The Cool Girl.
There’s been a lot written these days about the Cool Girl, the one described so perfectly, so authentically and with such savage grace, in Gone Girl. In her book, Gillian Flynn fires blaring verbal pyrotechnics that could light up a starless night with orange flames as she lays out the kind of qualities embodied by the Cool Girl:
She will stay skinny while shoving hotdogs down her throat.
She will wax and shave until she looks like a prepubescent girl and she will never once complain that doing so hurts like a motherfucker.
She won’t ask questions you don’t want to answer and she’ll happily give you head while you watch SportsCenter.
She will remain the Coolest Girl On the Planet™ until the day she just can’t pull it off anymore, and that time will come because being completely agreeable and always hungry for meat and carbs is unsustainable – and everybody knows it, though they all collectively pretend the shift will never happen, especially the Cool Girl.
The Cool Girl exists.
I’ve met her.
I’m friends with her.
I’ve been her.
The movie adaptation of Gone Girl, that amazingly twisted, dark book, was excellent. It got just about everything right. They nailed the casting – who knew Tyler Perry could act up a storm when not sporting a wig and a muumuu? – and the film’s pacing was perfect. I got into the car after the movie ended and was stunned to see it was 1:13 AM. It didn’t seem as thought I had been watching a movie for over two hours; the film flowed like a limb-filled bloody river, the kind Amy Elliot Dunne would have happily sunbathed beside of for an entire afternoon.
It was a big deal for those of us who loved the book that the Cool Girl speech made it into the film. It was whittled down, sure, but it was there and it held true to its dagger-like edge. Gillian Flynn, who I kind of want to be best friends with, adapted her own novel into a screenplay, and she did her own work justice. And she kept that deep, profound speech, the one where Amy lets the readers in on the fact that she had never completely been what she seemed, that she all but falsified herself for what felt like a great reason at the time: she wanted Nick. She wanted Nick to want her. She wanted to become a girl that a girl can never truly stay.
I get the goal of the Cool Girl, of wanting to be elusive and steady, to come off as pretty and daring. It all makes sense to me, though I’ve grown up enough to allow that persona to fade slowly out of my life until what remains is the real me. But I’m pleased to say that I’ve still got some qualities of the Cool Girl, except now they're authentic; I no longer compromise myself in the process.
(Lest I come off like I believe that I’m completely evolved, know that one part of my former self remains: I still shave every possible hair off of my body – and I can’t for a single second claim that I do that for myself.)
So yeah – being the Cool Girl? I might judge it, but I get it.
What I don’t understand – who I will never understand – is the Psycho Girl.
Do you know the Psycho Girl? She’s the one who probably looks normal on the outside and I’ll bet she always has her nails done. She probably doesn’t like when they chip only two days after her manicure, so maybe she uses gel polish. She’s got her phone in her hand constantly and she takes selfies like it’s her job. She holds the phone far above her head because she thinks she looks thinner that way. She cannot acknowledge an experience on her own unless she posts it on Instagram and others acknowledge it too.
She stalks the Facebook, the Instagram, and the Twitter accounts of the guys who flit in and out of her life. She knows their updates better than she knows her own. She reads everything and she reads into everything and she scrolls back into his past looking for hints and she fills in the gaps of what she doesn’t know with a hysteria that she thinks she holds quietly inside.
She has friends who are just like her. You’ve seen them. They’re the girls that always travel in mini-packs of twos and threes, who have conversations while they are behind you in line at Duane Reade, speaking loudly, acting as though they are being filmed for a reality show, because really, that’s their greatest goal: to be known. Most of her friends feed her psychotic behavior like you’d feed a starving ferret, but she probably also has at least one person in her life who tells her that she needs to stop cyber-stalking that one guy, that she’s too good for him, and I suppose that’s a good friend, though I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that stalkers of any kind are rarely the catch of the century.
By the way: if she doesn’t have that one normal friend, she can borrow one of mine. I have several.
The Psycho Girl acts like everything is fine all the time, much like the Cool Girl does, but the mental shivering that periodically overtakes the mind of the Psycho makes it impossible for her to properly maintain her “just fine” persona. She will crack. She will act irrationally, and there’s almost no doubt anymore that her emotional crumble will occur somewhat in public. She will make sure that it happens in public. After all, if it’s not snapped, clicked, or posted, what evidence exists that this lunatic matters, that her experience actually transpired? She likes to make her presence known, but she will also employ what she believes is some secrecy.
She will try to make herself feel powerful and less out of control by attempting to destroy somebody else.
Here’s the thing though: the Cool Girl – the girl the Psycho probably really wants to be – upon being deceived, will lash out at the man who deceived her. Hopefully her anger won’t manifest in the ways that Amy’s did while she was armed with a box-cutter in Gone Girl, but the Cool Girl will direct her anger somewhat accordingly.
The Normal Girl exists in the world too. She will feel a sense of true loss and tangy bitterness after something that feels like a betrayal, and then she will eventually move on, probably after writing in her journal for a week and drinking either tequila or scorching hot lattes with a real friend.
But the Psycho Girl? She’ll react like, well, a total psycho, and she will turn her fury on someone who was not responsible for making her feel like shit in the first place.
Yes, the Psycho Girl, upon being cheated on or something in that ilk, will decide it’s the random girl who might not have even known about her existence in the first place who deserves the bulk of the blame. She will plan out how she will exact revenge on a stranger who never promised her anything. She will search online every single day – several times a day – and as she goes to every site that she uses to keep tabs on the people in her sick little equation, her heart will thunder in her chest and in her ears when she lands on a page. She will feel absolutely terrified that she will see something that will devastate her, but she will also feel a strange letdown when she doesn’t find something she deems incriminating.
She puts together the broken pieces of a something that was never a puzzle. She thinks she’s got it all figured out. And then she reacts.
She thinks she’s being stealth.
She thinks she’s being careful.
She thinks the person she is lashing out at will never find out who she is.
She is wrong about all of that.
She will go on Facebook or Instagram and “like” a photo to surreptitiously make her presence known. Her goal? She needs to remind you that she exists by making what she believes to be a subtle and snarling point. Sometimes she might leave a comment somewhere, sending her desperation out into the world in poorly written prose that is designed to ring with faux-sweetness.
Problem is, she doesn’t write well. She can’t hide her motives. That shit takes skill.
Her goal is to feel included, wanted, important. The Psycho wants a lot of things, but most of all, she doesn’t ever want to be left behind.
She believes she knows the truth, and I suppose she knows her version of it, but that truth has been filtered through the mental sieve of someone coming partially undone so the whole story – the real story – will never be something that she actually understands.
It will never be something that she wants to understand.
The Psycho Girl? She’s been hurt before, poor thing, and it probably was an emotionally-debilitating pain that put her on life’s sidelines for a little while. I have some sympathy for her; I don’t want to know that anybody has been or currently is in pain. I know what pain is like. But guess what? We all do.
For those who fear the Psycho Girl – don’t. She can’t harm you. You need real strength to hurt somebody. You need courage. It’s really best to quickly acknowledge her and then simply walk away. You can eventually return to her if you’d like.
Because she will still be waiting – and she will not have changed a bit.