According to Urban Dictionary I’m a Swiftie: Why?

I couldn’t figure out how I felt hour to hour. Sometimes I felt like: All these things taught me something that I never could have learned in a way that didn’t hurt as much. Five minutes later, I’d feel like: That was horrible. Why did that have to happen? What am I supposed to take from this other than mass amounts of humiliation? And then five minutes later I’d think: I might be happier than I’ve ever been.

—Taylor Swift, Vogue

____

I remember being a sophomore in high school when I first became conscious of the inexplicable hatred I had for Taylor Swift. My sister was home for some holiday, and we were sitting at a stop light when “Love Story” came on the radio. Laughing, like she was embarrassed and had only just realized it, my sister said, “I actually kind of like this song.” I scoffed, “Ew, why?” (I was only into indie bands at that point in my life; determined to turn my nose up at anything remotely mainstream in that pseudo-sophisticated way artistic teens are wont to behave.) “I don’t know,” she said, “I think it’s kind of funny that she puts all those boys’ names in her songs.” And, since I regarded—basically—everything my older sister had to say as virtue, so began my more critical thoughts about Taylor Swift.

What was it that I so passionately despised about her?

In her earlier career, when I was in high school, I know I probably found her difficult to connect with: the poufy dresses, the fairytale references, her blatant misunderstanding of Shakespearean tragedies, the fact that she was a pretty blonde girl who looked like a baby fashion model… she seemed to embody all the stereotypical nonsense that teenage girls were said to desire and revere, and I was not—at least within my yet-to-have-fully-developed teenage brain—stereotypical. Furthermore, I just didn’t want to connect with her. Beyond the way she branded herself, and looked, I found her to be all the things she was/is often accused of being: petty, crazy, jealous, love-obsessed, hyper-sensitive, vapid, selfish, annoying, too autobiographical, manipulative, catty—and so on. Which was to say, not only did she externally embody everything that teenage girls were said to desire and revere, but that she also symbolized everything we—as a society and culture—hate about teenage girls. (Something I’d be willing to argue has, as Taylor Swift has grown up, evolved into everything we hate about unapologetically feminine—i.e. “basic”—women.)

Watching the music video for “Teardrops on My Guitar,” at the tender age of sixteen, I saw a forlorn Taylor Swift, with a single bedazzled eye, cradling her guitar, and I wondered: What does this hot girl have to cry about?

***

There is a podcast that I listen to every so often, hosted by a New York City food blogger (Reyna Greenburg) and comedian (Ashley Hesseltine) called Girls Gotta Eat. At the end of each episode, they’ll play a game with their guests, one of which is called: “Psycho or Power Move?” Listeners submit their stories of manipulation and revenge, which are then discussed, on air, with the goal of responding to the name of the game: Psycho or power move?

This is the kind of question I think about whenever I think about Taylor Swift, like: Is the fact that she has a framed photo, in her home, of Kanye West interrupting her at the 2009 VMAs psycho, or a power move?

I can’t decide.

I’ve googled “what’s wrong with Taylor Swift,” endlessly, in pursuit of what it is that I’m trying to articulate. And I’ve found the same point regurgitated, over and over again. The overall gist usually being: Taylor Swift is a white capitalist machine who ‘got political’ two years too late, and it all feels eerily… calculated.

I’m not above it, I feel it too.

Still—in 2019—I find myself on the opposing end of where my critical thoughts on Taylor Swift first began. Instead of asking myself why I hate her, I find myself wondering: Why do I like her? (It’s an odd little personal phenomenon, but I feel like saying, “I like Taylor Swift,” is on par with saying I like Harvey Weinstein, or Michael Jackson—two people whose work and art most definitely should not be separated from who they are/were behind closed doors.)

Though I see her flaws pretty clearly; though I understand, without difficulty, why other people don’t like her; even when I’m about to agree on the subject of her alleged fraudulence, I can’t get past the same old monkey wrench: But what if Taylor Swift gave a shit about resonating with a heteromale audience?

Part of what makes Taylor Swift, Taylor Swift, is that—if this hypothetical became reality—she wouldn’t be Taylor Swift. And this, for me, is where completely renouncing her as just another cog in a capitalistic machine, ruthlessly weaponizing white feminism for her own benefit, becomes difficult.

***

I can pinpoint a time when I realized I liked Taylor Swift the same way I can pinpoint a time when I realized I hated her.

I was at a party and in my junior year of college. I was there with my boyfriend—at the time—and his friends, and they were all pretty misogynistic people. (Misogynistic, in that, refers to the girls they hook up with as the “hoe train,” believes Germany is a “classy” place to study abroad—but not India—white frat boy kind of way.)

Anyway, there was this girl there—a petite brunette who was with one of my boyfriend’s friends. And she was sitting in the middle of the basement floor, playing a guitar and singing with a bunch of other girls all around her. I remember my boyfriend and his friends all making condescending little remarks about it. (“Why do you always have to pick girls who sing?”) But I thought she was good, and I liked whatever it was she was playing. Eventually, I got the chance to ask her, “What is that?” And she said, “It’s Taylor Swift.”

Something clicked for me, then. (At the beginning of Donald Miller’s memoir, Blue Like Jazz, he writes about how he hated jazz music, until he found someone who loved jazz music. He says, “Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It is as if they are showing you the way.” And—whatever had clicked—it was like that.)

This girl was belting “Sparks Fly” in the middle of a frat party like she was Jerry Spinelli’s Star Girl, and she didn’t give a shit what the guys thought. She had the attention of every girl in the room, and that was enough—like the biggest “fuck you” to the male gaze ever. And I was like: Oh, okay, I think I get it.

Soon after, I began to regard Taylor Swift as the antidote for a kind of gendered fury I experienced—but couldn’t name—whenever I felt punished for being both confident and an overtly feminine woman, most poignantly. (The time a guy harassed me, all night, at a party over a minor—intended to be playful—slight, by calling me an “ugly hyena laughing bitch,” in every way he knew how, and then, once he realized I wasn’t going to cry about it, continued to harass me about other things—like my hair color—until I got so annoyed, I left; the time when, in a fiction writing class, the craft of my story was never critiqued during a workshop, because one guy decided my male character wasn’t “masculine enough”—whatever that means—and made this personal concern of his the focal point for the whole discussion; the time a boss told me I needed to “worry more” about my “reputation” because of how male patrons—outside of my control—were behaving, and so on—into oblivion.)

I’m not quite sure how it all relates, but: Thank god Taylor Swift wasn’t afraid to put all those boys’ names in her songs.

***

On YouTube, I recently found a compilation of clips derived from interviews with John Mayer, spanning from 2009 to 2010, in which he discussed his intentions with Taylor Swift—albeit cryptically—and their time together, working on music. (In most of the clips he idealized her into oblivion, saying things like: “She’s just this strange, in all the most beautiful ways, doesn’t-belong-to-this-universe, type person… she’s ageless… she’s like a child.” While, in others, his attraction to her came across as a cry for help: “It’s good to see someone who’s hugely talented and is still able to receive the pleasure in all moments because [long and thoughtful silence] I’m dead inside.”)

I find Taylor Swift and John Mayer’s relationship fascinating. Mostly because of how shamelessly he pursued her, and how delusional his expectations were—considering he was a 32-year-old man at the time, and she was just a 19-year-old girl. (Is a thirteen-year age difference creepy? No, not necessarily. But is a thirteen-year age difference creepy when the younger person’s pre-frontal cortex hasn’t fully formed yet, and the older person is an established guitarist who works in the same industry as the younger person? Mmmm… it’s suspicious, to say the least.)

It was like John Mayer just woke up one day, saw Taylor Swift on the TV, and decided he was going to live out the plotline of Elizabethtown with her. It seriously reads like it was that manic of a decision on his part.

In 2009 he sparked the beginning of their relationship by tweeting—seemingly out of nowhere—that Taylor Swift would make a good “Nicks” in contrast to his “Petty.” In the tweet he also stated that he wanted to collaborate with her on a track for his upcoming album, Battle Studies. Predictably—as a 19-year-old girl who grew up listening to John Mayer on the radio—she obliged, and the rest is history. (The two recorded John Mayer’s “Half of My Heart,” did a couple of performances together, started dating officially in the fall of 2009, and then reportedly broke up sometime in February 2010.)

All of which is to ask: John Mayer seriously expected this very young singer-songwriter, notorious for putting her exes’ names in her songs, whom he pursued and groomed into becoming his little musical protégé, and then dropped—just as quickly as he’d swept her up—to not write a song about the experience?

After Taylor Swift released “Dear John”—a song overtly directed at John Mayer—in 2010, he responded with bewilderment. In an interview with Rolling Stone, he said, “I was really caught off guard.” And then, toward the end, he added, “I will say as a songwriter that it’s kind of cheap songwriting… I know she’s the biggest thing in the world and I’m not trying to sink anybody’s ship, but I think it’s abusing your talent to rub your hands together and go, ‘Wait ‘til he gets a load of this!’ That’s bull shit!”

Ignoring the condescension of this statement, while, also, keeping that compilation of interviews—the ones where he openly raved about how talented she was—in mind, it’s hard not to think: John, you were once THE captain of that ship. Like: Did you forget? Knock your head? Dude, YOU called her the Nicks to your Petty!

Beyond the drama, and the back and forth songwriting, or even the romantic idea that these two had potentially found a karmic match in one another, what I find the most fascinating about Taylor Swift and John Mayer’s relationship is that—I’ve totally dated that guy. And I’ve had friends who have totally dated that guy, and I’m positive tons of other women and girls have totally dated that guy.

What John Mayer did in response to “Dear John” was a kind of gaslighting. A sort of: I never even really liked her that much anyway; she’s crazy; I didn’t deserve it because it wasn’t even that serious. (Even though all the evidence said otherwise.) And that’s a thing women experience, often, both in relationships and life. It’s a thing people do when someone—especially a woman—sticks up for herself or exceeds the limiting expectations some insecure person assigned to her.

To put it bluntly, I don’t think the song humiliated John Mayer because he was genuinely hurt. I think it humiliated him because he hadn’t expected to be used as a muse in the same way that he’d used many of his own exes as muses—not by a 20-year-old girl in a frilly purple dress, at least—and the experience, ultimately, provoked a sense of inadequacy that felt so unfamiliar to him, he couldn’t help but rationalize it: “I’m not trying to sink anybody’s ship, but…”

Three years after Taylor Swift released “Dear John,” John Mayer released “Paper Doll,” a track that was presumed to be about Taylor Swift as the lyrics seemed too pointed for it not to be. From what can be gathered from the song, John Mayer’s feelings about her hadn’t changed. The lyrics were just as condescending as his former statements to Rolling Stone. A few of which are, “You’re like twenty-two girls in one / And none of them know what they’re runnin’ from / Was it just too far to fall / For a little paper doll…”

It’s hard not to infer that John Mayer had been expecting someone simpler, and so he felt lied to when he realized that she wasn’t.

***

I’m currently taking a few introductory psychology courses, and, of all the lessons I’ve learned so far, the most difficult one for me to accept is how important first impressions really are to us, as a species. See, I think we like to believe we’re smarter than first impressions; that we’re more critically minded, and our judgements of others are within our control. (At least, I know I do.) But that just isn’t the case.

From what I’ve learned, once a person forms an opinion about a certain individual, there is very little that individual can do to change it—what’s done is done, so to speak. So, there’s really no point in bending over backwards, trying to change that other person’s mind—they’re going to believe what they’re going to believe, regardless of any evidence proving otherwise. Therefore, the best thing for the—potentially—misjudged individual to do is to forgive herself; move on; allow bygones to be bygones, and continue doing what’s best for herself. Which is, in a backwards way, even more difficult than dwelling on the disapproval of others.

My point: the idea that we’ll be embraced without skepticism, and respected in all the ways we deserve, so long as we, as individuals, live authentically, is a lie. And, furthermore, I’d be willing to argue, 1,000 times over, that this is especially true for women.

Often—from what I’ve experienced and observed—when a woman is who she is, it creates a wide and gaping divide that only gets wider, and even more gaping, the more authentic she becomes. People will either really love her, or really hate her, and—no matter what—the general message coming from the latter end is going to feel deeply, and painfully, personal. Because, she’ll know, from her core, that she put her best foot forward; that she wore her best shoes, and danced her best dance, and shook all the hands, and, still, some people—or maybe even most people—scoffed in response, like: Who do you think you are?

This is why I admire Taylor Swift: she doubles down when it comes to her experiences, and what they mean to her—regardless of how others feel about it.

In a recent interview for CBS’s Sunday Morning, when she was asked about her many grudges, she said, “People go on and on about how you have to forgive and forget to move past something. No you don’t. You don’t have to forgive and  you don’t have to forget to move on. You can move on without any of those things happening.”

See, she’s someone who is constantly criticized for overreacting and being “petty,” and her general response is to just lean into it, like: Sorry, not sorry. This is my truth. And I think it’s really important for young girls to observe a woman as powerful as Taylor Swift being like that.

She sends a message that says women do not have to forgive anyone for anything. They don’t have to forgive anyone who victimizes them, regardless of whether or not anyone else perceives their victimization as real—women get to define that for themselves. And, for this reason, I want to look at the bigger picture and believe in her sincerity.

I want to believe we still live in a world where not everything we see and consume is the product of some manufactured construct, created with the bottom line in mind. I want to believe that a pop icon and businesswoman—the girl-next-door turned lying-snake—can also be the same person who penned the line: “Who you are is not what you did.” I want to believe we all still live in a world where, ultimately, everyone—including an idiot like Donald Trump—is just doing their best. However disappointing, or horrifying, that may be.

Which is to, ultimately, say: Taylor Swift seems untouchable in a way that powerful men have always been untouchable—she seems to forgive herself for being complicated in ways that society has always forgiven men for being complicated. And there’s a large part of me that doesn’t care how she’s gotten away with doing that. I’m just glad she has.

It’s Miserable and Magical: Our Twenties are Too Short to Hate Taylor Swift and Female Friendship (or Anything for that Matter)

“The only trick of friendship, I think, is to find people who are better than you—not smarter, not cooler, but kinder, and more generous, and more forgiving—and then to appreciate them for what they can teach you, and to try to listen to them when they tell you something about yourself, no matter how bad—or good—it might be, and to trust them, which is the hardest thing of all. But the best, as well.”

 —Hanya Yanagihara, A Little Life

Do you ever feel like certain people just sit around brainstorming new and interesting ways to break your heart? Because…

Same.

Okay, now that that’s out of my system: I’ve been listening to a lot of old school T-Swift lately, like, “Long Live” and “Dear John” and “Mean”. And I can’t lie, there’s something about every album prior to Red and 1989 that’s really endearing. Like, every track on Speak Now has this undertone that sounds a lot like: Na-na na-na boo boo. Just. I love how Taylor Swift seemed to have this quiet joke with herself, how I get this secret satisfaction whenever I listen to her play the banjo and sing: Someday I’ll be big enough so you can’t hit me / And all you’re ever gonna be is mean. It’s like she totally knew she was going to be on the cover of Time magazine one day—becoming the Yin to Lorde’s Yang, learning the definition of feminism from Lena Dunham, telling Apple how to write contracts, blowing shit up with super models…Just, girl knew what she was doing.

I imagine her being 20 when she first started saying it to herself: Fuck it. I don’t care whether or not you think I’m talented. I don’t care if you think I’m corny, or petty, or dumb. At least I say what I mean, and there are girls in the world who need that. So fuck it. I’m not writing for you. I’m writing for the ones who get it. Until finally, at age 26, she was saying it out loud to Chuck Klosterman, for GQ, “If you don’t get the joke, you don’t deserve to get the joke.”

I love her because there’s something about her spirit that’s totally indestructible and still, she’s sincere. I mean, I know she’s not perfect, or some kind of god, but I have a hard time believing a total bitch wrote the line, “your string of lights are still bright to me”, about Kanye West, and that’s that…

Anyway, I’m writing this because it’s been a rough couple of months and the number of times “Shake It Off” has stopped a crying spell dead in it’s tracks is an infinite one. And that kind of makes me want to write Taylor Swift a letter—that she’ll probably never read—expressing my insane gratitude like: Thank you for being a person. Because, driving around, listening to “Mean”, and just thinking, thinking, thinking…God. Just, so much has happened recently that has made me feel insane and kind of desperate, like I’m walking around with a limp, like everyone can see straight to the heart of all my weaknesses. And just, driving around, listening to Taylor Swift, it dawned on me: This past month I’ve felt invaded and used and a little broken, but the one thing I haven’t felt is lonely.

And the moment that clicked for me, I couldn’t be angry. I couldn’t even be sad. All I felt was grateful, just, this relentless appreciation for all the people who haven’t shied away from being a part of my life, like: Thank you. Thank you so much for being a person.

☁︎

“Guys, I just, really need to know that tomorrow is going to happen. Just tell me tomorrow is going to be a thing that happens to us all…” I’m clinging to the sofa, ripped out of my mind (sorry mom, sorry dad) and in the midst of an existential crisis—that I will later learn only lasted ten minutes and not ten hours—because, I’m an idiot who ate two squares of weed-chocolate that my friend brought back from Colorado. Like: Oh. Okay. I smoke weed, never. Guess I’ll stuff my face with it. Completely disregard all the times it’s convinced me that I’m a sociopath whose life is one giant rationalization. Forget all the times it’s made me worry about maybe wanting to stab my friends to death. It’ll be fine. Ttyl, Logic…

Reader, it was not fine.

What happened was not fine at all because what happened was my personality got turned inside out and I became the world’s most extrovert-iest extrovert. My every thought and anxiety was out in the open, totally against my will. Like, my mental system of checks and balances was all impaired, so I never got the private memo: Hey, maybe you shouldn’t admit that you’re worried about murdering these people that you love right now. Maybe you’re just kind of paranoid and need to keep that thought to yourself, save it for never…

“Just tell me that tomorrow is real and I’m not going to wake up with you guys’ blood on my hands.”

Of course, neither of my guy friends could stop laughing because they are both levelheaded people who don’t turn schizophrenic the moment marijuana hits their systems. However, they contained themselves long enough to give those affirmations that friends are supposed to give in moments of choco-pot meltdown:

“Cat, you’re fine. This is real, we’re real, tomorrow’s a thing…” one says, as the other adds, “You’re not about to be the first person to die from weed, and I’m pretty sure I could restrain you very easily if I had to. So. There’s no way you’re going to kill us.”

“I know, I’m just, I’m in a very dark place right now,” I say, as I slump sideways and tell myself lies that make me feel better, like: You’re not in hell.

“Edibles can be a hallucinatory experience,” chimes in the anonymous know-it-all who, earlier, I banished to outer space by deeming him: “Blue-Planet.” My explanation for the title being, “Because all the blue planets are far away, and that’s what I need you to be.” (See, I don’t know if it was because I was high or what, but he spoke in this aggressive tone of voice that sounded like an assault on my personal space. Every time he opened his mouth all I heard was: I think I know everything or I take myself very seriously, and I was not having it.)

The moment he speaks I sit up to shun him once more, “Blue-Planet.” (Mature, I know. But, like I said, my personality was inside out.)

My need to say every little thing that pops into my head is getting so bad that, eventually, I just start typing my every thought into the notepad on my iPhone: You don’t have to make everything you’re thinking right now show up on your mouth, like, what the fuck, stop. Stop looking like the Grinch when he decides to steal Christmas. Wow. Maybe you’re dumber than you thought, Catherine—yes; high-me calls me by my full name—but that’s okay, you’re still funny. Wow. Listen to you, rationalizing. You are a fucking crazy person. Calm yourself. Calllllllllllm yourself. Is this hell? Is this forever? Hell to me would be like that story, “The Yellow Wallpaper”, with all the phallic symbols…I wonder what it’s like to live in a world where you look at people and all you see is something ugly…

I throw down my phone and start to express this sentiment out loud, “Guys, in my world…

“Here we go,” says my friend, biting down on his fist to keep from laughing.

“Like, everyone is beautiful, I mean, maybe not in the conventional sense but…I’m just wondering…do you think everyone who’s kind of nasty and cold and ultra critical without thinking—do you think those people just look at everyone and only see something ugly? Like everyone looks human to me at the very least, I feel bad for everyone…what’s it like to—”

“Cat, get the fuck out of here with your hippy-dippy bullshit.”

And like, for real though, this is why I hate pot: I become every cliché in the book, talking about planets, making myself the center of the galaxy, saying things like: God, I just love humanity.

We laugh and I roll back onto my side and close my eyes because—not to be anymore cliché than I already am—I feel like the room is melting, or, I’m convinced I’m on some kind of downward elevator tour, if that’s a thing, watching all my contradictions slide up past me, if that even makes sense. Thinking: Being this introverted makes me feel like I’m always sinking inside myself…I want to love but I don’t always love the best that I can. Just, everything in this world feels too connected for me—are other people actually comforted by their cellphones, and wifi signals, and Facebook pages? It all just makes me anxious; making a fucking phone call makes me anxious. And more than anything, I don’t like the idea of being known. I like corners, and personas, and—I think I’m terrified of being fully known and understood…maybe that’s why I gravitate toward people who are even more difficult to know and understand…

I sit back up and Blue-Planet asks,

“Did you expand your mind?”

I laugh because: How fucking predictable.

“No,” I say, my head spinning.

“You mean, you actually compressed?

“Yes. No. Leave me alone. I’m not doing this with you, Blue-Planet,” I say, as I lie back down again because: I’m not ready to deal with that know-it-all just yet. Even though he got to me, even though, now, I’m thinking: Ugh, fine. I’ll “expand”.

I think: God, I need to get better about letting things go. I need to understand that, in a lot of ways, I’m someone who is very much in love with the unknown and aloneness and, for this reason, my life is always going to be kind of sad—but not bad. It’s not bad. It’s never as bad as I think. Most of the time, the silver linings are real and so, it’s okay. Who I am is okay, and I should spend more time validating things outside of myself, and less time searching for validation inside myself…I can be an egomaniac. I want to be less of an egomaniac. Maybe all the rejection I deal with is less about me, and more about everything else and the way things are supposed to be; maybe I need to start looking at all the ones who understand…

I sit back up. Blue-Planet and a girl with a Bo-Peep voice are in an earnest conversation about tax policies, and “Fuck Donald Trump”, and I’m thinking: HOW ARE YOU BOTH SO NORMAL?! Right before I look beside me, at my friend, like: Shoot me. He looks back with a knowing smirk as he nods his head at Blue-Planet and the girl—they’re sitting directly across from us, mirroring us—before he says,

“Two complete opposite worlds are playing out right now.”

And I smile at him with all my teeth because he just read my fucking mind.

☁︎

I’m a really intense person, and I know that. I mean, in general, I’m pretty easygoing. But when it comes to my attachments to other people, and my will to get to know them, I’m really intense. And I understand that some people don’t understand this level of feeling, and for this reason they don’t accept me. I also understand that these people have every right to neither understand, nor accept me. Not everyone is for everyone, and that might be a jagged pill to swallow, but it’s reality. Like, the world is not here to accommodate anyone, and if I were to interpret this reality as: The world must hate me, then that’s a faulty outlook, and maybe I need to start sucking it the fuck up and start looking around at all the things left to love. Like, I just feel like we all get so caught up in getting attention, that we forget how to actually pay attention. And, ultimately, the former makes for a really unfulfilling life, while the latter means actually being present and appreciating our experiences for what they are.

I want to be someone who always does the latter, but I’ve been caught up in the former many, many, times. Because—it’s hard to be appreciative of a bad experience, to find the good in something that seems like a monumental waste of time. It’s hard to not be like: I know I learned a lot about the world and myself, but I really wish this had never fucking happened. It’s hard not to be bitter, like: What I wanted didn’t happen; the world didn’t pay attention to me like I imagined it would. And, confessedly, this mode of thinking has turned me into a selfish, unappreciative, bitch, more times than I can remember.

More specifically: When I feel very attached to a person who either has no desire to, or doesn’t have the ability to, match my intense feelings—I turn into a selfish, unappreciative, bitch.

For example, let’s get allegorical: A guy who I was seeing briefly, who I was 100% infatuated with, was teaching me how to long board. He held my hand and told me where to place my feet, he told me how to lean as a means of steering, and the moment I got the gist, I pounded the pavement and let go of his hand. I had the whole technique down for a few minutes, before I got nervous and hopped off.

I remember the first thing he said as he came running after me, “I didn’t expect you to go that fast on the first try.” And I remember feeling kind of pissed about it, like: What did you expect?! Me to keep holding your hand? To just hang around, leaning on you, pretending like I wanted to learn less than I did?

The night him and I stopped seeing each other for good, he said, “It’s impossible to not like you,” and I remember it ringing in my head like an insult, for months, because: Then why don’t you?

That weekend my mom found me all leaky-eyed in my room, furiously coloring in pictures of fish until they looked like fire. And knowing about my current heartbreak she said, “I want you to know something—you’re special, something about you has always been different, and sometimes—these guys—they just don’t want to be with someone who overshadows them; you have a very complicated personality…that’s hard for some people to accept, and you have to let it go. You have to remember how many people love you.”

And instead of appreciating the magnitude of what she’d said, instead of appreciating that I have a mother who contemplates the state of my heart enough to form judgments and conclusions about it, I felt bitter and angry for a long time. I kept wondering: Why? Why didn’t this one person want me? I ignored the most important thing:

Remember how many people love you.

☁︎

“Our minds are like Velcro to the bad things that get said to us,” is what a therapist said for three consecutive weeks before I stopped showing up. Every time she said it, I thought: Yeah, I know that. That’s not the point. Because, I was foolish enough to believe, at the time, I had a mind like Velcro to only the good things. And now, only in recent weeks, have I realized, I don’t; I don’t have a mind like Velcro to only the good things.

I realized this in its entirety, this weekend, when Satan (hyperbole, okay, relax) showed up in a backwards hat and tried to steal one of my best friends from me—like I said earlier: New and interesting ways to break a girl’s heart? Go for her friends! It felt like it took forever, but when I finally pried my friend away from him she said, “Cat, he says you’re jealous of me,” and the moment I heard that, I stopped listening, I said, “Really, I don’t care,” but she kept talking, “Actually, he said something kind of nice about you…”

But before she could finish, I booked it down the road because: I’m tired of knowing about him, and I’ve mastered the art of flight, I’m like, the best ever; I can literally run away from my problems. She kept calling my name, and I did not look back, because when I’m done, I’m done. He says you’re jealous of me: it was enough of a bad-thing to trump anything good, it was bad enough to stick to my mind like Velcro, because: No I’m fucking not…

Eventually, one of my guy-friends found me hiding in my car where I cried off my eyelashes and listed every bad thing I ever suspected someone had said about me, “I know, I’m probably actually crazy, and not the hot-kind, but the real-kind,” I sniffled, “And I can be obsessive, and I look into everything too much, to a point that’s paralyzing and kind of icky; annoying. But, really, I really love people, and I feel disappointed by the ones I choose to love, so often, because I don’t think I fake anything with them, or at least, I really hope not,” I sniffled again, “And then shit like this happens, and it’s like: What the fuck is wrong with me? I mean, I know I’m too sensitive, but it’s hard not to be when nine times out of ten, you feel taken advantage of. No one seems trustworthy, and still, I’m throwing that shit around all the time.”

He plucked my fallen eyelash from my cheek and flicked it out the car window before he said, “Cat, that’s what makes you so precious—in like, a rare way, not a condescending way.”

Then he said, “A lot of people are really fucking selfish, and I’m sure you’re selfish too, but, you’re one of the only people I know who makes any conscious effort not to be. Like, even when we were teenagers—I remember—you were never cruel in the immature and calculated ways a lot of us could be. I hope you know that.”

And when someone tells you something that validating about yourself, you hold onto it, you stop crying, you shut up about your petty problems, and you listen to “Shake It Off”.

☁︎

I think the times when I’ve felt driven to change some fundamental part of who I am were always when I felt so lonely that I had no choice other than to start asking myself: Why? Like, if I ever felt isolated from a group, or person, I’d eventually have no choice other than to start saying to myself: I’m not perfect. I can be an asshole just like anyone else. What have I done that might’ve made this happen? And, I think the most dramatic change I’ve ever made in myself was un-learning the preconceived notion that other women are threats to my individuality.

See, it pains me to admit this, but I used to be one of those assholes who said things like: “I like guys better than girls because girls are catty and jealous; they’re mean.”

Reader, I want you to understand something very important, statements like these always translate as: I hate myself for being a girl. Truly. That’s what it means, and that’s what I meant whenever I said it. And yes: the conception that girls are fucking catty and ruthless in the name of jealousy, or because of careless, uneducated, assumptions, has a world of truth to it. I know. I’ve experienced it. I think every girl, at one point or another, has experienced it. But that’s no excuse. That’s no excuse to be mean and unsympathetic to, or blindly judgmental of, other women—especially when you don’t know those other women on a personal level. It’s no excuse to make self-righteous generalizations that separate you from your gender, because like it or not, at the end of the day: You are a girl. And you probably have a lot of the same experiences as other girls. And you probably feel a little weird, and like something isn’t quite right, about some of those experiences—just. like. other. girls. And, honestly, it sucks to navigate this sexist world alone, so get off your high horse. The idea that this exception to the rule—that the “cool-happy-go-lucky-will-eat-dirt-for-the-guys” girl—exists is a myth, and you’re just as oppressed as the rest of us: Now, sit with us.

And I swear, the moment I understood this, the moment I made a conscious effort to understand my gender on a collective level: I was never as lonely as I used to be, ever again. I was open and not guarded with other girls. Female friendships happened like magic because: I finally understood what it meant to be a good friend to other women.

So, a word of advice: Always sacrifice male-attention for a friend’s emotions, always, always, always…

Because there has never been a time when I prioritized male-attention over a friend’s emotions that didn’t leave me lonely.

☁︎

So this really funny thing happened, where me and that friend—the one I ran away from—didn’t end up getting mad at each other. We actually wound up laughing because: the guy she used to like decided to be into me for a minute, and the guy I used to like decided to be into her for a minute, and we both wound up kind of betraying each other by mistake. Like: Whoops—that was stupid—sorry, girl.

The whole thing resulted in a conversation that went like this:

Her: I’m so sorry, I really thought I was doing you a solid by talking to him, and honestly—I can turn into the biggest asshole when I drink—I’m so, so, sorry. I know you’re really sensitive, and you have every right to feel hurt anyway. It’s unhealthy for you to know anything about him at this point; I shouldn’t of done that. Why did I do that?

Me: I’m so sorry, honestly, I just wasn’t thinking. I can be really oblivious to guys and their intentions, and I just, I really didn’t think—because you and I are friends—he would ever even consider pursuing something with me in a thousand years. I’m just stupid, because it was super obvious, and the whole time I was just thinking: Oh look, a new friend! I’m sorry; I don’t know why I didn’t realize what was happening.

Basically, we said “sorry” and “honestly” a shit ton, and then we both rejected those guys out-right in favor of laughing with each other because: Really, they believe our friendship is that fragile and frivolous?

☁︎

In Taylor Swift’s interview with GQ she said, “I honestly think my lack of female friendships in high school and middle school is why my female friendships are so important now…because I always wanted them.” And I remember thinking in response: Saaaaaame, girl. Just, I’m at this point in my life where I finally have the female friendships that I always dreamed of; female friends who say things like I love you, and I’m sorry, and are sincere.

Truly.

My. friends. are. so. special.

Mystical enchantresses of everything.

They all show me things about the world and myself that I know I would never be able to recognize on my own; they’re all better than me—emotionally generous in a way that I can never appreciate enough. You see, they protect my heart as if it were their own, and even more importantly, they tell me when I’m being an unappreciative bitch—they force me to have fun, even when it seems like everything’s falling apart.

Like, it’s just true: being a girl in her twenties feels exactly like the song “22”: Happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time / It’s miserable and magical… And when I was 22, and still naïve to just how cruel some guys can be, I remember, one night Emily A.—who hardly knew me at the time—saw tears welling up in my eyes (I cry a lot, in case you haven’t noticed) and she immediately snapped at me, “STOP IT,” the verbal equivalent to a slap in the face, “YOU STOP IT RIGHT NOW! I’M NOT DOING THAT WITH YOU TONIGHT! HE’S A PUSSY BITCH AND YOU’RE THE HOTTEST EVER! YOU’RE GOING TO LOOK THE OTHER WAY AND SMILE LIKE YOU’RE HAVING FUN BECAUSE I LOVE YOU AND EVERYBODY LOVES YOU!”

Then she grabbed me by the hand and pulled me into a taxi full of dudes who were impressed by my Sriracha to grilled cheese ratio and didn’t bother me when I fell asleep on their wet-dog and spaghetti scented couch. That night, I dreamt I was best friends with Lumpy Space Princess, until morning, when Emily woke me up by strumming on a guitar and singing, “WHOSE PANTS ARE THESE?” in a French accent. We both laughed so hard I couldn’t be sad anymore. And that’s just it—if there’s one thing Emily A. has taught me, it’s the art of not caring.

And then there’s Keri…

I am convinced that Keri singlehandedly kept me alive when I was 19, the year I was the most depressed and anxious I’ve ever been. She took aimless walks with me at three in the morning, she got me hot n’ spicies during a tornado warning, she watched me cry into a plate of eggs over absolutely nothing. And, for a time, she was the only person who made me genuinely happy, because, with her, nothing was ever boring—she was always ready to go, go go…to go stargazing, to smoke hookah after hours in a T-shirt shop, to walk on ice, to kick vodka bottles into the woods and scream, “I WANT TO BELIEVE!!!!!” after a weird green light appeared in the sky…

And, yes, we’ve gotten into ruthless fights before, fights like Marnie and Hannah from Girls. The kinds of fights where we both totally wanted to scream at each other, back and forth, “You’re the wound!” — “No, you’re the wound!” *chucks tooth brush* — *slams door* Until, finally, we’d get so envious of each other that we’d have to set each other free, because that’s the rule: If you love something… And then all the time we’d spend apart, we’d spend idealizing each other, until finally we wouldn’t be able to take it anymore, until finally someone would wind up saying: I’m sorry, I love you. And the other would respond: I’m so glad you said that…

Keri has taught me that it’s okay to be both happy and depressed; she’s taught me that it’s okay to be complicated, and to not apologize for it; to be a walking contradiction with no defined edges. She’s taught me how to say no to people who aren’t good for me, to say no to people who are only an insult to the strange and neurotic person that I am. And I love her, I love her for sharing a unique sadness with me, a sadness that left us laughing in her bed after a long night out, taking turns reciting Lorde lyrics in a vain attempt to cure our hangovers: You’re the only friend I need — Sharing beds like little kids — We’ll laugh until our ribs get tough — But that will never be enough…

Or there’s Emily B., who I woke up next to on a twin bed between a kitten and a Hot Wheels track, and when I looked over she was staring at the ceiling, musing about the latest dickhead, “Pretty sure he was conceived anally…” I buried my face into the pillow because, “REALLY THAT’S YOUR FIRST THOUGHT IN THE MORNING?!” and we laughed for ten minutes straight. We laughed down the hallway because, Why is there a toilet in the hallway? And we kept laughing through the doorway because, Why do I feel like we’re in an insane asylum? We laughed as we opened our eyes to a street that was too bright, and we giggled as I put the key into the ignition and said it once more, “Conceived anally. What the fuck is wrong with you?” Then we listened to “New Romantics” the whole way home and sang along to every word because we get it, we are the new romantics, we’re free and that’s what the best people in life are: The best people in life are free, goddammit. It’s so true! Emily B. has taught me to love recklessly in spite of being recklessly rejected, to wake up everyday and replace heartache with a punch line like: “Tell him you changed your number back to 1-800-YOU WISH…”

And Rachel, Rachel who I do basic bitch shit with, like going to Fredonia and realizing how jaded by life we are, because: QUAD NIGHT IS MAGICAL! *takes four shots of fireball* Rachel, who for Christmas, I gave one of those annoying home décor signs that says something cheesy like: Best friends are like stars…except, the one I gave her said something a little more applicable, it said: A good friend knows all your stories, but a best friend helps you write them. I swear, the moment I saw it I knew it belonged to her, because ever since we awkwardly got coffee together: This feels like a date. — I know, right? — How do girls make friends without being weird? — There should be an app for girl gangs, she has been present in all my essays, some smart thing she said always being the turning point…

Our conversations are the kind that last so long my mouth goes dry, and every time I walk away from her, I walk away enlightened. There’s so much I never would have realized without her, but I think the number one thing she’s taught me is this:

It’s not all in your head. I feel it, too.

☁︎

I have the line: You will never know why, tattooed on my rib. It’s from a Deerhunter song that’s all about letting go, which, I know, it’s ironic that I got a tattoo about letting go—

What hangs on longer than a tattoo?

Not a whole lot.

I know.

But, regardless, I got it because I want to remember to embrace what I can’t change, and what I don’t understand; to accept that not everyone will come with an explanation for why they are the way they are, and that’s okay. They don’t owe me that; the world doesn’t owe me that…

Getting to know someone is a gift; someone letting you into his or her life is a gift. And sometimes, you don’t get it from the people you want, or you don’t get to keep it, and more often than not, you never find out why, which is painful.

It always is.

I’ve always believed that: I want to know you, is the most vulnerable and romantic thing you can say to anyone, so, it’s painful when that desire isn’t matched. It’s painful when your OPEN sign’s flashing and someone chooses to walk right past you like: Nah, that place just isn’t for me. It’s painful, and it’s sad, but eventually—

You’ve got to let it go and remember how many people love you; you’ve got to remember how many people walk into your life and do more than just visit; you have to remember the ones who stay.

And my female friends (and some of the guy ones, too) are the ones who stay. They are the ones who accept me, even when I’m depressed, and angry, and eyebrow-less. They are the ones who haven’t shied away from being a part of my life because; they love me for what makes me foolish. They love me because my life is one vicious cycle of heartache and laughter, of kissing strangers and crying my eyelashes off. They love me for the ways that I love because it’s similar to all the ways that they love—recklessly and stupidly and hilariously…

They are the ones who keep my spirit indestructible; all the reasons I look like a love-struck emoji in pictures.

They are the ones who remind me, constantly: Never settle, unless you meet someone who walks in the room and knocks you the fuck out.

They’re the ones who, when I arrive morose and tired from the latest rejection, slap me in the face with the reality of what I deserve and don’t deserve, and then, all at once, make me laugh.

Just,

being close to them makes me remember who I am,

and when I look at them,

I don’t know how to feel anything but grateful,

like:

Thank you; thank you so much for never making me pretend to be less than I am.

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