I turned 20 several months ago, and with that came the scary, sad realization that I am no longer a child. Looking back, my biggest regret overall about my childhood is probably my obsession with trying to be different. When you actively try to reject trends just so you can claim you think for yourself, you'll eventually realize you're often as into whatever you pretended not to like as everyone else.
While growing up, some girls fall into what is called the "not-like-other-girls" ideal, which is when girls reject things that are popular with their age range in favor of some niche subject; it may or may not actually be niche. This is usually because they see their classmates as blindly following trends so they can be popular. If they aren't like other girls, they think can lay claim to thinking for themselves; they don't realize they're just making it obvious they care as much about the trends they claim not to care about as anyone else. That veneer is as see-through as glass and flimsy as a plastic curtain.
When I was in early elementary school, High School Musical was all the rage. Girls knew every song by heart and would watch it every time it aired on the Disney Channel. They loved the characters, from basketball star and teen dreamboat Troy Bolton, to the tag-team cartoon villains of the drama set, the Evans twins. Gabriella Montez and her friends were classic examples of being brainy and beautiful, and showed girls so much of what they could be. But I never expressed any admiration for the series as a kid because, above all, it was incredibly popular, the songs were corny, the plot was predictable, and nobody acts like Sharpay in real life.
By the time I got to middle school, the craze was One Direction; it seemed like every girl could pick their favorite One Direction member (mine was Harry) and whom they would wed. But why would I admit I liked Harry, or One Direction, at all, when I could just as easily be into Ed Sheeran or Justin Timberlake? Their music wasn't just stereotypical teen stuff -- and for those who are about to tell me Justin Timberlake was in a boy band, I guess the fact he wasn't anymore was well enough for me. There were also classic 70s soul bands, with actual men in them who were cute, talented, and sang about things that didn't just pertain to teens. Besides, I didn't see any fandoms for old soul bands around anywhere, so I could claim it as my own turf.
Once I started high school in 2015, One Direction was waning and in its place came contemporary hip-hop. I'm really not a hip-hop type person, so I'll skip to about 2018 and talk about the popularity of teen romcoms, brought on by Netflix. To be fair, I didn't really have the same type of animosity for teen romcoms as I did for past trends, but I wouldn't really watch them because it was all so predictable; there's always a girl who isn't popular who hooks up with the most popular boy in school, much to the annoyance of a snobby cheerleader/fashionista stereotype on the upper echelons of school society. Proving my snobbery for popular trends was finally starting to melt away, I wanted to be in my own teen flick -- but my life wasn't interesting enough, my perfect boyfriend was only in my imagination, and my friend group was inconsistent. Life isn't like the movies, I suppose.
After I graduated, I finally realized what should've been obvious for years; I missed the same things my peers, and I, grew up with. Turns out High School Musical has some awesome earworms, and while Sharpay could be very annoying, she was so dramatic it circled back around to being funny and almost lovable in a way. Justin Bieber doesn't make me want to go deaf anymore, and I can admit to liking some of his stuff. My Little Pony was pretty enjoyable for a kids show because the characters were well-written and the interactions between characters were always engaging to see. Similarly, the Frozen movies contain relatable characters, an absolutely wondrous color palette and environment, and soundtracks people will enjoy years from now. One Direction weren't actually nearly as bad as I wanted to pretend (Night Changes was absolutely stellar, and This Town always makes me emotional). To All The Boys I Loved Before is now my favorite movie franchise, and I can't wait for the spinoff with Kitty to begin. While I'm at it, I really need to start listening to BTS before they start to fade away.
Even if I'd never admit it as a kid, I wasn't really any different from my peers after all. While I pretended to be so cultured and highbrow, I played Webkinz and Club Penguin just like any other kid in 2008. Of course I watched SpongeBob and the Fairly Oddparents like nearly any kid with cable. Like many other girls in 2012, I loved Victorious, iCarly, and top 40 pop. I liked hanging out with boys because they cared a lot less about silly, frou-frou, girly stuff, but even 20-year-old men will tell you they played Webkinz as a guilty pleasure. The kicker is, I could admit to being into these pop culture staples; it was fine as long as it wasn't Disney or Pokemon, which I decried for being too popular.
It would've been a lot easier to just enjoy these as they came up, instead of pretending I was better than everyone because I eschewed their interests. Just because you pretend to be a snooty culture critic doesn't make you any more intelligent than the people you're trying to one-up. I would've been so much smarter if I wasn't so pretentious and at least tried the trends I rejected. Things become popular because people enjoy them, or it's a quality product – while trying to fit in for the sake of fitting in is a problem, it's not bad to like the things other people enjoy. Maybe I would've made lifelong friends if I was more willing to dip my toe into what other people liked, really liked. As Matt 23:12 says, "He who exalts himself will be humbled." And that means me.