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Can we please just be cool again?

Samantha in Sex and the City

It’s hard to pinpoint when the idea of “embracing your cringe” – celebrating the gawky, embarrassing behaviour that used to make people squirm – wormed its way into popular culture, says Daisy Jones in Vogue. But the trend is suddenly everywhere. Celebs like Taylor Swift give speeches about learning to “live alongside cringe”, and tell us to free ourselves “from the shackles of coolness and self-judgement”. TikTok megastars are all “unashamedly cringe”: uploading talk-to-the-camera videos chronicling break-ups; dressing in maximalist microtrends à la Portia from The White Lotus.

I’m sick of it. Whatever happened to “cool girl mystery”? Consider Aubrey Plaza; Rihanna; “Samantha Jones as opposed to Carrie Bradshaw”. There’s something fun about looking up to – even envying – these self-possessed, impeccable women. And to those who claim it’s pretentious to stand around “looking unimpressed while smoking cigarettes in sunglasses”, I say: “Can there not be value or fun in pretentiousness?” Think of scarlet lipstick, neon jukeboxes and the “weird haircuts of Wong Kar-wai movies” (look it up). Without coolness, life would just be a “sea of Ed Sheerans earnestly singing about their relatable feelings”. So why not go to an art show nobody understands; delete your entire online presence apart from a website with your name in a small font; respond to any mention of Harry Styles by saying, “Sorry, I don’t know her”? Whatever TikTok says, not everybody needs to be “relatable”. Some of us can “simply be cool”.