Can I just say that I am totally over insulting women by calling them basic bitches?
In the beginning, I got it. Calling someone a basic bitch is a chic way to say their taste isn’t as discerning as yours, that they are suckers for marketing ploys, and boring automatons who can’t think for themselves. In the timeless words of Kreayshawn: “Gucci Gucci, Louis Louis, Fendi Fendi, Prada, basic bitches wear that shit so I don’t even bother.”
You wanna rage against the rich bitches, Kreay? Be my guest. And I’m right there with you. I feel the same way about over-priced “famous” midtown restaurants. For the most part they’re popular because they’re popular, and not because they’re good. Basic bitches love that shit so I don’t even bother.
But why, oh why, did we have to take a phrase that conveyed disdain for moneyed consumerism divorced from taste and turn it against pumpkin spices lattes?
Noreen Malone in an article for The Cut — which I loved and would have shared on Facebook if I was better about that sort of thing — explained that these days we use “basic bitch” to refer to “someone who owns things like Uggs and North Face and leggings. She likes yogurt and fears carbs (there is an exception for brunch), and loves her friends, unless and until she secretly hates them … She bought the Us Weekly with Lauren Conrad’s wedding on the cover. She Pins. She runs her gel-manicured hands up and down the spine of female-centric popular culture of the last 15 years, and is satisfied with what she feels. She doesn’t, apparently, long for more.” Don’t worry, a little bit later she gets to the part where the hallmark of a basic bitch is a PSL. (And if you missed that link above, link to Noreen’s fantastic piece on what we are really saying when we call a bitch “basic” is here.)
So now a basic bitch is just someone who likes things the rest of us know about, but don’t claim to love. They are “obsessed” and they “literally die” over things that don’t cause mental disease or death, like shoes and girls nights out. But calling them basic is a cop-out — it labels them unoriginal without saying what we really mean, which is usually that they are lacking in either taste or class, or both. It’s the judgement inherent in calling someone basic while hiding behind the term that’s bitchy, not the other way around.
Anyway, this all came to a head for me a few weeks ago when a friend sneered and called The Smith in the East Village basic. It really rubbed me the wrong way, because I like The Smith. It’s not, like, amazing, and the menu isn’t full of mind-blowing culinary creations, but it’s not the culinary equivalent of Uggs either.
This friend had a lot of hipster-condescending things say about The Smith, though. Things like “I mean of course I’ve been to The Smith but I don’t, like, like it.” And “everyone knows about The Smith” and “it’s so scene-y.” (From what I can tell, scene-y refers to either (a) a place overrun by celebs and the see-and-be-seen crowd or (b) a place that hipsters and other down-nose-lookers find to be too popular and/or known.)
I like The Smith. My law school girlfriends and I started going years ago — and I’m not talking about an occasional thing. Every time we get together for dinner, we go there. And for our group, it really works. The logistics are a dream: we can get a reservation for a group of 6 online as late as day-of (basically unheard of in New York). It’s close to public transportation and all of our apartments, and there is a big bar where we can wait on stragglers when, inevitably, one of us has to work later than we thought.
And once we’re at the table that was easy to get and pleasant to wait for, we are always happy with the food, which isn’t easy with a group of 6 dietary-restricted people who range from zero to Rainman on the scale of picky eaters. We start with a plate of the truffle gnocci for the table (we have long given up the charade of getting an “appetizer portion”) and then everyone sticks to their favorites from the wide-ranging menu. Alice gets the vegetable bibimbap, Alex the steak salad, and Posada the bar steak with mixed greens and bearnaise sauce. Katelyn and Casey change it up, but always have a Hungry Teacher (bourbon, mint, lemon, lime) and a glass of the Malbec, respectively, with dinner. (We tease Casey, though, because the Malbec she gets at The Smith is the same one she gets delivered to her apartment from Fresh Direct for much cheaper, but girl knows what she likes.) I get the burger, because it’s damn good, but also because the beef is raised on a sustainable farm upstate and ground by the butcher specifically for the restaurant, which isn’t quite as good as if it were ground in-house, but it’s not far off. (And, also, after I put a server we particularly like through the ringer with a million questions about how and where the cows are raised and the burgers are made, and got satisfactory answers, I feel an obligation to just get the damn burger.) Sadly, Alex, Casey, and Katelyn have abandoned the rest of us for cities with better weather and more reasonable real estate prices, but every time one of them is in New York and free for dinner we make a joke suggesting this place on Third Avenue, I hear they do a great steak salad and truffle gnocci.
And even though we’ve been a million times, we’re always happy we went back. The dining room is loud, so we can curse loudly and complain about our jobs and catch up on everyone’s dating life without disturbing anyone else’s dinner. We almost always drink too much wine and close the place down, and they’re never annoyed when we ask to split our check on 6 different credit cards, or when we invite other friends stop in and pull up a chair for an after-dinner glass of wine and gossip.
So, yeah, The Smith is basic. It’s basic because it’s big and convenient, and the food is good and simple, and it’s not new or edgy or hipster. And maybe we’re basic bitches for going back but these days, I’d rather be a basic bitch than call someone else one.
55 Third Avenue (between 10th and 11th Streets)
What we’ll get again: truffle gnocci, steak salad, bar steak, bibimbap, burger, and a hungry teacher