“Well,” a friend said breathlessly as we sat down for a drink during the summer. “Did you get any tickets?” After registering my visible confusion, she rolled her eyes and muttered, with more than a hint of venom: “Oh, I forgot — you don’t like Taylor Swift.”
It was just one variation of a conversation I’ve had more times than I can count over the last few years. In case you hadn’t noticed, Swift’s superstardom has reached dizzying new heights: when she cancelled a performance in Rio this weekend after a fan died before her concert, it was headline news. And as a 24-year-old woman, with friends who are mostly also 24-year-old women, it is hard to overstate the extent to which I feel like a pariah because I’m not a fan.
Being a Swiftie is simply presumed to be a given in my social circles, like drinking alcohol or being vaguely Left-wing
It’s not like my friends are necessarily monolithic either — it is extraordinary how broad her sphere of influence is. Being a Swiftie is simply presumed to be a given in my social circles, like drinking alcohol or being vaguely Left-wing.
To be clear, I’m not bashing Swift. I don’t actively dislike her or her music (slightly boring would be my strongest critique), and there’s no doubt that she’s a very talented songwriter. On the contrary, I desperately want to like her. Not liking Swift makes me “not like other girls” — and I have always taken pride in being exactly like other girls.
It is also not lost on me that much of the criticism she has endured — digs at her relationships, the perennial accusation levelled at women of being “annoying” — are rooted in subtle misogyny. So rest assured, if any man tries to discredit her, I am the first to jump to her defence. But, in the safe space of my close friends, I allow myself to whisper the truth: that I just don’t get the hype.
I want to feel how they feel, but I can’t. Many a time, I have sat down and watched video after video of her performing, scrolled through endless comments, in an attempt to indoctrinate myself into the fandom. But each time I have come away feeling nothing.
Maybe I was born with a deficiency in some yet-to-be-discovered vital mid-twenties-female gene. Whatever the case, I’m sure Swift will manage just fine without me.
Emma Loffhagen is an Evening Standard writer