Sex + Dating

Why I've Retired From Being the 'Cool Girl' in Relationships

Cool girl illustration
Daniel Fishel/Thrillist

Every girl loves to be called smart. Hilarious is a good one too -- and even pretty, when done in a non-creepy or catcalling kind of a way. But when a guy calls you "cool" -- now, that’s the biggest compliment of them all.

But is it?

The "Cool Girl" is who every woman aspires to be -- and whom every man aspires to be with. This specific type of female was perfectly characterized in "that passage" of Gillian Flynn’s novel Gone 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 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…"

Cool Girl seems like the quintessential lover. Especially since society has an affinity for pigeonholing most women as "crazy" (aka emotional, honest, and expressive). But here's the thing: Cool Girl doesn't actually exist. I should know -- I used to pretend to be her.

Being a cool girl meant being an easygoing doormat

I've always been an innately easygoing partner in my romantic relationships, which I still consider to be one of my best qualities. I truly don't care whether we go out for sushi or Mexican, and I'm A-OK with bae going to Vegas for the weekend. But it took some experience and self-reflection to discover the difference between "easygoing" and "doormat" -- and why, as a woman, having feelings (and voicing them) in a relationship doesn't make you crazy. It makes you human.

My first heartbreak was courtesy of a guy who dumped me over Skype (yes, seriously) while I was studying abroad. "It's just because of distance," was his lame excuse. "But you're the coolest girl I know, so I hope we can stay friends." And even though I was too sad and still too infatuated to be his buddy, I continued to answer his messages for months and helped him pick out a Mother's Day gift. Because above all, he thought I was "cool." And a Cool Girl is always understanding; she knows how to compartmentalize her pesky emotions.

Then there was the guy who lived to push my buttons, just to see what it would take for me to crack. I eventually did -- after a year of keeping quiet and ignoring a multitude of selfish actions (ditching my birthday party to go skydiving and frequently saying he didn't picture us long-term both come to mind). As he dumped me, I finally burst into tears. And he was absolutely shocked. "I'm sorry," he stammered. "I don't know what to do because I've never seen you cry. You're always playing it so cool."

In reality, he made me cry ALL THE TIME, but only behind closed doors. I never spoke up. Because a Cool Girl lets her man do whatever he wants, whenever he feels like it. And a Cool Girl doesn't approach conflict head-on because that would rock the boat. And only crazy chicks do that. So instead, I swept it under the rug.

My "cool factor" was finally stretched to its brink with a cowboy I dated long-distance. As if the time zones between us didn't make it hard enough to nurture a relationship, he texted me this bomb one evening: "I'm getting dinner with my ex who's in town tonight. It means nothing, but I wanted to be upfront with you. I know you won't care, though, because you're so cool."

Cool. There it was again.

I was breathing fire as I reread his text over and over, my heart slamming through my chest. Why did he want to see this chick if he was truly happy in our relationship? How dare he tell me how I'm going to react as if I'm some sort of android? And most importantly, on what planet would I not care about my boyfriend playing whiskey-induced footsie with his ex 2,000 miles away from me?

Because after all, I am human -- and humans care about things! And that's when I realized that being called "cool" wasn't even close to the compliment I'd always thought it to be.

It's pretty terrifying to be yourself and ask someone to love you for that...

Being a Cool Girl wasn't unique -- it was suffocating

Think about when someone exclaims, "That's so cool!" -- whether it's regarding a new iPhone gadget, a self-plotted road trip through France, or a mini horse guiding the blind. The exclamation revels in that thing's uniqueness; something about it is remarkable, inspiring, and barrier-breaking.

So then why is the epitomized Cool Girl cookie-cutter, stereotypical, and one-dimensional? None of those adjectives describe me -- yet I feigned that they did.

Cool Girl is essentially a role that women play. She's the opposite of "crazy" (a dude's worst nightmare) and a mold we feel we have to fit in order to find a man and, ultimately, make him want to stick around. Especially in our early 20s, life revolves around figuring out who we are, what the hell we want, and what we must give (and take) emotionally in order to foster a successful relationship with another person. It's pretty terrifying to be yourself and ask someone to love you for that when you're still trying to uncover who that really is. So it just seems easier to reach for that unattainable standard because at least it's already spelled out for us.

The Cool Girl persona isn't real -- or lasting

But take it from me: this exhausting act, in the literal sense, is one no woman will be able to keep up forever. The longer one upholds the role of Cool Girl -- an insecure and stifled façade of her true self -- the unhappier she will inevitably become with her partner, relationship, and self.

In my current relationship and life, I still maintain some aforementioned Cool Girl qualities: I wear stilettos and love fashion, cook extravagant meals, exercise daily, and always have a slew of books on my Kindle; I also sit bar-side with the guys and eat my weight in nachos, all while quoting Stewie Griffin or shouting, "Gronk spike!!!" at the game on TV until my throat is so dry I can barely order another Hoegaarden.

But that's not me trying to fit the gal-who-can-hang-with-the-boys mold. That's just me being me and doing what I enjoy. And guess what? The real me is also pretty uncool (and my boyfriend is fully aware of that side, too): I don't understand Game of Thrones (like, at all), I'm unapologetically perturbed by the idea of group bedroom play, and I'll still drop anything to go to a Hanson concert. He also knows I have real feelings, thoughts, and opinions -- yeah, those big, scary, real things -- since I've learned the importance of sharing and discussing them openly.

Because at the end of the day (or at the end of Season 6 of Game of Thrones -- I don't know how actually cool people measure time), how can you wholeheartedly connect with someone and grow a relationship if you're not being true to who you really are?

Spoiler alert (to save you the embarrassment of a Skype breakup): you cannot.

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Brooke Sager is a contributing writer for Thrillist and former Cool Girl living in NYC. When you're done watching GOT, check out all the uncool things she posts on Instagram and Twitter: @HIHEELZbrooke.