Pumpkin Spice Lattes, Basic Bitches, and Anne Hathaway

amyjhumphries
amyjhumphries

Today was a quintessential fall day in New England. The weather was crisp enough for both a scarf and a jacket, but the sun broke through the clouds just the right amount. I started the day with pumpkin coffee, then dressed in my new thick sweater with the elbow patches, pulled on over-the-knee boots, and headed out with my husband for a morning at the apple orchard. We ate cider donuts, visited the goats and pigs at the adjacent farm, tromped through a pumpkin patch, and filled up a huge bag with the crispiest apples we could find.

On the drive home, I pic-stitched a collage of pumpkins, apples, and a tree-lined selfie, making sure to properly filter it with my signature A5 filter in VSCOcam before uploading it to Instagram. I started to type in the caption “sorry so basic,” complete with the obligatory hair-flip emoji, when something gave me pause.

Essentially, in that three-word caption, I was apologizing for myself and simultaneously putting myself down. But why?

If I had to tell you the first time I heard the term “basic bitch,” I don’t think I’d be able to pinpoint the exact date or year. Was it 2013 or 2014? But I bet I can describe the exact image that you are conjuring when you think of that term. In fact, it’s probably awfully similar to the very first paragraph above – a girl wearing an oversized sweater and leggings, tall boots, happily drinking her pumpkin spice latte without a care in the world. This doesn’t sound all that offensive, and yet, we’ve coined this snarky term laced with judgment to fit that very description.

Instead of focusing our negativity towards those who might arguably deserve it, we’ve cast a societal side-eye on the girls in line at Starbucks. What’s worse is that we’ve directed that negativity right back at ourselves.

What is it about the enjoyment of autumn, the cozy fall fashion, and the consumption of a coffee beverage mixed with milk and cinnamon that warrants such disdain and irreverence? Why do we, as humans, feel the instinctive reaction to look down on others for these seemingly innocent and downright bizarre reasons?

In high school, I was the kind of person who didn’t have a clique. A social chameleon. This had its plusses as well as its drawbacks, but one thing I noticed – something I continue to find fascinating, years after graduation – is that there were requirements for fitting in with every group. The “unpopular” kids had just as many judgments towards one another as the coolest clique. If you embraced too many trends in efforts to fit in, you were a sell-out. If you tried too hard to stand out, you were a poser. Damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.

So, is “basic bitch” just our adult version of the snarky comments that existed in the high school cafeteria? Have we really not evolved past those teenage versions of ourselves?

But there’s something else about this term that begs inspection. A “basic bitch” isn’t just a girl who shops at name-brand stores and wears her Uggs proudly. It’s someone who is happy, enamoured with the blues and golds of autumn – someone who glides through life without too many cares. And this, this is what really gets under people’s skin. It’s not really the nonfat no-whip PSL, or the knit beanie, but it’s the smile, the perfect selfies, the pure elation over something as simple as the changing color of the leaves.

It is, in a nutshell, Anne Hathaway Syndrome.

I’m surprised we haven’t made this connection before, but Anne Hathaway is the posterchild for the term “basic.” There’s countless articles floating in the vast interwebs that offer explanations for why we hate Anne Hathaway (but love Jennifer Lawrence) and what it boils down to is that Anne Hathaway is just too damn happy.

People find Anne Hathaway’s happiness to be annoying, and I’m not saying that I’m above that inclination, but it becomes truly interesting when we ask ourselves why. What is it about someone else’s happiness that creates discomfort? Why do we feel the need to jab at someone simply because they are displaying signs of joy?

This kind of thing rears its head often on social media. It’s the reason why we roll our eyes when we scroll past our facebook friends’ engagement or wedding posts, and the reason why we love to make fun of those #blessed status updates. Sure- those things in excess are annoying- but when our knee-jerk reaction is to groan in annoyance over the simplest expressions of happiness in others…something is wrong.

To take this one step further, we go to lengths to avoid being “that” person. We apologize for it. We make fun of ourselves. We offer the sarcastic “humble brag” in lieu of sharing exciting news openly. We call ourselves basic bitches. We point that judgemental stare inwards before anyone else can do it for us. It’s like how Fat Amy calls herself “Fat Amy” in Pitch Perfect, and offers the explanation that she wants to refer to herself that way before someone says it behind her back. It’s kind of genius, but sad at the same time – sad because it is so reflective of our actual world. We feel strong when we insult ourselves, and we feel even stronger we beat someone else to that cruel punchline. But doesn’t that just perpetuate this weird teenage cycle in which we seem to be stuck?

I’m not saying we should live in a world full of rainbows and sunshine, but perhaps some of our immense negativity is misplaced. Perhaps some of that negativity is, in fact, wasted on those who don’t really deserve it. And just as our mothers reassured us that our elementary school class bullies were “just jealous,” so goes the dynamic today. Our irritation over others’ successes says more about us than anything else.

So, ladies, let’s just agree, once and for all, to love autumn without apologizing for it. Let’s drink our PSLs and wear our boot socks, and let’s shed the term “basic” once and for all. After all, if Anne Hathaway can hold up her Oscar and say, “it came true” without adding a sheepish “sorry,” then I think we can pic-stitch some pumpkins without all that self-hate. At the very least, we can stop insulting each other. It’s a place to start. TC mark

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  • edefreitas

    I really like this post. What you said here is really true: “We feel strong when we insult ourselves, and we feel even stronger we beat someone else to that cruel punchline.” I’m not entirely sure I follow the logic of “basic” = happy though. I think part of the whole “basic” accusation is the weird cultural phenomenon where being unique is praised to an excess. While it’s not bad to celebrate uniqueness, it doesn’t make sense to also bash people for being social and finding commonalities with others. It’s as if someone mistook the concept of pluralism to mean “nobody’s allowed to be like anyone else.”

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