Things I never noticed before yesterday: Dear Lord, Minnesota is twee.
Yesterday, after visiting a cafe where menu items are named after sweet, arty waitresses,* a friend and I meandered into Shoppe Local. A branch of the local gift shop Patina (which is the kind of place where you can purchase meme books and ice cube trays shaped like numbers), Shoppe Local features gifts exclusively from Minnesota companies, like the Jane Jenni design above. Oh, these bacon magnets and beard cards and MTM t-shirts are adorable, I thought. This is so Minnesota.
And then I said to my friend, “This place really is twee as fuck, isn’t it?” He agreed.
I’ve always been a huge fan of the term “twee,” as it has its heart in everything I loved from the ages of 16 to 22. It’s quite specific for a description of a subculture, much more so than the h-word, and it’s a little bit dated these days. “Twee as fuck” has always been a gorgeous phrase. It’s fun to say, and it’s onomatopoetic: it drips with irony, but the adorable kind. “Twee” can be derogatory, sure, but I’ve never seen it as a bad thing to be, probably because I’m pretty twee.
And it’s not just the local gift store, which will be twee by virtue of being a gift store. In its entirety, Minnesota—in its wholehearted and genuine embrace of the crafty, of community, of DIY mentality, of way too many readable local luxury living magazines, of projects like the Art Shanties, of hot dish, of farmers markets where you see all your friends—really doesn’t try hard to escape the twee. Just look at Spyhouse! Or Caffetto! Or Diamonds! Indie coffee shop culture destroys any chains in the Twin Cities. Other places I’ve lived don’t even come close to the amount of handmade community support, of new lovable ideas (some better in theory), and of awe for things that are sorta intellectual, sorta cheesy.
Another example: Residents use the phrase “Minnesota nice” genuinely, to describe themselves, like it means something. As an outsider I’ve been given about eight different definitions of “Minnesota nice” and none of them fit anyone I’ve met here. There’s a lot of pride in it, though, because it was created here, and it’s cuddly when you say it because it shows off your accent.
Even this t-shirt from Burlesque, which was the least twee thing in Shoppe Local, is pretty twee. It was famously worn by Slug from Atmosphere, a leading member in what is probably the most twee hip hop scene in the country. Think about it: they might as well call it DoomTwee, amirite?
Finally: Swedish meatballs and lefse. Colleges that pride themselves on show choir. Northeast Minneapolis. The Saint Paul Saints. Charles Schulz. Bicycles. Lunds. Electric Fetus in Duluth. And the twee-est man on the planet, the one whose name I will not mention, but whose initials are GK.
I’ve lived in a place or two, and I will decidedly say that other parts of the country are not as twee as Minnesota. In Charleston, someone once got robbed with a rusty axe, which is definitely not twee. (Southern culture is pretty much the opposite of twee, but that’s another story.) Delaware is innocuous; New York is overflowing. Only Minnesota is really twee enough for this lady.
So, at Shoppe Local, I bought a purple babydoll dress with owls printed all over it. It’s designed by a local designer named Calpurnia Peach, which if you read the local fashion blogs, is totally community supported and also so hot right now. Take a look: is that Twee As Minnesota or what?
*Really, the Blackbird Cafe is one of my favorite restaurants and you should eat there.