Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Dear Taylor Swift...

Oddly enough, it was several several years ago in Vermont that I first paid any attention to you.  My husband and I decided to take an afternoon off and drive an hour north on a beautiful summer afternoon.  We ended up in a little cafe for iced coffee and cookies. They happened to be playing some sort of a documentary or extended news story featuring you there on the TV which hung in the corner near the ceiling. You must have still been a teenager then.

I remember thinking that I was supposed to disdain you, to think you were some silly, girly, flash-in-the-pan pop star.  Those were the murmurings I had heard. But I was drawn in by what I saw, impressed by what I learned.  You were intelligent, creative, tenacious, hard-working, kind, funny, and strong. You still are.

A few years later, my then small daughter grew into a tween and got interested in you and your music.  Now she's a full-fledged teenager and still a devoted fan. She gets made fun of for this by some of her friends and others, but the more I learn about you and your music, I'm not sure why. Actually, that's not quite true.  I think I do know why.
Kayla was pretty excited about her new RED hoodie last Christmas.
Listening to your music while wearing your hoodie (sort of) while drawing in her new sketch book.
And because my daughter adores you, I've done some research and learned a few things about you for myself. For example, you love your parents and appreciate all they did to nurture you. You are kind and gracious in the face of unwarranted criticism.  (That Kanye West thing....and your song about the Ellen Show on the Ellen Show are just two of many examples) You are more interested in your art than your fame. You dress modestly, and aren't afraid to embrace and highlight your femininity. (And there's the reason I think people love to hate you.  They don't know what to do with a strong, yet beautifully feminine woman.) You are generous with your wealth. You are authentic and honest.  You know your own strengths and gifts and aren't afraid to pursue them.  You consider others, but you are not a people-pleaser in the negative sense. You don't take yourself too seriously. Your style doesn't change to reflect what the culture demands. You are genuinely surprised at your fame and accolades, humble and human.
You are yourself, no apologies.

Thank you for these things that you are, that somehow you choose to be. They are things I want for my daughter ~ a confidence in herself because she is created uniquely ~ in the image of God Himself, we believe.

Funny how being a fan of yours gives her an opportunity to live out that confidence. Funny how it is, for my daughter, similar to being a Christian, something that is also misunderstood and mocked quite a lot around here.  She learns to take a gentle, firm stand on her respect and love for you (and other things unique to her), and at the same time, as strange as it may sound, she learns to do the same for her Lord.

Due to my extensive research, I have now also come to adore you (I really don't know who wouldn't after an honest evaluation) as well as your music. (Not everyone has to love your music, of course, but in my book, they should at least respect you.)  I was hopelessly devoted to Olivia Newton John all throughout my childhood, so it seems like the natural course of things to also love you in my forties. I may have even taken several solo road trips in the last few years to various New England cities, airports, friends' houses in which I secretly made sure my daughter's iPod was still connected to my minivan stereo, so that I could crank "Red" and sing "All Too Well" over and over at the top of my lungs. That's my current favorite song of yours (with "Begin Again" and "Everything Has Changed" as close seconds), and you performed it ALL TOO WELL at the Grammy's this year.

Speaking of your music, thank you for your lyrics.  They are not often sexual, but when they are, they reflect honestly the powerful and addictive nature of sex, like in "Treacherous."
"And I'd be smart to walk away, but you're quicksand.
This slope is treacherous, this path is reckless
This slope is treacherous, and I, I, I like it
I can't decide if it's a choice, getting swept away..."
Yes, we all get pulled by the gravity of that treacherous slope at some point in our lives.  Thank you for being honest and telling my daughter that it's just that ~ treacherous ~ and you'd "be smart to walk away." It helps me to talk with her about how difficult it is to walk away once there, and that she can make a decision regarding "getting swept away" particularly if she doesn't place herself in tempting situations.

And thank you for lyrics that reflect how a man ought to properly treat a woman. "Trouble" illustrates that in a negative way, but gets a pertinent point across:
"Once upon a time a few mistakes ago, I was in your sights, you got me alone
You found me, you found me, you found me
I guess you didn't care, and I guess I liked that, and when I fell hard, you took a step back
Without me, without me, without me...
And he's long gone when he's next to me, and I realize the blame/joke is on me 
'Cause I knew you were trouble when you walked in"  
It's so true, Taylor.  So many women fall for unavailable, insensitive, selfish guys, because they don't know their own worth, and so I'm glad you also sing about the good guys, like in "Begin Again":
"Walked in expecting you'd be late, but you got here early and you stand and wave, I walk to you
You pull my chair out and help me in, and you don't know how nice that is, but I do
And you throw your head back laughing like a little kid
I think it's strange that you think I'm funny 'cause he never did
and I've been spending the last eight months thinking all love ever does is break and burn and end
But on a Wednesday in a cafe, I watched it begin again"
A cafe date? On a Wednesday?  He pulled out your chair? Thanks for showing girls everywhere what they deserve, what they should expect.

And I love it that you mention family so often, Taylor.  When I first heard the song, "The Best Day," I said skeptically to my daughter in the passenger seat, "I certainly hope Taylor is talking about her mom here."

 "She is, Mom," she happily replied.
"I'm thirteen now and don't know how my friends could be so mean
I came home crying and you hold me tight and grab the keys
And we drive and drive till we found a town far enough away
And we talk and window shop until I forgot all their names"
And it was confirmed that you were talking about your love for your family when you say this:
"I have an excellent father, his strength is making me stronger
God smiles on my little brother, inside and out, he's better than I am
I grew up in a pretty house and I had space to run
And I had the best days with you"
Thank you for showing my daughter how cool it is to love and appreciate your family.

And thank you for showing her that other families also like to pull out embarrassing childhood photos:
"Photo album on the counter, your cheeks were turning red
You used to be a little kid with glasses in a twin-sized bed
And your mother's telling stories about you on the tee ball team
You tell me 'bout your past thinking your future is me"
~ All Too Well
Hanging out with your boyfriend's family at his house and talking about normal life ~ how refreshing!

And I even love your unapologetic portrayal of a woman's desire to be a beautiful bride, to be married, sacrificed for, and settled into a future with one man.
"Romeo, save me, I've been feeling so alone
I keep waiting for you but you never come
Is this in my head? I don't know what to think
He knelt to the ground and pulled out a ring and said
'Marry me, Juliet. You'll never have to be alone
I love you and that's all I really know.
I talked to your dad ~ go pick out a white dress
It's a love story, baby,  just say, "Yes"'"
~ Love Story
While I will have to emphasize that getting married will never complete my daughter, nor should it be her ultimate goal, I'm thankful that the desire is validated somewhere in a culture that thinks it either an unnecessary, irrelevant institution or advocates for its aberration ~ which is sort of ironic when you think about it.

And I know they make fun of you for your supposed "serial dating," but as you responded to Tina Fey in a Vogue interview, it's only been two guys since 2010.
So... "don't you worry your pretty little mind.  People throw rocks at things that shine."
~ Ours
It's so true, Taylor, people are so ready to throw stones, and you handle it with lots of grace and humility.  And speaking of those who mock you, it's also true that women are the worst misogynists. The WORST. Let me apologize for that.  It has nothing to do with you and everything to do with their own jealousy. The thing is, you understand that, and it's part of what enables you to rise above those petty, catty situations.  One of those totally uncalled for criticisms occurred recently when you wore this outfit.
Seems other women didn't like that you chose a vintage, modest, DRESS.  I mean, what are you trying to do ~ repress our sexual freedom by covering your body and wearing something too "feminine."  I think the confusing rule goes something like ~ one or the other, but please, not both. Thank you for not listening to the mixed messages, Taylor.  Thank you for being a lady, dressing like one, and sending the message that it's okay.

The song that sort of "sealed the deal" for me regarding your worthiness of my daughter's affection was "Fifteen."  I want to thank you for being honest and bold enough to write this song.  There is so much truth in it.
"Cause when you're fifteen and somebody tells you they love you
You're gonna believe them
And when you're fifteen and your first kiss makes your head spin around
But in your life you'll do things greater than dating the boy on the football team
But I didn't know it at fifteen
When all you wanted was to be wanted
Wish you could go back and tell yourself what you know now
Back then I swore I was gonna marry him someday
But I realized some bigger dreams of mine
And Abigail gave everything she had to a boy who changed his mind
And we both cried..."
I spend quite a bit of time with women who "gave everything she had to a boy" and they regret it, are completely broken over it. Somehow, though, when the secular, pop culture world reinforces the biblical truth from the screen and stage, it helps those who might not be fully convinced of what God Himself has been gently teaching for eternity: casual sex is an oxymoron. When the message comes from you, even subtly, it encourages girls to hold on to something they probably already know deep down, since the law of God is written on their hearts.  I think you might even be aware of this, coming from a Presbyterian church-going family.

I'm just so thankful that you tell the truth.  So many in your business lie about the consequences of promiscuous, outside-of-marriage sex, glorifying the thing that so often brings shame and destruction.

So, my sincerest thanks to you.  That my daughter has chosen you as her favorite celebrity and pop culture role model is, so far, fine by me, because of your choices and message.  I say "so far," though, because time has a way of testing things, and you are still young.  But you also started young, very young in fact, and you've maintained a rare consistency in that amount of time. I pray it will only continue and grow. More than that, I pray, as does my daughter, that you will come to know, in a deeply personal, saving way, the God who has granted you these gifts, this grace.
Hi Taylor!  Warmest greetings from chilly-in-December-Massachusetts!
Yes, we adore you, Taylor, and wish, as all your fans do, that we could be among your BFFs. Keep doing what you do best, and know there's a mama and a daughter pulling for you, enjoying you, and praying God's best for you.

Sincerely,
Melanie

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