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I’m Not a Cool Girl, and I’m Tired of Feeling Bad About It

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Jennifer Lawrence, I'm not. High maintenance, I am.

It was a random Saturday night of the NBA playoffs, when I gathered up my male friends to watch Chris Paul deliver the deathblow to Steph Curry’s improbably successful Golden State Warriors. The game was not going well, which turned into shots to cheer us up. Shots turned into more shots, and before I knew it, I was doing a series of incredibly sticky-palmed pushups, spurred on by the jeers of my male friends, convinced I couldn’t make it to 10. None of this was because, by media standards, I’m trying to be a cool girl.

Later in the night, I fell into my usual lament to my girlfriends about why the guy I was hooking up with had bailed on meeting us out. Ranting turned to action, passive aggressive texting quickly turned into hysterical texting, and before I knew it, it was 3:00 AM and he and I were fighting in my apartment over why I shouldn’t clean up a broken wine glass while visibly still intoxicated from all those shots. All of this was because, by media standards, I am unequivocally not a cool girl.

In this post-Jennifer Lawrence era of repeated falls and limited bowel control, cultural critics have been quick to anoint and analyze the seemingly lovable intricacies of what constitutes a “cool girl.” While the onslaught of articles about the history of cool girls, the backlash towards cool girls of awards cycles past, and the unyielding praise of cool girls have provided me a veritable tome on how to become one myself, honestly? I don’t want to. When did it stop being okay to admit that my feathers do get ruffled over inconsequential things? Why do I have to downplay my high maintenance tendencies, while overselling my love of chicken wings and $4 beer? 

The Atlantic broke down what we’re even referring to when we discuss the ephemeral qualities that classify something as “cool.” According to a new study they cited from the Journal of Consumer Research on what makes things cool, it’s actually far less ephemeral and hard to define than one would think. According to the study, “Coolness is a subjective, positive trait perceived in people, brands, products, and trends that are autonomous in an appropriate way.” Simply put, “cool means departing from norms that we consider unnecessary, illegitimate, or repressive — but also doing so in ways that are bounded.”

Via that definition, it’s easy to understand how the Oliva Munns and Jennifer Lawrences of the world become the fetishized epitome of a cool girl – loud, brash, unfiltered, in a way that upends society’s expectations of female behavior. It even helps us see the set point when said "cool" turned into backlash, once these cool girls stopped being autonomous “in an appropriate way.” For Lawrence, it was one too many drunken outbursts at the Oscars. For Munn, an overabundance of art-imitating-life roles as a sex fiend. While this definition can easily define cool over decades past, the cool girl trope in Hollywood only started picking up steam in the last few years (like any Gen X grumpus, I blame social media, and the access it affords, for this). So where does that leave the unwashed masses of women who were cursed from birth by all the fucks they still give in life?

Me? I’m choosing to stop feeling so bad about not being cool, and instead wholly embracing the fact that I spin out over things like cancelled plans, unreturned texts, and my sister getting first dibs on our parental-purchased Indian clothes, because I now live 3000 miles away from home. It’s not autonomous behavior (childlike, moreso), but it’s me behavior, and I’m not going to be shamed out of it. Admitting that I’m high maintenance doesn’t diminish from the fact that I do enjoy the types of things that the storied Hollywood cool girl likes: McDonald’s runs, the cheap seats, hanging out with the boys, and so on, but having to dichotomously separate my identity into the cool parts of my personality, while hiding the pricklier sides is a game I can’t play anymore. 

Plus, with all the high maintenance tendencies come all the upsides to being the type of person who cares a little too much: your birthday gifts will be generally awesome, my maid of honor Google doc would rival that of a professional wedding planner, and really, it’s so much less exhausting to care about something, than to maintain the façade that I care about nothing at all.

Image via Flickr.