I have a confession: I’m cheugy. I had never heard of this word until about a month ago and now I can’t stop thinking about it. Are y’all familiar with the term cheugy? Have I been living under a rock labeled “ROCK” in Rae Dunn font?!
I learned about cheugy from my forty-something-year-old friends from high school during one of our weekly video chats. I was lamenting about Starbucks not yet having their pumpkin spice lattes available. It was mid-August, practically fall! – and chuckling about being “so basic”. My friends confirmed my basicality but expressed concern that I was maybe more cheugy than basic.
“Cheugy? What the h*** is that?!”
My friends were really surprised I had never heard of the expression before. I was surprised, too, because I’m usually up on pop culture stuff. They listed off a bunch of things that are considered cheugy: wooden signs with cutesy phrases, graphic tees, UGGs, flat ironing one’s hair, really loving wine and/or iced coffee, Lily Pulitzer, chevron patterns, skinny jeans, owl decor, and going to Disneyworld as an adult. I choked a little bit on my iced coffee which then spilled onto my “Cool Mom” graphic tee.
Guilty as charged.
I got up from the couch and wandered around my house with my friends in tow on my cell phone screen. They were seeing what I was seeing.
The wooden “But First, Coffee” sign above a set of Rae Dunn mugs. The bare Edison lightbulb in a lamp. A personalized glittery “Mama Bear” tumbler. Teeny tiny succulents on every windowsill. OMG.
Having been raised on Seventeen magazine quizzes, we searched for clarity and validation via this particular medium. My cheugyness score was pretty bleak. My friend Rachel and I tied, so at least we had each other. Nicole and Kristen were smug about their lower scores. I dare you to take this Buzzfeed cheugy quiz yourself.
When our video chat ended I began researching to learn more about myself, the newly minted cheug.
Knowledge is power.
The best explanation I’ve seen is in this New York Times article from April 2021 that states, “Cheugy (pronounced chew-gee) can be used, broadly, to describe someone who is out of date or trying too hard.” The article explains that cheugy is not synonymous with “basic” (meaning conformist or generic) or “uncool” but has a bit of those elements plus its own unique flavor. It wasn’t looking good for me.
The term was invented in 2013 by Gaby Rasson, a high school student from Beverly Hills, who felt the world needed a singular word “to describe people who were slightly off-trend.” I’m guessing she was a bit of a mean girl. Apparently, Gaby’s high school friends grew up, became TikTok stars, and made cheugy go viral.
A quick Google search of “cheugy” led me down a rabbit hole of information. Did you know that Generation Z’ers use it to belittle millennial or Gen Y women? Did you know that the use of this slang is thought to be a projection of internalized misogyny? I had no idea this dumb word had so many societal, generational, and psychological implications!
So if it’s a feud between Gen Z and Gen Y, was I exempt? I was born in July of 1980, a full five months before the cut-off between Gen X and Gen Y periods. As a Gen X’er, was I immune to the stereotype? The answer is no. Cheugyness can traverse time and space and is not strictly bound to just the millennial birth years.
Much like history, trends tend to repeat themselves. I never thought I’d see scrunchies come back, but they did. The same goes for Mom jeans and fanny packs. Perhaps the fads that were acceptable before they were deemed cheugy will make a comeback someday. In the meantime, I say go ahead and enjoy those things, even if people born after 1996 think they’re lame.
As a mom, I hope to instill in my kids the value of making up their own minds. I don’t want them to feel peer pressured into going along with the crowd or changing who they are just to fit in. I also don’t want them to be the ones bullying other kids in that way.
I’ve decided to embrace the #cheuglife.
As a proud Gen X cheug, I’ll continue side parting my hair, calling Target “Targé”, and enjoying re-runs of The Office. I am who I am and I like what I like. I’ve never been one to care very much about looking cool anyway. Why start now?