As many of you may know by now, I happily obsess over the idea of the Cool Girl. Now you may be asking, who is the Cool Girl? Because my own explanation is less fabulous, I’ll once again mention Gillian Flynn’s Cool Girl definition because it is not only a fascinating and accurate depiction of the Cool Girl, but it is the thing that makes all of this click:
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.
I guarantee you know at least one Cool Girl. And most likely, she’s entirely a fabulous (exclamation point) creature of her own making. She pulled herself up by the claws (and by claws, I mean perfectly manicured french tipped nail) and made other people see her as the Cool Girl. Her confidence is entirely projected on other, more seemingly self-conscious people.
The point I want to make is that no one is really the Cool Girl–we’re all just trying to get by in the best way that we can, and for some people, that might even mean pretending to be something you’re not. (But what a lame way to live the only life you’ve got.)
A while back, I wrote about how Caroline Bingley is one of the best Austen examples of the Cool Girl: Just how real were her good manners and breeding? Wasn’t the design of such an education to entice a man into matrimony? To find a man of good fortune (who supposedly should be in want of a wife, if we trust Austen’s coveted opening sentence to Pride & Prejudice).
The Cool Girl is merely a facade adorned by women to trick men into matrimony (or dating, or sex, or whatever your intention may be). Maybe that’s super obvious, but maybe it’s not. Either way, I think the Cool Girl is worth mentioning…again. I think she hides in unexpected places (like more than one of Austen’s novels), and most of the time, we just let her slip by, knuckles un-rapped, mask intact. But not this time.
And I now have another example to address: Mary Crawford.
The beautiful and enchanting Mary Crawford who quickly captures the heart and attention of Edward Bertrum in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. Right off the bat, there is just something about Mary that is a little too on, don’t you think? I know times are different, but is anyone so agreeable? But surprisingly, Mary herself indirectly comments on the Cool Girl. More specifically, she admits that one or the other person, upon wedding, is “taken in”, meaning that they married with the expectation or supposed understanding of their intended’s disposition/mannerisms/lifestyle only to be wholly shocked when they’re an entirely different person at home rather than out in society.
Oh dear! let him stand his chance and be taken in. It will do just as well. Everybody is taken in at some period or other…In marriage especially. With all due respect to such of the present company as chance to be married, my dear Mrs. Grant, there is not one in a hundred of either sex who is not taken in when they marry. Look where I will, I see that it is so; and I feel that it must be so, when I consider that it is, of all transactions, the one in which people expect most from others, and are least honest themselves…speaking from my own observation, it is a maneuvering business. I know so many who have married in the full expectation and confidence of some one particular advantage in the connection, or accomplishment, or good quality in the person, who have themselves entirely deceived, and been obliged to put up with exactly the reverse. What is this but a take in?
Mary Crawford, as clearly demonstrated above, is neither immune to societal pressure to behave a particular way nor unaware that it’s more likely to be “taken in” when participating in the “maneuvering business” that is marriage. She has a refreshingly realistic (though arguably too condoning) approach to the idea that everyone lies a little bit when it comes to wooing the opposite sex.
I suppose such seemingly insignificant lies (or fudgings of the truth) would be excused by Miss Crawford, for such actions were means to a greater good: an advantageous marriage–though such misrepresentations could be identified as selfish, for there is little consideration for the other party’s feelings. Mary Crawford herself declares, “Selfishness must always be forgiven, you know, because there is no hope for a cure.” Presenting oneself as the Cool Girl (when we know it’s all really just a perfectly rehearsed act) is in itself, a selfish act. And as we all know, selfish acts are typically not rewarded–as Miss Crawford’s exit from Mansfield proves. In the movie adaptation (1999), Edmund, after witnessing Miss Crawford’s “adaptability” to his brother’s demise, informs her that “the person I’ve been so apt to dwell on for many months has been a figure of my own imagination, not you, Miss Crawford. I do not know you, and I’m sorry to say, I have no wish to.”
Didn't anyone ever teach these girls to just be themselves? To not create their self-image and self-esteem for any exterior motivation (e.g. a boyfriend)? We should be looking for the sort of relationship like Edward Bertram and Fanny’s, when he looks at you and is able to say, without a shadow of a doubt, “Your entire person is entirely agreeable.”