Romance is dead, Taylor
I grew up a die-hard Swiftie. So, inevitably, I grew up idealizing the kind of love that was hopelessly romantic and painfully heartbreaking. I’d strut down the stairs of my house imagining the view from a grand balcony, belting the iconic bridge of Taylor Swift’s Love Story with my next door neighbor. I’d long for the day that I would turn Fifteen years old, so to get noticed by senior boys in the high school hallways. I was excited for first dates and dancing in the middle of parking lots. I couldn’t wait for my first heartbreak. I’d be lucky to be the stupid girl who should’ve known better. One day, I’d write to my own Dear John. I had become entirely infatuated with the romance of her albums until I realized that the love Taylor wrote about wasn’t for girls like me. It dawned on me that I had been idealizing the kind of love that was, more accurately, hopelessly white and painfully straight.
I became well aware of this fact when the seventh grade blonde-haired, blue-eyed love of my amateur life didn’t want to play his part in my fantasy of The Story Of Us. Taylor taught me a love that my adolescence proceeded to shatter, and my thirteen year old self was at a loss. At fifteen, she told me what to expect, but when the time came around, there was no one I could swear I’d marry someday. I wouldn’t get my You Belong With Me ending because I could barely get the attention of my boy next door. So by my junior year of high school, I got over my long time infatuation with Taylor Swift and — what I now understand to be — the most repulsive concept of love. In my experience with consistently missing the mark for the damsel in distress who finally gets her Romeo to the early nuances of the digital age, Taylor taught me about romance at the brink of its societal death. Distraught and bitter, I decided Swift’s music was not for me anymore.
I’m older now, with a little more experience under my wing, so I’m better equipped to handle Taylor’s recently announced re-recording of her old albums that taught me so much about what love was not. But I can’t help but wonder if Taylor would be storytelling romance the way she does if she had been a teen in the era of dating apps and trying to find love at six feet apart. Romance began to die as early as Taylor Swift started writing about it, and with every generation of awkward, lovesick young adults navigating the increasingly obstacle-ridden dating world, her work drifts farther and farther away from reality. Instead, she leaves us with the perfect escapism that can be occasionally reconciled with my hostile aversion to romance. I know that’s entirely cynical, and maybe something is still out there because, clearly, Swift is still drawing inspiration from it even amid a pandemic.
But for right now, I’m firmly holding onto Platonism. Among other things, the Greek philosopher Plato had his own rationality for passion and love. While the term was not coined by the philosopher himself, platonic love is that which transcends carnal attraction to bodies to attraction of the souls. Plato sees the latter relation far more valuable. According to him, the most worthwhile form of love is one that is not interrupted by sexual desires. While there are many flaws with his ancient theory, I can’t help but resonate with his basic idea. It isn’t any kind of philosophical breakthrough that love beyond sex is more meaningful, and the romance Taylor speaks so fondly of firmly upholds this slowly fading ideal. In fact, Taylor’s hopeless narrative hardly fits into today’s dating scene at all. The era of hookup culture and narcissistic dating apps vividly emulates Plato’s definition of carnality, so why even bother to make it out to be more than that? Remember Taylor, romance is dead.
So instead, I’m reveling in my platonic affairs. Now, I trade in my middle school romanticism, heartbreak and the returning of an ex-lover’s old scarf for more refined experiences like sitting on the bathroom floor of my apartment with my best friend, listening to All Too Well reconciling our own non-romantic experiences of heartbreak. In moments like those, I’ll take platonic love over anything. Because this time, when I hear “Love Story,” I’m not fantasizing about reckless teen love and white dresses. I’m screaming the words with my roommate, fully aware that no romantic other can make us feel as content as we do in that moment.
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