The first time I heard the phrase “basic,” I thought it had something with do with PH levels from drinking too much trendy alkalized water. This conjecture was neither basic nor cool. It was just lame. But since becoming acquainted with the word, it proved impossible to not be self-conscious about my fair-trade coffee consumption, my love for festive Christmas decorations, or my Pinterest account. However, as I became increasingly upset by my own normalness, I realized that I inherently have no objection to being ordinary. The aversion was produced by the zeitgeist of 2014, and is only brought to life if articulated and conceptualized.
The pleasure derived from calling someone “basic” aligns with the very American desire to be individualistic and self-contained. To reject basicness with flagrant distaste is to deem oneself its opposite, and this act is satisfying because the term has almost no positive connotation. There is a blog, called “Stuff White People Like,” which elicits the same technique used in horoscope writing—take an item/feeling/event that 90% of people would succumb to, and aim it at a much smaller demographic. If we define “basic” to be the traits and actions that converge around a population mean, it is impossible that the majority of population does not have “basic” tendencies. Where are they? They sure as hell aren’t coming out and announcing themselves. But most of us are basic, by its very definition.
About ten years ago, the hipster emerged, and was regarded by youth pop culture to be the ultimate cool. The hipster was the basic’s opposite, and encompassed the intellect of the nerd, the nonchalant-ness of the jock, and all the while carried a uniqueness that was unparalleled and untouchable. For a time. Then the market caught on and hipster became commercialized, distributed, and sold for a marked up price. Urban Outfitters even had a phase where they bought thrift store clothes and sold them in stores for the best profit margin ever. What appealed to American youth about the hipster was that it non-verbally screamed, “I am different!” You didn’t have to talk about your love for Bon Jovi—you simply had to wear an old yard sale t-shirt with strategically styled tears at the seam.
The merits of being unique are ingrained in us from youth. In American schools, teachers will encourage students to have their own special talents, and develop their own special skills. The idea is to encourage creativity and invention, but perhaps what it impresses deepest of all is that different, but not too different, is good. That correlation, embedded from grade school, is what produces the concept that basicness is bad and hipster is good, before anyone tells us otherwise. But it is extremely difficult to exist on this thin but desirable border of being unique but not completely weird. If one walks around say, wearing nothing at all, they cannot be called basic, but they are certainly not conventionally cool. The realms of cool are still tightly defined, and there is not much room on the border, because it is premised on its exclusivity.
Maybe now is the time to announce that I tried to be a hipster in my high school and completely failed. I just ended up wearing very ugly clothes for 2 years of my life. So I did not manage achieve being cool. Nor am I successfully fending off basicness so perhaps I am only writing because I will never escape the confines of my own inherent lameness. But what truly bothers me about this new phrase, “basic bitch” is that is dispels almost a hate for the average person. What is actually wrong with being basic?