I get this question a lot: “how did you become such a big fan of Taylor Swift?”
It’s an interesting question. And I think the answer has a lot of parts. Is it because her music is really catchy? Is it because she’s a master of her own brand presence? Is it because she does a lot of philanthropic stuff? Is it because she puts on an amazing show? Is it because she knows how to write in an extremely relatable manner in which I aspire to achieve someday?
Certainly, yes, to all of the above.
But if I think really hard about it and had to choose one single compelling reason why and how I became such an ardent fan of Taylor Swift—the person, musician, and brand—it’s simply this: someone once told me it wasn’t that cool to be a fan of Taylor Swift.
If there’s anything you’ll quickly learn about me, it’s that I’m absolutely shameless about who I am as a person. I think that stems from a rebellion against years of awkwardness and insecurity about whether or not I was “cool” and “likable,” as anyone who was once a teenager will tell you was the case. I spent a lot of time trying to fit into a bunch of different social niches, never really finding that I had much longevity in any of them. I tried to unilaterally identify as a bunch of different things at a bunch of different times, and it just made me feel like I never really belonged. So then I tried to identify as “different and unique,” which, as you know, every teenager thinks they are.
It took me some time, but eventually, I stopped trying to identify myself. Ironically, when that happened, I started actually having a personality, and people started identifying me as certain things. When I started to just like things because I liked them (and not because I was socially expected to like certain things), I started to find out that I belonged to a bunch of different social groups in a bunch of different ways—and the ways that I didn’t identify with them did make me unique. Finding out how to be me for me has probably been the most grown-up shit I’ve ever done, to date.
To put it plainly: I don’t give a fuck what you think I should like or why I should like it.
Learning how to not be embarrassed about the things I enjoy was hard. Which is why when the person who introduced me to Taylor Swift fandom shied away from associating with the fandom, I may have taken it as a challenge to everything I stood for at the time—what do you mean it’s not cool to like what you like? Fuck that.
I like to think that behind the social rebellion also lies a more noble cause. It got me thinking about how I’m the oldest cousin in a long line of cousins and siblings—many of whom are 20 years younger than I am. It got me thinking about how young kids are bullied out of liking things they like every day. It got me thinking about how conformity to social norms is how young kids develop self-esteem issues, and as the pioneer of my familial generation, I was in a position of responsibility to show them that you didn’t have to be ashamed of liking what you like—Taylor Swift just happened to be the most socially jarring thing I could put at the epicenter of my personality to prove that point. Little did I know how much of a feedback loop I’d gotten myself into.
As the years went on, I found myself not just liking Taylor as an anti-establishment statement (after all, what’s more Punk Rock than liking shit no matter what people say about you?)—I started to realize that I really liked what she did as a person. In short time, I began to consume more and more media about Taylor, and the more I consumed, the more existential I would get about my relationship with the Taylor Swift brand. Like me, she went through rapid changes in identity, always choosing to exist in a place that felt “right” to her. She’s far from perfect, and she knows it, but she’s not ashamed of her flaws and mistakes—choosing instead to grow from them as an artist and person, and wearing that person on her sleeve at all times. Perhaps most admirably, for me: she has been at the center of public scrutiny and attention since she was a teenager—a time where most people would buckle under the social pressure, dissolving into a congealed puddle of shame and self-destruction. Taylor has always (at least outwardly) tried to be true to herself, which aligns perfectly with who I want to be, to this day.
It’s who I want my cousins—and eventually, children—to see me as. Because I never want them to be ashamed of who they are or what they love.
I like Taylor Swift because I’m allowed to like Taylor Swift. Despite what tabloids or otherwise would have you believe (get the fuck out of people’s personal lives, you creeps), I genuinely think that Taylor is a terrific person, and that she—like everyone—is growing and learning bit by bit as she goes along; it just happens that she’s doing it on a global stage, a la The Truman Show.
Taylor has done incredible things for people, and whether or not you’re a cold, jaded, unfeeling monster who thinks that it’s all a constant publicity stunt, it doesn’t change the fact that she’s done good and inspired goodness because of it. And like Diane said in Season 1, Episode 12 of Bojack Horseman, “I don't think I believe in deep down. I kind of think all you are is just the things that you do.”
Well, I want to be a fan of Taylor Swift.