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Rationalizing the Irrational

Posted 12/11/2023 by Merry Shukert

From buying coffee every morning to splurging on a fancy new jacket, the unique concept of Girl Math becomes ever more evident in the everyday lives of people across the world. photo by Maya Wang

Gen Z’s newest obsession revolves around an outlandish way of rationalizing decisions in a girl’s life.

Spending a $15 Starbucks gift card means that you get $15 worth of drinks for free. Wearing a $100 coat for just two weeks straight is only $7 a wear, meaning if you give up your coffee for two weeks, the coat is practically free. Spending cash on food means you got free food. These are all examples of Girl Math, the term used to describe a concept that has been taking over the internet over the past year. It provides an explanation for the unique thought process and decision-making patterns attributed to women. Girl Math revolves around the idea that if there isn’t money coming out of your bank account, you’re not spending it. If there is no record of the purchase, did you really spend money on it?

The unique term opens up an interesting avenue for exploration, especially when compared to the economic concept of sunk costs. Sunk costs refers to money that has already been taken or spent, and cannot be recovered. Much like the idea of sunk costs, Girl Math brings into consideration the idea that once the money has left your account, any money deposited back into your account from returning an item, for example, is actually making money.

However, Girl Math doesn’t just have to do with spending money. It can range from rationalizing the unproductive time spent at the library to a refusal to admit wrongdoing, providing an explanation for the irrational thought process behind decisions made under pressure. Some of the most notable examples of Girl Math are ones that I find myself subconsciously implementing in my own life, like timing your hair washing so it aligns with weekend plans, spending extra to qualify for free shipping, and feeling like you didn’t truly wear a cute outfit if you didn’t get a picture of it since no one important saw it.

As its popularity rapidly increased, social media platforms took to creating spin-offs of the idea, presenting “Boy Math” and “Dog Math,” for example. Like Girl Math, these concepts highlight the intuitive and sometimes unconventional logic of their subjects, like a boy’s belief that he could easily land a plane with no experience, or a dog’s belief that being separated from their owner for three minutes is the same as being separated for three hours, warranting the same amount of excitement when they return. 

Girl Math goes beyond being just another trend on social media; it’s a way to peek into the window of how everyone navigates through all of life’s choices. It’s a reminder that our decisions, whether they are about money, time, or even justifying actions, are influenced by a mix of rational thought and our individual (and sometimes irrational) perspectives. Girl Math has found a deeper meaning in our lives – as many relatable trends do – and has become a unique way for many to bond, recognizing the similarities between themselves and those around them. In embracing the uniqueness of these thought processes, we gain a deeper appreciation for the diversity that makes each and every person who they are.