Cool Girl Interruptus

Last night, while heading to my lovely friend M’s place for dinner, I was talking to a friend, one of M’s neighbors I’ve known for a few years, trading sly comments about my new yoga mat, the words laced with the type of innuendo that usually peppers our talks. He’s funny, and familiar, someone who knows me well enough to know a few flaws, but is distant enough to flirt with gusto. In a brief moment of inspiration, I did something brave without thinking about it too much, and planned a perfect exit from the situation, telling myself it would be that classic aloof moment that would leave him thinking of me as a Cool Girl. Despite the exit not quite turning out as planned (more below), it led to a brief internal dialogue about the Cool Girls, and why in that moment of inspiration I wanted to be one.

The “Cool Girl” is a hotly debated stereotype, fueled in recent days by the release of the Gone Girl movie, where the brilliant soliloquy from the book is used as a scathing voiceover on the backdrop of a bad marriage. We all know the stereotype: the hot girl who loves sports and beer and junk food and sex, and I’m sure everyone has a strong opinion on whether these girls actually exist, or whether the “Cool Girls” are just pretending to like sports and beer and sex to gain the attention and approval of a man. I can definitely argue that the not-so-Cool Girls exist: let’s be real, we’ve all seen the girl in the bar who cozies up to the Giants fan and starts talking about how much she loooOOoOooOoves Victor Cruz before asking “Which one is the blue team?” The “real” Cool Girls though, are a different story.

With 100 percent honesty: I love watching sports and especially football. I’m that girl that talks about her Fantasy team like it’s a real team, and I love nothing more than a bacon cheeseburger on the weekends, grease dripping down my chin, how I can tangibly feel the salt puffing up my face and how much I don’t care. If I’m to believe the catcalls that follow me around the Heights, I’m not bad on the eyes. And let’s just say I’m a huge fan of being single and certain freedoms that presents me. It’s not just me: my twinster T can rattle off Red Sox stats better than anyone I know, M and I have been known to house multiple orders of wings without blinking an eye, and without calling anyone out, I definitely have friends that share my penchant for living the NYC single life. But I’m also a girl, which means I used to pick fights with my former boyfriend when he wasn’t paying enough attention to me, I look forward to Friday nights so I can watch wedding shows on TLC, and I have a salad for lunch every day of the week. And come on now: much as I love doing my own makeup and how confident I feel in heels, if I weren’t trying to catch the eye of a cute guy in a bar, I’d be going out in sweats and sneakers.

So with all the above, does that make me a normal girl or a Cool Girl? I think the stereotype as it stands doesn’t account for the fact that girls can like things like burgers and beer, while also totally tearing up when the bride on TV says yes to the dress. The hate for the Cool Girl feels misplaced, like someone is projecting her insecurities about disliking hockey and preferring a salad to cheese fries. I think the real Cool Girls are the ones that don’t force themselves to pay attention to a sport in which they have no interest, the ones that order the fries instead of the salad without making comments about a “fat day,” and the ones that order the salad instead of the fries because salad just sounded really good right then. Essentially, the ones that can bravely say “IDGAF” and do what makes them happy, regardless of whether guys will judge them for ordering wine at a sports bar or what that group of girls thinks when they start screaming obscenities at the screen after Harvin’s third touchdown is called back by penalties (IT WOULD HAVE NETTED ME SO MANY POINTS).

While talking to my friend last night, I knew he wanted to kiss me, because he always wants to kiss me, and in those two seconds of inspiration, I decided to give him a kiss goodbye and then saunter into M’s apartment building, where the front door is rarely locked, and breeze inside like it was nothing, the ultimate Cool Girl moment. It wasn’t the first kiss we’d had, but the first in a long time, so I leaned in, gave him a brief kiss, and winked, turning around with a smug grin as his expression let me know I’d caught him completely off guard in a good way, exactly like I planned. As I walked away, blindsided by my own bravery, I went to enter the apartment building and the freaking door was locked. Locked! Cool Girl moment totally ruined, I stared determinedly at the door trying not to look back, preserving some semblance of the “walks inside like nothing” exit I was hoping to give that memory. I let out a brief sigh and a giggle as I heard the quiet click of the lock and finally made it inside, ready to set aside the Cool Girl for a night of girl talk with M and her amazing homemade dinner. It was a small victory for my new “IDGAF” attitude towards the little things in life, for sure, but it felt good to feel brave for a change, and in that silly, small moment, I felt pretty freaking cool.

“Fortune favors the brave.”

” I don’t know if I should ask him out instead! I mean he’s definitely going to ask eventually, so should I just wait?”
“Oh lord, JUST GO FOR IT. Fortune favors the brave!”

My sister T is a amazing person, for a million reasons and then a million and one more. She’s headstrong, opinionated, sarcastic, direct and always, always right. She’s also one of the few people I know who genuinely dislikes and does not attract drama in her life, looking at things pragmatically and honestly before making decisions. I’ll always go to her for advice when I know I’m being overly dramatic or over-analytical, because her advice always boils down to this:

  • Assess the situation: is this something you can change?
  • If NO: Well then deal with it.
  • If YES: Well then change it.

A few months back, after exchanging numbers with a new friend she masterfully wingman-ed for me while visiting NYC, I was frantically texting her about what to do.  I could practically feel her rolling her eyes as she read my desperate pleas for advice about when to text him (“but I can’t respond right away because I don’t want to seem too eager!” “you an are idiot, don’t just sit on a response if you’re enjoying the conversation”), what to say (“Ugh, he probably thinks whatever I said was so dumb,” “Well so do I, why do you need to tell everyone about your intense relationship with wine?”), and then the big one: should I wait for him to make the move and initiate actual date plans? Or should I bite the bullet and ask him myself, taking a chance that I wasn’t the only one enjoying our playful banter. She finally pushed me with the text above: “Just do it! Fortune favors the brave!”

My two professional mottos.

My two professional mottos.

That quote has been on my mind a lot ever since she said that, doodled in notebooks during staff meetings and even hanging over my desk at work. It’s gone beyond that situation and permeated into everything I’ve been doing in recent days: talking to strangers, trying new exercise things, standing up for myself at work. For most of my life I’ve dealt with a semi-crippling self-conscious attitude, worrying about what strangers think of me, friends, coworkers. I’ve censored certain aspects of my personal style, not wanting to take too much of a fashion risk, overthought sentences and tripped over my carefully-planned words, and scenario-planned for pretty much every aspect of my life that could somehow lead to embarrassment or anxiety. Essentially, for a long time, I was not a brave person.

It’s not easy to bring small bits of bravery into tiny acts in life, like standing up in a brainstorm to make yourself heard or going sleeveless for the first time in the office since getting a tattoo on your arm. It’s even more difficult to take these tiny steps of bravery when you’re on your own, only turning to yourself and your instincts for guidance and clarity. I’m still a self-conscious person and still question most things I do, but more and more frequently lately I’ll find myself saying the phrase out loud, a constant reminder that there’s only so much to lose from taking a chance, and eventually there might be so much to gain.