HATERS gonna hate hate hate, but as it turns out, I totally heart Taylor Swift. TBH, I wasn’t sure that was true until last week.
I mean, I’ve always appreciated her, but, like, from a grown-up’s perspective in that she writes her own songs and is a savvy businessperson and doesn’t flash her hoo-ha all over Instagram.
You’ve gotta have mad respect for anyone who takes on Apple, and she handled the whole Kanye thing with grace. Every woman’s made a mistake like John Mayer, so I can’t judge.
She’s also styled herself as a role model for universal equality and radical self-acceptance, which is tricky to pull off for a heteronormative white girl with legs like a supermodel giraffe.
So, as a mother and a feminist, I approved of Taylor Swift, but I did not quite adore her.
I mean, I’m a grown-up. I have Important and Serious Things to ponder, like voter turnout and the world falling apart and stuff. It’s not like I’d ever sing along to Taylor Swift’s bubblegum jams, and if I did, it’s only because my 11 year-old daughter programmed all the preset buttons in my car to the same Top 40 station and it took me three weeks to change them back because the freakin’ buttons are so tiny and I couldn’t find my reading glasses.
Obvi, I listen to grown-up radio, like GPB and whatever jazz mastery Ike Carter is spinning on 90.3. I don’t even know how these TS lyrics got all up in here; I must’ve tapped into someone else’s James Dean daydream.
For sure, I did not mewl like an espresso-addled Muppet when our BFFs Kim Spencer and daughter Anna Brooke surprised us with VIP tickets to T. Swift’s sold-out, super-special-Halloween-last-stop-on-her-U.S.-tour in Tampa, FL.
Of course I didn’t paw through the cool TS swag that came with the tickets like it was lost treasure. I definitely did not spend hours coordinating matching cat costumes (FYI, rhinestone kitty ear tiaras are cheaper when purchased in bulk) for the show or spend $18 on a tube of MAC Ruby Woo to make sure we had that red lip classic thing that we like.
OK, maybe I’m just a pretty little liar. Maybe I was so thrilled to see Taylor Swift live and in person that I secretly choreographed a “Bad Blood” routine to perform in our row H seats.
Then I started to panic.
My inner grown-up realized that we would not be enjoying Taylor’s musical stylings in an intimate nightclub with a few hundred well-behaved music appreciators, but at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium with 55,000 other people, most of whom would be tweenage girls with the capacity to shatter glass with their collective squealing.
Us grown-ups, we don’t like crowds so much. Personally, I start wheezing when there are too many people in the grocery store and I can’t get to the Muenster cheese (the opening weeks of the new Lucky’s Market practically gave me a coronary). The last concert I remember attending with that many screaming fans, Def Leppard’s drummer still had two arms.
Kim reminded me that most of the shrieking Swifties would be under 12 years old, and if chaos broke out, I could probably scale the walls faster than they could.
“Quit acting like such a boring adult,” she commanded, flourishing a stack of flash tattoos.
Giggles overruled my handwringing as our glitzed-up girl squad skipped towards the massive arena, flanked by thousands festooned with feathers and sequins and Swiffer napkins (best Halloween ever, der).
My anxiety was easily tempered by cute boy opening acts Shawn Mendes and Vance Joy and had dissolved almost completely once Taylor herself rose up out of the stage surrounded by cute boy backup dancers, her flawless face magnified by a thousand in the Jumbotron, every enhanced eyelash visible.
I was totes magotes caught up in the sick beats when La Tay announced, “I named my new album 1989, after the year I was born!”
I gagged. “That’s the year I graduated from high school!”
Kim rolled her eyes. “Oh yeah? That’s the year I graduated college.”
Not to be outdone in this grown-ass-woman pissing contest, I raised the bar. “Well, my car is five years older than she is.”
My BFF patted my shoulder. “Congratulations? Now shut up and dance.”
From there it was all uphill: Taylor belted out her frothy hits, strutting down the moveable runway in a dazzling variety of costumes (the matching booties, OMG). Rubber LED bracelets handed out at the door and controlled by unseen forces lit up the night in synchronized syncopation.
Between tunes, Miz T chatted to the crowd with her intimate teenage folksiness, and come to think of it, she didn’t say “like” once.
The record-grossing 1989 tour has become renowned for its cameos of other famous folks, and TS saved the best for last with Alessia Cara and Idina Menzel, the latter playing Frozen’s regal Elsa to Taylor’s goofy Olaf. I didn’t see the Pope, but I’m betting any stop on his circuit couldn’t rival the ecstatic reverie of 55,000 Swifties scream-singing “Let It Go.”
And let go we did—of my own middle age ruminations, of Kim’s worries about the autism families she champions with the Thinking Moms’ Revolution, of how the hell we were going to get out here without being trampled by ten thousand pairs of kitten heels.
Even the grizzly-bearded dad in front of us swayed to the music as he put an arm around his disabled daughter, who was wearing a turquoise tutu and a large pair of hearing aids. Her name was Stefanie, and they had driven all the way from Indiana so she could see Taylor for her 21st birthday.
“She’s been on the liver-kidney transplant list for a year,” her mother explained with a shrug. “She’s not expected to live.”
But Stefanie was just shaking it off, a sparkle in her eyes as her younger sister signed the lyrics to her. It was the same glimmer I saw on our daughters’ faces, blessedly healthy but facing a world of grown-up challenges nonetheless.
Taylor Swift may be an exceptionally brainy, blue-eyed, billionaire Barbie, but she’s also a young woman kicking ass as she champions kindness and generosity, and we need more examples of that, please.
To her fans, this was more than a show, but an education in the pinnacles of possibility, of artistic excellence, and how to behave oneself in a crowd. (Nothing but politeness afterwards as 55,000 people competed for the same 150 Ubers.)
So thanks to my BFF, who gifted me with a fabulous spectacle that was more than an escape from Real Life but a much-needed reminder that it’s OK not to be such a lame adult all the time.
And thanks, T-Swizzle, for schooling me in another most important life lesson:
No matter how old you think you are, if you know the words, there’s no shame in singing along.