As I wait in the Starbucks line, mentally preparing myself for the order that lies ahead, I start to shake. I know what the others behind me will think: how basic.
“I’d like a pumpkin spice latte with almond milk and an extra shot of espresso, please,” I semi-whisper.
Stupid. I feel stupid for that order. When I drink it, however, my whole day becomes better. My idea of the perfect afternoon is sitting with a venti PSL with some Ugg slippers on, about to watch a cringey-yet-popular chick-flick on Netflix. This all screams “I’m just like everybody else!” but why is that a bad thing? Why should I stop enjoying the activities and things that I like out of the fear that they will get labeled as unoriginal or get made fun of?
There is a paradox of happiness today. All over the media, slogans along the lines of “Be Yourself!” or “Do What Makes You Happy!” are plastered to reverse the conformist culture that has been promoted by pop culture in the past. Although these attempts to encourage security and self-confidence may be helping some people feel comfortable with their individuality, they also sometimes shut down those who like what is popular.
Think of the eye-roll-inducing, hipster comment “I liked it before it was cool.” This is usually prompted after a television show or music becomes mainstream. What gives this person the upper hand? The idea that enjoying a song can be more valid because it was heard when it was first released versus when it reached the top charts does not make sense. Take technology as another example. Parents may assure their children that they want them to do activities that make them creative and social. Once ‘being social’ means posting on Instagram or ‘being creative’ means building a house on Minecraft, children are instantly contributing to what is wrong with this generation, according to many adults. If what people like is not a danger to themselves or others, they should be left alone.
Advertisers want people to be alike, as the more people who buy their products, the more profits they acquire. Forever 21 probably couldn’t care less if every girl wears jean skirts and crop tops, so long as they’re purchasing these clothes from them. It is the rhetoric from social media and in person with statements like “all girls dress the same” or “every boy wears blah blah blah” that shames similarity. If a boy likes the way he looks in the mirror wearing a Vineyard Vines t-shirt or a girl feels confident filling in her eyebrows and contouring, then they should be secure with themselves in peace. Negatively stereotyping how certain people present themselves or what they do for fun is setting us back in our efforts toward a common happiness.
This idea — to let everyone maintain their own interests or preferences even if “everyone else is doing it” — becomes a problem if they are people’s interests because everyone else is doing it. For instance, when someone plays Fortnite just to keep up with their friend group even if they don’t particularly like it, conformity is made an issue. Blending in for the sake of blending in is much different then being the same as everyone because you happen to really enjoy the same thing. If what you like is “basic” due to its coincidental popularity, that is much healthier than it being the reason you feel secure or that you fit in with your generation and peers. So, in short, just order the Pumpkin Spice Latte proudly and enjoy your day insecurity-free.