Don’t Tell Me To “Chill” — What Happened To Embracing Our Emotions?

Language and linguistics are fascinating. Recently, I learnt that the word ‘but’ originates from old English which meant ‘outside’. This was derived from Latin that essentially erases anything said before or after a statement. So when people say “I’m not a racist, but” the ‘but’ literally wipes the first statement and they may as well just say the racist statement we all know is going to follow.

This is not to be confused with butt, which we all know is a nice soft squishy thing we all have. But — I am not here to talk about butts. That is for my memoir, Much Ado About My Rump.

Most of us can remember using the slang word ‘cool’ growing up, for as long as we can remember. For those of you who are a bit older — maybe you were more prone to saying ‘nifty’ or ‘swell’ — or simply a series of grunts followed by loud banging on the wall of your cave to indicate distress.

‘Cool’ now has a multitude of definitions: agreement to something, describing a person or event that is generally positive, or anything trendy (do people still say trendy?). More recently, a new word has popped up in our vernacular that I just can’t agree with: chill.

Chill is Cool’s hip young cousin, who is here to tell you to relax. “Be chill,” they say, when you get excited about something. “Whoa, they have no chill,” someone says, describing someone who isn’t afraid to show their feelings.

When other people tell us to ‘chill’, they are basically telling us to settle down. This is fine, if we are running around a library screaming because the book you had on backlog has finally arrived. Time and place. But policing other people’s feelings and expressions is unfair, dangerous and boring.

I am not a chill person — I never have been. Spontaneity terrifies me and I’d rather have my day planned then just “go with the flow”. Guess what? Other people are more naturally relaxed, and that is perfectly fine. I, however, have no chill and am proud to declare this.

There are times when women especially are labelled as ‘feisty’, ‘bubbly’, ‘angry’ when being earnest or passionate about a certain event or issue. There is a list of pejoratives that are gendered to make women seem ‘hysterical’. Hysteria itself is a now long-outdated psychological term that was widely applied to women who showed emotions of any kind. (Fun fact: hysteria used to be treated with masturbation! That certainly is one way to Netflix and Chill, Dr Freud.)

Every now and then an article will pop up with suggestions on rules of dating. What to say on Tinder, how to flirt, when to say I love you… it took me seven hours to set up my Fääshugur Ikea bookshelf — I am not built for instructions.

Shouldn’t it be as easy as saying “I love you” when you feel it? Let’s carefully collect all the unhelpful rules we’ve been told over the years (ie: wait three days before calling them, never ask out another girl on a Tuesday, only wink when flirting during a full moon) and carefully throw them into a large bin.

Reply to that text straight away if you’ve got your phone in your hand and you can schedule a date then and there. If I like a girl, I’ll ask her out (or at the very least make my clumsy flirting noticeable). Don’t pretend to be this highly relaxed, cruisy person if the reality is you are a very highly-strung person who would rather just make plans now than “see where the wind takes us”.

seeing where the wind takes you

If the notion of chill was applied to all emotions, we would be completely numbing ourselves to an entire spectrum of feelings — love, grief, loss, joy. Author Judith Guest once said “People who keep stiff upper lips find it damn hard to smile”. We don’t want to become so chill that we lose the ability for excitement. Call us hysterical, call us sassy, call us chill-less: I will continue to live my life earnestly, and with passion.

I’m here to declare my loathe for chill and nominate myself as the President of the No Chill Club. Welcome, everyone to No Chill Club. The only rule is to be yourself, be excited, and OH MY GOSH IT IS SO WONDERFUL TO SEE YOU ALL.

Originally published by Deirdre Fidge at The Vocal