We all know what “basic” is by virtue of its aggravating tendency to gradually encompass more and more of our vices and indulgences. First, Uggs were no longer just ugly (and comfortable!) — they became basic. Starbucks, the most convenient, predictable (predictably meh, which is better than surprisingly horrible) cup of coffee became basic. Victoria’s Secret is basic, though it wasn’t basic when I bought my first pair — perhaps the first pair — of mustard, elastic bottomed “Love Pink” sweatpants in fourth grade and everyone laughed at me for wearing something from an underwear store in the blinding, elementary school daylight. Jean skirts are basic, so are leggings, and eff me because, if worn properly, both of those things are great, and so is Sex and the City, Taylor Swift, Tiffany charm bracelets, and more of Taylor Swift.
Now, in order to avoid being basic, or simply to avoid having a select few basic tendencies, I cannot watch Carrie Bradshaw making curly hair look cool nor can I listen to “Speak Now” on repeat. Fine, it may have helped in my recent separation from the latter that Tay pulled her discography from Spotify. Regardless, I digress.
So, if I have ditched the Love Pink attire, stopped drinking coffee because it mixes poorly with my most Jewish qualities (anxiety and sensitive stomach), and only wear leggings in the house, am I no longer basic at all?
And if I, or we — if you’re with me on this — are not basic, then what are we?
I think I’ve forgotten. Before the term “basic” was coined to mean things other than, well, basic, the basic life still must have existed, albeit nameless like a risky, unidentified sushi roll. Still, there must be more basic people now that there’s an identity with which they can clearly express themselves; like how there suddenly exists more perverted 13-year-olds once they get laptops and discover porn. It works the same way.
Considering that theory, then, many of us were not basic in the years between 2003 and 2008. We just were. We were normal. But if everyone was basic, then no one was, and so please lord tell me, WHAT WERE WE?
Yes, I’m sickened too by how easy it is to philosophize about this.
Anyway, I saw this motivational quote Instagram post earlier today that claims the opposite of “basic” to be “epic.” It didn’t exactly state that, but it mostly did, and it got me thinking about this whole thing.
Because when it comes down to it, I’m afraid not many people would call me epic.
So am I basic?
Maybe I’m a lot of other great things, but epic is a big word. I aspire to be epic. Yet, I’m not quite sure if that is the opposite of basic-ness. I mean, in my personal opinion, a pumpkin spice latte WITH whip will always be very epic.
What do you think the opposite of basic is? Or maybe there aren’t even opposites. Maybe basic is on a spectrum, like the rainbow or like sexuality is, and we’re all just kind of teetering back and forth between two misspelled names on a coffee cup.
Today, my little brother turned seventeen. This is a big deal. He can drive and now has an age-specific magazine to which he can properly relate in times of need, like a long distance BFF.
I felt pure enjoyment from reading the posts on his Facebook timeline. A lot of people wrote, “happy birthday bro,” which made me feel like a proud older sister–“bro” is probably the male equivalent of the female “babe,” meaning guys who have man-crushes on my little brother have written on his wall and yes, after all these years, he is a well-liked chap.
Writing on someone’s “timeline” for his or her birthday is the perfect thing to do when you have a man-crush/girl crush (as aforementioned), or even just a general crush (to whom you don an extra !! at the end of your birthday wish. Maybe he’ll notice me now!!!!!). Before Facebook, happy birthday’s were said the old fashioned way, like when passing someone in the hall even if you weren’t super tight.
But Facebook has added a new dimension to the birthday: it’s kind of like receiving a million cards; it gives you something extra with which you can measure how great your birthday was; it gives certain people no excuse not to say happy birthday because of how easy it can be to just say it, thereby allowing you to use your birthday as a way to gauge the legitimacy some of your relationships. (Then again, should we really be gauging the legitimacy of our relationships based on a Facebook wall post, or lack thereof?)
I’ve spent whole birthdays waiting to see if a few specific characters, let’s call them, reach out to me. And then the birthday is over, and they either haven’t reached out or they have. At this point, I can either pat myself on the back and be like, “you’re definitely the bigger person here,” or I can pout and hope they send a regretful text the next day, which they usually do.
I am intrigued by the way we use Facebook to extend warmest wishes on the anniversary of one’s birth. There is nothing greater than birthday collages, or when you see wall posts from one best friend to another even though they’ve obviously been speaking since the clock struck midnight. Still, we love the extra gift, free of monetary cost, yet with invaluable social cost, that Facebook gives us each year.
That all being said, I rarely use Facebook to convey birthday wishes.
It’s great for girl-crushes, it’s great for people whose phone numbers I don’t have but wish I did, and in my eyes, that’s about it. The last Facebook photo collage I made was for my best guy friend and included photos of us making strange faces on a camel in Israel. In that case, it was, as they say, irresistablé.
My most important question as of recent: Is it better to make a wall post, or to not say “happy birthday” at all?
There are pros and cons to each type of birthday wish, from Hallmark card in the mail to Instagram comment to text to phone call to Facebook message (yes, it holds a different weight than a Facebook wall post). “Happy birthday” isn’t really about wishing someone another year of beautiful life, preferably processed with VSCOcam C1 filter. It isn’t even really about what you say–well, unless you’re giving me extra exclamation points or a <3 or a “babe”. It’s about how you say it.
So, I’ve been thinking a lot about Selena Gomez.
A few months ago, I noticed that she was looking a little different. She, it seemed, had gotten slightly larger.
Selena Gomez has always been a long lean lanky stick. Like a literal branch that had fallen from a tree. In Wizards of Waverly Place her Free People shirts would just hang on her. And I know she wore a lot of Free People because we had the same six to eight articles of Free People clothing that we both seemed to have repeatedly worn to school in only a way Lizzie McGuire would on her graduation day.
I usually am hyperaware of these things–famous people gaining weight, which is admittedly not a good habit of mine whatsoever but I’ll admit it nonetheless–so I figured I was just being crazy and Selena was just being a normal person.
Then, a month or two went by, and Selena stayed the same. A little “fuller.” Certainly, certainly not “fat.” But healthy.
And then the headlines started. The first one I saw read, “Selena Gomez Shows Off Her Curves in Polka-Dot Bikini After Facing Criticism from Body Shamers.” The second one read, “Selena Gomez ‘Is In a Really Great Place,’ Not Bothered by Body Shamers.” That one went up on the same publication less than 24 hours after the first headline.
Here are some memorable lines from the articles:
“Selena Gomez couldn’t care less what you think of her curves.”
And from another publication: “Looking good, Selena!”
“Taking a dip in the ocean, the 22-year-old “I Want You to Know” singer looked healthy as she enjoyed her day on the beach with a couple of gal pals.”
I thought a lot about what I was seeing but never criticizing, and how it was confirmed by my Facebook news feed. And I started to wonder why we, or the media we feed and consume, have made backhanded body-shaming the new black. Think about it: it used to be all about who’s gaining weight. I mean, it’s still about gaining weight, but it used to be OUT THERE. I think for a solid five years in the earlier 2000s all I did was read about Kirstie Alley and her experiences on Jenny Craig. Now, it’s “in” to write about the body-shaming stars endure and then show how they ward off the evil spirits by going to the beach and still wearing a bikini.
Well, have you ever thought that a celebrity’s life mission isn’t to put their haters to rest, but is instead to live a normal happy life, which may involve going to the beach, especially if you live in California and/or have a lot of money like most celebrities do?
Then came Selena’s Instagrams. First, one captioned with, “I love being happy with me yall #theresmoretolove” and another, from just a few days ago, captioned, “Soul cycle aftermath. I. Want. Tacos.”
Holy shit, I thought. She’s playing into it.
I could have been totally wrong, but I saw a weird game of tic-tac-toe going on. She media is insisting that Selena is fucking the haters by wearing a bikini. Now, Selena has decided to play that role–the role of the young celebrity who doesn’t let the body-shamers bring her down, the celebrity who is real and likes SoulCycle but also tacos, too, goddamnit.
What I’m really thinking, though, is that this new thing is probably just Selena’s natural body. You know, the body she has when she isn’t working out for two and a half hours every day and isn’t on a diet regimented by Gwyneth Paltrow. Doctors, nutritionists, moms, EVERYONE talks about the idea of a “natural body” that you have, which is going to be different from everyone else’s, and is the way your body looks when you are treating it just right with *balance*. It reminds me of the two year period where suddenly, all of my friends from all walks of life became a little thicker, or a little wider. No one got “fat,” but we all just started to have “womanly” bodies. We traded lanky limbs for looking like actual humans. It’s a part of growing up.
The problem with all of this is that it’s really kind of difficult to come to a place where you genuinely love that natural body and are happy in it all of the time. It’s a million gazillion times more difficult to do that if you’re famous. The odds that Selena Gomez has gotten to that place, as someone who is currently 22 and has been famous since she and Demi were on Barney, are slim.
The tabloids patting her on the back? Not saying her body looks great, but saying she’s shutting out the haters… that all just draws more unwanted attention to the issue. This makes her think about it more. That makes her accept her body less. Because if it was totally normal, wouldn’t we be not talking about it at all?
It’s like how sometimes, friends tell me, “You have such a unique body, Han!” or “You really are able to work your body.” That’s like saying, “You aren’t super skinny and you don’t have the ‘in’ body shape right now [that’s basically to be so thin you don’t exist] but you still look great!”
So for a while, I let this train of thought convince me that my body was so unique, but in a bad way–in a way that I had no one to relate to, boob to boob, butt to butt–so I would get obsessive about it and spend a lot of time comparing myself to other people just to see if there was someone else like me out there. That way, I would really know how to work it. I would know what to wear. I would know how to make boys think I was a *dimepiece*, though I doubt in reality I actually want to be one.
I loved finding famous people with my body. It doesn’t happen often. I’d like to think I have the body of Scarlett Johansson, which you’ll know isn’t true within watching the first five minutes of Lost in Translation. A personal trainer once told me that I have the Kim Kardashian/J. Lo shape, which made me happy for a few weeks. But, like always, insecurity creeps back.
Things this experience taught me:
Stars aren’t all magically thin. I used to think that being naturally skinny was a requirement for being famous, and that I could never be famous because I don’t have long legs. I used to wonder if it was sheer coincidence that celebrities are all skinny people. I spent so much of my own life trying to look a way I’m not that I couldn’t process how people who aren’t meant to look like that do, and how they become famous.
Selena Gomez weirdly reminded me that stars are humans, and their weight, like mine, fluctuates, and they probably work too hard to be in the shape they’re expected to be in.
But I didn’t need all of this media attention to tell me that. Really, I came to that conclusion when I saw the first Instagram of her, 12 weeks ago, and wondered–
Hmmm, has Selena gained a little weight? Or is it just me?
Image via my homeslice @SelenaGomez