Taylor Swift

Nobody Likes You When You’re (Not) Taylor Swift

It’s the 1,000,000,000th time *those photos* (You know which I mean. You also know, after reading this post, just who I’m a fan of.) have popped up on my feed.

This morning, I was devastated.

Right now, I feel nothing.

Ladies and gentlemen, the “Internet’s Boyfriend” is dating the “Internet’s Most Famous (Ex-)Girlfriend”. It’s another day in what Demi Lovato (to drop another boldface name) once called “The La-La Land Machine.” We could read into this and talk about how it’s always the pretty and popular girls who win, or how the ethics of dating are nebulous, or how celebrity culture brings out the internalised patriarchal instincts in us, or whatever…but let’s be honest: whatever these two rich and famous people do with their lives will have absolutely nothing to say about ours. 

About mine.

I started disliking Taylor for a very elemental reason, and I’m not going to be be afraid to admit it, because if we’re going to talk about “shaming” here I think we shame girls too much for opening up about their demons. For even having demons. So here goes: I started disliking Taylor because I was (am!) jealous. She is everything I will never be: pretty and popular, well-loved and successful. She is impossibly long legs and skinny waist and hit songs on the radio that I will only ever cover (shameless plug!). She and her model-squad of curated gal-pals stand as stark contrast from me, a girl who is constantly counting her few friends on her fingers, bending over backwards wearing masks to keep them, and, after everything, never truly trusting if they’ll stay.

I hate(d) her because she makes me feel like all the worst parts of who I am: unpretty, unsuccessful, unlovable, unimportant. She was (is) the visual representation of all my insecurities, and that slight veneer of production that permeates her every move does not help things. In Ms. Swift’s own words, “She’s cheer captain and I’m on the bleachers.” 

(I wonder, when she was writing that line, if she ever saw herself as becoming that girl who wears high heels and short skirts while her fans wear the sneakers and t-shirts.)

On the flip side, I loved (past-tense; after the backlash, I’ve decided that being a rabid celebrity fangirl makes me too vulnerable) Tom Hiddleston for a very elemental reason: he seemed to be everything I wanted. Smart. Articulate. Funny. Gentlemanly. Cultured. I’m a reluctant romantic, but when I’m hit I’m helpless, and I was helpless to the scrunched-up laugh and modulated voice and almost-inhuman charm blended with a perfect awkwardness. 

(Funny how, now that I’m describing him, I realise how much of a male Taylor Swift Tom Hiddleston is. Hmm. Maybe they are perfect for each other.)

I loved him because he gave me hope in high ideals. He was (is?) a visual representation of all my, to drop another Swift lyric, “Wildest Dreams,” because obviously a “wild” Frankie envisions hand-holding and cups of tea (I am a terribly boring, grandmotherly millennial, and not in the twee Swifty way either.) and reading poetry aloud and awkward laughing and bad dancing. How can a girl who has never been in a relationship resist this almost-perfect fantasy, especially when, where she is, she feels terribly alone?

I hated (yes, past tense; I’m done caring) them together because, well, you can do the math, right? The issue was never Tom and Taylor themselves—I don’t know either of them well enough to actually care if they’re in love or not—but what they symbolised: the perfect boy getting scooped up by the perfect girl I’ll never be. 

When I first saw the news, flipped through the pictures, and felt that strange stab of pain twisting in my chest, I wondered at my reaction. I tried to justify it as just fangirl grief. But the truth is, the problem is less of my grasping, delusional, fangirl self (a self that often laughs at how crazy I am, like attempting to steal the cutout of Hiddleston from the Coriolanus showing) and more of my raw, broken, inner self. A self that doesn’t feel beautiful, no matter how many times I take to the mirror to try and “self-care.” A self that, even after three months of teaching her face to read “I’m fine,” still feels the familiar burning behind her eyes when she holds back tears she promised not to cry at work, staring at the people she thought forgave her mistakes still snub her. 

A self that constantly feels she will never be good enough. 

Maybe—probably; I know I’m being a bad feminist—I am wrong about caring so much (though, in my defence, I never called out Ms. Swift’s boyfriend record or so-called “serial dating”). The truth is, though, caring about Tom and Taylor hurt a sight less than ripping myself open like this, examining the why and wondering if it ever gets better.

Does it ever get better? I hope so, but honestly? I don’t know. All I know is, you girls in the sneakers and t-shirts, if your reasons are, deep down, the same as mine, know you’re not alone, and that I don’t judge you for the violence of your reactions, or the fear that you’re trying to push down with every all-caps reiteration of old gossip. We will never be the girls brave enough to flirt and dance, to flutter and glitter and shine. But the world needs us just as much as it needs Taylor Swift. 

I don’t know how not to hate myself. Not yet. But one day, I’ll learn. One day, I’ll look at my body and I won’t see Taylor’s ghost. One day, I’ll bump into real love and forget Tom Hiddleston ever existed. Or that will never happen but I won’t care because I will have been able to let go of all these unreasonable expectations, and just be me.

Maybe instead of tearing each other apart, we can actually build each other up. Heaven knows, I need a hand to hold, and I’m not afraid to hold someone else’s. Maybe if we can just tell each other it doesn’t matter if we’re not the perfect girl—say it loud and enough times—we can drown out the demons that make this madness possible. Maybe.

Anyway, at the end of the day, just know that Tom and Taylor being with each other says nothing about you or your life or your prospects.  There’s no reason to cry.  You can leave them alone.  You’ll be okay.


Long Distances (The Only Love Story I Have)

Hey guys. Been a while since I checked in just for the sake of checking in. It’s past midnight on a surprisingly lovely Sunday (Monday?). I may have spent the last half-hour blog-stalking some of my poetry idols (as you do). I’m in the sort of mood where you want to ravel on a thread, and I’d rather do it here because this blog needs some love, and also I need to deliver on the “lit” and the “musings” of my subtitle.

So. Love. Last night we had another round of Hideaway, with (so original) the theme of love. People sang love stories. Spoke them. Made me cry a couple of (hundred) times. My friend Marvs turned up with his girlfriend, and they are adorable in the way that couples I feel should be–the kind of adorability that comes from two people who are their best selves, making each other better.

Also, I realized something.

Last night I realized there’s a difference in the way people who have experienced love talk about it–write about it, sing about it–from those who have only dreamed of it. #Hugot traffics in the clichés of the unrequited, while the real thing? The real thing is often  horrible Pokémon jokes and audio love letters and retellings of a life’s story framed from the perspective of the years he gave you. I’m pretty immune to #hugot because it’s so popular now, but real love still gets me. Every time.

I don’t have a real love story. Not really. But last night I tried to add to the score of authenticity by telling the best story I had that comes close to one. I sang a song about a city I loved, not for itself–because to be honest it’s too new, too chrome-plated and luxury-decorated and, forgive me, but who cares about Disneyland?–but because the one time I was there I could only ever think about one person.

I have never been in a long distance relationship, but I fell in love with long distances because one boy, with a Hong Kong British accent, looked at me and said I was as beautiful. It was the first time someone I crushed on (a shallow but, I suppose, technically accurate word) said that to me, matter of fact, like I was the sky or a sunset, and that was the first moment I felt anything like love coming from someone who wasn’t God or my mum.

In actuality, the story of him and me became something that was sadly more conventional and embarrassing: the tale of a naïve girl who hoped too hard and a charming boy who played his cards too well–the Jake Gyllenhaal to my Taylor Swift, whose mark on my life was equal parts “Treacherous” and “Sad, Beautiful, Tragic.” There have been boys who have tempted me and boys who have made me fall, but this boy–maybe we should call him Jake?–is probably still the closest I’ve ever gotten to someone who was both.

I call him my “one big college love,” and while that’s probably an over-romanticization of everything, it’s also somewhat true. Before the crash and burn and pathetic lingering with its multiple attempts at closure (a pattern with me that I’m hoping ends now that I’m turning twenty-three), there was something.  Maybe not a something that ends with me getting chosen, or even a chance, but it was enough to hang my inspiration on.

He was the closest I’d ever gotten to a love story, so I wrote him into them. Poems. Stories. Letters. I even tried to launch a “Twitterserye” (after my thesis mentor) based on fragments of how I’d fallen for him. The day I’d found out I’d won a national love letter writing contest with a letter I’d written to him, I was in Brazil and me and my then-crush were having cake to celebrate and though then-crush was (and still is) the most gorgeous dude I have ever seen in my life outside of Tom Hiddleston…all I could think of was if I should tell “Jake.”

High on cake and the fact that I’d actually won something, I did. I Facebook messaged him. But before I could say anything, he told me that he had some great news–he was in love. He had a girlfriend.

Before you start shouting “HUGOT!” please know that statement actually hurt a ton less than it sounds in writing. Honestly, I didn’t expect to become his girlfriend. I even wrote that down in the love letter, used four pages of university yellow pad to say that I didn’t expect us to ever be anything more than what we were. Even then, I knew our love story, for all of its literary potential, would eventually devolve into what it became.

But even after how it “ended” (really, there was nothing to end), Jake is still the first person that pops into my head when I need to write something about love. A friend (who I used to like) joked at a poetry event that I was his “contribution to the arts” because I wrote six poems about him. The boy I liked after him got a short story and nearly a whole #NaPoWriMo blog.

But, as you can see, I’m still writing about Jake.

The last poem I wrote about him is dated over a year ago. It’s on this blog, if you’re feeling like digging, the title reference to a song by We Are Scientists that he used to sing when he was teaching me guitar. The Jake who walks around now isn’t anything like that poem suggests, truth be told. Maybe he never really was, because when you fall for someone and turn them into words you sort of make them convenient fiction. I think I can accept that, but I’d like to believe, even for a just a little while longer, in the Jake who loaned me a copy of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin despite barely knowing me, just because he saw me post a quote from it (you know the one) and had to comment, excitedly, in all-caps, “YOU’VE READ CCM?”

I’d like to believe there was a Jake who told me “You’re beautiful” in a way that has me carrying around that statement in my head ever since.

Last night a poet I respect turned to me excitedly and said, in the vocal approximation of all-caps, “You like Hamilton?”** For a split-second the light in his eyes reminded me of what the skyscrapers looked like at night, when you’re looking down from Victoria Peak.

“There will always be that boy that every boy reminds you of,” my friend John B. said, earlier that evening. I don’t know if Jake is that boy–I don’t think what we had was “love” enough to justify that–but of all the stories in my world, his is the one that comes closest.


“Do I really need to tell you anyway?”



**I do, and the line I forgot from “Wait For It” was “Love doesn’t discriminate/Between the sinners and the saints/It takes and it takes and it takes/And we keep loving anyway.” You all need to listen to the Original Broadway Cast recording. You will thank me.