Shake It Off: How I Learned to Stop Caring and Love Taylor Swift

As a teenager, I kind of hated Taylor Swift.

I said it was because of my general dislike for country music. Which I stand by, to an extent, because I really do not like country music. But, if I’m being honest with myself, which I always try to be, I see now that it was more thanks to me begin young and dumb and judgmental with no small touch of a superiority complex.

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Taylor Swift wore sparkly dresses and make-up and sang about boys. I was interested in none of those things, and thought I was better for it. I scoffed at girls who wore short short skirts and eyeliner and curls in their hair. More often than not I dismissed them as vapid, empty-headed, insipid things, not like me. I had a brain in my head. They were pretty, but surely they couldn’t be anything more. This was definitely due to some level of jealousy – I was tall and awkward, a little pudgy and a little pimply and not that happy with myself.

It was also, undoubtedly, due to the way we teach girls to view other girls – as competition. From our earliest years, girls are taught, through both explicit instruction and more insidious whispers and gentle implications, to see other girls as challenges to be beaten and obstacles to be torn down. We are taught to be prettier and smarter, taught to fight each other academically, and later in our careers, taught to compete for male attention and not care how many other girls we trample to get it.

Taylor Swift was pretty and successful and guys loved her, and even though I didn’t know her I hated her for it.

The thing is, from what I can gather, Taylor fell prey to the same traps.

“She wears short skirts, I wear T-shirts…She wears high heels I wear sneakers”. Same shit, different girl.

Then I had my feminist awakening and realised how much time I’d wasted hating and judging other girls and not appreciating the incredible, beautiful, clever, talented goddesses I was surrounded by. And not that long later, it appears, Taylor had hers, and maybe she discovered the same thing.

And then 1989 happened – an album full of incredibly slick, stupidly catchy, infectiously bubbly pop songs and not a country twang in sight – and my fate was sealed. I fell a little in love with Taylor Swift, with her music, with her perfectly winger eyeliner and adorably bad dancing and impeccable taste in heeled brogues.

Nowadays, Taylor Swift is the the of woman I hope young girls look up to. From what I can gather – as much as one can semi-reliably gather about a celebrity – she seems like a genuinely good person, happy in her own skin with a lot of love to share. She seems like the kind of woman who supports and loves other women, who revels in female friendship, who has learned to love without needing romance, and to be happy and complete in herself. The kind of woman I would want to be friends with. The kind of woman I am, I hope, becoming.

The delicious ironic misandry of the Blank Space video helps too. I can definitely get behind that particular brand of boner-killing.

I’ve learned that life becomes approximately 217% better when you stop caring what other people think and just like the things you like, do the things you want to do and be with the people who make you happy. I’ve discovered my own love of sparkly dresses and bright lipsticks and nail polish, my ability to find beauty and worth and love in every girl I meet, and my shameless adoration of bright, bubbly pop music, and I’ve never been happier.

Absence and Apologies (Kind Of)

I have not written here in a shamefully long time. There’s a few reasons for that – work, a rather underwhelming attempt at NaNo, preparing for the holidays, and, at the top of the list, the return of a spinal injury that’s had me mostly out of action since early November. I’ve had trouble with my back for years, since a disc injury in high school that threw my senior years right off track.

I went through a long recovery back then, with months upon months of pain and physio and an awkward back brace. I took most of my classes lying on the floor, spent many hours in specialist waiting rooms and CT scanners and walked with a limp more often than I didn’t. The pain was constant and maddening and, as I recovered, something I never wanted to repeat again.

I’m learning that my back will probably be a problem, on and off, for most of my life. It’s twinges and stabbed occasionally over the years, but back at the beginning of November I tried to empty the dishwasher, bent over to retrieve a salad bowl, and felt the exact moment my back gave out. I thought I could get over it with heat packs and time, but after a week of popping pain killers and hoping for the best, I spent a Sunday unable to move, in immense pain, sobbing rather embarrassingly, and it occurred to me that this probably wasn’t going to be a quick fix.

I’ve been in physio a few times a week, doing my exercises and managing my pain, spending a lot of time lying on the floor or kneeling at my desk and letting other things slide more than I should. It’s hard to type lying on your belly, so what time I’ve had I’ve been trying to dedicate to my own writing.

That said, I’m going to try and get back in the habit. The holidays are coming up and I have some time off, and hopefully I’ll use it to write more than I have over the past few months. I regret not writing like I want to lately, I regret making excuses to avoid it because of pain or tiredness or laziness, but I’m going to try to turn that around.

I’m getting much better. This last week or so has been much more manageable, and hopefully things will continue to improve. I hope to be back here much sooner next time. Stick with me.