Well, I'm thirty years old and I have finally succumbed to a love for Taylor Swift. I've tried desperately to avoid such an admission for years, but alas, I can dodge it no longer. I'm a Swifty.
The long descent started two years ago. I was visiting Pittsburgh and Ruthie had just purchased Red. She insisted on blasting its best tracks and singing along with my youngest brother Josh. I threw out repeated snide remarks, but my sister was insistent - Taylor Swift was good and if I didn't agree, the problem was with me and my inability to enjoy the simple things in life.
I don't quite remember why or how, but at some point over the next year, I cautiosly opened Red on Spotify. I think one of its tracks had been stuck in my head and as is my common strategy in my life, I tried to confront the despised music head on. I was set on finding all of Taylor's musical flaws. I had been deriding her Hollywood persona for years, so now it was time to really take a listen to how bad her music must be.
I listened to it and while she really can't sing, and it was sappy in many places, and it was definitely much more girly than I considered worthy of my attention, I found myself humming the songs over and over again. Slowly I kept reopening Red for a listen. I never went older than Red. Those glittering ball gowns were just too much. But eventually, more quickly than I liked to admit, Red became a solid fixture in my music stream. It didn't take long for me to choose my favorite tracks and learn them by heart. My husband was shocked to come home and frequently find me singing along while cooking dinner.
For a long time after that, I considered Taylor Swift my secret love Mr. Darcy style. Whenever she came up in conversation I still rolled my eyes and laughed. What a joke. Even though I loved her music, I still couldn't get past her personality in the media. When I was bored, I found myself watching her music videos, clips of performances, and interviews. It was so painful. I just couldn't reconcile the awkward, annoying, studied personality on the screen with the warm and delightful music she created. I kept thinking I would find that one video or clip in which I would think, ah, I do love Taylor, but it never came. I was a schizophrenic fan. Listening to her music, I thought she was the best thing ever, but as soon as anything involving the woman herself appeared, I want to cringe and hide my face.
Around this same time, Jennifer Lawrence bursted into our awareness and everyone commenced on a frenzied obsession with the woman. Everyone wanted Jlaw as their BFF and that included my sister and I. We loved the Hunger Games, we loved Jlaw's falls on the red carpet, we loved her interviews, we loved just about everything this new wonder-woman did. She was just so... fun.
In the midst of all this buzz, I happened across a red carpet interview of Taylor Swift. (Don't ask me how or why I follow all of this stuff so closely. It's terrible.) I say it was a Taylor Swift interview, but really that's what it was supposed to be. What it turned into was a Jennifer Lawrence interview. Basically what happens is that Taylor Swift is being total Miss Tay Tay - big beautiful dress, over the top speeches about the most ridiculous things, super poised, breathtakingly beautiful, in short, everything Taylor Swift ever is. And all of the sudden Jennifer Lawrence sneaks up behind her, surprises her, and then proceeds to take over the interview, outshining and making fun of Taylor in every way possible without Taylor even really knowing what was going on. Typical Jlaw. Typical Tay Tay.
The first time I watched it, I thought it was the funniest thing I'd ever seen. In my mind, Taylor Swift had got her up and comings. It proved that she can't be the center of attention all of the time, that there are better and smarter women in the glitterati. I hadn't been able to find a video in which I actually liked Taylor, so at least I found one that made a total fool of her.
And then somehow, on the third or fourth viewing, I realized something. I realized in the grand scheme of things, I really actually identified with Taylor Swift far more than Jennifer Lawrence. I've never been that cool girl, a la Jlaw style. I've never been the girl who can effortlessly be the center of attention, radiating beauty and confidence while everyone looks on and blesses me with laughter. If anything, I'm a whole lot more like Taylor Swift, needing to study and premeditate how to act and what to do when eyes are upon me. If I were in their shoes, I would totally be the Taylor Swift, having to try very hard to be poised and delightful for all of America. I'd probably even be prone to live in an illusionary daydream the way she does.
And that's when I started to realize that despite all of her true ridiculousness, make-believedness, and glitz, Taylor Swift is one of my favorite women in show business. She is studied. She is awkward. She is fru-fru. And yet who can blame her? She has a phenomenal product to sell - her music - and she is smart enough to do what needs to be done to sell it.
And that gets back to her music, the first true crack in my dam of resistance to all things Swifty. All of this soul searching I've done about Taylor Swift herself is pretty superficial, but the peace I've made with her music is anything but. And this is where things get personal and very subjective. The primary gift Taylor Swift's music has given me is the ability to take myself less seriously. Just as much as Taylor herself has to take herself all too seriously in order to survive show business, her music blesses me with the reverse. It's just so girly. That was the primary thing I hated about it for so long. When music is a badge we wear to signify to others who we are, Taylor Swift didn't really seem like a great choice.
I first realized that my music choices could make people think well of me when I was in high school. I started listening to a lot of stuff, exploring different genres, and cultivating the musical image I wanted. My music somehow represented me and I wanted to people to think highly of my taste. I wanted to believe I listened to the things I chose solely because I liked them, but really the careful cultivation of an idea of my own serious taste was never far behind. None of it was girly. Of course there were quite a lot of female artists in the mix. But they were serious artists, people who communicated my own seriousness.
The older I've grown, the more I've realized just how little I have indulged my girly side. Somewhere along the way, girly things became associated with weak things, with "unserious" things. And since I wanted to be great, those weak and unserious and girly things had to be done away with. The music that replaced them were either serious or sexualized versions of femininity. Taylor Swift realigns those categories altogether. Somehow she is girly, but she is by no means weak. Her music is full of sentimentality and wishful thinking, but I'm no longer convinced those contradict the serious things in life. The older I grow, the more I embrace the girlish bumble gum daydreams of life. As a woman, I find increasing relief in these things compared to the other images presented me. In a world where women are increasingly represented by either pantsuits or Beyonce, I prefer the image of woman who tries just a little too hard to create beautiful things in order to celebrate girliness.