This weekend, I finished reading Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. I found parts of it absolutely fascinating, and during the second of the three parts of the book, I could barely put it down. I did the reading and walking thing, which I’ve been doing for years but never perfected. I’m pretty sure I ran into at least three people (sorry!) and just narrowly avoided a small child.
There was one piece in particular that stood out to me. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, about how I had succumbed to it, and how women I knew had, too. It’s written in the voice of Amy Elliott Dunne, the woman whose disappearance drives the whole book:
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 her 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….It may be a slightly different version…. There are variations to the window dressing, but believe me, he wants Cool Girl, who is basically the girl who likes every fucking thing he likes and doesn’t ever complain.
Now, I don’t necessarily agree with Amy in her blanket generalization of men. But I do agree that sometimes people sublimate who they are in an effort to be “cool,” whether that’s for a significant other, a crowd at school, friends, or even members of your own family. Sometimes it feels easier to be “cool” than say what you really want and risk upsetting someone or risk rejection.
I’ve certainly chosen to be the Cool Girl before, and not just in my teens, but into my twenties and now my thirties. I have to stand up to that urge. Thankfully, my husband never asks me to be her.
So thanks Gillian Flynn and Amy, for giving a name to it. I love it when fiction reflects back certain truths, even if they’re from the uglier side of human nature.