A few weeks ago sitting across from a quintessential cool guy at the frozen yogurt shop, I felt pretty special. Here was this guy who had himself together, who said just enough of the right words at just the right time, and who rarely broke his signature calm, collected demeanor. Here he was sitting with me, flirting with me, interested in what I had to say and in telling me about himself. In all of his stories, he just seemed so impenetrably cool. From being a multi-sport all star, to playing guitar, to having the most ridiculously chiseled body, he embodied the adjective while refusing to flaunt it. All of these facts and characteristics just sneaked out of his stories. And then he picked me up and carried me to the car. Such a typical cool person thing to do.
I’m writing this article because I need to remember my lesson about cool guys: I should stay away from cool guys, I should not date cool guys, I should forget my stupid ideas about cool guys. I think I’ve been taught this lesson about a gazillion times, but somehow I haven’t retained it. Cool guys always seem so attractive. They make me feel like I’ve accomplished something by catching their attention, and like they’re going to be the most fun and exciting things to ever happen to me. I could reasonably suspect that we’d be sailing around Australia saving dolphins from sharks while he set up picnic wine dates on little deserted islands along the way.
Everyone seems to have a similar excitement about cool guys. How many times have you heard, “Someone’s gotta make him settle down…” or “Maybe he just hasn’t found the right girl yet…” when someone’s talking about the very cool guy who seems to make every girl within 100 miles swoon. Rom coms hinge on the cool, unaffected guy whose heart is melted and emotional walls destroyed by some charming little lady who crosses his path. Suddenly, he must have her and all his cool guy energy is turned on her. But it’s a lie. Cool guys look great on paper (and in movies), but actually, they are kind of the worst things to happen to a girl.
Here’s why. The cool guy’s appeal is the same as his downfall- he gives up just enough to be admirable, but not enough to be vulnerable. He thrives having the upper hand and lives by the less is more philosophy when it comes to showing emotion. When it comes time to own up to his feelings or show how much he cares, he’ll always let you down. Letting people know what they mean to you is weak and vulnerable. They might not feel the same, there’s a chance of rejection, and they may use that information against you. The cool guy isn’t comfortable in those situations, especially for long periods of time. He opts for something that works a little better and includes much less risk. He shoots for the sure thing that he’s sure he can live without. He speaks up when he’s certain he has something impressive to say. He only plays the games he can win. He keeps his highs low and lows high. This way, he keeps his emotions in check at a very comfortable middle range.
For his romantic interest it’s torture. His excitement is tinted with ambivalence and his pain is covered with stoicism. She never knows what she means to him or really who he is. While he gets the satisfaction of hearing her say how much she cares or what all the great things she sees in him are, she gets to read his every move to see how he feels about her. While he gets to hear how he rocks her world, she gets to guess what facial expressions, body language, and old text messages say about his feelings for her.
Two weeks after the frozen yogurt night, we’d seen each other many more times and were pretty used to the idea that we’d keep this up. However, now there were no more long conversations about how we saw the world, what we wanted to do in life, and who we were. Now he gave up the bare minimum thoughts on the day, and didn’t seem all too interested in hearing mine. We started chatting about work and sports instead of deeper conversations. Flirty kisses and jokes seemed a little less fun because the feeling of getting closer was pretty hollow.
The truth about cool guys is that they spend their effort being cool. It takes focus to hold yourself together and always be the straight guy. It takes practice to be able to stay strong and not show vulnerability. Cool guys have worked hard to maintain their image because it works for them. It’s their modus operandi and until they need to change, they won’t. They don’t need to change as long as enamored women accommodate their cool guy needs (i.e. “he’s communicating the best way he knows how” “that’s how he shows his love” “I know how he feels without him saying it”). Cool guys get to keep their respect, the upper hand, and reputation intact because no one requires more. And while many times there is depth and worth and potential for a great boyfriend underneath his tough exterior, he has to be the one to decide to change. He has to decide that whatever he wants in life is worth relinquishing power. Many times, cool guys never want that for themselves, and it’s important for girls to realize this.
My cool guy (who never really was mine) still lingers around. I still get a confusing text or look from across the room from time to time. If I were still wishing for the cool guy and playing the cool guy game, I might be all over those signals. I might be thinking how fun it is that the cool guy kind of needs me in some way too. However, now he doesn’t seem so exciting. He seems more like a dead end. He seems like something I might spend a lot of time on and get nowhere with.
Instead, I want the guy who can be open. The one who isn’t afraid to tell me what he’s thinking or feeling and who is loyal because he knows he needs me. I want the one who wants to hold me because he loves feeling closer, who is a nerd when he’s feeling goofy, and who wants to be in my world as much as he wants me in his. I want a man who is strong enough to let go of his coolness for the sake of completeness.