by SAMANTHA ENGLAND - The endless judgment of our peers has led to a culture where no one is safe to be who they want to be.
WESTFIELD, Ind. (March 1, 2019) - The other day I was asking various friends what color Vans I should get. A simple enough question--or so I thought. I quickly realized that people have very strong opinions about shoes. I suggested the black and white checkered pattern but was informed that they’re “so two years ago” and “trying too hard to be edgy.” I reluctantly changed my course of thought and asked about the plain white ones. The most neutral of shoes--they couldn’t possibly have that much of a connotation. I was mistaken. The second the words left my mouth, a chorus of “BASIC!” rang out around me. Fine then, I thought. I tried one last time--baby blue ones. This suggestion was neither too basic, nor too edgy, nor too outdated. But apparently three or four of my friends already had this color, and that rendered it unacceptable.
I didn’t think much of any of this at first, only that it was going to take me a while to buy a new pair of shoes. However, the more I considered the situation, the more I realized that it isn’t uncommon for certain clothing, gadgets or even activities to be deemed either “weird” or “basic,” with very little middle ground. These ideas are so ingrained in our culture that many of them don’t even need to be said out loud. We simply have to lay eyes on something and we know almost instantly what category it falls into. You might be thinking that this is all painfully obvious information and not something that an article needs to cover, but my question is this: If neither side of the spectrum is acceptable, how are we supposed to function as “normal” members of society?
It almost seems like we have to choose the insult that we’re more okay with and live with it. Maybe this is fine with most people, but not me. I’ve spent too much of my time and energy in the past trying to balance on the microscopic space between being just like everyone else and sticking out like a sore thumb. It’s almost impossible. It made me spend over an hour thinking about Vans. No one--and I mean no one--should think that much about Vans.
There is no reason for us to consistently tear each other down, other than the fact that it’s what we’ve always done. If history has taught us anything, it’s that doing something just because it’s the norm is rarely the best idea. Obviously, people aren’t just going to stop being judgmental because of one girl who got annoyed over shoes. I’ll admit, I find myself making the same judgments from time to time. Changes in an entire community’s mindset are never easy. But that doesn’t mean that this is not a serious issue or that it shouldn’t be addressed. People should be free to wear and do whatever makes them feel the best about themselves, whether that is something similar to that of their peers or drastically different. Fitting in throughout high school is hard enough without being told that even, well, fitting in is wrong. At the end of the day, it isn’t about whether or not you are successfully toeing the line between too normal and not normal enough: it’s about your own happiness and confidence, regardless of what everyone else thinks.