Here comes the very honest post, the one I never thought I would write, the one I never wanted to write, the one I absolutely need to write. If you are like me, you have to write it out at times, and then you have to share it before you can breathe easy again. After all, we write because nobody listens, and we write because everybody reads. They just don’t want to talk about it.
I feel shamed and ashamed and I don’t know how to turn off this feeling anymore. There is a certain model of femininity that our culture valorises and celebrates these days, discarding everything that falls short into the crazy pile. With every new story that I either hear from my horrified girlfriends or go through myself, I learn a valuable new lesson about what men want women to be if they are not to be put there. So far, I’ve learned nothing about what I want, but I can tell you exactly what they want if they are to take me into consideration at all. Crazy, right?
Every guy has had at least one crazy ex-girlfriend, which is usually a sane person whose buttons he pushed and pushed and pushed before deciding she was too much. Every girl has seen an overly attached girlfriend meme and hoped that nobody will ever associate her with that. Young women are growing and learning and fighting a million stereotypes a day, but the one that scares us the most is by far the crazy. We need to be cool if we are to exist in the eyes of men. We need to be this little mix of charisma and no-fucks-given attitude, and be all the hotter for it. We need to be fun, never complain, and stop being self-conscious – because the moment self-consciousness enters our coolness departs. Thinking too much? You’re too insecure. Feeling too much? You’re too emotional. Oh, emotional always has a bad connotation when it comes from a guy, FYI. It’s textbook cool girl stuff. We know this, because men know this. In fact I think they wrote the book for us.
It doesn’t matter that the cool girl is a performance calculated to attract, please, and sate men’s desires and deep down we are all aware. What matters is that the show must go on, or else the show will end for us. No man wants anything below cool, which is, by all (men’s) standards, crazy, clingy, desperate, needy, angry, arsey, and let’s not forget the ultimate insult, attention-seeking. I mean, you can either be cool or you can be that. There’s no in-between, really. You can’t be part-time cool and part-time crazy. Pull a crazy once and that’s it, your coolness is history for most guys. What does crazy even mean? That’s easy. No, it’s not screaming or shouting or kicking or hitting anymore. You just need to start asking.
You want to be treated with decency and honesty and respect, and discuss where you’re standing when mixed signals start being sent out? You’re too demanding, and so soon! You think texts should be responded to within, like, a day? We smell high maintenance and we don’t know if we can handle you later on, when you already expect so much from us. (Also, we can’t give you that much attention, we’re busy at work and can’t find the time to pull our phone out and text you Good morning beautiful when we go pee.) You’re looking for someone you might have more than just chemistry with, and casual sounds to you like we’re not interested enough? Whoa, you’re rushing into things, take it slowly, go steady, chill out, be cool. Fuck you.
I don’t want to be shamed for my intensity anymore. I don’t want to feel ashamed of my intensity anymore. More than anything, though, I can’t believe that I was brought to the point where I label my basic wants, truthfulness and respect and (God forbid!) love as intensity. I don’t want to have to pretend to live comfortably and unquestioningly at all times, because I might offend a dude if I start questioning his interest or commitment. I already feel that I need to tone it down whenever I text or talk or date, so that the poor guy made of crystal doesn’t break at the sound of my voice asking for something. Ok, maybe, not him, but his interest in me? I would need a lifetime to collect the pieces off the floor, only to then have him say that I’m trying too hard and I must calm down.
But they want me to give things to them. No, not truthfulness, nor respect, nor (God forbid!) love. No, they want me to give myself to them, but then not ask any questions, not make any assumptions, and wag an imaginary tail if they ever speak to me again. I’ve had a girlfriend recently say to me that she felt lucky the guy she was dating and eventually slept with texted her the next day. I know this is common, but would you please take a moment to think about how insanely wrong it sounds? We are told to give ourselves to men because, you know, it’s cool, but then we are also told not to hope to get anything from those men because, you know, that’s so not cool. Then there’s the whole slut versus crazy thing, where if you’re happy to just sleep with men you get a bad reputation, and if you’re only happy to sleep with men if that develops into something, oh my God, you are like sooo desperate.
Which ultimately brings me to relationships. Oh yes, the happy middle ground. As a woman you are held in high regard if you are in a relationship, because it means that you are not clinging onto some (poor) guy who can’t seem to brush you off, and you’re dating someone who supposedly makes you feel happy and fulfilled. What, he isn’t? Shut up, you don’t want to be end up alone, are you stupid? Good, congratulations then, you’re neither crazy nor a slut anymore, not for as long as you don’t start nagging the (poor) guy or start looking for someone new. Just stay there and be happy that you escaped what single girls go through, because frankly, not being labelled crazy can be considered one of a girl’s greatest achievements these days. Unless, of course, she’s happy just being single, in which case… Is she (a different kind of) crazy?! She’s probably a slut, anyway.
“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 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. For a long time Cool Girl offended me. I used to see men — friends, coworkers, strangers — giddy over these awful pretender women, and I’d want to sit these men down and calmly say: You are not dating a woman, you are dating a woman who has watched too many movies written by socially awkward men who’d like to believe that this kind of woman exists and might kiss them. I’d want to grab the poor guy by his lapels or messenger bag and say: The bitch doesn’t really love chili dogs that much — no one loves chili dogs that much! And the Cool Girls are even more pathetic: They’re not even pretending to be the woman they want to be, they’re pretending to be the woman a man wants them to be. Oh, and if you’re not a Cool Girl, I beg you not to believe that your man doesn’t want the Cool Girl. It may be a slightly different version — maybe he’s a vegetarian, so Cool Girl loves seitan and is great with dogs; or maybe he’s a hipster artist, so Cool Girl is a tattooed, bespectacled nerd who loves comics. 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.”
— Gone Girl