If I were a betting man, I would wager that Taylor Swift, the nation’s favorite 22 year old bubblegum-country crooner, has more attention cast on her love life than literally any other celebrity. This is for a couple of reasons, one of which being her choice of men, but the other is more simple – she asks for it. Demands it, even.
Taylor has a much-publicized habit of writing songs about her relationships; more specifically, her breakups. Not only is she not shy about it, but it’s almost a point of pride for her, as though having a pop song that vaguely references how shitty of a boyfriend you were is a penance worse than death. I’ve read interviews where she speaks to the effect of “if we go out and you’re a jerk to me, it’s not my fault if you wind up in a song”. Oh no Taylor, anything but a saccharine pseudo-country jam about how mean I am! Let’s look at a sample of some of these blacklisting lyrics. These are taken from her song “Dear John”, presumably written about her stint with the much older and so-notoriously-douchey-you-should-have-known-better John Mayer:
Dear John, I see it all now it was wrong
Don’t you think nineteen’s too young
To be played by your dark, twisted games
When I loved you so, I should’ve known.
That’s pretty much the whole song, her trying to paint him as an asshole for apparently taking advantage of a then-19 year old Taylor’s naiveté. And sure, I guess you could read into it that way and think “man, that John Mayer guy sure is an asshole”. The problem is that literally anyone who follows the news or music has known that for the better part of a decade. He’s many things, including a talented musician, but a “settle down type of guy” isn’t one of them. What Swift doesn’t understand, as she walks around feeling smug and vindicated through the magic of song, is that all I see in those lyrics is an anecdote about how John Mayer, being the sweet bro that he is, successfully nailed and bailed on a gullible 19 year old super star. If I were him, every time I heard that song I would think “goddamn right I did”. He’s not pathetic for doing what he did; she’s pathetic for whining to the world about it in the standard pop verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus format.
Other than the John Mayer fiasco and some time spent playing a beard for the obviously gay Jake Gyllenhaal, Taylor tends to date men closer to her own age, most recently high school junior Connor Kennedy and now 18 year old One Direction member Harry Styles. You might wonder why as teenage boys are usually at the bottom of every woman over the age of 16’s dating list. Sure, the Kennedy name is an alluring one (if you’re here via a time warp from the 1980’s), and I’m sure Styles is charming enough, but Swift is pretty, blond, and built like a model – she could ostensibly have a go with any man she wanted. If you’re a more astute reader you’re thinking “Wait, those guys aren’t her age at all. She’s 22.” You’d be correct, kind of.
The reason she dates the guys she dates, and really the reason for everything she does, is that Taylor Swift is neither capable of nor allowed to be anything other than a perpetually 16 year old girl. Her first album, released in 2006, was a runaway hit, and because she writes her own songs her financial gains were massive. It figures then that that was the precise moment when her real-life experiences and personal development were allowed to stop, and why wouldn’t it? As gifted a songwriter as she is, she’s incapable of writing about anything other than high school puppy love, because that’s all she knows. That works out well for her from a business perspective, because that’s all her audience wants to hear. Ask any girl in her mid-20’s about her favorite T-Swift songs, and while preferences vary, one constant is that no grown woman points to any tracks from her latest album. That’s because the songs they do like, the songs that still resonate with them, were released years ago, when they teenagers themselves and related to the material. Throw in 9-5 jobs, mature relationships, and adult woes, and suddenly lyrics about sneaking out your bedroom window or going against your father’s wishes don’t really hit home. If Swift wants to continue her success, she must remain a 16 year old girl, because those are the only people buying her music.
If she wants to find love, she’ll have to grow into it, and that will be hard for her. Partly because no one wants her to, but also because that would require work, risk, and uncertainty on her part. If my options were continued financial success or forcing myself to grow as a person, I’d probably stick to boinking teenage boys too. Never stop being you, Taylor.