The first thing you notice upon arrival at a Taylor Swift concert is the women, lots and lots of women. And girls, lots and lots of girls. Clusters of women; happy knots of girls in Taylor-esque styling of high-waisted shorts, bandeaus, lined eyes, and fire-engine red lipstick. Upon closer examination of these swirling eddies of females, you can’t help but see that among these groups, mother/daughter combos abound. This is a special night out — and not an inexpensive one — for these moms and their girls, and they will not be disappointed. Taylor will deliver.
Last night, I was one of the thousand points of mother/daughter light that came out for Swift’s 1989 World Tour at Seattle’s CenturyLink field. When the 1989 tour tickets went on sale last November, it only took me a few minutes to make the extravagant decision to click “buy” for four tickets for myself, my two daughters (ages 17 and 20), and a friend of theirs so close that we fondly call her "the third daughter." I’m a divorced mom who makes a living catch-as-catch-can as a writer and writing teacher, so the fact that I bought these tickets so quickly speaks to the Taylor phenomenon and the trust that moms put in Swift to put on a show that will bring us together and uplift us as a family.
This type of trust can only be earned, and it has been. Throughout my daughters’ coming-of-age years, Taylor gave us numerous moments of cranking the volume, cutting the living-room rug, and belting out sassy lyrics such as “Why you gotta be so mean?” and “We are never, ever, ever getting back together.” Swift’s lyrics tell about the hard knocks a girl goes through, but from the empowered point of view of a person who is willing to make herself vulnerable enough to get hurt but smart enough to cut her losses when need be.
When Swift burst, all sequin-bedazzled, onto the stage with her opening number “Welcome to New York!” we leapt to our feet, not just with the thrill of seeing a cultural icon but with the feeling that our dear friend had arrived. Like most of the 60,000 others in the sold-out Seattle stadium, we feel like we know Taylor. She is one of us. And Swift very much encouraged this feeling of connection and friendship with her constant flattery of us, “Seattle, Washington,” as she repeatedly called us throughout the night — the very addition of the word “Washington” hinting that maybe she doesn’t actually know us as well as she implies, but we’re willing to overlook that. Why? Because we just like her cat-loving, slightly-awkward-while-stunningly-beautiful self so much. We want to believe that she really means it when she says she so appreciates the intimate messages she’s received from us (Seattle, Washington!) in between her visits here. Messages that just cut to the chase, she told us, and tell her of the struggles that we’ve been through.
She told us these online messages make her feel good because in her most recent album, "1989," she’s been sharing “what’s been happening to me over the last few years.”
Sharing intimacies with each other? Sure sounds like friendship to me.
And as beautiful, famous, and now rich as she is, Swift is still somehow your high-school friend who can’t really dance (and she didn’t, for the most part, throughout the concert) but loves to sing into her hairbrush. As amazing as she is, there is just something so darn relatable and familiar about her. When we screamed and applauded like crazy for “Welcome to New York!” she gave us this open-faced smile of the teenaged “I know, right?” Like she can’t believe her good luck that goofy her has arrived at this point of stardom where she can now share all of her good fortune with us.
Famous for indulging fans with surprise visits and presents, Swift hinted early at some “surprises” that she has for us, surprises that we deserved because she said we’ve been there for her since she played restaurants and cafes here and then when she played “The Key” (Not “Key Arena” but “The Key.” She’s one of us!) and the Tacoma Dome, and now here finally on CenturyLink field.
It’s hard to imagine that there was anyone in the house who hadn’t read about the “surprises” in other cities, which have included the likes of Lorde, The Weeknd, The U.S. Women’s World Cup Team, and Heidi Klum. It could be anyone, we knew! Against all odds, our slightly-awkward-but-stunningly-beautiful friend has become very popular — the most popular girl in THE WHOLE SCHOOL, in fact — and now she is inviting us to the COOLEST PARTIES! She isn’t ditching us. She is sharing her popularity with us!
Taylor told us that any special guest we would see with her that night would be coming out of the “goodness of their heart” and playing for free. The cynic in me started to protest with "Hello, exposure!" but then I was like, "No! Taylor is inviting us, guys!"
A few minutes later, Fetty Wap came to the stage. I’m old so I didn’t know who that was. But that doesn’t matter because the main reason I forked out the big bucks was for the family time and to make the girls happy, and I looked over at their ecstatic faces as they bopped and swerved toward each other, so thrilled with their good fortune and that we were here together to hear "Trap Queen." Like I said, Taylor delivers. (And yes, more guests graced us later when hometown hero, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, and singer Ciara made their way down the catwalk.)
Later in the night, Swift tweeted: “No big deal just the happiest moment of my life to date @fettywap.” She’s like us! She gets excited about cool kids coming to her party!
If Glinda the Good Witch were a popstar, she would be Taylor Swift. Like Glinda, Swift reassures us that we will make it no matter what heartache we’ve left aside. Like Glinda, Swift comes to us aloft in sparkly light. As the LED wristbands on the crowd pulsed with points of colored light throughout Swift hits “Wildest Dreams,” “Bad Blood,” “Clean,” “Love Story,” “I Know Places,” “Blank Space,” and more, we were transported to a world where everything is going to be OK.
Yes, our hearts have been broken — Taylor knows this — but in the end we come together in this giant slumber party, and we are healed. Turning the cliché of the drama-queen girl on its head, Swift’s line “Boys only want love if it’s torture” sung in stadium-sized unison out of the mouths of mostly girls and women makes me think that our slightly-awkward-but-stunningly-beautiful friend who struck it so big is not just talented, but crazy smart to boot.