The Cool Girl’s Guide To Embracing The Counterculture In 2024

You might be surprised by the things that make the cool girls countercultural in 2024. Hint: It’s not the latest TikTok trend.

By Greta Waldon8 min read
Pexels/Olga Shenderova

First things first, let’s talk about what “cool” really is. There’s an image a lot of us might have of certain girls growing up who were popular, who had or went to all the parties, got all the guys, and were, at least in their own eyes, too cool for school. This kind of coolness often inspires those who put it on to follow trends, stick with the crowd, or, in other more subtle ways, get in the way of their own growth, education, or accomplishments. If you’re cool in this way, you’re not going to risk looking different or odd. You’re not going to take the chance of failure that’s inherent in what I would consider true, real coolness. 

True, real coolness looks more like the only kid in class brave enough to have a different opinion. It looks like the girl working on her first novel in tenth grade. It looks like someone standing up for someone else when it puts their own reputation on the line. Real coolness involves risk, it involves standing out, and it can involve going against the grain. 

This kind of coolness often goes hand-in-hand with the current counterculture of the age. In the 1920s, it was the explosion of art, culture, and social movements like women’s suffrage that we associate with the flappers. Or in the ‘60s and ‘70s, it was the hippies who opposed social norms through celebrating rock and folk music and promoting peace, love, and the civil rights movement. For our generation, though, the counterculture, while still holding true to its coolness, is looking a little different these days. 

For all of you truly cool girls out there, here is your guide to embracing the counterculture in 2024. 

Date to Marry

In the Tinder age, dating to marry is particularly countercultural. For a lot of us, even the idea of telling the guy you’re dating that you’d like to get married someday can feel daunting or scary – as if that wasn’t the point of dating and courtship for thousands of years! There are so many benefits to dating for marriage, beyond the obvious and most important one of hopefully finding your life partner. You’ll waste less time on superficial relationships and be more willing to work toward deeper connections that can stand the test of time. You’ll also be less likely to engage in things you’ll regret, like one-night stands or hookup culture in general. You’ll hone your own priorities and work to deserve what you most want in a partner. And you’ll be honoring your deep instincts to build a life and a nest with someone that you love. 

Have Kids

With the “DINKs” (couples who are “dual income, no kids”) going viral on TikTok, we can really see how popular the idea of not having kids is. A lot of Gen Z and Millennial men and women are prioritizing travel, wining and dining, pets, and sleeping (I’m not kidding) over having and raising children. In fact, a recent study found that only 19% of millennials definitely want to have children. While the sacrifices that parents make for their kids are very real, and while we might as a culture benefit from preparing ourselves for them more when we’re young, it’s been surprising for me to see how many women I know have weighed the options and decided not to have kids. 

On top of making the choice to have kids, there’s nothing more countercultural right now than the stay-at-home mom who puts her own ambitions aside for a moment to prioritize raising her little ones herself. Whether you go all-in and homeschool, or you take a few years away from work while they’re young, take an extended maternity leave, or simply make the effort to parent rather than handing your kids a tablet, all of these choices are revolutionary in the era of girlbosses and feminism.

This is even more countercultural if you have more than two kids. While families of six or more used to be commonplace, the size of families in the U.S. has been shrinking so much that we are not even at replacement level anymore. There is a weird stigma around wanting a bigger family, whether it’s because kids are supposedly bad for the planet or because the world is too dark a place to bring more people into it (easy to say if you’re already here). My husband and I always joke about a friend asking us after we had our first kid, “How many kids do you want? Two or three?” As if those were the only options!

If you’re somewhat of a contrarian like me, now is your time to shine by having and raising kids and aiming for a bigger family.

Get Off Social Media

This, I’ll be the first to admit, is a tough one. It can seem like you’re missing out on the whole world if you aren’t constantly plugged into one social network or another, and sometimes social media can feel like the only way we have to promote ourselves if we do anything creative or entrepreneurial. There’s also a lot to be said for the inspiration, ease of connection, and stress relief that we might get from a quick scroll through our feed or a DM conversation with an old friend.

However, this can be a thin veil of positivity. In general, social media use, especially for girls, leads to higher rates of anxiety, depression, and suicidality. This might be because of the shallowness of online connections and the ephemeral nature of gathering likes or followers that always leaves us wanting more. It could also be due to the way social media presents only a limited view of other people’s lives, and often the most flattering. We might end up envying someone who, in reality, has an eating disorder, or who feels incredibly lost or lonely, or who is a bully behind the scenes, all without knowing it. 

Not to mention that social media is an enormous time-sucker. A friend recently told me that her stress from her job actually comes from the amount of time she spends procrastinating by scrolling her feed of choice, rather than from her job itself. Similarly, an artist I met told me he even got rid of the wifi in his apartment because the draw to spend hours online rather than on his art was too strong (even if he was using the internet to get inspired by other artists, he wasn’t using his time to make as much of his own art).

Then, there’s also what I’ll call here the “Instagram filter,” where we gauge the value of our experiences through the lens of what will or won’t make good “content.” I will never forget the time when a friend was visiting me from out of state and nearly threw a fit when her phone malfunctioned as she was trying to capture a picture of the tacos we were about to eat on my patio to share with her few hundred followers. Her desire to gain online clout was more important than enjoying homemade tacos and conversation with the friend she rarely saw. And, believe it or not, she was part of the so-called wellness industry. Even if we aren’t too eager to admit it, all of us social media users are like this on some level, whether it’s storing selfies on our phones for future stories or dreaming up attention grabbing captions that make us sound deep and look cool.

While fully unplugging might not be for everyone, consider capping your minutes per day, deleting any apps you could truly live without, or only engaging when you have something positive to share. This little rebellion will bring you a lot of unexpected lightness and a more present, authentic self IRL.

Make Things

What will you do with all your time now that you aren’t scrolling? Well, how about making things

Countercultural movements have often reacted to the consumerism of the mainstream, and today it’s no different. The cool girls of the counterculture would rather make something than buy it, whether it’s their laundry detergent, their food, or their clothes. Not only do you get to use your creativity, but you’ll save money, and you’ll oftentimes end up with an all-around healthier lifestyle when you don’t buy into the materialism of the age.

If you have any creative passions, dive into those. Write poetry or short stories, songs or screenplays. Make pottery or jewelry, or greetings cards to send to family and friends. If you aren’t feeling especially creative, even simple things like preparing healthy, colorful meals, crafting a tidy, functional living space, or working in the garden can be incredibly rewarding. Your imagination is the limit here. 

While we’re on the subject of making things, I would also suggest that we bring back the term making love. Rather than using the phrase hooking up or any even more vulgar way to describe two people gaining carnal knowledge of one another, using the words “making love” will remind you of what you’re really doing when you’re intimate with someone, and how we are more than our body experiencing a spectrum of pleasure. And yes, you can use some of your newfound free time to make love too.

Listen to Music Other Than Taylor Swift

Okay, you can still listen to her! If you really want to embrace the counterculture, though, you’ll want to do a little more exploration of artists who aren’t making the top 40’s or “Person of the Year” and add some variety to your playlists. 

If you haven’t spent much time listening to classical music, then there is a whole world of beauty just waiting for you to discover it. If you haven’t explored early jazz or the American Songbook, be ready to fall in love. If you haven’t taken the time to hear folk music from across the globe, I couldn’t be more excited for what you have ahead of you.

Then there’s all of the independent artists working today who often live in obscurity but who write truly original and genuine music. One great tool for exploring their music is on the website BandCamp, where many independent musicians release their albums (and I might mention that it’s very edgy to listen to full albums, too). 

This may sound a little obvious, but it’s worth saying that if you’re looking for the counterculture, it’s going to be on the fringes, not number one on Spotify. Taking the time to explore music – or any other art form for that matter – other than the most mainstream is a truly enriching, soul-expanding experience well worth your effort.

Nurture Your Spirituality (and I Don’t Mean the New Age-y Kind)

Most young people who aren’t atheists might claim to be some sort of “spiritual,” which could mean anything from believing in star charts and crystals to doing yoga or honoring Mother Earth. Most often, it’s some version of what we know as “new age” but could often also be traced back to paganism. They might also find themselves dabbling in witchcraft or Satanism, though all of these beliefs are generally loose enough that their subscribers only really need to be accountable to themselves.

This choice of either nihilism or some loose form of neo-paganism has left a lot of us feeling empty and thinking that there must be more. Take, for example, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, well-known and celebrated for her activism and atheism, who recently shocked her peers and followers with this piece, “Why I am now a Christian.” In this essay, she explains how “in this nihilistic vacuum, the challenge before us becomes civilizational… Unless we offer something as meaningful, I fear the erosion of our civilization will continue. And fortunately, there is no need to look for some new-age concoction of medication and mindfulness. Christianity has it all.” 

When the culture is telling us that Christians, for example, are weird, repressed, bad, or simply wrong, it takes an independent person to go ahead and be one anyway. I can remember the few Christian girls I met in my 20s, and they stuck with me because of how genuinely cool they seemed to me. They seemed fearless and revolutionary, bold and different. They also seemed grounded, contemplative, and connected to something bigger than themselves. 

If you’re looking to take a big step into the counterculture, nurturing your spirituality outside of the popular new-age practices might be the thing for you.

Be Healthy 

With the body positivity movement at an all-time high, popular culture wants to affirm you however you already are rather than encourage you to be your best self. Taking the reins on your health can be a very countercultural move. This can look like exercising regularly and eating nutritious food to keep a healthy weight (along with all the other endless benefits that come from doing those things), or having opinions on what happens to your body when you visit the doctor for anything from check-ups to birth control to giving birth. 

During the trials of the pandemic, many of us learned that health professionals don’t always have the whole person in mind. They see a problem they can fix and aim to fix it with any means necessary, at whatever cost. This can miss the bigger goal of human flourishing, or any individual nuance of holistic health in general. On top of this, the information you get from your doctor is generally an average of 17 years behind the latest developing research. When I got pregnant, for example, my pamphlets from my doctor told me to eat lean meats and skim milk when what I really needed was red meat and whole or raw milk. 

In 2024, cool girls know to think for themselves about their health on everything from shots to birth control, medications to nutrition.

Think for Yourself and Take the “Experts” with a Grain (or a Tablespoon) of Salt 

Not only should we think for ourselves when it comes to our health and wellness, but we should also be thinking for ourselves in all areas of our lives. This doesn’t mean going off on whatever whim we might just happen to feel is right, but blending our intuition and common sense with thorough and thoughtful research of all sides of any given issue. Learn to watch for bias in the things you read, and try to see the bigger picture whenever you can. 

Just like with our health, the experts in any given field are incredibly valuable, but they may only be seeing what they’re looking for. If you have a mysterious pain, the surgeon will suggest surgery; the physical therapist will suggest stretching; the psychiatrist will suggest it’s anxiety and write you a prescription. Similarly, a feminist will suggest your problems come from the patriarchy, a Marxist will tell you they come from capitalism, and a millennial might tell you they come from the boomers. Watch for this narrow type of vision and try to think outside single-solution worldviews because the truth is usually a little more complex, and oversimplifying is more than a little dangerous. 

Aim To Be Actually Virtuous Rather Than Virtue Signaling 

In the online world, it can be tempting to showcase your virtue by reposting trending issues, sharing links for others to donate to a cause you believe in, or signaling to others that you share their same beliefs, be it political or otherwise. This isn’t, however, a very deep way to engage with current events, nor is it really helping anyone other than your ego as you feel a part of a group or movement – like you are on the inside, rather than the outside. 

Here in the counterculture we aren’t afraid to be on the outside, though, are we? Let’s prioritize doing good without asking for recognition, and the kind of good that actually impacts our friends, families, and communities. Start small by working every day to do your best in whatever you do, and see what can happen from there. We really have no idea the huge impact genuine, small kindnesses can have on the entire world. I can guarantee it’s going to do a lot more than resharing the latest controversy of the day. 

Work Hard

With “quiet quitting” and the like on the rise, many people are prioritizing rest and relaxation (translation: binging shows and scrolling) over putting in any extra effort in whatever it is they spend their days doing. Whether you’re homemaking or pursuing a career, raising toddlers or starting your own YouTube channel, here in the counterculture we put in that extra effort to make what we do truly shine. 

Ideally, you can work hard on things that are meaningful to you. If you haven’t already, find what those things are so that you can organize your life around them, to the extent that you’re able. While it may sound appealing to be on vacation all the time, it can actually leave us feeling lost and empty. Fulfilling our potential by using the skills that we have to offer and working hard toward our goals helps us, on the other hand, to find purpose and happiness. 

While it’s important to take time to slow down each day or each week, you’ll enjoy that time off even more if you’ve been productive in the meantime. I promise you’ll be rewarded in the long run. 

Embrace Your Femininity

Last but not least, in a world of unisex clothing, gender neutral bathrooms, and an overall feeling of “blah,” the counterculture is embracing its femininity. We’re getting off the pill to experience our real hormones for once in our adult lives. We’re wearing dresses and skirts and feeling beautiful doing it. We’re bursting with the creativity that comes from being created to give birth, and we’re looking for the men who appreciate all the unique things that we have to offer. 

If you, like me, experienced any of the confusion (and even trauma) that comes from growing up in a world that told you you were no different than a boy, it’s time to reclaim your identity by exploring, embracing, and honoring your femininity, however that looks and feels for you. For a few fun and easy ideas to get you started, I’d recommend this piece

Closing Thoughts

While this list isn’t by any means exhaustive, I hope it’s given you some insights into ways to embrace the counterculture in 2024. Although, being cool girls, I’m sure you already knew most of this. 

Here’s to the year that making art, having kids, and unplugging became little acts of rebellion – and they’re all yours for the taking. 

Evie deserves to be heard. Support our cause and help women reclaim their femininity by subscribing today.