It's impossible to say how many times a female friend has told me all about the inadequate guy she's dating—he's boring, he's not as smart as her, he doesn't get her jokes, he plays Halo, he doesn't dress well, he thinks her friends are weird, he doesn't read for pleasure, he never wants to go to faux speakeasies where the cocktail stirrers are twigs—sighs and say, "I just need a partner in crime, you know?"
What is meant by this tired little phrase is someone who's good at parties. Someone who's funny, who dresses well, who has some sort of career cache, like a job at a famous company or in a cool industry, or he makes a lot of money. He's not famous, but maybe his best friend is that "unidentified friend" in paparazzi photos of celebrities walking around the West Village. He's someone who actually wants to go to the opening of an art exhibition in which a Bushwick performance artist is going to scream once for each minute that Yoko Ono has been alive, and he's someone who's going to bring the artist's Wiccan manager out for drinks afterwards. Someone who reads Hypebeast and has a lot of Instagram followers and has a closet full of jackets from Japan and a guy in Midtown who makes all his shirts by hand.
Or, as the most recent friend who gave me such a spiel told me, her eyes Adderall-wide: "I only want to date someone who is an asshole."
Someone who's not, you know, basic.
He doesn’t know about clothes, but he thought those dopey Levi's 'Go Forth' ads were cool.
Basic men are as American as apple pie from a box, as cunning as a Fox News segment on emerging jean jacket trends, as cold as "Ice Ice Baby," the Basic Man's go-to karaoke dirge.
The Basic Man might forget his girlfriend's birthday. He might show up wearing the wrong thing, he might say something even more wrong to her parents. He might not get her friend's dumb art project and he would rather watch college football than read a blog arguing that zombies were the first Freegans. He doesn’t know about clothes, but he thought those dopey Levi's "Go Forth" ads were cool. Chinese food makes him sick. He likes girls that wear Abercrombie & Fitch.
Basic men of note: Mr. Bingley, Ashley Wilkes, Uncle Joey, The Proclaimers, Dave Heads, J.C. Chasez, your girlfriend's best guy friend.
But Lloyd Dobler (of Cameron Crowe’s Say Anything, of course) is perhaps the quintessential modern day Basic Man. Modest and self-conscious, unambitious, a little too romantic and earnest—the kind of person you'd describe as "a really nice guy, I guess."
His ingenue even says it herself: "You’re a great date," she tells him, as their first evening together winds down. "I've never really gone out with someone as basic as you." Later, as she recounts the date to her father, she says, "I blew it. I called him basic. Can you believe I did that?"
Of course, Lloyd Dobler ends up being one of the great leading men in romantic comedy history. In fact, he is a slampiece de resistance for the very type of woman who claims to lust after this elusive "partner in crime." (Even to point out that Lloyd Dobler doesn't dress well makes me feel like an idiot.) And it's not because anything about him changes. He doesn't suddenly find himself filled with direction or get a cool guy makeover to make himself worthy of his love interest. Nah, Lloyd stays as basic as ever.
More to the point, no Basic Man will ever be considered a "partner in crime." Perhaps because we like to see the person we date as a reflection of what we hope to be, rather than what we deserve. And we like to think of ourselves as cool, ambitious, good at parties, hip, Wiccan, whatever. Not self-conscious. Not without direction. Not not famous. Not nice. Not modest, or generous, or romantic.
What was such a drag about being basic, again?