I recently watched Taylor Swift’s documentary, Miss Americana, in which she touched on the pain points of being a successful young woman. I know that the documentary was framed and edited to keep the attention of the audience and be careful on how much time was spent on some of those points, but I really wish she took it further. The documentary allowed her to say some of the words, allowed her to show some of frustration, some of the pain, some of loneliness, but you could see in certain instances that what was shown wasn’t all of it.
Don’t get me wrong, I am very proud to see that someone in her level of visibility is talking about it, trying to tackle the notion of condescension of a 20-something woman cultivating her own success. I just don’t want her stop there. I don’t want any of us to stop there.
“Living for that pat on the head.”
Yes. That is a very accurate way to describe the mindset that someone like me is funneled into. If I check off all the boxes, I will be considered good and worthy. Worthy of what, though? Worthy of being liked, loved, hired, considered, of being happy. If they tell me I’ve done a good job, that I’m a good girl, that I’m a nice girl, then I get to cross the threshold of happiness and success.
It’s a rouse. A two-fold trap, a damning double-edged sword. If I adhere to the check-list and “do what I’m supposed to,” then I allow the control of my career, mental stability, and my everything to be partially directed by someone else. If I figure out how to use adhering to the checklist to my advantage, I’m labelled a disingenuous user. If I buck the notion entirely, prepare to be bombarded with a myriad of labels: “difficult,” “messy,” “unpleasant,” “nasty.”
I know, I know. “Just don’t care so much about what other people think.” Another painful, dismissive sentence that I have heard way too many times. All my life I’ve been told that how I’m perceived matters, that perception ultimately holds the key to my success, and then all of a sudden I’m not supposed to know how to not give a fuck?
I’m figuring it out, but don’t expect it to be pretty. <- See? I still put disclaimers around the fact that I don’t know what I’m doing and it won’t be “lady-like.”
The other piece that I’m glad she brought attention to was, once you get crowned the golden girl, the pang and shame of it being taken away from you. How all of a sudden, the rug gets ripped out from underneath you, how it feels like the world is laughing at you and blaming you for falling on your face.
Again, the dismissive sentence: “Oh, get over it. It will get better with time.” No. It doesn’t get better with time. Ignore the wound and it festers. It gets infected. It’s not enough to complacently sit with it, gaping open so as to slowly bring on death. Cleaning it stings, taking care of it will burn and hurt. Rebuilding the muscle will make you sore and tired. Her rebound was a really cool, personal record that got ignored come time for Grammy nominations. I have felt that same frustration when she got the call – you could see her trying not to cry out of frustration, exhaustion and disappointment. But the cool thing, the brave thing about her sharing that moment was that within seconds, you saw her turn that frustration, exhaustion and disappointment into fuel for making the next, better record. Fuel to keep at it. To keep going. Not necessarily despite the opinion of others, but because of what she wanted.
It’s not enough to just complain about being treated unfairly. That just perpetuates the whole thing. Supporting each other in finding and learning how to use the inner drive for what makes us happy for ourselves is how the cycle gets broken.
That is currently where my mind stops because I am still learning. I’ve got vague outlines of where to point the potential energy, but still feel like if I unleash it, it’ll just go everywhere. I’m still a little afraid of making a mess, and that’s ok.