Posts Tagged: taylor swift

My 2nd Teenagerhood Is So Much Better Than My 1st

I’m a responsible adult. If anything, I’m too responsible. I’m married, I enjoy saving money, I think a lot about the fiber content of my food, I rarely go out at night (like a reverse Maneater), and I love wearing slippersocks. Just from that description, I sound sort of elderly. But my entertainment tastes tell a different story. As you guys know, I write about YA every week for HelloGiggles, which means that I read a lot (A LOT) of YA. I love every second of it. In my day job, I also write for teenagers, albeit in a much different capacity that requires research other than reading about love triangles. And when it comes to music? Well, I’ve written plenty about my love of T. Swift and One Direction.

Which isn’t to say I don’t enjoy adult-oriented entertainment (wait, how do I phrase that so it doesn’t sound pornographic?) too. I just went to see Dr. Dog, a band that’s not expressly geared towards teenagers. I watch a lot of depressing documentaries. My book club just read Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland! What’s more grown-up than that?

But while I don’t exclusively like teenage entertainment, I can’t escape the fact that it’s important to me. I really do love jamming to Red. I would honestly rather read a YA romance than most things. This is my second teenagerhood, and it feels great.

Second teenagerhood is a term I haven’t heard anywhere else yet, but it’s the best way to describe what I’m going through right now. Sure, I’ve already technically been a teenager once (I’m not like Drew Barrymore, who went straight from 8 to 30), but I’ll be honest…the first time around it kind of sucked.

You guys read Rookie, of course, right?. What I love about that site so much is that it celebrates being a teenager. Tavi and her writers make it seem cool and fun, but when I was that age, I didn’t have Rookie. Nothing about my life seemed cool or fun, not even in a twisted, ironic way. This isn’t to say I had a bad childhood–I was safe and protected, I had caring parents, etc. But I just wanted to grow up. There was no part of me that was like, “Let’s savor every moment!” To the contrary, I basically pushed away all teen entertainment and instead watched Woody Allen movies. Although I loved straight-up pop music, I spent most of my time listening to The Smiths, The Cure, and The Clash. Teenage classics, for sure, but a different kind of teenage classic. And while I definitely read YA, I wasn’t telling anyone I was reading The Princess Diaries. Instead, I showed off my copies of books by Dave Eggers and Ayn Rand–I know, major ugh on that last one, but at least I got it out of my system early. Some people go through their Ayn Rand phases in adulthood.

This is a picture of someone who hates being a teenager (second from left). Yeah, I know this is the most awkward picture in the world.

This is a picture of someone who hates being a teenager (second from left). Yeah, I know this is the most awkward picture in the world.

Entertainment choices aside, I didn’t really like behind a teenager. I didn’t like people telling me what to do. I didn’t like high school. I didn’t like living with my parents and following their rules (yet now I visit them every chance I get…go figure). I really didn’t feel like I was waiting around for my “real” life to start.

Now, I live on my own (well, with my husband). No one tells me what to do…NOT EVEN THE LAW! Okay, well,the law does. But for the most part, I make my own rules. I have a real job(s) that makes real money, and I actually have disposable income, which I didn’t have in high school. I mean, I did have money from my high school job, but my biggest needs back then were CDs and meals at Steak and Shake, so it wasn’t like I was a high roller. I’m actually living my real life and working toward my career goals.

And I get to enjoy One Direction, YA romances, and the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants movies while living my adult life! It’s awesome! I finally get to actually enjoy all of this stuff while not being totally miserable or concerned about looking “cool.” I can listen to Taylor Swift while house hunting or listen to One Direction while I’m working. And it’s so fun. It’s such a great feeling to swept up in the emotions of these songs and movies and books without worrying about my Physics test tomorrow.

If you’re another woman in her late twenties who just so happens to enjoy entertainment geared towards teenagers, don’t worry about it. Don’t think about it as a regression…it’s just your second teenagerhood, and it’s probably WAY better than the first.

The Vilification of the Teenage Girl

In high school, I was obsessed with Chuck Klosterman. I mean, I read his books multiple times, I underlined my favorite passages, and I wrote a letter that I thankfully never sent. But I always knew that, as a teenage girl, I wasn’t exactly his target audience. He spent a lot of time writing about music that came out before I was even born and television shows that were on when I was in kindergarten. I didn’t care, but I do remember one line that really stood out to me because it made me realize that I was definitely The Other when it came to his books. He was talking about hair metal (like usual) and he said something to the effect that hair metal’s decline was due, mostly, to teenage girls. Because once teenage girls start liking something, it’s over. It’s not cool anymore.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot this week, because everything I’ve been reading seems to point back to that concept: the inherent uncoolness of the teenage girl. Take, for example, this amazing excerpt of an article by Tavi Gevinson, where she explains the all-encompassing awesomeness of Taylor Swift while also explaining why people seem to hate her so much: “Swifties see the characteristic at hand for what it is: writing. Her songs are her point of view, making it her job to blow up the most minor event into something that more accurately represents the way she experienced it. As Tay quoted Neruda in her Red liner notes, “Love is so short, forgetting is so long.” This is basic Nabokov shit, right? Everything hits harder in memory. Everything changes color.”

Basically, Taylor Swift’s writing about feelings. And who cares about feelings more than anyone else on earth? Teenage girls. And me. That’s why I read so much YA; YA isn’t ashamed of feelings, of all-consuming, dangerous, ridiculous, over-the-top love, and that’s the only kind of love I want to read about. T. Swift’s writing about teenage girl stuff and teenage girls love it, so naturally it isn’t cool. Even though, as Tavi notes, she’s writing about the same basic concepts as Nabokov and Neruda.

And then there’s this video from a super-smart gal named Subi:

My favorite quote: “People don’t wanna be compared to the teenage girl; the teenage girl is hated, teenage girls hate themselves. If you listen to a certain kind of music, or if you express your emotions in a certain kind of way, if you self harm, you write diaries, all those kind of activities are sort of laughed at and ridiculed because they’re associated with being a teenage girl. Even just things like being cripplingly self conscious or overly concerned with our appearance, that’s considered like a teenage girl thing and therefore its ridiculous, it’s stupid, it’s not relevant or legitimate, and you know, what we needed at that age was legitimization and respect and support but all we got was dismissal and “Oh, you’re such a teenage girl.”

When I first heard those words, I got a flash or recognition. Yes. That’s exactly it. That’s what Chuck Klosterman was talking about all those years ago–no one wants to be compared to a teenage girl.

And it’s still true now. Stuff that girls like (or even stuff that we, as women, liked when we were girls) is inherently vapid, while stuff that teenage boys like (action movies, for example) is held up as nostalgically cool. I mean, how many guys do I know who have long conversations about the movies they loved in junior high, and how many of them have tshirts for their favorite action movies? I hope you said ALL OF THEM, because that’s the correct answer. And that’s somehow okay, encouraged even. I’m not saying it shouldn’t be okay, but to pretend that Twilight is someone less legitimate than any given superhero film? Give me a break.

And don’t get me started on the guys who will begrudgingly admit that Mean Girls, a “teen girl” movie, was “actually” good. No shit, genius.

The same goes for teen girl books, which I know quite a bit about. YA is a genre that’s written primarily by women and read mostly by teen girls (or, okay, women like me). But do you know which YA books often gain the most respect? It shouldn’t be a surprise…the ones written by men! The ones featuring male characters!* Meanwhile, the books that I focus primarily on in my column (those by women, for girls) are seen as fluff. Kid stuff. Teenage girl books. And, oh horror of horrors, what could be worse than reading something intended for a dumb little teenage girl?

I remember, very clearly, what it was like to be a teenage girl. To always feel like my teenage girlness, the very fact of who I was, was undesirable, stupid, less than. To always feel like my opinion didn’t matter, to always feel like my very approval of something instantly lessened its cool quotient. To get constant warnings that my feelings were transient, that I everything I cared about would be no big deal at all when I “grew up” and got out into the “real world,” as if the world I was in was some sort of alternate reality where pain, embarrassment, heartbreak, and frustration didn’t count.

How do we expect girls to grow up to be strong leaders if we treat them like this? No, really. I’d love it if you could tell me. We constantly tell them their thoughts and feelings are unimportant, trivial, silly. We make sure they know that their interests are vapid and trite. We hate everything they love, on principle. How are they supposed to grow up to be writers, thinkers, artists, lawyers, doctors, or anything when they feel subhuman?

Being a teenage girl is exciting and awesome, but it’s also scary and terrible. I know because I was there. And the absolute last thing any girl needs at that age is to feel bad–as Subi says in her video, what girls at that age need is legitimization and support.

I’m not saying you have to like Taylor Swift. But I am saying that maybe you shouldn’t roll your eyes every time you come across something teenage girls like. They’re people too. Trust me.

*This is a big generalization, and I don’t mean to imply that I don’t enjoy/appreciate YA books by or about males. Some of my favorite YA books are dude-written!

Lady Jam: The Last Time, Taylor Swift

So you guys know I love Taylor Swift, even if I’m pretty sure she isn’t very smart. Well, last week when I was sick I broke down and bought Red. I could blame the Advil cold medicine, but the truth is, I just cannot resist pop music. The album is actually very good, but I think some of the more fast-paced songs grow incredibly irritating if you listen to them too many times (as I may have done). The slower songs, though, are pretty divine. My absolute favorite is The Last Time, a duet with Snow Patrol singer Gary Lightbody:

Anyone who’s ever watched a performance by Tay-Tay knows that girl’s not the greatest at singing live, to put it charitably. But in this song? Please. Her voice is heavenly. I listened to this song so many times in a row that I’d be totally embarrassed if I didn’t still love it so much.

Ain’t Nothin’ Wrong with a Little Taylor Swift

Over the past year, I’ve come to a realization: I like Taylor Swift.

To quote Fred Armisen impersonating Joy Behar, “So what? Who cares?” I mean, I like a lot of things that are far less respected than Taylor Swift, so this isn’t really too big of a deal. What I don’t get, though, is what people have against her. From the amount of vitriol directed towards her for the simple act of writing, recording, and releasing music, you’d think she ran a dog-fighting ring or was involved in a hit-and-run. But Taylor Swift hasn’t done anything.

I mean, think about it. What has she done? She hasn’t had a sex tape or any leaked nudie pics or even done anything remotely scandalous. I’ve never even heard a rumor that she’s rude. Sure, I heard that she broke Taylor Lautner’s heart, but come on, who hasn’t.

All Taylor Swift does is write inoffensive pop songs that are, admit it, very catchy for the most part. Do I hate a couple of her songs? Totally. But I also genuinely enjoy some of them, and one more than one occasion I’ve cried to her music in the car (but then again, I’ve also cried to Katy Perry, so that’s not saying much).

There are a few reasons I know of that people hate Taylor Swift. Some people really don’t like any of her music, which is a valid reason to dislike a musician. Some people say that Taylor Swift can’t actually sing, which is also a valid point. I’ve seen her on live awards shows! It wasn’t good! But I only have to hear her glossy, corrected voice on the radio, so I don’t really care. These are not the reasons that bother me.

What bothers me is when commenters and writers on sites like Jezebel act like Taylor Swift is an affront against feminism for having the gall to sing about love and ending up with dudes and marriage and Prince Charming. There’s this article, which is admittedly old (and I really think Dodai is an interesting and great writer; I just disagree with her on a few points, this being one of them). Taylor Swift is a feminist’s nightmare? Really? A feminist’s nightmare is Todd Akin or Ann Coulter or anyone else who literally seems not to understand what words like “rape” and “assault” and “feminism” mean (or, in the case of Ann Coulter, brazenly pretend to not know what they mean in order to make money and harm other women). Taylor Swift isn’t a “feminist’s nightmare” anymore than romantic comedies or Harlequin romances or all those people who keep asking me when I’m going to get married are feminist’s nightmares. One of the lines in the Jezebel piece was a quote from another piece: “Swift’s lyrical message to teenage girls is clear: BOYS. That’s it. Just boys. Crying over boys and feeling broken and/or completed by boys.”

And that, right there, is my real problem with this Taylor Swift hate. It’s couched in this infuriatingly condescending “we know what’s best for teenage girls” attitude that makes me want to hurl. Because that attitude revolves around the idea that teenage girls believe everything they hear and are incapable of not internalizing a Taylor Swift song. And that just isn’t true.

Let’s have a little bit of respect for teenage girls, okay? They’re capable of filtering things out, of caring about romance and boys while also caring about school and their futures, of making their own decisions regardless of what pop stars do. Furthermore, they’re capable of listening to Taylor Swift and Azealia Banks or David Bowie or Fiona Apple or all sorts of other things. Our culture and certain members of our government constantly tell us that we’re incapable of making our own decisions as women. So it’s no surprise that teenage girls, who are so often overprotected and condescended to and sheltered, are presumed to be too stupid to figure out the difference between music and real life, while teenage boys and Justin Beiber are allowed to run wild all over this planet. We need someone to protect us from the male gaze and the heteronormativity of Taylor Swift’s lyrics!

All I know for sure is that, when I wore a younger man’s clothes (literally, because I bought my clothes from the little boy’s section of thrift stores when I was a teenage girl), I used to read, listen to, and watch all sorts of things. I’ve always been interested in the trashy and weird, so the books I read tended to be full of sex, drugs, and bad decisions. But that didn’t make me drink, do drugs, or have sex (or, more accurately, figure out how to get a boyfriend) in high school because my fully-functioning brain told me those things wouldn’t help me get where I wanted to go.

Teenage girls are so much smarter than we give them credit for. I promise you, they can listen to a pop song and not get a “message” from it. Just look at this great post from Rookie. Those girls understand that music can be romantic and stupid and light and smart and deep and heartbreaking and hilarious all at the same time.

Also, if you don’t think State of Grace is great, then I have nothing left to say to you.