Thank you, Taylor Swift
I’m cashing in on this #KimExposedTaylorParty *drama* with something that I’m sure no one else is saying right now. No I’m not going to write about how woman-on-woman bashing is bringing down these feminist role models we’ve been made to idolize like lemmings (Taylor, Kim, Selena, Katy Perry, Demi, Camille Belle, Chloe, Khloe, geez any controversial female celebrity really). It’s not going to be about how we turn human beings with talent into idols who we then gleefully participate in ripping them down from the pedestal we’ve built for them (RIP Anne Hathaway). It’s not even about how much I am loving the GIFS coming out of the woodwork.
I would like to say thank you, Taylor Swift.
When Taylor rose from the ashes of her quaint Pennsylvania mansion and into the hearts of America, I was skeptical of her meteoric career by her second album. I found her lyrics overly sentimental and her persona kind of gag-worthy. She has some hits I really enjoy (listening to “Welcome to New York” while driving off the ferry to Long Island on a college break was a magical moment she contributed to), some I tolerate (“Out of the Woods”), and some I think are ugly and vindictive (“Bad Blood”). She’s been a culture influencer in some ways I’ve disliked (girl squad culture and that weird music video that kind of uses people as props) and some I’ve liked (she seems modest and sane as a role model). But even my vaguely hostile and cynical attitude has melted away in the past months. Yes, even in the light of the Kim K drama. And it’s all because of one little seven year old.
When I first met Paris, the day she came to our house on a temporary placement, she was six and I was twenty. Gap-toothed, curly hair, and scrappy as all get out, I didn’t know how my family was going to bond with her because as much as she’s adorable and became comfortable quickly, she was walled off. We soon discovered that this beautiful little girl wasn’t really a little girl, not truly. She had had her heart hardened in ways that people who haven’t been in the system will never understand. She was always on the look-out, never relaxed, worried about being moved yet again, and ever watching out for her older brother. It became truly heartbreaking when we discovered that Paris doesn’t let herself cry, because somewhere in her past crying was punished. How the hell could we love and support a child who didn’t have coping mechanisms beyond survival?
Enter “Love Story” by Taylor Swift.
I’m not sure exactly who figured out that this song is the key to her emotions, but for me, it was during a particular nasty fight over her needing to wear her seatbelt. P let out a ferocious roar “I DON’T NEED TO DO WHAT YOU SAY!” as she leapt into her carseat and buckled up with the anger of a tiny Hulk. I was frustrated and sad that we’d never have breakthrough with her until I heard her little voice in the backseat. I looked in the mirror and saw her singing with a grumpy frown on her face, the words sincere though, in a hilarious dichotomy.
“And my daddy said stay away from JuuUUUliet”
She sang the song with the emotion of a mini Whitney Houston, getting louder and louder, until we were both sing/yelling the last chorus. She slowly broke out into a smile as she said, “okay, now you sing it again”.
A pattern quickly formed. Whenever she threw a fit, a TSwift song was close behind. We started driving around with her CDs for any inevitable tantrum but even though it was her security blanket after she became upset, it quickly became all of our bond. We’d break out into songs while making dinner or have epic dances to her music videos. We’d look for more albums at the library and talk about what song is the best (it’s “Love Story” followed by “You Belong With Me” in case you don’t know the obvious). We’d joke that Paris loves Taylor Swift like her older brother loves Lecrae when they’d fight over who was better. She learned how to spell Taylor Swift to find her music on Youtube by herself.
Taylor Swift now feels as much a part of our daily routine as doing her hair or making the kids lunch.
Months later, her fervent love is going strong, so much so that when we talked to her about adoption and choosing a middle name that reclaims her past, a name she wants as a part of her identity as much as her new last name, she chose Taylor. Paris Taylor McMillan. My little sister.
Some day, Paris will be able to express herself from her brilliant jokes to addressing the trauma of her childhood. She’ll express her love and sorrow with tears and hugs. She’ll learn to cope.
And that all began with the lyrics “we were both young when I first saw you….”
So Taylor, even as you’re being blasted right now, more than any one person deserves, and who knows if the tides will turn against your career, your music made all the difference to one little girl and one family trying to love her the best we can.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
(Wanna show up on the day the adoption becomes official in August? Hahaha, but actually, Paris would die. Lemme know.)