Basic? Not applicable

scented candle

Don’t worry about her. She’s basic.

Here I am photographing a neon sign like a basic bitch!
I like scented candles – I’m so basic lol.

What is basic?
The Urban dictionary defines it as:
1. Used to describe someone devoid of defining characteristics that might make a person interesting, extraordinary, or just simply worth devoting time or attention to.

2. Lacking intelligence and unable to socialize on even an elementary level.

3. Annoyingly frustrating because of the above


Language is shifting all the time, and the term may have originated in a different culture. What I’m writing about is how I see it used in the UK today.

I’m not a fan of the trend of calling people basic.

I’ve noticed that basic is often used to describe women. Where it’s used as an insult, often the context is to devalue someone who has wronged you. Someone gave you feedback you didn’t like? Doesn’t matter because they are basic and you are…the opposite. Which is, I assume, complex. Or sophisticated. Or just less annoying. Lets’s go with non-basic.

So there are two types of people. Non-basic and basic. No one wants to be basic.

Basic has been appropriated recently. People use it to make a joke of something they like that they think is not up to their usual standards. The implication is they are usually non-basic in all their tastes and lifestyle. Yet on this hilarious occasion they have accidentally strayed into basic territory. It could be used about home decor, scenery, shops, food…

I don’t like the way reading those comments makes me feel basic if I like the same thing. For example, scented candles. I sometimes use scented candles to cover cooking odours since the size of my flat means I have a multi-purpose kitchen / lounge / workspace. See how I felt like I had to justify that?

Are scented candles basic or is it any sort of home scenting? If I burn scented Japanese charcoal sticks instead of a candle, is that better? Actually I tried it and it made it a mess so I went on to buy some of those plug-in air fresheners from Wilco. Oh god, that’s even more basic, isn’t it?


The undertones of basic and non-basic sometimes seem to be class-based. The reality is that getting unique, special, different things usually costs more than getting the thing everyone else has. Mass market means mass pricing, accessible and available. If you are upper class, you have more bespoke, original furniture in your home. Does that make you non-basic by default? Or does it make you wealthier and able to select from a wider number of suppliers?

Grace Dent wrote a great piece about the relationship between food and class. When my hand hovers over a packet of Mr Kipling’s French Fancies in Tesco, I contemplate this. That’s not a sophisticated or non-basic food choice. But then sometimes I get nostalgic for the tea my Nan used to serve – bread and butter, lettuce and salad cream, Mr Kipling cakes. If that wasn’t your upbringing, fair enough. But it’s not a case of being basic or non-basic. I can also buy the fresh guacamole in Whole Foods when I have guests and want to be fancy. People are that multi-faceted.


Another reason I’d not keen on basic is that it reminds me of my teenage snobbery. I hated the Spice Girls at school. They represented the mainstream and I thought everyone who liked them was devoid of taste. I’ve written about my school days and the poor self-esteem I had then. I was an awkward kid who was far too pale and too tall for conformity. My indie/alternative style included tie-dye, band t-shirts, fluorescent tights, and German Army shirts. I expressed myself by scrawling obscure band lyrics and Sartre quotes over my purple folder. I thought of culture in terms of them (most people at school) and us (me and a single friend). The basic and non-basic of the time. The thing is I like to think I’m slightly less of a dick now.

So I will resist basic. It’s not for me.

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