I’ve got a song stuck in my head, an overplayed, regular rotation, radio pop song, and I’m not too upset by this.
Keep in mind I have been a Deadhead since about 1966, and that I got taken to the first Beatles concert in Toronto because my parents reasoned that it would be impossible to get a babysitter that night since everyone they knew was going, and you might well surmise that I am full of chagrin, but I’m not.
Because it’s actually one of the more truthful pop sings I’ve heard in years.
It’s called “Blank Space” and it’s by Taylor Swift.
I know, right? Not at all the kind of thing I normally listen to (it is a minor miracle that it imprinted onto my consciousness at all) and certainly not what most of my friends think of as “Morgan music”.
There are a lot of reasons I like this song.
One of them is that she is laughing at herself.
I admire anyone with as much privilege as this girl has who can see into herself and see the humour in her own behavior. It’s actually refreshing, considering how many songwriters mythologize their own shortcomings into special virtues, or at the tender age of 20 write those really arrogant, world-weary, advice songs and expect them to ever be relevant six minutes later.
But I also like this song because there’s a core insight in there.
We all behave badly, and never more badly that in our first decade or so of forays into love and relationships. Not just “selfishly/ignorantly badly”, either. We were, especially in our late teens, card-carryingly and mind-numbingly awash in bad behaviours.
We were, to a man and woman, at some point, so insanely, crazily, certifiable-nuts/behaving badly that there is still someone out there paying for the therapy we made them need.
I did it.
You did it.
Don’t say you didn’t.
You don’t know whether what seemed to the seventeen-year-old you was the height of reasonable, measured, rational action(s) were not the ravings of a drooling lunatic axe-murderer of the heart, to someone else.
You don’t know how your carefully-pitched, it’s-not-you-it’s-me break-up speech landed on the psyche of that fifteen-year-old on the receiving end.
And to cap it off, we all make sure to arrange our memories to cast ourselves in the best light possible. We don’t intend to lie, not really, but we do: we deceive ourselves, because otherwise, it can be very hard to continue on in life.
A lot of it is hormones. All sexes are awash in chemical tsunamis from puberty into the mid-twenties. Emotionally, every one of us are short-fuse firecrackers looking for the ignition switch, and – sardonically, and possibly with malice aforethought – Nature has arranged that to coincide with a deep need to start pairing up.
We do a lot of damage, both to the people we try to pair up with and to ourselves, but most of us grow past that.
Both sides of the equation (being the object of craziness and being the purveyor of crazy) are normal. Maybe they are even necessities, as we work out what it is we need or want in ourselves and in others.
It is not, in the end, something to be overly ashamed of, either, unless you are in your thirties and so not-self-aware that you’re still doing it to people, or letting people do it to you.
But I enjoy the song because somehow, despite the absolute cringeworthiness of the accompanying video (all hot, rich people with hot, expensive cars – the takeaway being that you can get away with being horrible to people only if you are wealthy and pretty) it holds that universal experience up to the pitiless light of day and laughs at it.
That’s not a small thing, these days.