.

None of these things means she is not a “cool girl“. They mean she is an adult woman who has things she wants. Things she needs. And she is mature enough to recognise them, and communicate them. She is not simply a supporting actor in your story. She is not the manic pixie dream girl who has appeared to make your life better.

Because here’s the rub – and I know you might not want to hear this – but when you say you want a “cool girl” you are really just trying to negate your responsibilities in a relationship. To not deal with real emotions and issues like two adults. Saying you want a “cool girl” is like saying “I want all the benefits of a relationship without any of the emotional responsibility.” And then blaming her for not being “cool” enough.

Which isn’t to say you should want a downer of a relationship. An emotional burden can be hard and you have to weigh up whether your partner is going through a tough time for a reason, and it’s worth sticking it out. Or whether they simply have issues they need to deal with, and you’re being their free psychologist.

But a relationship is a partnership. You help each other through tough times – and there will be tough times – and you support each other to get to the good times again. Asking a girl not to talk about how she feels because those emotions are inconvenient for you will never result in a healthy, open relationship. She will become frustrated, and she will break.

And why would you want to be with someone who doesn’t have emotions anyway? If you’re dating someone who doesn’t care about being with you, or want to have a future with you, or communicate how she feels with you, then what chance do you have of making a real connection? You know who doesn’t have feelings? Sociopaths. And robots.

So, who am I to say all of this? I’m a reformed “cool girl”. I spent all my twenties trying to be cool – one of the boys. I would drink with the boys, and be like “those girls are all crazy and emotional”. I would pretend that I was fine. That I could think my way out of feeling. Reason with my emotions. And when I did have an emotional response, when my real feelings seeped through the cracks (as of course they did) I would feel like I was to blame for having feelings. Like I had failed in my responsibility at being the “cool girl”. After years of repression and blame I ended up having an epic meltdown and a year’s worth of therapy with a psychotherapist convincing me over and over again that it was OK to have feelings. That my emotions are valid, and that talking about them, understanding them, communicating them is healthy.

How did we, as women, get to the place where we feel our emotions are invalid? That our vulnerabilities should be repressed? For years women have been told they’re crazy when they’re too emotional. And that message has sunk in. So instead of knowing that we’re fine and holding our ground with a man (or anyone) over an issue, we believe that our emotional responses are unreasonable. That it’s our fault for not being able to control our emotions. But the great irony is, our emotional responses are only unreasonable when we repress them for too long. And the more we are made feel our emotions are valid, the less support we need and the more strong we feel.

So how do we (men and women together) move forward? Well guys, I think the answer is to start taking responsibility for how you feel. If you can’t handle being in a real relationship with emotional responsibilities, then you need to say it. You need to own it. Don’t blame the girl for not being “cool” enough. Cos you know what’s not cool? Asking someone to repress their feelings to make you comfortable.

If you do want to be in a relationship, then maybe try opening up. Thinking about what she needs, as well as what you need. If you ask her, I guarantee she’ll tell you. It might not be what you want to hear, but if you’re honest and work through it together,¬†who knows? You might just end up in a really strong, healthy relationship with an amazing, real woman.

Now that would be cool.

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