Ban the Big Chill: Since When Does Being Honest Mean You’re “Crazy”?

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03.23.16
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A brief and incomplete list of people who are crazy: anyone who enjoys the DMV, anyone who loves dogs but specifically hates golden retrievers, anyone who thinks I’m not getting a side of bacon.

An even briefer list of people who are not crazy: You.

In my almost-28 years — an age that in no way commands wisdom yet has collected experiences like soggy leaves in the blue plastic netting of a pool rake — I have started to realize that the worst thing one can do in a relationship* is replace honesty with being chill. What this does is perpetuate the idea that having expectations, wants, needs and feelings of any kind is nuts.

It’s not nuts.

*Before we continue, allow me to define “relationship” (in the context of this essay so millennial I can hardly believe it’s not a list nor an open letter) as:

– A thing between two people.

Acknowledging the downsides of acting chill or cool is not a revelation. Unscholarly pursuits have led enough different people to the same conclusion for it to be true. In 2012, Gillian Flynn’s novel Gone Girl was published and with it, the female lead’s diatribe against the elusive “cool girl” — she doesn’t exist. In 1999, the emo band Saves The Day titled their sophomore album and 11th track, “Through Being Cool” — popularity’s a societal myth.

We know this stuff. We’re smart. We get it.

Yet we continue to use The Big Chill in relationships as an emotional crutch.

Let’s assume (we’ll be asses together) that The Big Chill evolved out of everyone’s BS. In the mass migration toward keeping it casual — read: having less responsibility for another’s feelings while retaining certain perks, an ice age took over that rendered us incapable of saying how we really feel for the sake of ruining an otherwise perfectly good situation.

For example:

You like a guy, don’t want to freak him out with the boyfriend talk, so you act chill.

You’re mad that your boyfriend hasn’t texted you all day, you don’t want to seem clingy or needy, so you act chill.

You’re pretty sure the guy you’re seeing (and really like!) is being sketchy, but you don’t want to look paranoid, so you act chill.

This can be platonic, too. You’re furious about something a friend did but you don’t want to seem psycho, so you act chill.

You’re fine. It’s cool. You’re cool!

…But are you getting any of the results or answers you want? No.

So why do we do it?

A quick quiz: What would you rather be called? Bitchy or crazy?

I polled 100 girls this weekend and everyone agreed, “Bitchy.” It’s a condescending word with misogynistic undertones, yes, but it also connotes a sense of control and power. Add the word “bad” before “bitch” and you’ve just turned the put-down into a compliment.

Crazy, meanwhile…that means you’re unhinged. Erratic. Hysterical. Diagnoses like these could get you locked up in an institution in the nineteenth century (now we fear these words tag us as “alone” forever; same thing?) so it makes sense that keeping one’s cool has remained at a high premium when it comes to public perception.

But the act isn’t working. It’s not getting anyone what they want. Not really.

My mom recently said to me that when it comes to relationships — friendly, romantic, professional — you have to clearly state your expectations. Otherwise, you cannot expect others to meet your expectations. They likely won’t. And while you can theoretically get pissed at whoever you want, you can’t expect anyone to understand why if he or she never got a rundown of your Bottom Lines. So state them.

Here’s my thing for the next relationship I’m in, for the next fight with a friend or general human disagreement: no more “chill” if its repressive. Just honesty. And if that comes off as crazy? Cool.

At least we’re on the same page.

Collage/illustration by Emily Zirimis featuring stickers by Anya Hindmarch.

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