The fear of being a Basic Girl

The other day I walked into Target and was confronted with a very disturbing reality.

As my roommates and I giggled (yes, giggled) over the new arrival of fuzzy Christmas socks, excitedly plucked the newest Taylor Swift CD off the shelf, and finally ooh-ed and ahh-ed over the brand new Starbucks being built near the entrance, it hit me: I was acting like a Basic Girl. And this is a very, very bad thing.

Basic Girl is someone who enjoys and partakes in activities all other women of a certain age enjoy. She wears general-looking riding boots and/or Uggs. She probably owns an article of North Face. She loves Taylor Swift, Colbie Caillat, Sara Bareilles, One Republic, and Maroon 5. She loves pumpkin-related coffee beverages. She is probably guilty of wearing leggings to class at least once a week. And she holds an undying loyalty to all things Target brand.

The phrase has been floating around the culture sphere, haunting all the young women who truly believed they were they only ones to really, truly pull off the perfect autumn combination of Ugg boots, thick scarves, and the legendary Pumpkin Spice Latte.

A Basic Girl is predictable. She does not necessarily have any intriguing qualities, quirks or interests. She is one dimensional in her tastes and habits. Basically, being called a Basic Girl is a huge, crushing insult.

I have long been fighting this identity before I even knew about the Internet definition. When I was in high school I wanted to set myself a part from the other girls so boys would notice and find me to be not just another American Eagle-wearing freshman (although I of course did wear American Eagle). So I stuck Green Day pins to my shoelaces. I didn’t pierce my ears simply because every other girl had her ears pierced. I drove a minivan (this one wasn’t by choice). More than anything I didn’t want to be “just another girl.”

What is it about this idea of being just like everybody else that evokes such a deep fear? And what does it mean to “be like everybody else” anyway?

If I’m being very honest, a lot of decisions I make in my life are based on my desire to be interesting, set apart from cookie-cutter stereotypes.

I choose my clothing because I want to stand out. I often use humor to set myself a part as a funny person. I try to read obscure books or watch obscure movies so others will find me interesting. I choose travelling adventures not only because I’m interested in them, but I believe they’ll make me unique.

We all want this, right? We all want to be Zooey Deschanel with her quirky personality and glasses and take on life, which men clearly find intriguing (and thus attractive). And really, isn’t this kind of individuality-at-all-costs part of the motivation behind the hipster movement? We’ve become obsessed with being different from everybody else.

Last year I was telling a woman I had only known a few days about my then (and, honestly, still) uncertain future. I was describing jobs I could possibly take or places I could live, confessing how very “normal” they sounded. Who would I be if I settled into this normalcy at 22?

I said, “You know, I don’t want to be that girl.”

With a knowing look on her face, she asked, “Julia, who exactly is that girl?”

I muttered something about how oh you know, that girl is someone who chooses to do distinctly “normal” things or a lead a relatively “normal” and unglamorous life, someone who doesn’t necessarily stand out from the crowd.

My friend shook her head and said, “It isn’t about doing or pursuing things that you or others could consider ‘normal.’ It’s about experiencing these things with your own unique approach and your own personal sense of adventure. Everybody, at some point or another, does things that are just like everybody else. It’s up to you to know how to make those things your own.” 

The truth is, I really do enjoy things a lot of other people enjoy. I do like pumpkin-flavoured beverages. I do like thick scarves and how they make me look in the fall. And I do have an undying loyalty to Target.

I don’t want to just be like everybody else. I want to pursue adventures and jobs and live, act, and love in a way that makes me distinctly me. But I don’t want to be so terrified of being just like everyone else, being basic, that I avoid things I truly enjoy or want to do.

Do I occasionally act like a Basic Girl? Absolutely. But that doesn’t make me any less the person I am, which is anything but basic.

Photo from Flickr CC.