Sunday, May 19Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

The Death of the Cool Girl Act

I enjoy the concept of a Gone Girl vengeance storyline just as much as the next girl, but you don’t need to be an enigma to those close to you. Intimacy is a scary concept, and I used to fall victim to the romanticisation of being the Cool Girl, but this isn’t a good mindest to have. As much as I will defend Amy Dunne until the end of time, if I actually knew her, I would find her insufferable. 

For those who are unfamiliar with it, the archetype of a Cool Girl I’m referring to is derived from the ‘Cool Girl’ monologue Gillian Flynn’s novel Gone Girl, later adapted into a film in 2014. The Cool Girl is simply someone who never allows others to get to know her. The Cool Girl is supposedly every man’s fantasy. She loves everything he loves and does everything that he wants, but she isn’t demure. She’s him, but just the version he wants to have sex with. This person varies depending on who they’re dating; not every Cool Girl is the same, but they’re usually connected through their lack of emotional complications and rejection of typically female traits. She doesn’t cry, she’s never vulnerable, she never disagrees, and most importantly – you will never really know the Cool Girl because she isn’t real. She’s a character. 

I think the glorification of the Cool Girl act, especially on TikTok, has misinformed many people in how any and all relationships should be approached. You don’t have to pretend not to care; you are allowed to feel your feelings deeply and wholly. It’s not embarrassing to have a connection to someone; it’s incredibly human. 

It can be hard to accept intimacy and connection in all forms, whether romantic, sexual, or emotional. Learning to be more trusting and comfortable in situations where intimacy may come into play can be helpful. This doesn’t mean you have to implicitly know the person or people with whom you’re in an intimate situation; it just means that you shouldn’t put yourself in a situation where you feel insecure about being yourself. This applies to platonic relationships as well as romantic and sexual relationships. Friends should be people you don’t have to put on a show for. They should make you feel good about yourself, not like you have to protect or shield yourself. 

You are designed to be experienced by those around you, not as an idea or shape of what you like to be seen as. A lot of the time, people have a tendency to avoid being seen as themselves for fear of rejection. It’s much easier to cope with it if you know that you weren’t the one being rejected, just the person you’ve constructed. But how are people meant to get to know you if you’re only letting them see certain parts of you? There is such beauty and gratification in letting people see you for who you truly are.  

Cool Girl can be invigorating and risky but in reality it’s not sustainable. Detachment from those close to you only damages your ability to form intimate connections. This also isn’t exclusive to heterosexual relationships. I’ve seen first-hand how some queer people expect this of their partners; to be a walking, talking sex doll, there when they want and gone when they need. 

Although this applies to more than sexual relationships, I know if the person I was with was incredibly detached and flippant during sex it wouldn’t be enjoyable – almost like an act or performace. It would ruin the whole experience, probably for both of us. I’d either think they were cruel or feel incredibly sad for them that they don’t like themselves enough to actually be authentic. Sex is meant to be enjoyed by everyone who wants to enjoy it. 

Of course, there can be reasons people put up the Cool Girl act. Whether it’s previous bad experiences with partners, friend groups, or family. Being open and intimate is incredibly vulnerable. However, we shouldn’t let this shape the way we approach connection afterwards. You may end up being the one to ruin intimacy for someone else, which then becomes the story they tell when asked why they put up the Cool Girl act. The cycle of detachment will only continue if we all avoid letting others know us. So take this as a toast to the death of the Cool Girl act. May it stay buried and gone.