I cannot believe I’m going to tell you what I’m about to tell you. But a secret is festering inside of me and it needs to get out. The fact of the matter is: I don’t think the word “panties” is terrible.
I AM SORRY. I just don’t agree with our collective opinion that “panties” is the cringiest word of all time, especially when compared to stomach-turners like “discharge” or “pus.” But somehow “panties” has become the Nickelback of the English language. (Or is Nickelback the “panties” of the music world?) Either way, I have kept my opinion about this word under lock and key for a fairly obvious reason: I have not wanted to seem like a disgusting deviant during the conversation, Let’s Talk About How Gross The Word ‘Panties’ Is, which is very popular among my generation.
Anyhow, I have been acquiring shame over this opinion since about 2010, and I wonder, what points of view have my peers have likewise been harbouring? It’s cool to be controversial or “edgy” online—this is how we get reactions and likes and followers and validation—but actually being vulnerable within your online or IRL friend group is potentially much more difficult. Which is why I decided to ask people on the internet about the opinions they’d never share with friends. I wanted to hear what stuff they were too afraid or embarrassed to talk about for fear of seeming weird, unwoke, or—in my case—like a weird perv who doesn’t hate the word “panties.”
Soliciting peoples’ unpopular opinions turned out to be a pretty naive move on my part. Expecting a bunch of cyber-strangers to WOW me with their vulnerability as opposed to their bigotry was a bit like throwing a bloody steak into the ocean and expecting to attract sea turtles instead of sharks. I heard more than one “not to be racist but…” (translation: “I’m about to be racist now”) and quickly re-learned that asking for candidness on the internet can be dangerous.
For this story, sifting through comments and DMs became an exercise in differentiating unnecessary noise-making from productive controversy, and so below are the opinions that I think, and I hope, fall into the latter category. And then of course there are some thought-bytes that are a bit more lighthearted, or straight-up bizarre, because for god’s sake we don’t always have to be so deep.
The only reason I’m active in the metal scene in my hometown is because metal boys are cute. Don’t tell. I’ve been pretending to enjoy metal music for ten years. I keep this a secret because it’s just not cool to be this thirsty. Plus it’s just not polite to say, hey I have no idea what you’re talking about, I have no interest in that, I just wanna watch that mouth move. —Tiffanie, 23
An online poll on a dating site lists me as a member of the least sexually desirable ethnic demographic by everyone including women of my race and gay men. It’s something I’ve been aware of since hitting puberty, and while I haven’t been negatively affected by this personally, my fellow brethrens are taking a beating. But currently, there’s this platoon of hetero Asian men in porn and I gotta admit—they’re like front line soldiers combatting this stereotypical view of Asian men. This porn company, and the guys in it, are kind of like—I’m using this term loosely but—human rights activists. —Archie, 45
I'm married to a dude, and I have a hard time telling people who have come into my life since I've been with my husband that I'm bi. When I do tell anyone they often assume that I'm a) unhappy or b) that my marriage is unstable or some kind of front. It's shitty, but I keep my sexual identity hidden from people now because I feel like I have to defend myself and my husband if I open up. —Niko, 33
I’m genuinely creeped out by adults who are Disney enthusiasts. I honestly cannot sit through another conversation about how I just don’t “get it.” —Sabrina, 26
I believe the moon landing video is a hoax because in the video the American flag was waving. There is no atmosphere on the moon. Only exosphere. And it was during the Race to Space so I believe the Americans were desperate to have concrete evidence of this achievement. Now, I do believe they landed on the moon. I just think the video was made on a Hollywood set later. I don’t share this with certain friends because its been “debunked” by American media and has been conflated with flat-earther mentality and a disregard for scientific space exploration. For me, thinking that video is a hoax is more of a stance against propaganda as opposed to disbelieving the event itself. —Heidi, 26
Ellen DeGeneres is overrated and not funny. If I were famous I would hate to have to go on her show and deal with her. Sorry not sorry. But I also know that she was a pioneer in the LGBTQ community for coming out when she did. So if I share my opinion of her, maybe people who don't know me will think I don't like her because I'm homophobic, whereas I really just don't find her type of humor amusing. —Sara, 27
I just don't really care for Beyoncé. I don't get it. I haven’t understood her music since the Crazy in Love days, and her new material confuses me even more. Everyone’s like, “she’s so empowering!” And I’m literally like, how? There are two outcomes for me admitting it in public: people agree with me and I have to listen to them get worked up and shit talk Beyoncé for a while, or, more likely, people disagree with me and go on a long-winded rant regarding why I’m wrong. So I’m either uncomfortably listening to someone be angry at a celebrity, or uncomfortably getting chastised for disliking a celebrity. There is very little chance of me exiting the convo comfortably. —Leia*, 26
Everyone is a hypocrite. Anyone who denies they are is lying. — Liam, 28
Voting is everyone's responsibility, but ultimately, voting is making a microscopic difference in the same way as many of everyone's responsibilities. It's everyone's responsibility to recycle, et cetera. I don't see why volunteering somewhere for an hour makes less sense than voting. And like, you can resent apathetic voters because of how massive the net results of a bad political outcome are, but you can also resent someone for just about anything lazy that makes the world a worse place. I don’t often express this because my friends tend to be very political, so the issue is particularly important to them, at least in my view. —Mike*, 24
I still love Lena Dunham. I know she’s becoming increasingly less popular, but I still think she’s great. I know she is privileged and that she has unintentionally alienated certain audiences, especially people of colour and people who don’t have much money. But the show Girls and her memoir meant so much to me as a young person. I think she is a hilarious and talented writer, and I identify with her in many ways. My friends roll their eyes at the mention of Lena Dunham and say that she sucks and is the epitome of a privileged white woman, and I bite my tongue because I’m afraid that if I argue in her favour, it will come off like I’m promoting white privilege or something, which would be awful. I just don’t like seeing her crucified for her blind spots, because everyone has blind spots. Having some problematic moments doesn’t mean you should be completely vilified. —Tanya*
People who smoke shouldn't be allowed to check out library books. Or if they do it should be returned without an odor. Using computers and stuff is fine but if you return a book reeking of smoke you should replace it. —Aaron*, 26
I’m afraid of sharing my religious opinions with my friends because they might look at me differently. Since I’m a born Muslim who happens to have a lot of non-Muslim friends, when I share my opinion about drinking or sexual relationships before marriage, I feel embarrassed since I don’t agree with the mainstream opinion. I don’t believe in sexual relationships before marriage and I think drinking is really bad and shouldn’t be allowed. Also, sometimes sharing opinions about subjective things like beauty can open the door for subconscious judgement from my friends. —Hina*, 32
I’ve always wanted to eat at a restaurant where the servers chew your food for you. — Nigel
I think they should make Barbies and other dolls with genitals and genital hair. Wouldn’t this help reduce the shame that people—women especially—have about their bodies and their pubic hair? I understand that parents don’t want their kids playing with objects that are sexualized, but Barbie is already sexualized. Just look at her boobs! You might as well give her a bush, too. Let’s normalize that stuff. —Kylie*, 27
*Some names have been changed.
Follow Mica on Twitter.