I have to say– not two tries into this challenge, and I am already growing weary of it. But, I made a promise, and a promise I shall keep. To whom did I make this promise? I don’t actually know– who out there is reading this? Speak out, readers!– and, of course, there was no actual “demand” for me to learn how to do #TBTs. But, I am going to stick with this until the bitter end. Because I am a stickler.
So, let #tbt to my #tbt last week. But first, onwards (backwards?) we go to the summer of 2008, a time when I had just finished my first year of high school and, most importantly, entered the mystic realm of puberty:
This is me in 2008. I was at my friend Isia’s 15th birthday party. I was only friends with girls in high school, so this was a “safe place” for me. I particularly valued Isia’s parties because she always had lots of food, and her hot older brother would sometimes make an appearance for us to gaze and giggle at, but never actually touch or talk to.
When I partied back in my high school days, there were two things I liked to do in order to get attention: First, I would eat all of the food around me. Then, I would apply the remains onto my face. As you can see, I had just eaten an entire birthday cake (I am assuming). Afterwards, I took two candles, mushed them together and stuck it onto my nose. The random hand you see is my friend Isabel, who is shielding her face in horror. And yet, I gaze into the camera, unrepentant. I do not actually know who took this
This is a rather “provocative” #tbt, I think, because the word “boobs” is in the caption. (Except, I was 14. Is this okay? Am I statulatorily harassing myself?) I also managed to use the actual “#tbt” hashtag. This, plus, the ambiguity of the photo itself, makes it a clear winner. At the same time, however, I did not approach this with the clear-eyed lack of dignity that I have been trying for in this process. The hashtag “#awakenings” still implies that I am making fun of this day of throwbacks. Which I am. Also, apparently “Awakenings” is a techno music festival in Holland, so people looking for pictures of neon and molly with that hashtag also got to see this picture. Good!
Oh, and this is what “delete it fat” means. I try to say it at least once a day.
I think I did much better this week, personally! I am going to give myself an A-. Points off for force-fed irony, but bonus for the hashtags.
It is the summer and it is 2015. Despite this present time, I can’t stop thinking about something I once said during the summer of 2013, when I declared that I would “literally” never participate in an Instagram fad (new to me and my friends, probably not to other people) called “#tbt.”
My exact words, I believe, were something along the lines of it being the “stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of.” I was particularly irked by people who posted things from, say, October 2012 in May 2013 with a caption like “‘#tbt to bid day with my bestie! Forgot this day happened hahaha.”‘(sidenote: 2012/ 13 was also a time before “bae.” What did we even say before bae? I could not tell you.)
I wasn’t opposed to posting old pictures, per se, nor was I necessarily against the principle of pandering for online external validation. It was just something about the hashtag #tbt that, to me, that revealed an unsavory need to receive likes- a need of which everyone on Instagram is complicit, but I thought everyone maintained a certain degree of decency to mask. Thus, I declared that I would never ever ‘#tbt.’
I should say that this summer was a weird one: I recently discovered by looking through my journal (which, it must be noted, I only bother to write in when I am feeling especially angsty) that I had three goals for myself at the time: lose five pounds (I had a particularly bad round of finals binging that year; I accomplished this but only because I got food poisoning in July), become the “kind of person who wears hoop earrings” (if you are the kind of person who needs to put that on your to do list, you are never going to become the kind of person who wears hoop earrings) and learn how to take the “perfect selfie” (?????) (I definitely did not accomplish this).
I have “#tbt”-ed many a time, however, since declaring I would never ever “#tbt.” At first, I did this defensively: My first #tbt was in June 2014 with a deliberately unflattering picture of myself as a three-year-old, when I was wearing a red jumpsuit and looking at the camera with a sensual, asexual gaze. My caption was “#tbt to the fond memories of my youth as a smug, inbred Regency-era lord,” the location “Little Lord Faunterloy’s Closet.” It didn’t get very many likes. Still, it was pandering, and I couldn’t stop. I #tbt-ed a month later on my friend Shayna’s birthday, which was earnest enough but also coupled by a disclaimer that this was the only “#tbt” I would “deign” to do. This was not true. I wanted to do so much more! So I did: I followed it up with another, during the following Halloween, of a picture of myself and my siblings dressed in our 2005 Halloween costumes. I had dressed as a carbohydrate, but still: pandering! Each time I #tbt-ed, I did so with lessening irony in my caption but heightening guilt in my soul. Justin Bieber once told me to “never say never,” and he was right. I said never, and now I hate myself. I am a fraud. I have had enough. I would like to #tbt unfettered; sans guilt and sans irony. So I have decided on an act of contrition: Every other week, for the rest of the summer (or until I can’t do it anymore) I am going to #tbt. Then, the following week, I will write a blog post about it, serving a dual #tbt purpose: it will analyze both the picture from last week’s #tbt as well as the act of my own #tbt-ing from the previous week.
So, if you will: this is a #tbt to last week when I decided to do a #tbt to the year 2001, but, mostly, this is a #tbt redemption to a time in the summer of 2013 when I felt like I needed to decry something, so I decried all things #tbt.
Analysis below: This is a picture of me in 2001, I think. I liked reading, and my grandma worked at a library, so that is probably why I am wearing a shirt with a cat on it that says “Reading Rhythms.” (The cat is playing guitar and not even reading, which I cannot explain.) I am also, obviously, on a tennis court and holding a tennis racket. I did play tennis. I was not particularly good or bad at it. This is why I don’t really remember anything about the time I played tennis, except for the one time I was serving a ball and it flew over the fence and hit my cousin Sofia, who was visiting from California, on the head. The coach stared at me for a long time and said, “I’ve never seen anything like that before.” At the time I thought he was impressed, but I don’t think that anymore.
A final note on my footwear. Looking past the fact that I am wearing sandals and socks, it’s dumb. My arches are not supported at all! How did my mother let me out of the house?
As you can see, I was still feeling very insecure with my #tbt abilities at this point in time. I did not even use the #tbt hashtag! My syntax also reveals further discomfort- on social media, the use of “u” and “ur” is generally a signal that one is not serious (think of the way Ezra Koenig tweets). Plus, the “when ur ____ and u/r _____” verbal meme is another way of expressing irony.
I don’t want to be too harsh on myself but, for this week, I don’t feel that I can give myself anything higher than a C+. I am getting the “+” only because I fought the good fight and #tbt-ed at all.
On Saturday, April 11th 2015, I did not go to Coachella. Instead, I went to the Third Annual Burke Street Food Truck Festival in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. There, I saw too much.
I saw thirty food trucks with compulsorily creative names like “Baguette About It” and “Cake in a Cup” and “Wright Up Ur Galley.” I saw lines that extended from the window of a truck to the edge of the orange blockade that enclosed Burke Street from 3-8 PM that day. I saw someone who said that they had been there since 2:15 in order to properly scope out the trucks. I saw seven wide-brimmed sun hats, four straw fedora hats and one felt fedora hat. I saw five skateboards. I saw a lot of Caucasians. I saw people I know and trust eat something called “crack-n-cheese,” which was not crack but actually macaroni and cheese topped with pulled pork topped with turkey cracklings topped with (Eastern-style, vinegar-based) barbecue sauce. I saw someone get very angry with my friend Brandy because she agreed to order an extra turkey sandwich with slaw and fries on the side on behalf of a woman in front of us who had forgotten to order for her husband. I saw a family with two puppies and six children all apparently under the age of seven, and wondered how their parents, who seemed cheerful and composed, managed to make them all sit Indian-style as they waited placidly together for their crack-n-cheese. I saw that they managed to do this with a large bottle of Mountain Dew that they kept in the back of the youngest one’s stroller, and doled out to each child who stayed sufficiently quiet for about five minutes. I saw that being a parent is very hard. I saw a girl wearing Chacos, a plaid shirt and horn-rimmed Warby Parkers tell her companions that she is “freakin’ obsessed with kale” right after she ordered some deep-fried fish tacos from a truck called “Bandito Burrito.” I did not see any selfie sticks, which was very disappointing to me. I saw a truck called “The Ice Queen Parlor” where I waited 38 minutes in line to eat an ice cream sandwich called the “Kermint” which was two chocolate chip cookies with a scoop of mint chip and a scoop of cookies and cream ice cream between them and a single, whole Oreo right in the middle. I saw one man who could not decide between the “Berry White” (strawberry ice cream with Nutella in the center on white chocolate macadamia cookies) and the “E.T.” (mini Reese’s Pieces layered between peanut butter and chocolate ice cream on chocolate chip cookies) so he decided to get both, holding one in each hand and alternating bites as they melted in the wax paper-y grip. I saw that he did not share with his wife, but that was fine because she had gotten her own sandwich.
So that is what I saw at the Third Annual Burke Street Food Truck Festival. I think I could force myself to attribute meaning to it all, if I really wanted to, but I don’t think that I do.
If you are anything like me, you spend a sizeable portion of your time wondering exactly what Gwyneth Paltrow is doing at every hour of the day.
I can’t help but nurse an absurd amount of awe for someone who is so skilled at the art of euphemistic, delusional rebranding: This is a woman, after all, who announced the end of her marriage through a blog post on her own personal lifestyle website and did not call it divorce but rather, “conscious uncoupling.”
Because of this, whenever I am feeling blue, I like to think not of what Gwyneth would do because, of course, she would never have such difficulties as I, with lowly “boy troubles” and “job searching” (or, as Gwyneth would call them, “sub-gender quandaries” and “spiritual livelihood quests”). Rather, I ruminate on what Goop might be doing in this exact moment.
Perhaps she is relaxing with her close friends Beyoncé and Jay Z on their private island, sipping a kale-spirulina cocktail and mulling over the pros and cons of purchasing the nation of Greece. Or maybe she is having a “me” day and has confined herself to her own private island to weave a necklace out of algae, chia seeds and solid gold thread whilst undergoing a colonic.
It is very soothing. Sometimes, though, I turn to “facts” and try out some things that Gwyneth actually does do. This once led me to go gluten-free for a summer, which was a pretty bad time, and, more recently, do a very weird thing called “oil pulling.”
What is oil pulling, you ask? It’s 3,000 year-old Ayurvedic practice that, like yoga and meditation, has more recently been capitalized upon by Western culture with the promise of helping its disciples find inner peace and lose weight. To do it, you take a tablespoon or two of oil (preferably coconut) and swish it around in your mouth for twenty minutes, and then spit. And that’s it! According to a website I found that once dedicated an entire blog post to “The Best Kale Salads from Instagram this Week,” this practice whitens teeth, increases energy, clears the skin and promotes weight loss. Gwyneth told People magazine last year that she has added it to her beauty regimen, saying it’s “amazing!”
Now, everyone who knows me is aware that I am always “jonesing” for an effortless way to become skinnier and more energetic (which is why I used a slang term that arose out of the heroin addict’s vernacular), and thus, I decided to give this a go. I “pulled” for a week.
To start, I purchased a jar of Spectrum Coconut Oil at Target for $6.99. This is kind of expensive for something you are not actually planning on consuming, but you get a lot of it! 14 ounces, to be exact, which is much more than it sounds like because coconut oil is actually completely solid. I learned this as soon as I returned home and eagerly plunged a spoon into the jar, only to find that it got stuck.
Once I excavated my spoon, I swished. This is weird! The oil, which initially is solid in a slippery way (think butter right after you take it out of the fridge) (isn’t this appetizing?), melts after about a minute, and then it is just kind of…there… for the remaining nineteen. It tastes the way that Hawaiian Tropic sunscreen smells, which is not entirely unpleasant but lends itself to a good deal of cognitive dissonance.
While doing this religiously every day for a week, swishing, I found, is very distracting. I tried to use my twenty minutes to watch The Wire but could not focus and instead had to turn to more mindless activities, which is how I accidentally read twenty pages of a Suri Cruise fashion blog in one sitting.
The results? My teeth are a little whiter, I think. I did not lose weight. I did not turn into Gwyneth Paltrow. But my hopes are still high! I shall continue oil pulling, because I would like to own a private island, and because I have a lot of leftover coconut oil.
Do you like online dating? Do you like mainstream, soft-core porn? Most of all, do you like overexposure?
If so, great! You should keep reading this.
If there is one thing that I know, it is that not a single journalist of modern day would be employed if they were suddenly banned from writing trend pieces, think pieces and “social experiments” about Tinder (I am able to catch on to these things because I am a journalism minor at a school that is not very well-known for its journalism program).
I am not sure when true market saturation in regards to Tinder trend pieces will hit, but I do know that I, too, am obsessed with Tinder. I initially tried the dating app back in 2013 and did not exactly love it, but this was before I realized that Tinder relies on all of the things that I cherish most: snap judgments, superficial conversation and pretending to be somebody you are not (once, I convinced someonethat I was Jessica Pare, which to this day I consider my greatest accomplishment). Basically, it is just an excuse to act like a particularly devious villain in a Jane Austen novel.
In any case, I recently decided that it was time for me to enter this game previously mostly occupied only by The New York Times and Bustle (there’s a terrifying comparison) by combining Tinder with another social phenomenon that had reached over-saturation before it was even released to the public: 50 Shades of Grey. My friends and I wanted to see what would happen if we were to refurbish my Tinder profile completely, posing as a nice, unstable group of friends whose sole mission is to see 50 Shades of Grey on Valentine’s Day.
Like most things, this “experiment” had no point. After all, to live is to suffer, and to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering! This is what Friedrich Nietzsche says, and what I say, too. Wine-fueled Tinder escapades are my meaning in the suffering that is life!
Unsure of what our end goal should be, we bounced around some options. Were we to go to the movie at all? Should we invite just one lucky man, or extend the invitation to a few? Depending on the range of offers that we received, it was possible that we could arrange a fight to the death if multiple suitors arrived to the movie theater, which would be very exciting. Regardless, “50 Shades of Grey with a Stranger?!?” had been entered into my friend Corynn’s iron-clad Google calendar, so we all knew it would be impossible to back out now.
So, we created this:
(Disclosure: this is what my Tinder profile looked like before, so it is debatable as to which one is really an improvement).
Excited about my new makeover, I began right-swiping immediately with a feverish enthusiasm heretofore nonexistent in my previous Tinder endeavors. I was thrilled to see that people were confused, yet intrigued by our request:
Some were a little slower on the uptake:
And some were downright rude:
As happy as I was with the way things were going, I soon learned that manning a “troll” Tinder account by yourself is basically a full-time job. I am sorry to say that I slacked off as I tended to my other duties of being a human being.
But here is something that worked in my favor: The “moments” section on Tinder, which works rather like a Snapchat story except, as one might imagine, it is basically a phallus explosion most of the time! So I usually don’t use it. But, a picture speaks a thousand words, and a picture with a hashtag is worth about 10,000 words, so I felt that it could be used to show what our mission was all about. Our hashtag was, of course, #dale, because 2015 is the year of Pitbull.
It got our message across very well, I think:
Because of this, we received more offers, although some were even more confused than before:
And some caught on to what we were doing:
To narrow down the playing field, we resorted to asking college application questions. We chose one from Wake Forest itself, since it is known for infuriating questions. It was time to think outside of the box!
People are not very accustomed to thinking outside of the box, though:
The best response was from Brad— who, if you recall, had been very enthusiastic about the potential of applying and had even offered some cannabis to sweeten the deal:
These are very good TV shows! So, we quickly conferred and decided that Brad was the lucky guy who would accompany us to the theater.
Sadly the game, it seemed, had gotten too real for him at this point. His coping mechanisms were confusing, but they were there:
We were able to reel him back in for the time being. But something told me that Brad was gone forever. I began to lash out at my other matches:
Alas, I was right: as I tried to finalize plans with Brad, I received a devastating blow:
Indeed, Brad was a no-show. I sent him a few desperate messages just to be sure:
And so, that was that. Beautiful potential, wasted.
But, as always, je ne regrette rien. As I sat in the theater, I recalled that last Valentine’s Day, I had gone to a play about the Holocaust. Today, I was seeing a movie that inaccurately represented sadomasochism and the “kink” community! Not with a stranger, it was true; but I was with friends, which was almost as good.
In the end, I truly learned nothing on this endeavor. I believe that I will leave my Tinder profile in its “sketchy” state forever, though. It is a wonderful memory.
When I was in fifth grade, I had one desire that was secret, simple and robust: I wanted, more than anything else in the universe, for the Great Depression to strike once again.
The appeal, for me, was that during this time, when people fell on “hard times,” the first thing to do was open up one’s home to people who had been kicked out of theirs. I wanted my family to do this, too— besides providing extra income, it also created a space in which both hobos and disgraced businessmen on the lam from families they could no longer support could gather together with my five-person family for a supper of fire-roasted squirrel and mayonnaise sandwiches. Afterwards, the 23 or so people stuffed into my three-bedroom house would gather to play a stolen banjo while drinking bootleg moonshine. (My reimagining of the Depression also coincided with the peak of Prohibition, which I suspect is any tween’s dream.)
During this phase, had the phrase “check your privilege” been the catechism that it is today, I am certain that it would have (rightfully) been used against me. A ten-year-old girl whose one hope is for the economy to endure a catastrophic downfall simply so that she could have some exciting guests in her house certainly needs something checked, preferably by a doctor. But this was 2003: a truly decadent, pre-recession year of Uggs, Juicy Couture and, of course, the iconic Madonna/ Britney VMAs makeout. Thus, my privilege remained unchecked.
This dream, however, eventually came to pass. I “checked my privilege,” as it were, and grew begrudgingly thankful that there were no stray humans brewing moonshine in my basement.
Imagine my shock, then, when I returned home this winter break to find a surprising new installation in my house: my elementary school music teacher, who had apparently taken up residence in my basement.
Apparently, he was between leases and needed a place to stay. A few factors contributed to my parents’ enthusiasm to take him in, but it was mainly, I suspect, a means of letting me know that there would definitely be no room for me to move back home after graduation.
The first night transpired, horrifyingly, exactly as I had imagined it in my Depression-fevered youth. The tenant emerged for dinner and never left. By the end of the night, he and my parents had broken out the guitars and Rastafarian wigs and proceeded to “jam out” to Bob Marley.
Though they were clearly having a ball, I felt only heightening anxiety. My main concern was that of replacement— I had already begun to feel that if I wasn’t brandishing a guitar or dreadlocked wig, I could only enter the kitchen for dire necessities, like Kombucha or roasted squirrel.
It had become clear to me that my position of “daughter,” which I had previously taken for granted, was swiftly being stolen from me in my own home. Perhaps I had become the boarder and it was my ex-music teacher who was more permanent than I. After all, I was only staying until sorority rush. He was staying indefinitely.
I returned to school not quite sure of my status in my home. My parents probably still consider me their kin, but come graduation, who knows what that status might be?
This, I suppose, is my just retribution—for going away to college in the first place, but, most of all for entertaining the psychotic notion of repeating the Great Depression when I was but ten.
If there is any advice to be offered from such a situation, it is this: check your own privilege, lest your former wishes be used to check it for you.
Should you choose to look up from your phone between classes and glance at the quad, you might notice something interesting, sartorial-wise.
Or maybe you won’t notice it, because the thing to take note of is that everyone is dressing like everyone else. This, in itself, is not surprising— we’ve known since seventh-grade health class that youths such as ourselves are precariously susceptible to peer pressure in all forms, which extends to what we choose to put on our bodies.
What is noteworthy, then, is not the likeness between peer-reviewed fashion, but rather the varying levels of self-awareness that surrounds it: some people are consciously dressing like everyone else, others are blindly doing so, still optimistic that their clothes reflect their internal special snowflake.
Welcome to the intersection of normcore and basic.
If you are a human who is alive in the universe, you should be aware of these terms. Both emerged around the same time and followed similar life cycles that ended with over-exposure and vernacular exhaustion, as is the way on the Internet.
For the visiting aliens: “Normcore” is a term that became well-known in early 2014 with a trend piece in The Cut, described simply as “fashion for those who realize they’re one in 7 billion.” Essentially, normcore is the act of dressing to flout the notion of individuality. It includes, but is not limited to: generic track pants, frumpy sweatshirts, deliberately dressing like Danny Tanner.
The advent of “basic” is a little murkier, although many attribute it to the 2011 Kreayshawn song Gucci Gucci, which goes: “Gucci Gucci, Louis Louis, Fendi Fendi, Prada/
Basic bitches wear that shit so I don’t even bother.”
Basic, then, is anything “obscenely obvious,” according to Urban Dictionary. It includes, in its most well-known manifestation, yoga pants, Uggs and Pumpkin Spice Lattes.
There is an argument to be made that Wake Forest is currently at peak normcore. This can be supported simply by the campus-wide, unisex prevalence of Chacos, tribal print Patagonias, high-waist jeans/jorts, Wake Forest sweatshirts (without hoods or pockets), New Balance Classics, and Goodwill (or Urban Outfitters, for the lazy) sweaters.
The most damning evidence, however, are those shoes. You know the pair. Converse. Red, white and blue. Seemingly in the ownership of at least half of the female student body. These are pure normcore— inconspicuous, unassuming, and, well, basic. In fact, they are so simple and so widespread that they might even be considered basic basic.
Herein lies the dilemma: The aforementioned “basic bitch” has clearly not yet ended its reign at Wake— Vineyard Vines, Sperry and Lilly Pulitzer still loom ominously, and we are a campus, after all, that requires two Starbucks’ within a five-minute walk of each other.
But normcore is, theoretically, being cognizant of “dressing like you’re one in 7 billion,” while basic is being blatantly unaware of your own ubiquity. And yet, normcore’s influence is strongest in one location— the “Forest Folk” tumblr— which still seems to consider the style new. Almost every photograph is a variation on the normcore theme (denim jackets, cable-knit sweaters, thick-rimmed glasses) juxtaposed against the site’s masthead, which pithily declares: “Dare to be different.”
Those who appear basic, on the other hand, seem to accept it. The $92 price tag on Lululemon leggings is really just a free pass to wear, without conflict, the same thing as least three other girls in the ZSR Starbucks at any given time. Brands, after all, aim to unify, and all that makes up the basic populace— Diet Coke and Starbucks and Soul Cycle— do just that.
The takeaway: You know how sometimes words become meaningless? Obviously, no one fits as neatly into these binary rules as a terms like these aim to suggest. But basic is as basic does, and, to oversimplify, it seems that normcore might be going the way of basic and basic that of normcore.
But don’t just take my word for it.
While waiting out this liminal state, take a selfie in your tribal-print Patagonia, Lululemon pants and red, white and blue Chucks. Hashtag #WaitChapel #PSL #tbt. Whether that’ll make you normcore or basic is anyone’s guess.