The Fear of Being Basic

pumpkin spice latte

Yesterday 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 was a very, very bad thing.

Have you hear this term? This phrase has been floating around the culture sphere, haunting all the young women who truly believed they were they only one to really, truly pull off the perfectly autumn combination of Ugg boots, thick scarves and the legendary pumpkin spice latte.

A Basic Girl is someone who, apparently, enjoys and partakes in interests and activities all other women of a certain age enjoy and partake in. They wear general-looking riding boots and/or Uggs. They probably own an article of North Face. They love Taylor Swift, Colbie Caillat, Sara Bareilles, One Republic and Maroon 5. They love pumpkin-related coffee beverages. They are probably guilty of wearing leggings to class at least once a week. And they hold an undying loyalty to all things Target brand.

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 the Internet’s definition of a Basic Girl. 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 in me? 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 like the Basic Girl.

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 traveling 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. Isn’t that basically where the whole insane (yet highly appealing) hipster movement came from? Everyone wanted to suddenly be different from everyone else based on what they wore or how they dressed or what they ate, but instead ended up acting in the exact same way everyone else doing these things was acting.

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 and who I would be if I settled into this normalcy at 22 years old.

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

She looked at me quizzically and said, “Julia, who exactly is ‘that’ girl?”

I think I muttered something about how oh you know, that girl in this particular instance was a girl who chose to do distinctly “normal” things or a led a relatively “normal” and unglamorous life.

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-flavored beverages. I do like thick scarves and how they make me look in the fall. And I do have an undying loyalty to all these Target brand.

And I don’t want to just be like everybody else. I want to pursue unique 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.

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