This morning I was visited by a ghost.
When I woke up, I went to go splash some water on my face. I had gone to Woad’s the night before, and I felt like I had gone to Woad’s the night before. I was wearing a sweat-xedo (it’s a term I’m trying to start — a matching sweat shirt and sweat pants), with last night’s makeup still caked around my eyes. I looked in the mirror and …
Suddenly I thought it, and there it was. SWUG, that word, that acronym (Senior Washed-Up Girl) that haunted this campus last year. And now it was here again, floating between me and this pale and tangled version of myself reflected in the harsh florescent light.
I was shocked. I have been a senior for over seven months now, and it never occurred to me to think of myself as a SWUG.
SWUG is a little like YOLO. I would guess that the last time I heard someone say SWUG was probably around the last time I heard someone say YOLO. And like YOLO, although the term SWUG has become almost obsolete, the behaviors associated with it have not entirely disappeared. Senior girls are still the first ones at Toad’s on a Wednesday. Senior girls still sit around on a Tuesday and drink wine in pajamas (or I hope that’s what happens when everyone crawls out of their thesis caves). It’s still miserable and it’s still magical, even though Taylor Swift is over, too.
I identified much more with #swugnation as a junior, looking up in awe at the most vocal SWUGs as they danced on the bar at Box. Their carefree attitude enticed me to be a little crazier on that nonexistent dance floor. Those were the days when Box had the wall. Remember that?
The pervasiveness of chatter about what it meant to be a SWUG had a “trickle down” effect on us junior girls, watching the seniors, viewing them as models for what our own lives would look like the following year. Some girls wanted to refer to themselves as JWUGs. We were impatient to wait even a year to become like them.
Once we began to label anything and everything as SWUG, we used it as a crutch to explain away all kinds of behavior. Going to get a G-Heav sandwich at 3 a.m. was just as much of a SWUG move as dating a freshman. It was everywhere, and then it was gone.
I would venture to say that SWUG graduated with the class of 2013. The class of 2014 could have carried on this term into our own senior years, but we didn’t. This wasn’t an active choice on our part, either — somewhere, at some point, the term fell into the same ditch that “fiddlesticks,” “groovy” and “That’s whack,” went to die.
You could almost say, though, that this was inevitable. Because for all our use of SWUG, we never quite knew what it meant. Everyone from writers at New York Magazine to Bro Bible to Yale students themselves had their own opinions on its definition, but we could never seem to agree. People clung to this ambiguous label so fiercely that they in turn became caricatures of themselves. SWUG — as a label, not a lifestyle — was limiting.
We do owe the class of 2013 for making the term SWUG part of the campus conversation. The term encouraged people to be more carefree. 2013 normalized a carpe diem attitude. Because of them, we now can bring our pizza into the bar and not feel the urgency to justify it by calling it “SWUG.” We owned our actions, did what made us happy, and didn’t have to cling to a label in the process.
Contact Caroline McCullough at