Apart from other necessities like food, clothing, and shelter, one fundamental human need is to appear cool amongst one’s peers. Picture the quintessential Palaeolithic person, said to have lived 2.85 million years ago. The ones who figured out lighting a fire were unquestionably cool, probably swaggering around the cave, nonchalantly smoothing down their leopard-skin togs to indicate it was nothing really. Yes, the humble brag perhaps started way back then, right around the time cave paintings and rudimentary speech were available to make mammoth-hunting look effortless.
It’s always been a fine line between the real coolth and the studied facsimile. Pretend cool has its fair share of followers, people who buy into the fake because they are so keen to associate with anything that is perceived as cool in their desperate urge to be cool.
But true coolth has to not only be effortless, it has to be unaware of its own coolth. It has a certain quantum quality to it – the minute the person becomes too concerned about his or her cool quotient, it isn’t quite as cool. Getting hot under the collar about being cool is a contradiction of sorts, right?
The anti-thesis of being on-trend is someone trying too hard to be trendy. There’s a new word for it these days – cheugy. Pronounced ‘chew-gee’, it’s meaning is equal parts ‘enthu cutlet’ and ‘wannabe’. The word was coined by a Gen Z girl (under-24) to poke fun at the millennials (in the 25 to 40 years age-group), who, she believed are out of date and trying too hard. I tend to agree when it’s referring to hipster beards and vegan warriors. But the fact remains, you can be cheugy at any age and stage of life. The word caught on and has taken on a life of its own.
Did you just post a ‘posed candid’ picture of yourself looking away from the camera, hash-tagged ‘Mood’ or ‘Sunday’? That’s cheugy.
Do you wear tees with pithy quips on them? Do some of them have unicorns? Do you pride yourself on flaunting designer logos? Do you wear velvet loungewear in hot and humid Mumbai just because your fave social media star in San Francisco does? Cheugy to the core.
Fan of K-Jo and Anurag Kashyap? Cheug. SRK and Akshay Kumar? Cheug. Arijit Singh? Cheugy to the max.
Are you drinking matcha lattes or hard kombucha and eating avocado toast even though you hate them? Are you ‘doing’ keto or opting for Intermittent Fasting diets publicly, but bingeing on farsaan in private? Face it, you’re cheugy, inside out.
Was your birthday incomplete without a tsunami cake? Are you still talking about the Friends reunion? Do you dabble in resin art and quilling in your down time? That’s a whole lot of cheuggery, to be honest.
If your social media feed includes: your floating breakfast in the Maldives; you pretend-holding the tip of any monument; you making the heart symbol with your fingers; slides with your own words quoted; dance challenge reels with filters that make you unrecognisable; and birthday wishes to well-known people accompanied by selfies force-clicked with them; then, the cheug police is most likely to pay you a visit really soon!
There’s just so much that can be classified cheugy in urban, upscale India. Because everyone is on the make. And the new currency isn’t just crypto, it’s also social. The cave person we talked about earlier only wanted to be liked by his or her mates and to be looked up to by some of them. But today, everyone wants to be everything. Hence there are instant experts, people who read a few research papers and become WhatsApp-a-quote machines, the talking heads that are trotted out on Insta and Facebook ‘lives’ each time ‘their’ subject is the topic du jour. The ones who are invited to speak in Clubhouse chats and Zoom webinars, the kind where everyone speaks and very few listen.
Even for ‘personalities’, it’s not enough to specialise in their particular pet subject. So, a baker needs to dance; a dancer needs to show off her green thumb; a gardening enthusiast must also be a finance wiz; a banker must also bake… and the cycle continues. In a world where multi-tasking and multiple talents are now the norm rather than the exception, there’s a lot of pressure for excelling in everything. Being cool has never been so competitive.
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