If you had told me that when I got to grad school, I would be spending most of my time scrolling through Tumblr and following 14-year-old Taylor Swift fans, I wouldn’t believe you.
A few months ago, I wrote a letter to Taylor Swift on my personal blog, and very hesitantly clicked that pesky little “publish” button, wondering if I had made a terrible mistake. Usually, when we obsess over celebrities, we try to do it in private. We type an embarrassing, sappy, “You inspire me” letter in a Word Doc on a library computer, tucked into a dusty cubicle on the 9th floor, only to delete it later when we realize we aren’t 14 anymore.
There comes a certain age where for some reason, we aren’t allowed to devote our time to a celebrity fandom. It becomes creepy, sad, and our real-life friends feel secondhand embarrassment for us as they watch us frantically tag our celeb in every tweet, rather than type that 15-page essay on ideological rhetoric we were supposed to start three weeks ago.
I remember “Our Song” came out when I was 15, a freshman in high school. And because I was 15 and snotty, I presumed I was “too cool” to listen to a country sweetheart. (So instead I blasted Evanescence and My Chemical Romance and made AIM away messages about “hating everything and everyone.” Shudder. That teen “angst” phase. )
I hopped aboard the Taylor train when she released “Fearless,” but it wasn’t until I was 23 and a Masters student that I became what they call a “Swiftie.”
These are the three key elements of being a Swiftie that I’ve learned thus far from Tumblr, or as I like to call it, the Swiftie Kingdom (where crying passionately is both welcome and highly encouraged):
- You have to love Taylor more than you love consuming air and water and food. (Check. Feeling confident.)
- You have to know how to sew so you can make your own fabulous costumes and recreate the garments worn by Queen Taylor herself. ( I personally, cannot sew, but I am great at spending money when I really don’t have it. So, I went to Spencer’s and bought a hella-expensive corset to recreate the Bad Blood video. Does this count?)
- You have to be a super fan from the beginning–or at the very least, pretend you were. So then, you can reblog all the posts such as, “REBLOG BC YOU WERE WITH TAY FROM THE BEGINNING, ESP. DURING THE RED ERA/MEDIA BACKLASH ERA.” (……I originally snubbed “We are never ever getting back together.” I’m sorry. I feel regret every day for this.)
So, as you can obviously see, I only fulfill one of the unspoken Tumblr requirements to being a Taylor Swift super-fan.
But besides those three golden rules, I also learned that being a Swiftie comes with a level of passion that goes far beyond loving her music. It’s loving her personality, her strengths, her weaknesses, her flaws, her style, her hair, her cats…it’s honestly like a full-time job and you’re confused why you aren’t allowed to major in Swiftdom because you would be making BANK. (Today, I went to MAC and Sephora and bought red matte lipsticks that I really can’t afford because I knew Taylor uses them, and I thought to myself, “Is this weird? Should I not tell people I do this?” When I walked out of the store, I was already feeling 20 times more glamorous. We are much more connected now, Tay.)
And I have to say, maybe loving a person you’ve never before and buying the same brand and shade of red lipstick as them, is kind of bizarre. Especially if you’re 23 years old and you pay rent and drink cheap beer. But I can’t help but wonder (channeling Carrie Bradshaw right now), when did being a superfan become so stigmatized?
Sure, there’s a lot to love in this life that’s right in front of us, and being part of a fandom may seem like a waste of time. But loving something/someone outside of you, someone who inspires you, is a way to escape the black and white ordinariness of life for just a few magical seconds. To imagine that life is more than just your daily routine consisting of rude customers and burnt coffee. And escape (in moderation) can be healthy.
Because here’s the thing: if someone truly inspires you–to be a better person, to live a fuller life, to love as much as you possibly can – then I don’t see the problem.
Because the truth is, what I actually learned as a Swiftie turns out to be more valuable than recreating her music video or regretting the fact that I maybe loved Taylor too late in my life.
Taylor inspired me to dream big. She inspired me to get out of an academic rut when graduate school sucked my soul out and I couldn’t remember why I loved to write in the first place. She inspired me to not be afraid to be who I am. To speak now. During her “Speak Now” era, she said,
“There’s a time for silence, and there’s a time for waiting your turn. But if you know how you feel and you so clearly know what you need to say, you’ll know it. I don’t think you should wait. I think you should speak now.”
And I ask, as a 23-year-old outed Swiftie, if Taylor, (or Katy, or Lady Gaga, or Britney, or whoever) encourages you to be who you are, who you’ve always believed you could be – what’s wrong with that?
I’m speaking now–I’m confessing. I am about to graduate with a Masters in June, and I’m almost a married woman. But I love Taylor Swift.