Hate the cliché, not the person
February 19, 2018
On a daily basis, cliches surround us, threatening to swallow every last beacon of uniqueness in a black sea of conformity. Campus is a place where difference can be dangerous, singularity isolating and exceptionally subject to hatred.
From the party girls clicking up Green Street in high heels and more makeup than clothing. to the athletes in their sweatpants and running shoes lugging oversized bags across the Main Quad, to the frat guys stumbling around in their packs howling about nothing, every one of us is part of a group, knowingly or not. Even those who purposefully dodge stereotypes, dying hair and piercing faces, have landed themselves in a group with its own cliches.
It would seem cliches are unavoidable, that none of us possesses exclusive identities. Perhaps we are all just cattle, moving as a herd because it’s in our nature.
But I cannot accept this as truth. We are meant to be individuals, not simply parts of a whole. There must be another reason for our almost universal submission to cliches. Why does the party girl click down Green Street dressed like all her friends? What makes the athlete strut about with his giant duffel bag? How does the frat boy join the pack?
I doubt people surrenders to their respective cliches because they wish to erase their individuality, so why become “basic?” Why allow ourselves to be swept away into the mainstream of society?
Only one answer came to mind when I asked myself this question: because it’s safe. There is a certain security in belonging to a group, in submitting to its cliches just so we don’t stand out. There is comfort in anonymity; no one singles us out, no one judges us for our uniqueness, only our group for the cliches we don to mask ourselves.
We hide in the open to protect ourselves from the judgement of not just the world, but of our peers. In 2015, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found about 20 percent of high school students are bullied in school, and 15.5 percent reported being cyber bullied. From a young age, we learn that to survive, we must blend in. Differences only put targets on the backs of those who exhibit them.
Cliches then become the armor which shields us from the hate we see in the eyes of those around us, that hate which we have witnessed being released upon so many for daring to bare the bright beams of uniqueness that exist in all of us.
When the hate is directed at a cliche that we have adopted, we can bear it, as its power is dulled by the knowledge that the haters only hate the facade.
Hate has forced our entire generation into hiding. How sad is that? We all live in fear of exposing who we truly are, so we suppress our personalities, hiding behind the party girl, the athlete or the frat boy. It’s better for someone to hate the shell than the flesh underneath.
As we continue to deny our personalities, I fear many of us may lose the individuality we try so hard to protect. If we hide for long enough, could we not become the hollow shells that we make ourselves out to be? Could we not become the cliches? Could we not forget how to be anything but the party girl, the athlete or the frat boy that we have played at for so long?
We cannot live in the shadows forever. Perhaps it’s time we came out of hiding.
Lucas is a sophomore in LAS.