This is the second essay I’ve written about Taylor Swift. Yes, I am SUCH a white woman. God. Please feel free to roll your eyes. I remember when “Tear Drops on My Guitar” arrived on the airwaves. Swift was all curly hair and country tunes in the late 2000’s. Her youthful romance anthems rapidly caught on. I enjoyed her music in secret. I never felt empowered to join the ranks of the Swifties both because I lack the dedication of super fandom, and more importantly, I have never felt deserving of romantic love. From the time my first grade crush declared before our class that I was the ugliest girl in the world and he did NOT like me, I’ve felt very real shame about developing feelings for anyone. I grow bashful and small, try to shove my softness into a tiny iron box no one can reach.
It’s really easy to taunt people about their crushes because the human desire for that romantic connection is profoundly vulnerable. It’s this uncertain nexus of humility and hope. It’s everyone’s soft spot. My crushes have become jokes, and left me feeling embarrassed even into adulthood. So, I feared that if people knew I listened to Swift that it would be a clue that I wanted to be adored and pined for and get all mushy. I guarded my wants with fierce protection.
Swift’s albums are mobiles—a bevy of songs encircling relationships. At a discrete volume, I listened to “Mine” in the vain hope maybe someone would feel that way about me. I established more self-esteem as an adult. I don’t define my worth through my partner or love interests. As adolescence bled into adulthood and no romantic other appeared, I accepted what I assumed must be my fate: that romantic love was not in the cards for me. I would have deep and meaningful friendships. I would entangle myself with people who did not value me, and I would cultivate a life where things were fine. I would not disturb the universe for more. Fine was so lofty a goal that to beg God for anything further felt indulgent. Until I did. Until I did fall in love, and it didn’t work out.
My aversion to Swift’s music is directly linked to my fear of vulnerability. I am so scared to want another person, to believe that I am deserving of romantic love. I write this essay post-break up. The severing of my brief relationship triggered my brain to say, “see there, silly girl, you believed you could have it. How dare you seek something so dear. Because you are fat and stupid and unworthy. You dared to defy the natural order of things, and this pain is your punishment”. It hurts. Knotted in my throat, I feel the grief. This will pass. As it passes, I’m trying to make space for myself. Trying to pave a way for all the things I tried to barricade. Because even if I am that crazy broad who overposts and overshares and is so loud and extra you can hardly hear, that is who I am. And I want to be her up close. I no longer aspire to be perfect and at a distance. The softness emerges from the iron box. And sirens call throughout my whole body as I allow my defenses down.
What lingers is the prickly sensation “Everything has Changed” still riles throughout my nervous system—that I am immune to getting butterflies, to having my affection reciprocated. I am a soppy romantic in cynic’s wrapping paper. But the paper is peeling away. Although it hurts, I dare to be optimistic, to listen to “Wildest Dreams” with abandon and hope that I get to experience that feeling with someone else.
It’s not T Swift who I have an aversion to, it is my own worthiness and vulnerability. It is taking ownership that I will never be as perfect as she is in the “Love Story” video— an ethereal vision. I am more a cereal vision, which is to say I look mighty fine eating a bowl of cheerios. But I embrace that perfection drives us further from love, not closer to it. I openly embrace “Our Song” as I drive along the freeway: the cheesy, mushy, sappy white woman I was always born to be.