The Absolute Awkwardness of Being a Gen-X Taylor Swift Fan
If you ever want to make it absolutely clear to people that you are Not Cool, a good way to do it is by admitting that you’re a Taylor Swift fan; and an even better way to do it is by being a really old Taylor Swift fan.
(Another good way to do it is by getting a book about horse breeds, then diligently going through it and naming each and every horse pictured, while also figuring out where they would live in your imaginary stables. But this is a post about Taylor Swift, not about my weird childhood ways, so let’s just park that one for now…)
I think if I were a teenager, people would probably be OK with me liking Taylor Swift; just like they were OK with me wearing Grolsh bottle tops on my shoes when I was 12, or the Madonna-inspired lace hairband I refused to take off until my Mum’s friend Noreen eventually asked if it was holding my head together. THANKS, NOREEN.
These things were OK (Well, ish. I remember friends from America visiting one year and being really puzzled by my ‘Brosette’ neckerchief, but still…) when I was young, but people expect you to grow out of fandoms, in the same way they expect you to grow out of owning imaginary horses; which I guess is why every single time I mention my ‘Swiftie’ status on the internet, I feel a bit like I’m admitting to something slightly shameful and incredibly controversial; like not liking autumn, say, or thinking pumpkin-spiced lattes are over-rated. (They are.)
As weird as it is to say it, liking one of the most popular female musicians of all time (I mean Taylor Swift is basically the pumpkin-spiced latte of the music world, right?) is one of the most controversial things I’ve ever done, apparently. This is largely because I’m old AF, of course, and I think oldies like me aren’t really supposed to like things any more (Unless, of course, it’s being cosy, which is fine, and, indeed, encouraged..). It’s kind of unseemly, and a bit embarrassing; like, get back in your box, old person. But it’s also because mentioning Taylor Swift online has a tendency to bring out the “I’m better than you” in some people, and make them immediately want to prove it by informing you that:
a) They’ve never heard of Taylor Swift. Not one single song. Like, ever.
b) If they HAD heard of her, they wouldn’t like her, and you shouldn’t either. So there. Who’s Taylor Swift, anyway? Ew!
I never really know what to say to these people. I think they expect me to be embarrassed by the allegedly new-to-me knowledge that there’s someone on the internet who doesn’t like the same things as me? Or to, I dunno, recant? Or something?
But I will not recant. Because I can’t help it: I’m a Gen X Swiftie. I paid £380 for a standing ticket to the Eras tour, and when I go, I will make and wear friendship bracelets with the names of my favourite songs on them.* (*I already have.)
I wasn’t always like this, though. I didn’t choose the life of poring over song lyrics and analysing someone else’s love life. Because, honestly, that would be super-weird of me, and don’t think I don’t know it. (TALK TO ME ABOUT TRAVIS KELCE, THO. PLEASE.)
No, I started out as just a normal person, really, weird book of imaginary horses notwithstanding. I’d hear Taylor Swift songs on the radio from time to time, and I’d think they were quite catchy, but then I’d go back to listening to what my mum always describes as “whiny women with guitars”, because tracks like You Belong With Me and Love Story were just way too perky and optimistic for me.
But then there was All Too Well, with that killer line about calling someone up just to break them like a promise. “I’d like to be my old self again,” sang Taylor. “But I’m still trying to find it.” And, I mean, same, bestie. Same.
So I started listening to the albums on Spotify, rather than just waiting for the singles to come on the radio when I was in the car. I kind of loved 1989. I played Shake It Off at every single party we were invited to that year, but then, once everyone was suitably drunk, I’d follow it up by putting on All Too Well, so I could identify that one friend who was also a Secret Swiftie. (Hi, Keith, if you’re reading this…)
Despite all of this, though, I still didn’t consider myself a real Swiftie, exactly. Still very much just a normal person, with a normal range of musical taste, albeit one that veered heavily towards whiny women with or without guitars. Ask Spotify.
Then came the pandemic, and Folklore. Which, honestly, took Taylor Swift right into the “whiny women with guitar” genre I love so much, with tracks like Cardigan and My Tears Ricochet, and This is Me Trying. “I’ve been having a hard time adjusting,” sang Taylor on that last one, thus accurately summing up not just the entirety of 2020, but also my whole life, really. “I hit my peak at seven,” she says in the track of the same name. I suspected this was probably the case for me, too. I have also known what it is to feel like an old cardigan, under someone’s bed. And don’t even get me started on ‘No one wanted to play with me as a little kid,” from Midnights. Just… don’t.
Anyway. Folklore kind of sent me down the rabbit hole. (Yes, like in Wonderland...) It made me start to go through the back catalogue, and find out the stories behind the songs. This was when I discovered that Reputation, which I’d pretty much discounted when it came out, was filled with love-letters to Joe Alwyn (WHAT DID YOU DO, JOE?), and barbs at Kim and Kanye. That Getaway Car is basically a romcom gone wrong, and Out of the Woods is the real-life story of the time Harry Styles crashed his snow mobile.
These were not just songs, but little life stories. Here was a woman who, like me, went through life looking for the stories in everything; turning her life into a narrative, and mythologising things like scarfs and cardigans until they were instantly recognisable to millions of people around the world.
Love that for her.
I suspect Taylor is the kind of person who, while something’s happening to her, is already figuring out how she’ll write about it later, then going back and revising it in her head until it’s perfect. Which, RELATABLE. I like to think that, like me, Taylor also has a house (Well, one of her houses, at least…) filled with piles of old notebooks and diaries, and that she has a burning desire to constantly explain herself, which, for her, comes out in songs, and, for me, comes out in blog posts, and the occasional Instagram Story.
I don’t actually know any of this, of course. I’m just blatantly projecting. I think Taylor would probably be OK with that, too, though, because, like any artist, she knows that one the thing you’ve created is out there, in the world, people will make of it what they will, and invent their own stories and narratives to go with it.
And that’s what we do. Because, in the end, it’s not really about searching for easter eggs in music videos or trying to figure out which lyric relates to which ex-boyfriend: it’s really just about storytelling –– which is something Taylor Swift is particularly good at, and, I guess, the real reason I became a fan, even though I technically shouldn’t relate to songs about teenage heartbreak and feelin’ 22. (Hard relate to the one about the old cardigan under the bed, though…) The fact is, though, not all of the songs are even about that: and, OK, quite a lot of them are about that, sure, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn anything from them about storytelling –– or just enjoy them for what they are. And if that makes us basic, or uncool, well, it doesn’t really matter, because, as Taylor herself would say, haters gon’ hate…
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