How to Be Twee

According to Urban Dictionary, twee is an adjective used to describe things that are “sweet, almost to the point of being sickeningly so.” In my universe, twee isn’t limited to dainty encounters with other cutesy characters, all of us aware of our effort to seem so adorably innocent that we’re practically edible. Twee can’t even be pigeonholed as a vaguely influential genre of music. Twee is a personality, a psychological complex, a formative stage in the fabric of adolescence and early adulthood. And while the lifestyle it implies receives about as much criticism as a 30-year-old dad desperately revisiting his youth through Belle and Sebastian vinyls, it’s actually pretty appealing to high school girls like me. And perhaps if you spent your teen years headbanging to Iron Maiden instead of serenely swaying your hips to a Pastels album, you’ll utilize this opportunity to capture the sugary wonders of twee once and for all.

1. Ride a bike.

2010 Dodge Charger? I don’t think so. Cast Daddy’s car keys aside and defend your choice to ride a fixed gear bike with romantic notions of appreciating the morning breeze that kisses your face upon gliding through traffic. Remember that your bike is your testament to the everlasting love affair you maintain with ‘the city.’ And if you’re doing twee correctly, you’ll utilize that wicker basket to carry jars of diet peach Snapple to and from the park, alongside works of gateway literature like Catcher in the Rye and Naked Lunch. Hey, we’ve all gotta start somewhere.

2. Apologize more than necessary.

Accidentally brush your knuckles against the corduroy pant leg of your potential love interest? More than enough reason to say you’re sorry! The golden rule of being twee is exhibiting your sensitivity in a way that translates to cuteness. Aw, I barely noticed that her elbow collided with mine in that bumpy cab ride through Williamsburg, but she apologized anyway! How adorable!! If any of your equally twee friends point out that you don’t need to apologize so much, apologize again for having overexerted your apologetic nature. Hopefully a boy (whom you’ve privately described as “lovely” in the diary you’ve maintained since 1999) will make note of your habit and will grant you the opportunity to giggle softly in his direction while your foreheads lightly bounce against one another. This little incident should result in a peck on the lips if executed properly.

3. Sit on the curbside every time you experience a significant emotion.

Don’t be bashful – learning that your favorite band isn’t coming to your city during their cross-country tour of America is the perfect opportunity to sit on the sidewalk in front of your parents’ house and angrily throw rocks in the road. After all, this minor occurrence is a metaphor for a broader predicament: you’re fifteen years old and bound to live in a suburb that relevant musicians hardly acknowledge for the next three years. That’s 26,297 WASTED hours. I hate you, Mom and Dad! Why did you decide to move us here? I know I haven’t even touched my plate of lasagna but that’s because right underneath the third layer of Ricotta cheese is a hefty serving of ground beef which, HELLO, I can’t even eat now that I’m a vegetarian. Why can’t you just recognize and respect my preferences? I’m going outside. To sit on the curb.

4. Push your hair behind your ears.

Call it a nervous tick or an attempt to occupy yourself while awkward silences burgeon between you and your love interest – the truth is, pushing your hair behind your ears makes you look self-conscious and self-consciousness is pretty goddamn cute. No one ever looks at an arrogant person and thinks “I just want to squeeze them to pieces while feeding them a cheese Danish and listening to Tiger Trap.” But the chances of that thought sprouting in someone’s head upon gazing at a blue-eyed gal wearing mary-janes and an ironic teddy bear hair clip are so high it would make The Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s self-titled album on vinyl flip itself over in the record player. Especially if she’s looking around the room with a timid facial expression and anxiously touching her straight-across bangs.

5. Nurture your insecurities.

Do you hate yourself for always giving in to other people’s suggestions when they’re not in your best interest but you’re too soft-spoken to stand up for yourself? That’s the idea! You’ll have time when you’re twenty to grow a backbone. Insecurities are the first ingredient of self-improvement. Gotta be able to recognize your weaknesses to put a concrete effort into becoming a better person. And when you’re curled up in your favorite sweater at the break of dawn, cupping a mug of chai tea in your little baby hands, that’s all you’ve got on your mind. Becoming a better person. Go ahead, stand at the edge of your older sister’s roof in a Bushwick apartment complex and scream it at the passing cars beneath you. That will be your most climactic moment in months, and while it didn’t actually solve any of your problems, it’s worth writing about in an all lowercase email to your long distance boyfriend from New Jersey.

6. Wear polka dots.

I know you have plans to visit the thrift store on Wednesday after school and that’s the perfect opportunity to buy a blue polka dress with an ivory Peter-Pan collar. Come on, you don’t want to seem too cliché? I know that in the back of your mind you’ve already imagined yourself wearing something like it to the freak folk DIY show this Friday. At any rate, it’s better than wearing your Beat Happening shirt with black skinny jeans for the seventy-fifth time. Let’s get you into some white socks and loafers while we’re at it.

7. Make vague physical advances toward your love interest.

Sex and twee don’t correlate very well. That’s why people who are twee don’t have sex. They ‘make love.’ And if that’s a little too 1975 for your liking, you can use other adorable little euphemisms like “touching bodies until [name of love interest] makes a noise”. Never call an orgasm an orgasm. It’s a noise. And a blow job is never a blow job. It’s touching a penis with your mouth. You’re probably wondering how you can end up in a sexual situation with another twee individual in the first place. The answer is simple; vague physical advances. Pat your love interest’s head when they say something you approve of. Pet the underside of their chin and whisper four letter words like “soft,” “nice,” and “face.” Lie on the floor listening to “1979” by the Smashing Pumpkins and make irrelevant commentary about forest animals before making out. Wait ’till the song ends before moving to the bed.

8. Have extremely specific interests, like 1970s Japanese animation or modern architecture in 21st century Western European literature.

The best way to seem intriguing is to garner an interest in topics that nearly no one knows about. You always have an advantage in conversations that slightly relate to your subject du jour, and it gives people the impression that you spend more time in your room reading books than taking pictures in stretch limos on prom night to add to your 2011 digital photograph compilation on Facebook. Appropriate subjects include beauty standards reflected through ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, widespread political agendas expressed through the French film noir movement, and common misconceptions that relate to the human body.

9. Take Polaroid pictures.

Doesn’t the way the light is hitting that distant building look so tragic and wonderful from the angle of your bedroom window? Yeah yeah, it’s something like five dollars a picture now that your land camera’s film is out of production and pretty hard to purchase, but that industrial shadow play is not something you come by on a daily basis! And in my humble opinion, a Polaroid picture of it would go perfectly next to the pressed morning glory in your collage for fourth period art class. Did I say morning glory? I’m sorry, you know I meant sunflower. After all, it is your favorite plant, especially since you finished reading “Sunflower Sutra” by Allen Ginsberg at the public library after school. Remember that day? A boy wearing an emerald green turtleneck smiled at you during lunch period as you listened to Iron and Wine on your first generation iPod freshman year. Those were the days. Quick, get your camera – the shadows are fading!

10. Spend hours creating a mixed tape for someone special. And put it on cassette.

iTunes playlist? How hideously unromantic!  I know it only took you fifteen seconds to drag and drop songs from your Top 25 Most Played into my supposedly personalized tracklist. If you’re trying to be twee or at least trying to win over the heart of your twee crush, aim a little higher with something a little more original. Any authentically twee human being possesses a Walkman, therefore you should have no issue with setting the ‘soundtrack to your soul’ to a cassette tape’s magnetic reel. Call the mixed CD something particular, like “A Remedy for Angst,” which makes your love interest believe that you’re trying to help them overcome some underlying emotional turbulence, although in reality you’re simply trying to impress them through a lengthy list of iconic artists like Talulah Gosh and Tullycraft. If successful, the recipient will pass onto you a handwritten note about their experiences listening to track number 9 while watching a middle-aged couple walk their twin Chihuahuas in Washington Square Park. How they relate said observation to their impending existential doom is totally specific to the individual, but no matter what, it should make you feel like you did something right. Because track number 9 just happens to be the song you listened to throughout your senior year of high school when your self-induced depression peaked and you vaguely considered taking a greyhound bus to New Mexico to escape the oppressive onset of adulthood. TC mark


More From Thought Catalog

  • Tinkikiwi

    It appears I might already be twee to an extent. Awww :3

  • Michael Koh

    belle & sebastian, marxists, twee

  • lando

    I made a mix cd for a girl once, I don't think she ever listened to it. should have gone with cassette even though she doesnt have a tape player.

  • Leigh Alexander


  • Jennifer Fallingstar

    What comes after twee? Is there anything after twee?

    • mario

      life after twee

    • Briana


  • pamela

    I need to buy a new polaroid camera. to thrift stores and garage sales I goooo

    • P. H. Madore

      Where will you get the film? Oh, wait, that was Kodachrome. And Gena Mohwish. Nevermind.

    • Anonymous

      or you know… urban outfitters

  • Jamie P

    Does this apply to guys as well? I do all of these things, except I use a holga. Also my cassette deck's record function doesn't work. Also also, I don't push my hair behind my ears, it's more like get the hair out of my fucking itchy red eyes.

  • Michael Kramer

    probably gonna grow a beard now

    maybe start brewing my own beer

    get really into medium-format photography

  • padface

    Um this is less twee and more massively hipster (albeit with less condescension).

  • Kyle Angeletti

    i just threw up in my mouth a little.


    Need more 'vinyls' to feel more 'desperate'.

  • Dan Hoffman

    This is an example of well done article in the 2nd person format that manages to be transparently specific (i.e. we know that the author is relaying very personal experiences) but also universal in the sense that we all know just what she's talking about. I was never twee. NEVER.

  • realtalk

    well written, but i'm unsure why you're so keen with systemising yourself to a predetermined set of ideals in this way. i think the way you use labels (hipster/alt bro/twee/whatever the fuck is next) and your apparent obsession with them really masks individuals; it seems you don't like people as people, you like them for their superficial mannerisms.

    definitely the wrong site for me to be saying this, but whatever.

    • Bebe Zeva

      Hi Real Talk,

      I think you need to re-evaluate the tone of voice in which this article is written. This is 'snark satire', not a sincere attempt at self-help. But thanks for the constructive input!

      •!/nvvmxac danne rassle

        replying to your haters is so not twee

      • Merrycam

        it definitely is when you say thanks.

      • Dan Hoffman

        u just punked real talk

  • Andy88mail

    twee is a psychological disorder. twee people are overly sensitive and basically just act like sissies. the music and subculture is just the byproduct of those with the personality. i don't think you can just decide one day to become twee. being twee is kind of depressing because people are not as sensitive. some will even persecute you for having the personality.
    the thought of a bunch of bros posing as twee makes me depressed.
    this does not actually tell you anything about being twee.
    this just tells you how to pose as a twee.
    twee are the butterflies a person feels when they hold hands with someone they like.
    twee is remembering that feeling days later with a smile.
    that's twee as fuck.
    some of the stuff you mentioned is too aggressive for a twee.
    twees are much more passive.
    i don't think you would actually get along with a twee.
    they would be too sentimental and passive for your taste.
    you got some things right but not really.
    not really at all.

    • Bebe Zeva

      Andy –

      May I humbly suggest that you learn not to take things seriously when they are (very) evidently not meant to be taken seriously?

      • Andy88mail

        I understand the satire of it. i just thought if you are of gonna make fun of the twee, you should make fun of the them for stuff that they actually do. :)

      • Andy88mail

        i hope people don't think i'm a hater. i just wrote a comment. i still love bebe z.
        everything she touches turns to gold <3 :)

      • sidewalk

        that's motherfucking twee.

  • earlobe

    please evict the 12 year old writer from the thought catalog contributors.
    that is all.

    • Anonymous

      “that is all” is a really shitty 'trendy' expression 16 year olds use
      good job, you gave yourself away as someone who obviously doesn't belong here

      • Guest

        except not. thanks for trying. weirdo.

      • Anonymous

        “weirdo” is a trendy term 16 year olds use after hearing mgmt for the first time
        good job, you gave yourself away as someone who obviously doesn't belong here

  • uhnonnymus

    No one over the age of 15 cares about Twee.

    • Bebe Zeva

      The 90 (and counting) people who shared this on facebook obviously do.

      • Guest

        genuine out loud 'haha' at the simultaneously incredibly boastful and mind-blowingly pass-agg “and counting” – you really are all different kinds of irritating

      • Em

        eagle, go be feeble somewhere else

      • SteveJobs

        that's his way of saying he likes you

        ooooo passive aggressive twee – i like it!

      • tao

        bebe read a comment that said that people over 15 don't care about twee, processed that it didn't seem accurate, and calmly provided factual evidence that people over 15 care do about twee

        why do you feel that's irritating?

        honestly feel curious

      • FeebleEagle

        Well, I think it's pretty much all in the comment above.

        Her reply was braggy, and also passive-aggressive – not calm. Wasn't it? And really, saying over 90 (and let's not forget the “counting”!) people on Facebook have shared a link doesn't really prove that people above the age of 15 care about said link. Or at least that is not what I would define as “factual evidence” anyway.

      • tao

        why do you think it's braggy and passive-aggressive? i honestly feel curious

        if i were in a restaurant, at a table with three people, and i began saying my thoughts about the word 'twee,' and then someone at the table next to mine said 'no one cares what you think about the word “twee”' and i said 'the three people i'm talking to care, i think' would you think that i was bragging?

      • FeebleEagle

        No, but that is a false analogy, as I hope you are aware. If you cannot understand another person having an interpretation of tone in someone's reply on the Internet – or you merely 'feel curious' about someone having a different opinion on someone's tone than you hold – then I'm afraid this is going to be a circular (and rather pointless) discussion.

        I fully appreciate and welcome your curiosity, but repeating that you 'honestly feel curious' three times in two replies is quite unneccessary, thank you.

        I am of the opinion it was braggy, passive-aggressive and thus irritating. You are not. That is fine.

      • tao

        i don't think it's a false analogy, but i feel interested in knowing why you think it is a false analogy

        i do understand that you feel bebe's comment was braggy and passive-aggressive, i interpret your feeling that it was braggy and passive-aggressive to be a fact, i don't think i've expressed that i think you are lying to me about your feelings

        i don't want to argue that you shouldn't feel that

        but i wanted to learn more about why you felt that

      • FeebleEagle

        Alright, that's fair enough and seems vastly more constructive. I will break it down for you if you wish.

        Firstly, it is a false analogy. This is not me butting in on a conversation that is ongoing at a table next to mine. A better analogy would be that Bebe has written this piece and is reading it out to a room full of people – not that I am overhearing this. This is true and analogous because it is a published, public piece – not an email she has written to you and a two other friends. The '90 over people' are quantifiable to a room next door, in which Bebe claims that there are 90 people enjoying (sharing on Facebook) the content of her speech remotely (perhaps via audio link-up). I cannot prove what age these people are. They are in the next room and I cannot see them. They are not equivalent to people sitting at a table next to me, as you said.

        Secondly, I will deal with why I found her comment both boastful and passive-aggressive. For this, I'm going to split it into the two adjectives and deal with them separately. First, it is boastful. To boast means 'to •show off '. By responding to a comment on her piece with a vaguely inappropriate self-aggrandising comment, I deemed her to be showing off. I find that distasteful. As for the passive-aggression, it is clear in the ways she is clearly annoyed by the poster's comment but responds in a supposedly civil way (depsite clearly displaying aggression via boastful 'peacocking' in a sense). The “and counting” in brackets adds further to the above points I have made.

        Thanks for agreeing that you shouldn't argue with someone for feeling something different about a piece of creative output. It can't always be a love-in, and people (especially in anonymous contexts) are always there to pick others up on behaviour they find irritating.

      • tao

        i see

        thank you for that

        i feel i have more insight into your initial comment now

        i wonder how you would respond to a comment like 'No one over the age of 15 cares about [topic of article you've written]'

      • FeebleEagle

        It's a very hypothetical position to put myself in but I'd like to think that I wouldn't feel the knee-jerk need to reply a self-aggrandising, boastful fact to a small piece of negative criticism. Ideally, I'd like to feel secure enough in my own writing and opinion that I did not feel the need to react defensively to a different opinion – but rather laugh it off, or engage meaningfully with it.

        When I wonder about replying to comments like that, I wonder with a modicum of dignity.

      • tao

        i see

        i feel like at most times i would respond similarly to how bebe responded and i wouldn't feel like i was self-aggrandizing or boasting

        it seems funny that someone comments 'no one cares…' despite there being a public button that shows 90 people have expressed enough interest to 'share' or 'like' the article on facebook

        i feel like i would type '90 people have shared this on facebook' and it would seem funny, in the above manner, and meaningful, in that it would possibly encourage a more specific or accurate engagement with the article (for example 'i don't care because [reasons]' or 'those people don't care, they are only sharing because [reasons]')

        i feel like bebe's comment revealed the humor of the situation and the inaccuracy of the initial comment and like it did those things in a concise, emotionless manner

        which seems like a meaningful engagement to me, in that the next response from the initial commenter would less likely be name-calling or inaccurate or humorless

      • FeebleEagle

        I'm afraid we're just going to have to agree to disagree. Not that I haven't seen humour in her writing or other elements of her persona, but I don't agree that response to criticism was in any way amusing. Whilst you might view it as self-preservatory and deflective and witty, I viewed it as bragging, passive-aggressive and irritating. You can't please everyone. I find revealing that one has repeatedly checked and immediately knows and will be eager to display one's Facebook share count (and confidently assert it will rise) a grotesque display of arrogance that you obviously do not.

        And as I said earlier: that's fine. We've just got these pesky different opinions!

      • tao

        i see

        i feel like i don't disagree with you, though, in that i acknowledge your feeling and i acknowledge my feeling

        i don't think my feeling is more legitimate than yours, therefore i don't disagree with yours

        i don't agree to disagree, but acknowledge that we felt different things

      • FeebleEagle

        Yes, I suppose you're right in that you holding one opinion doesn't render mine invalid or vice versa. That said, I can't really reconcile myself with your opinion at all.

        I think I am finished with this discussion though. I really didn't intend on going in this deep, but felt I should stand by my opinion in order to lend it some credence. I'm glad you felt you could do the same.


      • Jeffdanho

        I think the tone I commonly see people take on when responding to tao in comment sections seems very funny.

      • Guest

        TAO SUCKS. 2 people (and counting) like Feebleeagle's comments more than his.

      • Anonymous

        you're in luck since you'll never write an article

      • P. H. Madore

        Yeah but she's 17 and a certain amount of that bragging has to be forgiven. Jeeze. Taken strictly for its merit as a piece of writing, this could be published a number of places, and Thought Catalog is as lucky to have young Zeva as she is to have it. Everyone seems to be winning in this situation except the people who really seem to hate her.

        Unfortunately, Tao Boyle cannot afford to cast you all in MacBook movies. You'll have to go out and make your own. Which maybe is part of the point somewhere along the line many of you forgot.

      • P. H. Madore

        Tao, I really, really hope your next gimmick is not to fuck a 17 year old girl.

        And yes, jackass, I still like your writing.

      • Scarlett

        Are any of them out of high school?

      • earlobe


      • erin

        earlobe, you suck so fucking much. all you do is go through the comments and like anything that is negative. if you don't like bebe zeva, don't read anything she writes

      • Guest

        and your point is what exactly? ima do me. thanks for playing.

    • Guest

      Yeah, this sounds more like a post on how to be a giant hipster douchebag than how to be 'twee'. Not to be confused with the language indigenous to Ghana also known as Twi.

  • Iain Hendry

    I was in the middle of pushing my hair back behind my ears when I arrived at Number 4. I immediately became so self-conscious that I pushed my hair from behind my ears to its original location. I'd put myself forward for a twee medal but I don't have the self-esteem.

  • GIRL

    very well articulated. i didn't write this well at 17.

  • me

    Ryan O'Connell should get royalties for all of these how-to posts.

    • Dude

      i think you mean lorrie moore.

  • Tommmmmm

    tweeple are self-aware.

  • tao


    'Sit on the curbside every time you experience a significant emotion.'


  • FeebleEagle

    3/10! A few things are indeed right, but on the whole I think there are obvious errors, not enough of the head-nodding laugh-out-loud “Oh, that's so true!” factor, and some elements of the whole “twee persona” glaringly missing. Honestly, I could forgive these things if the article was punchier, or funnier, but as it stands it seems kinda rushed?


    I'm going to print this off and take multiple copies down to the local high school. We'll see just how accurate it is.

  • Julian Tully Alexander

    You had me until the polka dots. I could never pull them off. I am fucked.

  • david fishkind

    h8rs gnna h8…

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