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Don’t Be A Cool Girl

Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 4.45.03 PMOne of my biggest joys in any beach vacation is, aside from the fruity, pre-lunch-hour alcohol, my airport hoarding of fashion and women’s interest magazines. While 95 percent of my life may be spent avoiding the financial investment of glossy rags, as well as the impetus to buy things and feel down about myself that they inevitably bring, that glorious 5 percent on a plane and on the sand is all about lazily flipping through the pages of ELLE or Harper’s or Vogue, devouring longreads from posh divorcées and bikini tips from Reese Witherspoon. And this trip has been no exception, as I spent several hours on the beach this afternoon flipping through the pages of a few different magazines, silently noting the new miracle cure for adult acne and thoroughly enjoying a cover story about T Swizzle.

But a single line in one of them caught my eye, and hooked into me in a way the fizzy, enthusiastic writing of women’s magazines rarely does. Some designer or another — a 20-something whom Google verified as indeed stunning, rich, French, and thin — was crowned a Cool Girl, and we were all encouraged to buy her designs before she becomes (inevitably) so established that they’ll be out of even this upscale magazine’s readership’s price range. A cool girl. And even where I was, in a lush hotel in Miami (thanks, boyfriend’s hotel-and-airfaire-point-accruing job!), sitting on the sand and sipping gratis champagne, I suddenly felt profoundly uncool. The truth was, I’d been agonizing over the looming prospect of posting a ~bikini photo~, the flag atop the mountain of the few months I’ve been really watching what I eat and working on transforming my body. I’ve not yet reached the finish line, and after reading that passage about the effortless Cool Girl and her tall, lithe body, I felt more discouraged than ever.

So I decided to plunge in headfirst, posting a photo I’d initially vetoed because it showed my little tummy creases and the pockets of fluff that develop on my upper arm when not in the skinny-arm pose. Perhaps it was silly, but at the moment, it felt to me like a conscious stab against the perfect Cool Girl I would not and could not be. I put the magazine down, determined to forget about it and her, and got back to enjoying my day at the beach (until my pale ass inevitably started to burn, which brought me back here to write).

The truth is, very few of us are Cool Girls. And though my world of writing — as glamorous as it may seem to some — is quite far from most of the real Cool Girls, I’ve met a few of them myself, and I can confirm that they give off an ethereal je ne sais quoi, managing to make a ripped tee shirt look intentional and chic, instead of just ratty and unkempt. Their social media presences are mysterious and vaguely sexy, and they never let you in on any of the less-flattering details behind their perfectly crafted personas. I can attest that, even meeting them in real life, you walk away with the impression that there is nothing negative or troublesome in their lives, and if there is, it will immediately be transformed into some powerful and interesting work of Art. They are what we would call “fashionable,” not just following trends but defining them, breaking the rules and making new ones in the process, and eventually being featured in magazines like the very one I was reading, where they are given a crown for the hard work of style-defining they’ve done, the crown of the Cool Girl (also sometimes referred to as It Girl).

And the desire to be like them, to emulate them and inch closer to their cutting-edge interesting-ness, drives us to spend and to slim. In attempting to reshape my body, I’ve had to question myself again and again if I am doing it because of health, or to look a certain way in a certain dress. In reducing my spending and purchasing more intentionally, I’ve had to resist the urge to buy the outfit or the end table that would suddenly make me so much more stylish and chic. I’ve had to ward off the burning, consuming need to contort my life into some imitation of Cool. We all do; that is what so many industries thrive off of entirely, and to slip out of that slimy Matrix pod and into something more healthy and sustainable can be nigh impossible.

But don’t be her. Allow my very brief experience with a very mild amount of internet fame be the conviction you need that it isn’t worth it. Even as a rising profile makes me more and more anxious about appearing a certain way, my interaction with the very people who do makes me even more afraid of slipping into the trap of seeming Cool. Don’t be Cool, because maintaining an air of avant-garde perfection on social media is a full-time job in itself, and even the prettiest photos can have the silliest backstories. Don’t be Cool, because living a life that is composed of glamour shots and perfectly-curated aesthetic leaves no room for being human. Being Cool is the Old World of style, where what is and isn’t acceptable was dictated to us from on high from behind a designer desk in some skyscraper in Midtown Manhattan. It has no place in a world where beauty can come from anywhere, where everyone can be part of the conversation, and a brace-faced teenager in rural Indiana can become the Next Big Thing.

We are no longer accepting these narrow terms of what is and isn’t chic, what is and isn’t a good body or the “right” way to dress. We have a chance to let go of these meaningless messages to consume more product and consume less food, to transform ourselves into something that will make us more interesting at cocktail parties but more unhappy in the long run. We deserve to have blemishes and frizzy hair and wardrobes full of last season’s trend pieces because they looked really, really good on us. We deserve to set our own terms for beauty and happiness, and to buy only what we love, and what works for our budgets, because chic — no matter what designer ads want to tell us — is not something that you can hang in your closet and put on when you go to a big, important event.

Be happy. Don’t worry about getting your name on a list, or your picture next to important people. Don’t worry about the labels on your bag or the up-to-dateness of your tastes. Don’t worry about putting forth an image of effortless Cool, because it’ll never be true. Realize that the joy of hitting a milestone in your savings account feels a thousand times better than the dress you were convinced would make you beautiful, and a big dinner with friends where you don’t worry about calories feels a thousand times better than perfectly-defined abs all the time. Cool is a myth, even if some people do a damn good job of faking it, and even if some glossy magazines insist on telling you that some girl across the world who designs statement jewelry is totally embodying it. That girl will never be you, and she’ll never be me, either.

So maybe we should just be ourselves.

  • Jane

    OMG! This is the most pretentious piece of fluff I’ve read in a long time! “Internet fame”? Really. How so? You write a tiny blog that is making a small bit of money now and somehow that makes you famous? This is not the first time you’ve gone on about your “fame”. What do I see? I see a woman who still views herself as a “fat girl”, one without a college degree and all the insecurity that brings out in your writing, who is desperately trying to out run her childhood demons, all the while giving the rest of us advice on how to run our lives. Humorous actually, if it weren’t so sad.

    • Amanda Quinn

      Who asked you? Chelsea provides some great advice, both on personal finance and life. Its your choice whether you read it or not. Also, she didn’t go on about her fame at all, it really just seems that you’re looking to take out your excessive anger issues one somebody who has worked very hard to be successful. Maybe you should reassess your life and why you feel the need to be nasty for literally no reason. You clearly seem threatened by Chelsea’s confidence.

      • Jane

        Wow. Where to even begin? I for sure didn’t call her a “hoe”. Who’s got “excessive anger issues”? LOL. And thinks it’s okay to slut shame other women (when sex isn’t even the topic, no less)? You all have made my point. Thanks for the laugh. It’s a BLOG people. With a few commenters here and there. My point was and is, that was not the first piece of hers that talked about her “fame”. If you’re really famous/ so great, you don’t need to keep telling people. They will just know.

        • Amanda Quinn

          The funny thing is that she hardly talks about “fame” and when she does she says “very mild amount of internet fame,” yet you’re so fixated on that. Sounds like you have some serious jealousy issues you need to learn to deal with

          • Jane

            You haven’t a clue who I am or what my level of “fame” is. Seems you’re as pretentious as she can be. There’s no debate here. It’s all ass kissing like high schoolers. Bullying because someone dares to disagree. You just bought your friend some really bad press.

          • Ally

            Aight bruh then why don’t you show your hand. Seems like you’re a sad, sad woman with some serious insecurity issues. Its funny that you consider your opinion valuable enough to be considered “really bad press.” Go back to whatever hole you crawled out of.

          • Jane

            Here we go again. It’s so clear that you are all personal friends of Chelsea. And it’s fine that you want to defend her, but it IS bad press to have an unnecessary, “hoe” calling, fight in the comment section of a relatively new blog. That was my point. You, Ally, seem to think your Pitbull tactics and dime store analysis are productive. Seems your opinion of yourself is far greater than mine.

          • Ally

            I actually don’t know Chelsea at all, but it seems you have a personal vendetta. Maybe you’re so fixated on this comment section because its the most attention you’ve ever received in your life.

          • Jane

            Wow. Why do you young women do that? Automatically assume that someone is a loser with no friends or attention because they dare disagree with you? Seriously, the insults around here are beyond childish and clickish. They’re not even smart and I know you all think you’re ever so clever. You’re just repeating the same tired old BS that shows up on whatever boards when someone new pops and dares to question the status quo. People write in comments for as many zillion reasons are there are stars in the sky and, yes, I could have been nicer in my initial comment and I regret that, but immediately calling me a hoe was as far from “productive” as I’ve ever seen. I know it’s hard for you millennials to believe but not everyone is married to the internet or is invested in these blog games like you seem to be. I simply found this blog, thought it was actually quite good, but of the 3 or 4 articles I read, I simply got tired of Chelsea going on about her so called fame, and for someone like myself who is out of her twenties and not dealing with the same recurring insecurities as Chelsea, her work can read as insecure and pretentious, however fake humble she pretends to be. Maybe I was just unlucky and landed on the ONLY articles that read that way but that’s what happened. Now please, go back to whatever games you want and let’s just end this here. This has been a total waste of time, as I’m sure you can agree with that.

          • Ally

            “I know it’s hard for you millennials to believe but not everyone is married to the internet or is invested in these blog games like you seem to be.” says the troll that started all this and continues to respond.

          • Jane

            Listen Ally, I don’t know what your problem is but I’m not going to humor you by pretending to know in a petty game of insult one-upmanship. I will say that your personal attacks on me by far outweigh anything I’ve posted here. Move on sweetie. Go have a drink.

          • FacePalmHeadache

            I’ve never met Chelsea, I don’t always agree with this site, and yet your constant attacks seem kind of scary truthfully.

            The problem is your original comment was hateful, condescending, and rude. When other people called you out on the tone of the comment you became defensive and have begun claiming that a “Mean Girls” mentality exists here. Except you started it. Instead of simply saying you disagreed with Chelsea’s post and the premise of it, you attacked her personally with hurtful rhetoric, none of which has not been addressed by the author anyways.

            Attacking someone’s prior weight, education level, and personal success aren’t productive discussions, and they frankly don’t involve an entire comments section. If you disagree with the premise of an article begin a thoughtful discussion of why (not why you hate the author). Otherwise, stop reading. All you’re doing is providing more clicks to her “very brief and very mild internet fame.”

          • Chuka

            Dear face palm head, many thanks for the insightful words. What’s most painful is how seemed to have hot too stepped in the lines of comments that we are almost loosing the plot, essence and fun if the post. Thanks a lot.

          • Kelsey

            Lolz at the troll commenter crying bully. So when someone disagrees with you, its high school style bullying, but when you disagree with Chelsea its debate? Can’t have it both ways.

          • moo

            I dunno. She’s mentioned it more than once so I had to Google her.

    • Rachel York

      lol you sound like a jealous hoe…like she’s making a good living writing online, who gives a crap if its fluff. you need to sit down and think about why you think it’s ok to insult someone so flagrantly when there is literally nothing wrong with what she wrote (also, she’s certainly more famous than you Jane)

    • Kelsey

      Wow, excellent work pointing out her insecurities in a comment on an article about Chelsea facing her insecurities head on. You basically proved one of her points, about critics of her online persona. She’s clearly “internet famous” enough to bring wackos like you out of the woodwork to be the first commenter on her piece. Try harder.

    • seriously?

      Do you even know what “pretentious” means? Because this is the opposite
      of that, she’s admitting her insecurities to the world and being real.
      It’s really humbling, not pretentious at all. Also she never said she
      was like super famous, she said she had a “very mild amount of internet
      fame”, which she does. She wrote for Thought Catalog and her articles
      were among the most popular, and she was one of the most well known of
      all the writers on that site. So yeah, she does have an amount of fame
      online, no matter how small.

      It’s really sad you feel you have to tear her down on an article where she’s already admitting that she feels less than….

    • trollz lolz. go back to the thought catalog comments section where you belong.

  • GBee

    Lately I’ve been trying to be very honest with my friends about certain aspects of my finances. The new furniture in our apartment? Found it for 40% off. The cute top I’m wearing? Hand-me-down from my sister. The trip I just went on? Paid for it using the money from my side gig.

    And “friends” that judge me for getting my hair cut at a non-designer salon… that says more about you than it does about me.

  • Andra Shamim

    Chelsea… I personally appreciate honesty over cool and I think you exhibit that quality quite well. I started following you right before you left Thought Catalog and launched TFD
    I find you to be funny and very wise for your age. I’m a 37 year old single mom of an 11 year old and a 2 month old (probably not part of your standard demograpgic) and I appreciate every word that you right. As for Jane… I did get my degree in December and it did help my confidence but I disagree that it is impacting Chelsea. Not everyone needs to walk the same path to get to the same place. I think she shows considerable confidence through her honesty.

    • Jane

      My point about the degree was that it comes up over and over and, in my opinion, she’s insecure about it or she wouldn’t keep talking about it. I’m entitled to think that. I could be wrong. Never said that being wrong about that wasn’t a possibility. But my opinion, as I hold it now, is still just as valid as the rest of you. I like the blog overall. I didn’t condemn the entire blog. I didn’t like this piece because it’s getting tiresome about “the fame” and I do feel Chelsea is not nearly as “confident” as she pretends. That’s my opinion. Live with it or don’t. Doesn’t matter. Not to me nor anyone else.

      • Amanda Quinn

        Maybe you should just stop reading and take your ill begotten opinions elsewhere

        • Jane

          You really are a bunch of teenagers, aren’t you?

      • Andra Shamim

        I only stated that I disagreed with you and why; the same as you say you did with Chelsea. I’m not a teenager; I did not call you names or make any assumptions about your character or motivation. I responded to a particular statement of yours with my own thought in furtherance of the discussion. What I said prior to that was in response to Chelsea’s theme.

        • Jane

          Andra, I did not call you a teenager personally. The overall response to my comments has been to bully me as clickish teenagers do when they don’t get their way or like what they hear. Calling a group of people teenagers for that behavior is appropriate and far different than directly calling someone a “hoe”. So now beyond my original point, the point is that some of the women here can’t have a new thought presented without slut shaming and/or demanding that someone stop reading and go somewhere else as to not upset their make-believe worlds. This has now turned into multiple slams, over two days, and upset over what was my rightful opinion. If truthful comments are not wanted here, than don’t have a comment section. I categorically agree that Chelsea should write whatever she wants, as an artist, and as the principal in her blog. Overall, I enjoy her writing here. What I was commenting on is the fact that of the few pieces of hers that I have read, she seems to take the fame thing a little too seriously and I have gotten the sense, more often than not, that she has some insecurities that run her more than she admits. Reading that in every article is a bit tiresome. And yes, I’m free to go elsewhere. That is quite obvious.

          • Ally

            If you want a lesson in what bullying looks like, you should look at your original comment

          • Jane

            I certainly didn’t call another woman a “hoe”. This is a professional blog, is it not? It also has a comment section, does it not? Please go and enjoy your days. I’m certainly not going to spend not with this ridiculous back and forth.

          • Ally

            dude, get over it.

          • clickish? it’s clique.

          • becominganisland

            What people are reacting to is not the fact that you have a different opinion from Chelsea, but that you expressed your opinion in a disrespectful way. And yes, I agree that some people have responded to you in a disrespectful manner as well and I am not saying that what they did was right. However, putting them down by calling them teenagers or childish is only going to continue to make you feel like you are being bullied, because you are continuing this cycle of being disrespectful to each other.

            What is wrong with being insecure about the lack of a college degree? Everyone has insecurities. I have always interpreted Chelsea’s articles where she gives advice as not her on her high horse with her “level of fame” dispensing advice to us lowly commoners, but as her working through her issues/insecurities (whatever those may be) and sharing what she has learned, so that we (including Chelsea) can all live happier and smarter.

            Side note: If you think that I am a personal friend of Chelsea and that is why I am coming to her defense, the only other comment I have posted on this website is in which I disagreed with what Chelsea said in one of her articles.

      • Summer

        Given that the central theme of this blog is personal finance, it seems obvious that certain topics are going to come up more than once as they relate to money. For the 20s and 30s age demographic most likely to read this site, student loan debt IS a widespread reality. I’ve never once gotten the impression that Chelsea is insecure about the fact she doesn’t have a degree. If you’ve read enough of this site, you’ll realize she’s mentioned it because she does have student loan debt from the time she spent in college, so the fact relates both in that regard and from the standpoint that perhaps her biggest goal with TFD is financial transparency. How can she share experiences from her own life from subject to subject without occasionally “repeating” something to discuss in context?

  • Towely

    Haters gonna hate, Chelsea. Great article. Thanks for writing it.

    • Dee Rose

      Haha I didn’t even read this comment before I posted mine. Haters GONNA HATE.

  • Jane

    Oh you little girls made me laugh! “Chelsea currently resides in Paris, France, and apologizes for how pretentious that sounds.”

    • Ally

      You’re the only little girl here.

  • Annie

    “And now that you don’t have to be cool, you can be happy” is the theme of the second half of my twenties.

  • Dee Rose

    Haters gonna hate, Chelsea. This article and the whole TFD website is wise, down-to-earth, lighthearted and lovely – just as I imagine you are in real life.

  • Hayley

    It’s so funny to me how we give ourselves these standards of what is “cool” or what we should aspire to be like. As women, we constantly put ourselves down and put ourselves below the bar of what we think we need to achieve. You read that magazine, thinking for a moment that you would never be able to be the “cool girl,” and I read your blog and occasionally think, “I’ll never be as cool as Chelsea.” I don’t think that because you put off this fake, pretentious vibe (you don’t, and I love it, it’s probably why I think you’re so cool), but I think that because I don’t look around me to see the worth in myself. I focus on negatives rather than the positives. I forget about the close friends I have in search of more instagram followers. Anyways, it just goes to show that we’re all a lot cooler than we think we are, and what really matters isn’t how we dress or having an all-white loft, but how we treat others and ourself. Thanks for sharing this, Chelsea!

  • Franchesca

    LOVE