Dedicated to my long-time best swiftie friend and namesake, Luíza.
TW // mentions of eating disorders
I’m an English teacher with an Architecture degree, but, as a side thing, I study fandoms. I’ve identified myself as a fan of things ever since I was a very young person; because of that, I take the moniker of “fan” very seriously. So, in the strictest sense, I am not a Taylor Swift fan; I am, however, a 26-year-old who grew up with her songs in the back of my early teenage and young adult years. I watched her adorable music video for “You Belong With Me” almost every day on TV back in 2009, enough times for me to enjoy the song, and know the lyrics by heart, and resort to them when the guy I liked in the first year of High School ended up dating my prettiest friend.
Eu achava interessante como, no clipe, Taylor lutava pelo rapaz que amava contra uma versão morena dela mesma. Quando eu tinha cerca de 6 anos de idade, estava no ar a novela “O Cravo e a Rosa”, inspirada na história de “A Megera Domada”, de Shakespeare. Meu cabelinho chanel, minha língua grande e minha irmãzinha caçula de cabelo loiro cacheado me renderam o apelido de Catarina por muitos anos, que eu passei a detestar depois que li a peça no Ensino Fundamental. Eu sonhava em renascer como uma Bianca, doce e amável — alguém como a Taylor, a garota mais bonita que eu já havia visto na altura dos meus 14 anos. Na minha cabeça, ela era alguém com quem eu nunca poderia me comparar; mas, nos quatro minutinhos daquela música, enquanto ela cantava sobre ser uma perdedora, mas ser aquela que realmente entendia o rapaz, eu conseguia acreditar que nós podíamos ser tão parecidas, quase as mesmas.
Sadly for me, I sang this song to two consecutive guys in High School; just as the first one never woke up and found that what he was looking for had been there the whole time (me), neither did the second one. Back then, it felt like the end of the world, but it was just the beginning. My senior year was a very complicated one, because, after the rejections of the year before, I was led to believe that, if I looked skinny like my pretty friend, maybe things would have been different, maybe he would have picked me. I stopped eating, developing an eating disorder that would follow me into the next decade. Rejection followed too; the other guy spent a year playing with my heart, as he went on and off with another girl from our class, and I had “You Belong With Me” on repeat again. I felt bitter about rejection, but, somehow, I ended up being regarded as “the prettiest girl” at prom, a type of compliment I had never dreamed about, let alone after being turned down in front of the whole class for a year. But it seemed that, whatever people couldn’t see about me before, had come out when I became very skinny, and, in my head, skinny pretty and worthy of being loved were the same.
I started university the same week I turned 17, very young, very skinny, and somehow very proud. My arrogance almost led me into a trap — I was approached by one of my seniors, who was 25 at the time. He was an avid reader of everything I enjoyed, knowledgeable about music and Italian cuisine and vintage clothing, and he made me feel important, and seen, and so mature. Looking from the outside, it seemed like a perfect scenario for a disaster, but after a couple of weeks he just turned out to be the dullest guy I had ever met. After wasting my three years of high school on guys that weren’t really worthy of my time, I wasn’t interested in repeating the same mistake (not that quickly), so I just cut him off, to his absolute displeasure. Around a month later, when he was still making sad posts about missing “someone” so much, the anthemic “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” came out. I had this song on repeat for months, spinning with youthful joy to its circular melody as I enjoyed having just ditched a bullet.
The sensibility I had shown proved to be a one-time thing very soon, not once, but repeatedly; at some point in late 2012 I tweeted that “Taylor Swift gets her heart broken five times a year”, but such a joke could only be made by someone whose heart was also getting broken left and right. Around that late 2012, the day after Christmas, barely weeks after that tweet, I fell for the guy that sold me a book about Renaissance in a bookshop, and it took me nearly five years to completely get over him, even as I was getting crushed by others along the way. We both loved the same bands, he loved my favourite YA book series, and our birthdays were two days apart; he had an unresolved teenage infatuation with James Bond, the same way I had one with Batman. The months we spent together gave me some of my sweetest memories, the little things that are worth holding even as memories fade. When he left me for someone else, I stayed up all night crying, and the sadness I felt stayed with me for the months that followed, to the end of 2013 into 2014. When I first played Taylor’s “Red”, I wanted to know what a song titled after my favourite colour would sound like, and it sounded just like I felt at the time — “but moving on from him is impossible // when I still see it all in my head // in burning red”. I had the song, and the full “Red” album on constant repeat that specific weekend, one of the many that I spent working at my uni’s Architecture studio room.
All that repeating should’ve taught me better than it did; in September 2013, I tweeted about people whose proximity made me hear Taylor singing in my head “trouble, trouble, trouble”; had I given her ears, I would have avoided yet another year of emotional waste. I became fascinated by this guy that was an acquaintance of my friends. Everything about him screamed that I shouldn’t come too close, but I ignored it, because I was stupidly attracted to being challenged by danger. I don’t remember exactly how we became close, but he was so alluring that I started writing poems about him, and I posted them under a specific tag in my blog (and they’re all still here). In many ways, he behaved like some sort of cult movie character, and he gave me room to play the role of one, too; we exchanged songs all day long, I left small paper notes on the way he took to go home, and I brought him a little lion figure from a trip, because he had curly hair, and a t-shirt from his favourite movie. I got a kiss from him once, and then it took me another half a year to learn he had been seeing someone else – “he was long gone when he met me”. He liked the post of the farewell poem I wrote, and I was glad to know he knew how much I despised how he had played with me.
I was, however, becoming very needy, and I wasn’t clever enough to realise I should never go out of my way for someone the way I did for him. The disappointment that followed ended up being the hardest one, because we actually stayed together for a longer time. This guy wasn’t particularly interested in me, but he enjoyed my attention. We were the same age, but he was two years my junior at uni, and we got closer talking about faith and music. I wrote him a poem too, and bought him a bunch of books that he never read. The first time we broke up was months after “Shake It Off” was released; I cried a lot, and danced twice as much, to shake him off me — “Heartbreakers gonna break, break, break, break, break”… But it ultimately didn’t really work, because we got back together. It took almost a year going on-and-off until he kind of realised he could like me. I thought he was so precious that all the hard work I was doing for him to fall in love with me was worth it. I made him many cute playlists, either with Taylor’s “Mine”, or Glee’s beautiful version by Naya Rivera — “you are the best thing that’s ever been mine”. For the first time, I really wanted to marry someone, but we would have to get through the year I was supposed to spend studying in England first… And we didn’t.
Being away from him made me realise how worn out from working for love I had become, to the point that it made us grow distant, until eventually breaking up over FaceTime. I wasn’t sad whatsoever; I felt free. Trying to become the girl he wanted, who looked, dressed up and behaved a way he found desirable, had crushed me, but now I was in my dream country, and I had time to find myself again. I lived right next to Leicester City’s home stadium, and that year we had the word “Fearless” written all over the city, because it was the season the fearless foxes won the league. I revisited Taylor’s “Fearless” countless times, eventually tying it up to the cute worship leader that kept me from focusing on Jesus at my local British church. He gave me a lift to my student court every week after our small groups, and we had so much fun, and at some point I thought he was just as distracted by me too. “In this moment now, capture it, remember it”. He was sweet, but we weren’t going anywhere. I was really upset about it for a while, and I returned to Brazil still feeling a bit sad, but the hurt passed rather quickly, and I kept a lot more good than bad. Somehow, I thought that falling in love in England would be beautiful, but now I see that he was right not to let me get closer. Luckily, I kept the nice friend. He was the one who proofread every text in English I posted in 2016.
Back in Brazil, I felt like I had reached some sort of roof with all those failed attempts, and I was ready for a long single season. It doesn’t feel like a long time ago, but I was only 21, which is significantly younger than 26. I certainly did not live up to my promise – I was already in love and hurting again before I even turned 22. This time felt different, though; it didn’t really amount to anything other than hurt (spoiler!) so I guess I was just feeling a bit of that bitterness that comes with just how serious everything starts to look and feel like after you become more of an adult and less of a teenager. He was by far the most interesting person I’d met, and we clicked intellectually in the way I’d always dreamed I would click with someone. We became very good friends through books, music and politics, and I got enough mixed signs to hang around for two full years. In my head, he was a real Superman, just like the one Taylor sings about — flying and saving the world while I was alone at home, finishing my degree, and figuring out what to do next. “I’ll be right here on the ground // when you come back down”. That was 2017, the year her catalogue came back to Spotify, in August. “Superman”made it to my end-of-year most listened list, as well as “Sparks Fly”, which got second place overall. “Red” also showed up.
Falling out of love with Superman was tough, because I had some odd hope I should keep on sticking around, because he was worth it — “I’m captivated by you baby // like a fireworks show”. I had been rejected way too many times at that point, but that one was different; I had met someone who seemed to be all that I had thought that would be good for me to have, and I had offered all of the very best I had, all of the very best I was, and it wasn’t enough. I’m still moving on from that feeling, and, sadly, it takes time. I was coming to terms with having to force myself to get over him when the guy from the bookshop that I still had in the back of my mind got in touch with me. He wanted to apologise for leaving me hanging for all those years. To be honest, I didn’t really need that closure, and I told him so, but I could finally let go of my love for the flashes and echoes of our time together that came to me once in a while. In a way, I also think that made me long for putting an end to things that shouldn’t drag. I sent Superman an email a few weeks later, the exact day it turned two years since the first time we met. And, then, my heart was empty and I was alone with myself (but with a Bachelor’s degree).
I wish I could tell you about how the following year sounded like “I Forgot That You Existed”, but it didn’t – it was miserable, in many ways. I had put on a lot of weight over the year before, writing my Bachelor’s Thesis, and all the thoughts that had followed me since my senior year came back – because, now that I had put on weight, whatever people could see in me wouldn’t be visible anymore. My confidence was at an all-time low, but, even as a sad graduate, I made myself time to have fun. I closely followed the release of “Me!”, not just because I’ve been a Panic! fan for many years, but also because I wanted to see if it would surpass the first 24-hour views of BTS’s “Boy with Luv”, which had been released exactly two weeks before. At this all-time low, that’s when I started studying fandoms as a side thing, and that’s the reason I ended up on a plane to London by the end of the year, to attend an academic conference. It was my first time in the UK since 2016; I couldn’t meet the worship leader that distracted me four years ago, but I met my couple of (now married) best friends, some sweet internet friends, and even some friends from university. One of them was a cute, genius young Architect I had a platonic crush on back in 2016. Two days before he left the UK to go back to his own country for the Summer, he told me he had a crush on me too. Once in a while, over the years, I would think about him, and wonder if anything would have been different if we had spoken to each other earlier. Meeting him again was sweet. We had a pint together before I flew back. At the time, Taylor still hadn’t released “folklore”, but when she did, I still had our fun, light conversation stuck in my head, the one thing I think the most about when I hear “the 1” — “if one thing had been different // would everything be different today?”. He’s in a happy relationship now, and I wish him all the best, because he’s the best guy I know, and being happy about him makes me feel better about the rest.
I also wish I could tell a story with a happier ending, but the best I have is “And no one has been in my heart ever since”. But don’t get me wrong, I don’t see myself as a victim here. I’ve been unlucky so far, in a way, but, at the end of the day, I’m just a person who took too long to realise she would do better things in life besides dating the guys she was obsessed with at every season. Believe me or not, this is just half of my stories; there’s a lot more drama, and even more stupid guys, and maybe one or two that were worth the trouble, and a bunch of stuff that was wrong on my end too (but to which Taylor wasn’t singing along in the back — maybe one day I could also write about what Electra Heart has to say about my series of unfortunate love events). There is a debatable value to storing up so many love stories, but I do enjoy recounting the stupid stuff I did, like a third-person watching a character making wrong moves, wishing they could tell them what comes next. Maybe it’s just a coping mechanism, but it works.
But I think what I’ve been through makes me happier for Taylor, and not only because she succeeded in building an empire out of her heartbreaks: witnessing her stories with friends and lovers as told by the media, having my own share of struggles along the way, even as a non-fan, makes me feel a certain way when she sings “hell was the journey, but it brought me heaven”. She was 30 when she released this. I was 25 when I first heard it, the age I always said I wanted to get married. As an unmarried 26-year-old, I sometimes feel the weight of my 20s passing, and the struggle of rethinking what it meant to be young and hopeful back at 18, and what it means now. It doesn’t always feel like a long time (and it’s not), but this is probably easier to figure out as you get older. Whenever I recount my love stories, surprised at my own stupidity, I realise that only some people are given the gift of getting a happy ending out of their foolishness. On the other hand, I’m glad none of these men that made me suffer amounted to anything else in my life, because the trick is the realisation that I was chasing after the ones that didn’t really belong with me. Funnily enough, one of them ended up marrying the girl he rejected me for, and they’ve just become parents. Maybe I should send his baby a present too.