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I'm basic and proud of it: Why it's OK to be uncool

As I write this, I’m sitting at Starbucks in my favorite pair of Lululemon leggings and a messy topknot, sipping a mocha light Frapp (hold the whipped cream, please). And of course I spent a solid 10 minutes photographing said drink #fortheInsta, another 10 choosing the right filter and another 10 deciding which inspirational quote to use for the caption.

I am what most people would call “basic.”

And in a world where everyone is constantly trying to out-cool each other, being described as basic isn’t a compliment. Even Wikipedia defines it as uninteresting or unremarkable. More than that, though, it’s a term that implies you’re as predictable and mainstream as they come. Think: the Plastics from Mean Girls. Yep, totally basic.

But, like any stereotype, that’s not always true. In fact, sometimes the most basic of girls are actually the most brave, the most authentic and the most fearless. Why? Because we own our individuality (and yes, we have it) with pride.

Growing up in a one-stoplight town in the middle of nowhere, I led a pretty sheltered childhood. So when I left home for a prestigious college a few states away, surrounded by girls who grew up in New York City and had vacation homes in France, I discovered a whole new world.

A world full of music that wasn’t country. A world of clothes that weren’t hand-me-downs. And a world that was more than bonfires and 7-11 parking lots. So like any small-town-girl-meets-big-city story goes, I was eager to fit in.

But I quickly realized that the trends I truly loved (Ugg boots! Side braids! Nike shorts!) weren’t, well, quite so trendy after all.

I remember excitedly showing up at my first college party after having spent hours picking out the perfect outfit—right down to my monogram necklace—only to realize my attempt to fit in actually made me stand out in the worst way. In the way that only a pink linen dress in a sea of distressed vegan leather jackets and vintage boots can. Basic times 100.

I spent the next few months desperately try-ing to be someone I wasn’t. Someone who turned up her nose at cheesy rom-coms and pretended to like obscure EDM music just so she could be accepted into the “it” sorority. Someone who (very disastrously) tried to learn to longboard.

And let me tell you: Not only was it absolutely miserable, it was also what led to my long struggle, and eventual hospitalization, for depression and anorexia. Sure, I looked like the poster child for a college success story, but I had become a shell of myself. I was faking it every single day because I thought I should be ashamed of who I really was.

Four years (and countless therapy sessions and long phone calls with my mom) later, I’ve finally come to terms with the truth: I will never be the “cool” girl. And that is absolutely OK. Sure, it’s great to be an individual—but there’s also nothing wrong with considering frozen yogurt a food group and having a Pinterest board completely dedicated to mason jar crafts. My taste in clothes or the pictures on my Insta feed don’t determine my worth.

And yet, these days, girls are expected to be unique, to stand out from the crowd, to be a unicorn...how’s that for pressure? But just like you shouldn’t like what’s popular just because it’s, well, popular, you also shouldn’t pretend to enjoy organic, gluten-free poke bowls (although if you do, go for it) just to up your cool factor.

So newsflash: It doesn’t mean that I’m less intelligent just because I think Gossip Girl was (OK, and still is) the greatest show ever—just like it doesn’t mean I’m less original because I enjoy midi rings, fake eyelashes and tiny heart tattoos. It doesn’t make me predictable or cliché or insert-other-insult-here.

It’s time to take back the word basic. It’s time to stop being embarrassed that Tiffany blue and blush pink are your favorite colors. And that you still prefer your North Face parka to a limited-edition embellished bomber. It’s time to take those flower crowns out of the closet and admit that you think the mermaid toast trend is the greatest part of 2017 so far.

As my mom likes to remind me, there will always be someone who doesn’t like you, no matter what you do or what you believe in or where you shop. You’ll never make everyone happy. You’re either too boring or too weird, too mainstream or too out-there. So really, why try to be anything other than y-o-u?

Every basic’s favorite girl (Taylor, natch) says it best: “Just shake it off.” Like what you like and ignore what anyone else thinks about your most basic tendencies—whether it’s abbreviating every other word (because it makes even the most boring text sound adorbs, obvs) or spending Saturday nights bawling your eyes out to The Notebook. Whatever makes your heart happy, do it.

Because no matter what that Buzzfeed quiz tells you, we’re all a little bit basic. And life’s too short to use fewer emojis and slow down with Snapchat selfies (seriously, the puppy filter will never get old). So if someone tries to insult me by calling me basic? I literally can’t even.

This article was originally published in the June/July 2017 issue of Girls' Life magazine. 

by Amanda Tarlton | 9/13/2017
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