“I am so much happier,” Amy writes, “now that I’m dead.” Though she’s “technically [just] missing,” for now, Amy knows she’ll soon be “presumed dead.” She feels lighter and looser as she looks up into her rearview mirror—Carthage is miles and miles behind her, and her “shitty, oblivious husband,” Nick, has no idea. Amy laughs out loud, gleeful.
Amy reaches into the passenger seat of her cheap getaway car and pull out her checklist for today—“one of the many checklists” she’s made over the last year. There is a spot of blood on the page next to Item 22: “Cut myself.” Amy points out that “diary readers will say” she’s afraid of blood—she’s not, in reality, but has spent the last year telling anyone who will listen that she is. She looks back on “swooning at the plasma center” as “a nice touch.”
Amy has engineered her entire plot—and her entire story so far—down to the letter. She has been working hard for a long time, and has no regrets about what she’s done—she’s feeling happy and self-satisfied.
Earlier this morning, Amy took a boxcutter to the inside of her upper arm, and then sat cross-legged on the kitchen floor letting the blood drip out of her. Hours later, the gash still hurts and burns. She goes over other items from her list she’s already completed—stage the living room, wrap up first clue, fill the cat’s kibble dish “in case people forget to feed him once everything starts.” Amy makes imaginary checks in her head as she runs down her perfectly executed lists.
Amy reveals that she mutilated herself in order to get the right amount of blood on the kitchen floor—a gruesome act which demonstrates how far she’s willing to go to make her husband suffer.
Amy writes that she wants her readers to finally know her—not “Diary Amy, who is a work of fiction,” but Actual Amy. She begins telling the true story of her life, starting with the fact that she “should never have been born.” After five miscarriages and two stillbirths—all girls—Marybeth gave birth to Amy, refusing to quit until they had their child. Amy grew up feeling “special [and] proud” because of the long struggle her parents fought to have her—but always sensed in her mother the deep sense of loss brought on by her other failed pregnancies. The “seven dead dancing princesses” who came before Amy got to be perfect because they had never lived, while Amy, “stuck here on earth,” soon came to realize she’d always be less than perfect.
Amy delves into her painful origin story—like any good villain, there are forces at work in her past which have helped shape who she is today. The immense pressures she felt all throughout her childhood as the result of being the only one of her mother’s children to survive has made her a perfectionist, a narcissist, and a person who hates anyone who takes the spotlight from her—even as she feels herself struggling to catch up with other’s expectations.
Nick’s deep, all-consuming love for Amy was the first time in her life she’d felt truly appreciated—but at the same time, she knew he didn’t know the real her. She’d been playing “Cool Girl” for years, since the very first night they met. To Amy, the “Cool Girl” is someone “hot, brilliant, [and] funny” who “adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping,” and who “jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding.”
Amy’s rant against the “Cool Girl” archetype—widely considered one of the novel’s most famous passages—shows just how contemptuous she is not only of other women, but of herself for stooping to engage in such ridiculous tropes of femininity and womanhood in order to feel safe, protected, and loved by a man.
Amy thinks about how stupid all men are for believing the Cool Girl actually exists—really, she knows scores of women are just pretending to be this girl. Amy has equal disdain for the men who believe in the Cool Girl and the women who perpetuate the myth that the Cool Girl is real. No matter what kind of man a woman is dating, he always, Amy believes, wants some version of the Cool Girl—and there is always a woman out there desperate enough to play the game.
To Amy, courtship and partnership are not rituals based in attraction, love, and mutual vulnerability—rather they are “game[s]” which reward the most cunning, the most desperate, and the most deluded.
Amy is able to admit that there were parts of being Nick’s Cool Girl she enjoyed—she loved him so much, and even though she could feel herself turning off her brain and dulling herself for him, she was too happy to care. Before Nick, she’d always felt like a “product”—the face of Amazing Amy. Now, looking back on her blissful first few years with Nick, she finds herself unable to decide “what [it] means” that she had never before been so happy in her life—and hasn’t been so happy since.
Amy has always been one step short of her “Amazing” alter ego. With Nick, masquerading as Cool Girl, she at last felt like enough. By stooping to a hollow impression of femininity, Amy realized that she didn’t need to be trying so hard all along. Flynn’s indicting revelation in this passage—that the deck is always stacked against women, even the “amazing” ones—speaks to the novel’s central theme of misogyny.
Eventually, Amy writes, she grew tired of being the Cool Girl, and started showing Nick the real her. As opposed to the fictitious diary entries Amy wrote about not wanting Nick to be a “dancing monkey,” she reveals that she did start to nag him for not paying enough attention to her or for demanding she “wax [her] pussy raw and [blow] him on request.” Amy writes about the devastation she felt when she finally showed “Real Amy” to Nick—and found that he didn’t actually like her. That, she believes, is where “the hating first began.”
Amy grew sick of the charade which had initially drawn her husband in—when she shed the façade of Cool Girl, however, she was horrified to realize that not only did her husband not recognize her, but he didn’t even like her. Amy began to resent Nick for his cruelty—and, presumably, began plotting her revenge against him.