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. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

More From Thought Catalog