You’ve been looking forward to a warm slice of Starbucks’ pumpkin loaf all morning. You’re starving and you drove all the way across town, motivated by the satisfaction to be had in sinking your teeth into the seasonal confection, only, they’re sold out when you get there. OK, perfect, you say. What can you do?
On TikTok, the phrase “OK perfect” is the perfect response to a less-than-perfect update. In December, TikToker @AshleyElizabth, a nursing student who documents her morning Starbies runs, went viral for coining the phrase when a drive thru employee at Starbucks let her know that they didn’t have any more slices of her beloved pumpkin loaf left. She didn’t miss a beat or let her disappointment be known: she responded, “OK perfect” and ordered a different pastry. Videos tagged #okperfect featuring a range of fails or moments when expectations were largely not met — from asking for a Dyson Air Wrap for Christmas and getting a Dyson vacuum cleaner, to wishing to be an only child and being one of 15 — have over 375 million views. The original video was deleted, but Ashley has since reposted her famous audio file with a tribute post — thousands of videos have been made with the re-posted clip.
“OK, perfect” has become to go-to phrase for minor to major mishaps. Your computer took its last breath in the middle of a busy work day? OK, perfect. You’re lost in the woods and the sun is going down? OK, perfect. You accidentally ordered 50 rolls of paper towels and have no storage? OK, perfect. In a generation of “no worries!” worriers, there’s a deep relatability to feeling one way, but feeling the need to say the opposite so as to not bring down the vibe.
Studies show that women are more likely than men to use exclamation points their emails, and according to the strong female response to the phrase on TikTok, they’re also more likely to say something is fine when it’s not. According to New York-based therapist Caroline Given, L.C.S.W., the feminine urge to keep things breezy even when they’re not is also a legit gender issue. “There is an unfair expectation of women to socially perform in a cheery, overly compliant manner regardless of the circumstances,” she tells Bustle. Given adds that when men communicate with assertiveness, they are alternatively observed as confident. “The same communication style from a woman is seen as aggressive, demanding, or unpleasant — unless she overcompensates to convey warmth.”
But perhaps what makes the audio most relatable to the TikTok audience is that it highlights a generational conscious effort to be compassionate to service workers — ahem, an anti-Karen movement. “Millennials and Gen Z have more compassion for service workers and usually have had the experience themselves of dealing with entitled and disrespectful customers,” Given says. “In my experience, it’s common for younger people to make an effort to be overly gracious with workers in the service industry as a subtle way of communicating solidarity.”
What’s more, OK, perfect, doesn’t have to mean that things are not, in fact, perfect. On Dec. 16, Ashley uploaded a second video using the phrase, only in response to actually getting the desired pumpkin loaf. Users opt for this audio option to depict a scenario in which they actually get what they want, a similarly humble and yet uplifting take. Videos that opt for this audio are as obscure as being “the best” sun sign to being able to adopt a cat on the spot.
No matter how you relate to “OK, perfect” — whether it’s a tongue-in-cheek defense or a heartfelt nod to getting what you want — you can expect to the phrase to be absorbed into elite Gen Z vernacular.