Ever since I first encountered Gillian Flynn's now iconic "Cool Girl" speech from her debut novel, GONE GIRL, I've wondered if, in the minds of men, there might also be a "Cool Guy" persona that we feel similarly pressured to live up to, and similarly resentful about having to maintain. The "Cool Girl" speech--with its diary-like delivery and breezy but biting tone leavening painful truths about what men want in women--deeply affected me.
It also challenged me. Threw down a gauntlet, so to speak. It couldn't only be women who felt aggrieved by the fraud involved in romantic projection. Men couldn't really be the only ones to impose such expectations on their lovers and spouses. Some people characterized GONE GIRL and, in particular, the Cool Girl speech as feminist statements, bills of redress nailed to the ancient, oaken doors of the patriarchy. Maybe so, or maybe she was just telling it like it is. I don't see my response as "masculinist" in any way. I just examined myself and male friends and realized guys had their own version.
So here it is. The Cool Guy. With a grain of salt (and all due credit to Ms. Flynn)
“He’s a cool guy.” No higher compliment can be paid to a man, can it? Being the Cool Guy means I am a hot, brilliant, funny man who cares deeply about things like poverty in Haiti and avarice on Wall Street, but not so deeply that I am ever at risk of taking myself too seriously. I care about my look but couldn’t give a fuck about meeting anybody’s bullshit standard of fashion, as evidenced by my three-day growth of beard, bed-mussed hair, Rick Owens hoodie and nicely scuffed Heschung work boots. I care about my little shit of a nephew Amos and give him rides on my shoulders, showing that I would be a really great father, and I care enough to bring my own bags to the grocery. But what I care most about is HER. Give me HER and the rest of humanity can get lost. I’ll stop the world and melt with her. At least until duty calls me away.
The Cool Guy GETS women. As in: understands. He even gets them when they’re on the rag, or worse, pre-menstrual. He loves the whole bloody, flighty, moody, bitchy package of them, and especially, he gets that women are higher spiritual beings and embodiments of Shakti or Kali or whatever, though he’s not that much into yoga. He never gets angry, even when she hurls the French chef’s knife across the kitchen and misses his groin by millimeters. He just lays his strong hands against her temples, gently massaging, and says, “Talk to me, baby. I’m here to listen. How about a glass of Merlot?” The Cool Guy is okay with cuddling if she’s not in the mood for sex, because he knows he can rock her world to the core if she wants it. And when she does, he makes her feel like the center of the universe. It’s like he doesn’t even care if he comes or not. He always waits for her. And when it’s all over, and she’s still quivering inside, he holds her and says, “…how does a hot fudge sundae sound?” Above all, the Cool Guy puts women at ease with themselves.
Of course, none of this matters much unless two things are true: 1) The Cool Guy has to be hot, preferably Ryan Gosling hot, and; 2) The Cool Guy has to be just a little bit aloof. Into her but not too much into her. Always maintaining that tantalizing distance.
Women actually think this guy exists. Maybe they’re fooled because so many guys are willing to pretend to be him. So why not pretend? They don’t want to know “the real you” anyway, and the day they do is the day they start fucking someone who can play the role better. Oh, and if you’re not a Cool Guy or at least willing to play one, don’t give me that jive about how your woman is “above all that shit” and loves you for who you are. She’s just biding her time, watching, waiting for HIM to walk by. And when he does, you’re a memory.
(How do you know you’re not Cool Guy? Because she says things like: “I like men who make me laugh,” or “I like men who listen.” Start listening, dude. She’s on her way to another loft.)
AND HERE IS GILLIAN FLYNN'S ORIGINAL:
“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. (How do you know you’re not Cool Girl? Because he says things like: “I like strong women.” If he says that to you, he will at some point fuck someone else. Because “I like strong women” is code for “I hate strong women.”)”