Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they’re fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl. For a long time Cool Girl offended me. I used to see these men - friends, coworkers, strangers - giddy over these awful pretender women, and I’d want to sit these men down and calmly say: You are not dating a woman, you are dating a woman who has watched too many movies written by socially awkward men who’d like to believe that this kind of woman exists and might kiss them. I’d want to grab the poor guy by his lapels or messenger bag and say: The bitch doesn’t really love chili dogs that much - no one loves chili dogs that much! And the Cool Girls are even more pathetic: They’re not even pretending to be the woman they want to be, they’re pretending to be the woman a man wants them to be. Oh, and if you’re not a Cool Girl, I beg you not to believe that your man doesn’t want the Cool Girl. It may be a slightly different version - maybe he’s a vegetarian, so Cool Girl loves seitan and is great with dogs; or maybe he’s a hipster artist, so Cool Girl is a tattooed, bespectacled nerd who loves comics. There are variations to the window dressing, but believe me, he wants Cool Girl, who is basically the girl who likes every fucking thing he likes and doesn’t ever complain. (How do you know you’re not Cool Girl? Because he says things like: ‘I like strong women.’ If he says that to you, he will at some point fuck someone else. Because ‘I like strong women’ is code for ‘I hate strong women.’)
I waited patiently - years - for the pendulum to swing the other way, for men to start reading Jane Austen, learn how to knit, pretend to like cosmos, organize scrapbook parties, and make out with each other while we leer. And then we’d say, Yeah, he’s a Cool Guy.
But it never happened. Instead, women across the nation colluded in our degradation! Pretty soon Cool Girl became the standard girl. Men believed she existed - she wasn’t just a dreamgirl one in a million. Every girl was supposed to be this girl, and if you weren’t, then there was something wrong with you.
Nearly everyone with ADHD answers an emphatic yes to the question: “Have you always been more sensitive than others to rejection, teasing, criticism, or your own perception that you have failed or fallen short?” This is the definition of a condition called rejection-sensitive dysphoria. When I ask ADHDers to elaborate on it, they say: “I’m always tense. I can never relax. I can’t just sit there and watch a TV program with the rest of the family. I can’t turn my brain and body off to go to sleep at night. Because I’m sensitive to my perception that other people disapprove of me, I am fearful in personal interactions.” They are describing the inner experience of being hyperactive or hyper-aroused. Remember that most kids after age 14 don’t show much overt hyperactivity, but it’s still present internally, if you ask them about it.
The emotional response to the perception of failure is catastrophic for those with the condition. The term “dysphoria” means “difficult to bear,” and most people with ADHD report that they “can hardly stand it.” They are not wimps; disapproval hurts them much more than it hurts neurotypical people.
If emotional pain is internalized, a person may experience depression and loss of self-esteem in the short term. If emotions are externalized, pain can be expressed as rage at the person or situation that wounded them.
In the long term, there are two personality outcomes. The person with ADHD becomes a people pleaser, always making sure that friends, acquaintances, and family approve of him. After years of constant vigilance, the ADHD person becomes a chameleon who has lost track of what she wants for her own life. Others find that the pain of failure is so bad that they refuse to try anything unless they are assured of a quick, easy, and complete success. Taking a chance is too big an emotional risk. Their lives remain stunted and limited.
For many years, rejection-sensitive dysphoria has been the hallmark of what has been called atypical depression. The reason that it was not called “typical” depression is that it is not depression at all but the ADHD nervous system’s instantaneous response to the trigger of rejection.