October 3, 2016

DUGGAL | Cool Girl

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My first instinct in tackling this column today was to quote the Tove Lo song that shares the same name as today’s column and call it a day. Maybe add a couple paragraphs dissecting some of her lyrics, maybe leave it up to you guys to analyze what she means (if you haven’t already), maybe add a link to a recent interview of hers I came across — keep it minimalist (and turn it in on time for once), you know?

I changed my mind late last night. Sitting on the couch, absentmindedly scrolling through readings for class the day after (read: make-up tutorials on Youtube), I could hear the throngs of brave students out on a Sunday spilling across the streets of Collegetown, laughing and talking. It wasn’t much different than any other Sunday, but it had been a while since I’d taken the time to observe the personalities that flit by College Avenue on a given night.

There’s a trait that lives within the college aged girl that manifests itself across campuses, and if you look close enough, you can define it. It’s the trait that pushes us to want to be the “cool girl” — you know the one that I’m talking about. She’s the girl that hangs out on the porch of a party, casually drinking or casually smoking, she’s the one in ripped jeans and a casual top, she’s the one that lives behind the meme of Audrey Hepburn casually turning away a guy that tells her he loves her; she’s the one in Tove Lo’s song that casually rolls her eyes and keeps it platonic.

Somewhere along the way, it got cool for us to not care. That girl, the one that every guy finds himself attracted to when he least expects it, could care less — about him, about his opinion, about anything really. She’s the one that keeps everything light, everything simple. She makes you feel wanted enough to stay, unwanted enough to keep coming back. You don’t matter to her, but you want to, and that’s enough to keep you around.

It’s cool to not care because it’s so very uncool to get hurt. No one wants to admit they tried their hardest and lost. No one wants to admit they gave something, someone, everything they had, and ended up hurt. It’s much easier to pretend like you never cared in the first place. It’s much easier to reason with yourself, to shrug off when you’re talking to a friend how little you tried and how little you expected. It’s a much easier conversation to have than the one that forces you to say you tried your best, and it wasn’t good enough.

So, we’re left holding on to our cool girl persona. I could sit here and list to you all the ways in which this persona creeps up in pop culture references, the ways in which this ideal perpetuates itself through stereotypes and memes and Buzzfeed quizzes. In preparing to write this column, I wrote out a few I could think of, but if I’m being entirely honest, I ended up too frustrated to turn it into anything remotely sensical enough for a public, college newspaper. The fact of the matter is, this “cool girl” doesn’t exist. She never has, and no matter how close she might get to faking it, she never will exist. People care. People try — people try really hard (especially on our campus, come on). People hurt. People love, people hate. People are supposed to. When society shames people for being  “too sensitive,” “too emotional,” “too attached,” “too needy,” it degrades who we can be as a community. To shy away from empathy, understanding and respect is not to be above the people around you; it is to be too immature to look past only yourself.

I spent a while on this column. I actually started it before the day it was due, I had a friend read it over, I had another friend read it over and then I sat there in impatience while I watched my editor read it over through the colored lines of a Google doc. Someone called me out on how subpar my last one was, and it stung — a lot more than I would care to admit out loud. My go-to reaction was to insist I couldn’t care less about that particular column. “Rough week, it happens,” I laughed. It was a rough week, it does happen, but it didn’t make it mean any less to me. I could’ve quoted a Tove Lo song as a column this week. I could’ve insisted that what I write every other week doesn’t mean that much to me, and believe me, I considered it strongly. At the core of it all, though, the person I’d be lying to most would be myself. Admitting we care doesn’t change the fact that we did to begin with, and it doesn’t make criticism sting any less — it simply makes a stronger case for us to try harder next time.

Hebani Duggal is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at hduggal@cornellsun.com. Teach Me How to Duggal appears alternate Tuesdays this semester.

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