Who decides what is cool? I’d like to know for a friend…

It’s not that I sit around, staring outside my window, when it’s raining, wondering about life and the meaning of it (I do). It’s just one of those moments that sneak up on you when you’re sitting in your pyjamas and a shirt with non-sexy holes in it and watching  the Sex and the City movie at 4 am on a Saturday morning. You know, happens to everybody.

Who decides what is cool?

Was it some Greek philosopher, with an ‘us‘ a the end of his name (I am certain it was a ‘his’ and not a ‘her’ because patriarchy is very real, you guys) who came up with guidelines of coolness? Maybe. Maybe it’s not cool to ask this question, but I’ve often wondered just what does a cool person make?

So, while I always maintain that there is nothing uncool abut spending your Saturdays in bed with Netflix and no chill, I do realise that this behaviour does not qualify me to be ‘cool’, which brings me to the question of the moment: Who exactly is ‘Cool’?

Now at first I thought it would be subjective, like what is my cool might not be yours, but it’s very clearly not. Maybe it’s the media, or it’s the society (I don’t know, I am only 23 and I get my life lessons from Mills and Boons novels, so clearly I am not a judge), but there are, in fact, things that make you cool and things that, as I’ve been repeatedly told, are uncool.

According to all the romantic comedies I’ve read (and the million chick-lit novels I have read while pretending to read War and Peace), a cool girl is not someone who cares. You now what I mean? She is adorably clueless about her own beauty, she wears nerdy T-shirts, loves to eat pizza like there’s no tomorrow but still has really well toned abs for some reason. Now if that girl exists then more power to her, but I’m pretty sure she lives exactly where my 6th grade boyfriend lived. In an alternate universe.

Gillian Flynn has already tackled the issue of the ‘cool girl’ in the most wonderfully twisted ‘Gone Girl‘. If you haven’t read or seen it then know that I’m internally laughing at you and judging you at the same time, I’m a multi-tasker like that. But here’s what she says:

“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…”

Now it’s disturbing that the character who goes on to shove a broken wine bottle up her vagina and then brutally murder a man while having sex with him is so incredibly relatable right now, but it is what it is. Also, SPOILER ALERT for those who have not read/seen it.


Is being ‘cool’ an inherently male idea? Like why can’t I be called cool if I don’t like sports or spontaneous vacations or think that anyone who plays video games above the age of 13 has some deep issues they need to deal with?

This brings me back to the question again: Who decides what is cool?

Is it men? Do women worry about being cool more than men? Is it a patriarchal concept? Or does it transcend gender?

Let’s see, now that we’ve covered cool girls let’s get to the boys.

Who is a ‘cool boy’?

Webster’s dictionary defines a ‘cool boy’… no, I’m not going to give some Webster dictionary definition to ‘cool boy’, because it doesn’t exist (and also because giving dictionary definitions is probably the worst thing in life, right after line cutters).

Sad, right?

We have a whole genre of cinema and literature devoted to define what is cool for us (females). We have magazines giving us ’10 tips to come off as a cool person on a first date’. OK I made that headline up and I admit that it’s a terrible headline, but you see where I’m going with this?

What appears is that in our society having a penis gives you instant cool points, while we have to work on our conversational and contouring skills to earn that disbelieving shake of a guy’s head while he exclaims he’s never met such a cool girl before. And not to mention the very flattering: You’re not like other girls.

I am not going to claim here that it’s an issue of sexism. OK I lied. I am going to say it, it’s sexism.

One time a guy friend was narrating a work story, about how this totally unbearable woman (who, on an unrelated note, was also on a higher position than him) was a total bitch because she shouted at another colleague  at a meeting full of people, for not filing some paperwork on time and then proceeded to make the entire team’s (that he was also a part of) life hell for the rest of the meeting. When I didn’t chip in and added my two cents in the rant against that horrid woman, he genuinely looked concerned and asked me if I was feeling alright. Clearly I must have not heard him properly. Did I not hear how a manager reprimanded a subordinate who had not completed an important assignment? Did I not hear how unfair it is that a man got shouted at in public for not doing what he is probably paid more to do than the woman who shouted at him and was incidentally his boss? You can see why I didn’t console my friend and called that woman out for the bitch she clearly is.

When I expressed this to my friend, the innocent victim of a boss woman, he looked at me as if he was seeing me for the first time and said something that still haunts me at night…no, I’m kidding the only thing that haunts me at night is the image of Sharman Joshi and Zarine Khan making out/eating each other’s faces while trying to make out.

What he said was, “I thought you were cool..” and I am not kidding, he looked exactly like how a kid looks when you break it to him that Santa is not real. I assume as I  don’t have kids nor do I voluntarily spend time near them.

But the point I’m trying to make is that the first thought that came to my mind was not ‘what an idiot/jerk’, it was this urge to justify myself and distance myself from ‘those’ feminists, you know, the uncool kind who call male bullshit when they see it.

I am not proud of the fact that I laughed it off and changed the subject to the latest Game of Thrones episode and salvaged some of my coolness in the eyes of, who I now know as, my douchebag guy friend.

Why can’t I be cool and still be able to savagely shut a guy down when he talks shit about a girl boss? I’ve never had a girl tell me that I’m cool or not cool. I’ve gotten a lot of ‘you’re funny’ and ‘you’re sweet’ and sometimes ‘your obsession with Italian men who only exist in Mills and Boons novels is creepy, Salva.’ But never a ‘cool’ or ‘uncool’ tag. So why do I need that validation from men? Who gave them the power to tell me when I’m cool or not? Probably me, but is society to blame for conditioning me like that? Probably. As I said, patriarchy is very real, you guys.

Do I have a solution for this? Hell, no. I am the 23-year old who would rather binge watch Gilmore Girls while stuffing my mouth full of KitKat Chunkys than make conversation with other humans. I don’t know how to combat patriarchy. I don’t even know how to combat the very real and very scary moth that I’m pretty sure hates me for killing his best friend with a bug spray.

All I can say is if you hear someone tell you you’re cool, then ask them why. Demand an extensive explanation. Maybe get diagrams and pie charts involved. And then share them with me. Because I’d really like to know.

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