Monday, January 5, 2015

The things I learned from a Taylor Swift song (I can’t believe I’m admitting to this!)

Maybe it’s because I’ve been home with my girls all winter break - every minute of every hour of every day. And maybe because it’s also the rainy season here, and we’ve been stuck at home more times than I like. And maybe all that, plus the sugar overload from the holidays, is causing me to lose it a little. Or a lot.

Because these days, at any and every chance, I dance to Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off”. I can’t help it; I’m totally, completely, hopelessly hooked. We were in the car when the song came on the Disney radio station one day and Little Miss insisted that we kept it on even though any time Taylor Swift or Katy Perry came on, My Guy or I would switch stations.

We don’t do pop music. In fact, he’s a little bit of a music snob, having cultivated what he thinks is an acceptable taste, and over the years, I’ve learned to fine tune mine, and we both somehow decided that we’re just not going to roll the welcome mat out for pop music.

But then I had to ruin that by giving birth to not one but two girls, who destroyed our peaceful existence with “Let it Go” on repeat 55 times a day. And now we’re finding bits and pieces of Taylor Swift or Katy Perry infiltrating our house through the Pandora music app, even though we had carefully picked the “Kids Radio” station. How’s this kids’ music?! I need to have a word with the Pandora people.

I admit, once I actually really listened to the lyrics of “Shake it Off”, I was surprised at how quickly I warmed up to it. I think it’s because I remember being that girl in the song. Unlike the title, however, “Shake it Off”, is the the last thing I can do with it once it gets in my head. It’s on my mind constantly, and while I’d like to say it’s driving me up the wall, it isn’t. It makes me want to tap my fingers when I drive; it makes me want to shake my booty while I do the dishes; it makes me want to stop what I’m doing and just dance.

And sometimes I do.


And when the girls are around, we get down to it together.




And here I am dedicating an entire blog post to it. What is happening to me?!!!

I think I know. I think there’s a lesson or three to be learned here, now that I’m finally not just opening my ears to the song, but also my mind. So here it is, a short list of what I learned from a Taylor Swift song:

1. Dancing feels wonderful - I bet you didn’t know that the bouncer/bartender at the bar that I used to frequent in college nicknamed me “the dance machine”. That’s because instead of drinking or flirting, I spent most of my time on the dance floor. I didn’t care for partners; I’d just be grooving by myself - not in a “I’m sad and lonely” type of way, but more like “I don’t need a man by my side to have fun.” It was how I decompressed, how I felt alive, and it felt fantastic.

I’ve not hit the dance floor in...I don’t know the last time I actually went dancing, really. And I miss it. As Swift sings, “I'm dancing on my own; I make the moves as I go” and it brought it all back for me. I was that girl! Sometimes it feels amazing to just let yourself go (“Let it Go!” Argh!). Because I wanted my girls to know that part of me, one day, after my yoga class, when I couldn’t shake “Shake it Off” from my head, I decided to videotape (and perhaps preserve?) “the dance machine” that was still in me. I captured the stills of that video for this blog because I’ve not gone entirely off my rocker yet - not quite crazy enough to share my moment of madness here. Perhaps they’ll see it one day and roll their eyes at the spectacle - OHMYGOD MOM! - or perhaps they’ll see themselves in those moves – Hey, now I know where I get that from!

Yes, girls, you definitely didn’t get it from your daddy, I can assure you that.

2. Why not just have some fun?  - My Guy has a nickname in our house. He’s the “mushroom”, the ”fungi” because well, he is the “fun guy”. He gets the girls riled up with tickle fights and upside-downs and whirly-spins and fright fests, and they’re always hanging on to him, begging, “more, more, more daddy!” and I’m usually the “don’t forget to brush your teeth,” “please don’t screech in my ear,” “please chew with your mouth closed,” and “no more screen time for today” parent. I am the more serious, structure-following, plan-making parent and My Guy is the goofy, roll with the punches one. But when Pandora surprises us with “Shake it Off”, I drop whatever I’m doing and lose myself in “getting down to this sick beat” as the song blares. And it’s contagious because the girls immediately do the same, and we all have an impromptu dance party. Suddenly I’m a fun mommy - dancing unexpectedly, much to the girls’ surprise and absolute delight. Why not right? Who doesn’t love a boogie break every now and then? The kids certainly do.

3. Don’t be a snob - I remember crooning to Debbie Gibson and New Kids on the Block when I was growing up. It’s awful, terrible, what-the-hell-was-I-thinking music, but hey, I can now safely admit that it’s also a rite of passage. We’re so hell-bent on making sure our girls develop better taste in music than we did as kids that we forget that they have to figure this shit out on their own. That’s how we did it!

I loved the sappiest, crappiest songs (Tommy Page, hello?) but as I grew and changed, so did my taste in music. it didn’t happen until I started college, when I became more open to alternative rock - Smashing Pumpkins, Live, Weezer - and that too evolved over time. Now I love Vampire Weekend, Arctic Monkeys, Postal Service, Lorde, Banks, and National, and they sound nothing like the boy bands I used to idolize. Besides, even if the girls end up loving pop songs all their life, so what? How can I teach them to be open and accommodating when I’m not, and to not be prejudiced, when I am myself?

Now, instead of a blanket “No Katy Perry” in the house, I listen to it myself and make sure that they’re appropriately exposed to it. It’s a “Know thy enemy” tactic, except I was surprised to learn that they’re not as bad as my own prejudice made them out to be. In fact, there were positive messages that I was happy to hear in their songs, and that snob in me started to hang her head in shame.

I also know firsthand what “No” does to children. It makes that which is forbidden even more attractive to them, and if I’m trying to raise kids who can make up their own minds judiciously, I can’t make up their minds for them. Hence, I “Roar” alongside Katy Perry and my girls to let them know it’s cool. And suddenly, that roar doesn’t have quite that power it used to have when it’s just another song that comes on the radio.

And this is how I arrived at Taylor Swift as my very first blog post for 2015. Interesting how and what you learn about yourself in the most uncanny ways...

In case you have NO FREAKIN’ CLUE what this entire post is about because you’ve never heard this song before, here’s the video of it. I’m warning you, if My Guy, who’s dead against pop songs, was caught humming the tune one day, you’ll most likely catch this “sick beat” too.

Also? You’re welcome.