This one is written by the very lovely Ana, who has a blog called Ripped Knees and writes about fashion (among other things) for all sorts of places with the sort of intelligence and enthusiasm that I'd like to see splashed on the internet and in print more often. She's written about Taylor Swift for us, which makes me happy because (as Ana is well aware), I've fallen pretty hard for her new album, Red. I wouldn't have anticipated this happening as recently as a year or two ago, but I like myself more as someone who can love a good Taylor Swift album than as someone who can't. So there, naysayers!
Let me clear something up before I get started. I am not one to get caught up in global girly megatrends. I could take or leave One Direction. I barely know what Bieber looks like. I only actually saw one Harry Potter movie. And so I didn’t even know others shared my, um, healthy appreciation of Taylor Swift until I started to notice that the same strong cohort of Internet Girls would favourite or retweet all of my gushing tweets. ‘Is all life just a struggle not to tweet relevant Taylor Swift lyrics?’ I would plead with my followers. A handful of likeminded souls nodded earnestly back at me. For me it is a constant struggle. Every song has a moment or two, some lines that sums up an experience I’ve had or a feeling that’s struck me hard. You see, this flaxen-haired 22-year-old country pop superstar understands me better than some of my closest friends, and sometimes I just want to tell the world how much I identify with Taylor Swift.
I can’t even confine it just to Twitter. Her relevance, her ‘she-just-gets-me’ appeal ends up spilling out into my IRL life, too. “You are the best thing that’s ever been Mine,” I whisper into my boyfriend’s ear one evening on the couch. He smiles blank-eyed at me and kisses my forehead and goes back to the telly.
The next day he turns to me, an indignant frown on his face. “Ana! Yesterday you said a nice thing to me and I just found out it’s from a Taylor Swift song. A TAYLOR SWIFT SONG!” I attempt to hide my mischievous glee and go to click ‘favorite’ on another fawning tweet.
Richard, you are not alone. There are many of us, and joined together by our understanding of Taylor we can better understand each other.
But other people just don’t get it. People don’t understand that I have real, legitimate feelings about her life because she understands my own life like nobody else. Each album since 2008’s Fearless has aligned itself with a period of tumult and emotional excess in my own life, and she provides an outlet for the wide and turbulent spectrum of Feelings Girls Get.
We love too much, we want affection, we want to be left alone, we don’t know what we want, we remember our childhoods with a sepia nostalgic sheen, we can feel out of place in groups, we can feel alone and lonely. We want someone to understand, some handsome person to tell us that we are the most important, someone to get maple lattes with. We write their names on binders. We want a romance from the movies. We find them, we kiss them for the first time, we leave our scarves at their houses and we read poetic meaning into it, we drive around at night and we feel alive. We stare deep into their eyes until everything is imbued with a timeless significance. We think, “these are the moments that we’ll remember when we’re old and grey.” And the moment passes and we break up, we cry, we throw stuff, we yell, we miss them, we sit in our rooms on typical Thursday nights and pine. And then we recover. We go out with our friends. We make fun of the ex for not letting us wear heels. We fall for inappropriate people and we grab our girlfriends’ hands and dance and sing along and fall off our high heels and laugh. We feel it all. And we hold our youth in the highest regard, always.
I have listened to certain songs on Red and Speak Now and thought, how did she know that happened to me? The way she taps into a certain kind of young woman’s definitive experiences is unparalleled in pop culture (except for Kitty Pryde’s seminal track ‘Okay Cupid’) and while they’re not photorealistic, I think of them as loving and accurate cartoons of our lives and our feelings. Taylor’s anger and sadness is the same as mine, and so her metaphors are spot-on. Loving him was red. It was like driving a new Maserati down a dead-end street. I find myself nodding enthusiastically in agreement before I even figure out who my ‘him’ is in this case. I type the line into the text box on Twitter before stopping myself and remembering that 23-year-old women shouldn’t be tweeting romantic lines from pop songs, even if they do apply to our own lives.
But Taylor Swift doesn’t make me feel like the kind of 23-year-old woman who needs to consider these things. She appeals to the perennial girl in me, the one who still twirls in sundresses and pin-curls her hair and pouts in the mirror while clumsily applying lipgloss. It’s not the glossy fake girl-world of Disney starlets or Olsen twins in days gone by. It’s more real than that, with bumped knees and backseat fumbles and broken hearts. And regardless of what the world thinks of Taylor herself and her revolving door of famous and handsome boyfriends, for me she has tapped into the quintessence of being a modern girl. She takes us from the first time he holds your gaze a second too long to the last time you click ‘see friendship’ on his Facebook long after you have broken up with him, and she does it all in red lipstick and a pretty dress. And maybe she will look and sound better in her heartache than I do in mine, but she makes it all seem so cinematic and worthy and nostalgic and romantic that I’m happy to follow the fine example she sets for emotional girls everywhere.