Pumpkin Spice Latte.
Sex and the City.
Hear that? That’s the sound of 500 followers running for higher-brow ground. Can you blame them? No self-respecting intellectually competent young adult wants to be caught associating with someone who’s—dare I say it?—basic.
There was a time, not so long ago, when a young woman in Ugg boots could enjoy a shitty chemical-laden beverage without incurring accusations of being a brainless bimbo. “I like coffee-based drinks that incorporate the flavors typically associated with Thanksgiving, especially when my feet aren’t cold,” she thinks to herself. “What’s wrong with that?”
The Internet is what’s wrong with that. (I hope you guessed that. The Internet is what’s wrong with everything.) Would you have ever felt compelled to contribute to the national conversation about the proliferation of Pumpkin Spice Lattes among the young women of America if 1,000 of your closest friends weren’t posting about it on Facebook? Would you even know what a Pumpkin Spice Latte was if 1,000 of your closest friends weren’t posting about it on Facebook?
The Internet has made the world smaller and, in doing so, revealed to us a hard truth: we are not unique and beautiful snowflakes. To me this is both a comfort and a source of angst. “I’m not alone!” I think triumphantly, then, just as quickly, “but I’m also not special!”
Without the Internet, we would never know that for the literati among us, to purchase and consume a Pumpkin Spice Latte as anything but part of a performance art piece is social suicide. Before the Internet, a trend was something you noticed on the street: a lot of women are wearing pants that would previously have been categorized as undergarments. This exercise class is certainly packed today! I overheard two other woman having the same debate we were having, contemplating whether they needed to face facts and accept that they’re Carries.
But with the Internet—with real-time access to the proclivities and inner thoughts of not only everyone you’ve met since 2006 but also everyone else, from Matt Lauer to the Dalai Lama—we’re bombarded. Leggings-as-pants are a pandemic! SoulCycle is a cult! Sex and the City is being shown on TBS and if you had any self-respect, you’d throw out your cable subscription, log onto your parents’ Netflix account, and watch something way less mainstream like “Orange is the New Black”! (Let the record stand that at the time of publication of this essay, liking “Orange is the New Black” was not yet a hallmark of being basic. Check back next year.)
When we identify “basic” tendencies, we are declaring that to like what many other people like is to be unoriginal. Being basic means being—God forbid—normal. Conventional. Sheeplike. A consumer of highly caloric beverages flavored with a chemical that sort of tastes like a pie.
Now, normalcy is one thing. I’ve spilled a lot of ink writing about how I learned to accept my weirdness. What’s bizarre about the advent of the “basic” trope, though, is that now we whose binders were graffitied in elementary school have grown from painfully weird children desperate to be normal into painfully weird adults desperate to be… not normal. Because “normal,” now that “basic” exists, implies a level of stupidity. If you drink mimosas and you buy your underwear at Victoria’s Secret and you’ve not only paid $13 to watch an Adam Sandler movie in theatres but enjoyed it, you are normal, you are basic, and you are stupid.
Thanks to the Internet, and to the notion of “basicness,” I’ve added a whole slew of new anxieties to my repertoire. Because… well, do you want the truth? I drink mimosas. I buy my underwear at Victoria’s Secret (how can you beat 5 for $25? Or, rather, 5 for $26.50, now that last year’s stealthy price increase is in effect. Still, everything else is damn expensive). I watched “Click” and I cried like an idiot. Not only that, but I have read several Jodi Picoult novels, and if I didn’t think Pumpkin Spice Lattes were disgusting I would probably drink them on the regular, and I just used the phrase “on the regular,” and I spend an exorbitant amount of money on SoulCycle, and I bought an infinity scarf on Saturday, and last year I finally bought LLBean boots instead of Uggs and I feel like a traitor.
Because I—I am a little bit basic.
But so are you, probably. Frankly, if you’re not, you’re probably an asshole, and you probably also went to my college and I probably stalked your music library on iTunes from down the hall because you probably shared it so you could force everybody within reach of the college network to admire your super underground collection of 38,000 songs comprising mostly Gregorian chants, didgeridoo remixes, and Gregorian chants remixed with the didgeridoo and then self-consciously stop sharing their library because apparently Regina Spektor is not as underground and hip as you thought.
Or maybe you just really like Gregorian chants remixed with the didgeridoo. Does that make you feel like a weirdo? Go spend a couple hours on the Internet. There’s probably an r/gregorian-didgeridoo-remixes with a whole passel of weirdos whose dingo ate their monk baby. (I apologize for this metaphor. It’s painful and I should have left it behind several sentences ago. This is where the “blog” format falls short compared to the “legitimate publication with editor who would cross that shit out” format.)
See? You’re basic, too. We’re all basic. The more we’re exposed to the world via the Internet, the more we discover that none of us is as unique as we had once imagined. And it’s hard to take that as a comfort, now that being unoriginal is equated with being unintelligent. With being basic.
I got over feeling bad about being weird. Now I need to get over feeling about about not being weird. I already have a whole catalogue of things that I could hate about myself. The last thing I need is to add my underwear-buying habits to that! (Or, rather, the last thing I need is to add a bullet point to what I hate about my underwear-buying habits. I really do need to buy underwear more often. I have enough disposable income to stop wearing the Victoria’s Secret underwear I bought in 2007 back when it was actually 5 for $25.)
I am only self-conscious about the fact that I like bottomless brunch because the Internet told me that there are other young women out there that like bottomless brunch and that they also bought an infinity scarf last Saturday, and therefore I should feel bad and stupid and I should go out and knit myself a woman-sized hemp sack and wear that for the winter and also I should consume only home-distilled liquors, even at breakfast.
Here’s the thing: none of what I listed above makes me any less weird. I’m still writing this alone in my apartment, surrounded by piles of unread copies of the New York Times and the Washington Post from the past two Sundays. I still need two hands to count the number of moderately uncomfortable conversations I had today and all of them were uncomfortable because there is no magic pill being ground up in the global mimosa supply to teach you how to be a normal human.
Anyway, long story short, haters to the left, because I’m going to go get my hair ombre’d and then I’m going to go to SoulCycle and I might even go buy a Pumpkin Spice Latte just out of spite.
(And then I’ll throw it into a bush because seriously, that shit is rancid. I’m less concerned about the basicness of the young women of the world and more concerned about what pandemic has annihilated their taste buds.)