This conversation between someone named Dylan and Tavi from Rookie is fascinating. In good and bad ways. For one, I see that Tavi turned 16 years old in April. Her level of awareness and intelligence for someone that age is astounding. Seriously, purely in the category of people who can say “I’ve given some thought to things going on in culture” she is a prodigy on a level that defies belief. I have a good memory and I can remember being 16, and compared to the way she is thinking about things my brain functioning was on the level of a mollusk. So in one sense, reading this, I’m in awe.
But I’m also struck by the frightening level of self-consciousness in what she says. She’s 16 and looking back from a wizened POV on when she was 12. Like, “I remember what I listened to in middle school, boy, I didn’t really understand completely all that music had to offer then. Well, let’s go back to what I was listening to when I was 9…”
Is it natural and healthy to have these kinds of thoughts when you aren’t even out of high school? I have no idea. But it feels weird to me. Maybe there should be a moment in life when you experience cultural things without wondering whether or not you are cool for liking them, and maybe this moment should be extended as long as possible? I dunno, maybe thinking that such a perspective is even possible is a fantasy. But it seems like something to strive for.
I bring this up in part because I can remember clearly what it was like to be getting deeply into music when I was in high school (this was a very long time ago). And you know, I was reasonably popular, reasonably social, and I don’t remember wondering for even a moment what anybody might think about the music I was into. I was self-conscious in so many ways, and I definitely wondered what people thought about me, whether they thought I was a dork or an idiot or whatever. But the idea that anyone would care even a little about the music I liked was, I swear to god, a completely foreign concept, maybe on the level of wondering if people cared what I thought about Ethiopian food. It had absolutely nothing to do with my perceived sense of self. I don’t know how to explain this exactly, but memories of this were throbbing in my head as I was reading this conversation. I was drawn in and repelled in equal measure. Looking back at your long and complicated relationship with music fandom and identity when you are 16 scares me.
TAVI: Yeah, I don’t need Lana Del Rey to have a humble background. I don’t need One Direction to be a bunch o’ scrappy street pals like the cast of Oliver! Liking pop music doesn’t mean not supporting independent artists; by choosing one, you are not denouncing the other. It was actually when I’d been working on Rookie Yearbook One for more than 24 hours without sleeping—my personal record—that I decided to get back into Taylor Swift, whom I hadn’t really listened to since middle school. And it wasn’t just my delirium that made me fall back in love with her music! I also felt a pang of desire to be part of that culture of friendship bracelets, and making the shape of a heart with your hands, and taking silly high school drama really seriously. And I had a newfound appreciation for the fact that she takes that shit really seriously, and wins Grammys for it, and gets fancy, dude-rock critics to take it seriously, too. Months later, I still listen to her music regularly because I just like it.
Some people argue that she’s just exploiting teen girl thoughtz, but from what I’ve read, I strongly believe she believes in everything she says and does, and it just happens to be really marketable. And she realizes that, and she is a smart businessperson. She’s the CEO of her own management company. Behind every pop star are tons of business and marketing-related decisions; I much prefer knowing that those decisions are primarily hers. AND I LIKE LISTENING TO MUSIC THAT MAKES ME FEEL UNIFIED WITH GIRLS ABOUT TO BE ACCEPTED INTO THE JEWISH COMMUNITY AS WOMEN. I WANT TO KNOW THE SONGS AT EVERY BAT MITZVAH. WHY DID I, AT THE AGE OF 12, DECIDE TO BE SOME SUPER BITTER ALTERNA CAT LADY?