Autumn Leaves and Taylor Swift Feelings
"Am I ...Taylor Swift?" I texted my best friend, Laura. I was watching All To Well (the short film) through squinted eyes as if I could sieve the emotional impact by blurring my vision.
The parallels were too acute. she has red hair. I have red hair. Then he is gaslighting, and I pause the film.
"Tell me how it ends, I can't make it through that kitchen scene," I tell Laura.
"They make up & kiss more, then during a verse he breaks up with her, she cries a lot on her bed for a verse, then it fast forwards to 13 years later & there is a book signing with a stage & camera reveals it’s Taylor playing herself now but with red hair & she is reading from a book called All Too Well & everyone in the audience is having all the feels. Then the camera pans and you see the back of the head of the guy watching her give the reading through the window of the bookstore and it’s snowing and he’s wearing the red scarf that she left. So yeah I can see why that all would be a bit close for you."
She meant that I had fallen in love, the relationship ended as smoothly as it does in All Too Well and I wrote a mini memoir about it, then a few award winning essays, then I published a book, which I'm now adapting into a screenplay. It wasn't just that I related to the experience itself, I could also relate to the part where you make your art about it. Taylor wrote a 10 minute song, then turned it into a short film, then went on to perform the ten minute version live, and release an even sadder version of the same song. There's an interview where she describes how sad it was for her to sing the song at first, but the fans singing the lyrics back to her changed her relationship to it. It became something that was between us. No longer about him.
"Yes. You and T Swift are the same and both the great feelings artists of our time," Laura said, generously, and sent me a Starbucks Taylor Swift gift card. "I remember (you like coffee) all too well." the note said.
Along with the millions of fans accessing the collective vinegar in our veins, embracing the bitterness we had been pressured to transcend, I cringed and gulped and finished watching the film. Pausing over specific lines to let feelings pass like breaking for a cattle crossing, massive beasts moving at a saunter. And then I exulted.
It was 13 degrees when I went to get my half-sweet caramel latte (Taylor's latte, Erin's version). I remembered something another friend had said to me after I'd been accused of being bitter by the lover all my stories have been about.
"Doesn't bitterness in plants serve as a defence mechanism against predators?"
Getting over things for practical, real-life reasons is one thing. But you can move on in your life and never forgive and never forget. A virtue has been made out of women not holding men accountable. It occurred to many of us that part of the intensity of our experience of this song had something to do with the fact that when it first came out, we were young, too. Like Taylor when she wrote it. And in the time that has passed, all of us had unlearned some of the internalized mysogyny that had kept us confused or quiet at the time. The boldness and clarity of the accusations in the song hit us right where we had craved boldness and clarity for ourselves, where some of us had since found it.
I'm an enneagram 4, and things that effect me at all are always happening to me emotionally. And I'm an artist. Which means, I am also the cause of what affects me. A red scarf becomes a RED SCARF, becomes a business strategy played out over a decade and perfectly executed. The fans get an emotional catharsis and she makes a boss move. We had permission to obsess, to overthink, to collectively never get over it, to make it art, to make it power, to see connections and messages in everything.
I posed, like a collective fluttering of leaves going: this is the right flavour for me to be about this. Bitter as coffee. Add caramel.