I just returned from a CorePower sculpt class to my sorority house to take a shower using Lush products. I’m now sitting at Whole Foods, drinking a Vietnamese cold brew and basking in the glow of the environmentally friendly lights their café has to offer. Tonight, I intend to don a Victoria's Secret nightie and watch "Grey's Anatomy" before I fall asleep under my Christmas lights and tapestry that hang over my bed. This is an average day in the life of my 20-year-old self. To give you a visual, I’m a five-foot-seven, blonde, young woman with a Crest-white-strips smile and mascara coated eyelashes. I love Urban Outfitters and rom-coms, and occasionally, I meditate. I am a full-fledged basic b*tch.
But before I continue, I need to make something inherently clear: I love being basic. You can hate on an iced caramel macchiato from Starbucks, but have you ever had one? They are the elixir of life and you’re lying if you say you don’t enjoy their sugary, creamy goodness. And before you trash on spin class, tell me again how checking yourself out in the mirrors at the gym as you get “swole” is a better workout than a straight hour of cycling in a humid room. And sure, I dress like a chic bag lady and wear my hair long and messy because it’s how I feel most beautiful, and that’s important to me.
Being in your 20s sucks. Friends, employers, professors, and even your own family constantly scrutinize you for everything from your major to your choice of a romantic partner. On top of that, you’re learning how to be a functioning adult in society. As I have quickly learned, spending your own money as opposed to your parents’ is equivalent to lighting yourself on fire, and no matter what your major, you will spend all four years of your college experience drowning in piles of homework and crying at least twice a week solely because of stress. The last thing anyone suffering through their 20s needs is any more labels applied to them than we already have.
I’ve been called everything under the sun—slut, curvy, boring, fake, spoiled—but the one that hurts the most is basic. I’ve spent the longest time trying to figure out why in the world the most harmless word hurts the most, and I think I’ve finally got it figured out. When you call me heavy, you’re attacking one part of me. It’s a part that I can come to terms with when I look in the mirror and tell myself that I’m blessed to have childbearing hips and a big ribcage that houses impressive lungs. When you call me spoiled, I silently revel in the fact that I am have worked since I was fifteen and currently nanny twelve hours a week, on top of being a full-time student, to afford any and all luxuries I want. But when you call me basic, when you toss around a term that actually just means a foundation or a starting point, you attack all of me.
That word encompasses my artificially blonde hair, which I dye because it makes it easier to look in the mirror and give myself the confidence I need to face the day with a smile. It targets my choice to drink coffee, which I drink because I am often up until the wee hours of the morning writing for one of the three publications I work for in the hopes of having the experience to take on the real world—not because it tastes good. It comments on my choice to attend exercise classes, which to me, are a weekly retreat from the chaos of college and help me to take better care of this one body I have (which, honestly, takes a lot of abuse, from a poor diet to nights out partying). “Basic” takes a subtle dig at my personality, my humor, my taste in clothes, my taste in television, everything.
I come from a long line of women who stand firmly in their beliefs and aren’t afraid to speak their minds. In particular, my sister, who is one of the most confident, beautiful, and exquisite creatures I have had the pleasure to encounter, has strong feelings about the word “basic.” She’s a senior at Northwestern University, studying Communications and Classics and absolutely slaying every aspect of her life. But she, like I, takes immense comfort in the more basic things in life. She sips on rosé on a Friday night with her girlfriends, she wears Brandy Melville in the most flawlessly hobo chic way, and she owns over two-hundred Essie nail polishes just because. She’s expressed her dislike for this term before, so I called her to ask what exactly it is about the word basic that bothers her so much:
“My real problem with basic is that it is misogynistic. It implies that things that are traditionally feminine are subject to derision and mockery.”
In our sisterhood, Hannah has always been the brain. She’s eloquent without pause and never loses an argument because her quick logic never fails. But never, in my twenty years, have I been so floored by a statement from her before (and trust me—I’ve heard a lot). It’s because it’s true. These concepts that are traditionally feminine, these joys we as women impart upon because we can, have become a point of humor and jest for those who don’t understand the comfort we find in them. You never, ever hear a guy being called basic; it’s always a girl. It packs a double punch in a world that’s already hard enough to live in. From body hair removal, which is painful and expensive, to having to follow these unspoken rules about dating--or a lack thereof--in this day and age, to suffering through Mother Nature's monthly gift, being a woman is hard. I'm not going to go on a feminist rant right here and right now, but when you really, truly think about what so many of us consider to be basic, there is undeniable effeminate essence to most.
I’ve called people basic. I'm not perfect and it's easy to get swept up in college life and the lingo and the standards and the labels. I imagine, however, that despite my being overemotional and sensitive, I am not the only one who has an aversion to this word. Next time you want to slap that label (or any label, for that matter) on someone, remember that you are taking a serious dig at the lifestyle they have chosen for themselves. No matter who you are, no matter what you are, no matter how you live your life—basic or not—as long as you are kind and live with a heart full of love to give to others, that’s all that matters.