Thursday, March 25, 2010

the taylor swift formula for love

It seems despite our best efforts, no one has found a solid formula for love. It’s like love is a destination that everyone tries to go to. Those who are there are either too busy being in love or too unsure if they’re in the right place to give directions to the rest of us. Another thing is we all fall differently, for different reasons and with different types of people. With so many variables, doesn’t it seem logical that we determine them all, figure ‘em out and get on with the loving? I was thinking about this as my iPod shuffled in an unfamiliar Taylor Swift song. Why can’t we create a decent love formula?

And then it hit me. Deiiimn, did it hit me. Taylor Swift should’ve been a teacher. Her subject? Why love, of course! Presenting, the soon-to-be-patented Taylor Swift Formula for Love.

Step 1: Find A Guy. Arguably the most awkward stage, it is also the most exciting. In You Belong With Me, Taylor seemingly sings about a guy she likes. Truth is, she’s exposing the things we need to form a healthy relationship. (1) You have to be attracted enough to want him. You’ve got a smile that could light up this whole town. (2) You have to be interested enough to care about the things he likes. Can’t you see that I’m the one who understands you? (3) A little competition wouldn’t hurt. She wears short skirts, I wear t-shirts. She’s cheer captain and I’m on the bleachers. (4) But you have to blow her away. She’ll never get your humor like I do. (5) You have to imagine a future with him. Have you ever thought just maybe you belong with me? (6) And a little stalking wouldn’t hurt. A girl’s gotta do her research right? Standing by and waiting at your back door. All this time, how could you not know? Err, that was a little creepy. On second thought, perhaps we should leave the stalking to Google*.

Step 2: Fall In Love. Easier said than done, I know but that’s what you have to do. In Love Story, Taylor borrows a few Shakespearean plot lines and goes crazy. Love is never easy and this song tells us all about the things you can expect for this tedious stage. (1) Once you have him wrapped around your fingers, you’ll find that love is a two way street. Sometimes, you reach out to him but (here’s the fun part), he’ll come to you too. I see you make your way through the crowd and say hello. (2) It’s never without its conflicts but you can count on the fact that unlike the first step, you will not be alone. Romeo, take me somewhere we can be alone. I’ll be waiting. All there’s left to do is run. (3) Just when you feel ready to give up, you get a reminder that though love is hard, it’s worth it. This love is difficult, but it’s real. (4) But then it gets confusing and you have to be strong enough to make sure you don’t break up. I’ve been feeling so alone. I keep waiting for you but you never come. If you let that last one get to you too much, you could just find yourself in Step 3.

Step 3: Say Goodbye. I guess it’s all a part of growing up. We all have that one great love that we can’t seem to forget and Taylor pays tribute to that with White Horse. I suppose the entire premise of the second step often gets out of hand. We fall rapidly and with so much gusto that you start to feel like you’re really special. Honey, you’re not. You’re just one of six billion people in the world rallying for the same thing. Step 3 often begins with that realization. (1) Honey, you’re not special. I’m not a princess, this ain’t a fairy tale… This ain’t Hollywood. This is a small town. (2) It helps to focus on tangible things like pursuing your dreams… This is a big world. That was a small town there in the rear view mirror disappearing now. (3) …or you could always take the bitter route. I had so many dreams about you and me. Happy endings. Now I know. (4) But the sooner you move on, the better. You’ll see. Nothing says I’m soooo over this than the wind that comes from your big poofy gown as you walk away. Try and catch me now.

Repeat steps 1 to 3 until you find that heart you can call your home. It will hurt, we all know that but these are just things you have to accept. It’s part of life, part of growing up and don’t worry because it’ll all be worth it in the end. If you meet someone and find that somehow, there is no step three, well teh, kungrrrrrrrrrrrachuleyshuns because…

Ending: Happy? Taylor’s quintessential love song has got to be Valentine’s Day’s Today Was A Fairy Tale. With lines like Can you feel the magic in the air? and Nothing made sense until the time I saw your face, I swear that whole song must’ve been written on some demented form of a sugar rush. How do you know you’re really in love? Well, Ms. Swift gives us these helpful signs. (1) He likes you even when you look fugly. (Usually when you've just woken up and you’ve got dried up saliva on your pillow and your breath stinks like anything.) You told me I was pretty when I looked like a mess. (2) He can do no wrong. Every move you make, everything you say is right. (3) The world gets blurry when you’re together. Time slows down whenever you’re around. (4) You can’t seem to put your finger on what it is that makes you love him and then he kisses you and it’s so clear. Can you feel the magic in the air? It must’ve been the way you kissed me.

Have I convinced you? Nope. Didn’t think so. I suppose we were never really Taylor’s target audience. If you’re looking for the perfect definition of love, you’d have to search a little further than that. More than a decade, to be specific. It’s a little song that in the early nineties, took a Canadian Kylie Minogue-ish singer* into an international superstar.

How curious that in a record known for jaded break-up songs, a gem like Head Over Feet can be found. In the song, Alanis Morissette talks about trying to fight that all too familiar feeling but giving up in the end. It consumes you and once you let it, your old life as you know it will be over. The video is also very telling. It shows her singing directly into the camera in an almost awkward extreme close-up. Unlike her other videos, this one had no plot, no fancy editing and no shiny gimmicks. This was just Alanis, the song and her infamous harmonica. I’d like to think they made it that way so that we would be left alone with the ingenious lyrics and so imma shut up now and let you read ‘em.

I had no choice but to hear you / You stated your case time and again / I thought about it // You treat me like I'm a princess / I'm not used to liking that / You ask how my day was // You've already won me over in spite of me / And don't be alarmed if I fall head over feet / Don't be surprised if I love you for all that you are / I couldn't help it / It's all your fault // Your love is thick and it swallowed me whole / You're so much braver than I gave you credit for / That's not lip service // You are the bearer of unconditional things / You held your breath and the door for me / Thanks for your patience // You're the best listener that I've ever met / You're my best friend / Best friend with benefits / What took me so long? // I've never felt this healthy before / I've never wanted something rational / I am aware now / I am aware now//

That’s love, or at least that’s how it’s supposed to be. How sad that many of us have been misled. If you’re single and you’re reading this, don’t worry. It’ll come. And when it does, you’ll see it was worth all the wait. I’ve said it before* and I’ll say it again, anything that is worth pursuing has a possibility to hurt you. Why else would anyone want it? Until that time I can sing Head Over Feet and actually mean it, I’ll be waiting patiently with my heart on my sleeve.

Alanis Morissette
Head Over Feet
Jagged Little Pill

BYE FOR NOW!!! I’ve come to the conclusion that I need a little break from blogging to focus on other stuff. My life is a mess right now and I think I need all the epiphanies I can get for myself. I won’t be closing this blog. It’s become such a big part of me that to shut it down would be like cutting off an appendage. Anyway, I don’t know how long I’ll be gone. Maybe it’ll take a day, maybe a few weeks or maybe a year. I don’t really know. One thing’s for sure, I will be back and I’ll have a lot more buoys to share with you then.

In the meantime, there are so many awesome blogs out there. It’s no secret that the blogosphere is filled to the brim with talent and wit. I started my own hashtag (I can’t seem to make it work but I’m keeping my fingers crossed) on Twitter for blog posts I find interesting. I’ll be updating it daily so I hope you guys check it out here.

Monday, March 22, 2010

a letter from the future

This morning, I found my first gray hair. If I were in my twenties, I’d probably be freaking out but as it is, I am well of age and thus aware of the changes a human body makes. Truth is, I’ve been expecting it a little. Most people my age already have it and I was actually surprised it didn’t arrive sooner. There’s a part of me that feels proud to have it. It’s not so noticeable that people will stop or anything but I know it’s there- like that small bottle of whiskey you would normally keep in your nightstand for little emergencies or a piece of cake at the very back of a diabetic’s refrigerator. It made me feel a little more human, I guess and for that simple fact, I decided not to pull it out.

I went back to our room and saw you sleeping. You have quite a few gray hairs yourself. I wonder how long it would take to count them all. Would they be equal to the number of years we’ve been together ergo the number of years I’ve been stressing you out? Would it be equal to all the times we fought and made up? Or would it equate to the number of things that made me love you? Nah, I’d have to bleach your whole head for that.

It’s funny how when I was younger, I never thought I would find you. I can’t recall how many times I told my friends I didn’t believe in love anymore because I was lonely. Or how many times I would meet someone and pray so hard that they would be the one. But they never were for they weren’t you. If I had known that all that would eventually lead me here, I wouldn’t have been such a sad kid.

They say the most jaded people are also the most romantic. It’s not that they woke up one day and stopped believing in love. No, it takes more than that. I’d like to think that they were once true believers. But love doesn’t come easy for anyone and all those years spent searching for it has a way of taking its toll on you. They didn’t stop believing in love. No one ever does. I think they just stopped believing it could happen to them. I should know. I felt that way for many years.

Thank you for changing my mind. In a world where it seems everyone is out to get me, you are the only exception. One day, I’ll have not a single black hair left. I can’t wait for that day to come. When it finally hits me that I’m old and rusty, I know you’ll be there with me, hand firmly placed in mine as I watch it go down the drain.


There are three types of people in the world. Some people want to turn back the hands of time. They want to go back to the time when they were happy or when things were simpler. Some people are so happy, they wish they could pause time. Who wouldn’t want to linger in the climax of your life? Myself, I wish I could sleep and wake up in the future. I spend my waking hours pushing the clock’s different hands. My remaining comfort, if anything is the thought that this part of my life is only temporary. One day, I’ll be happy too.

The Only Exception
Brand New Eyes

Friday, March 19, 2010

interlude: soundtrack

scribbled on the back of a provincial bus ticket:

funny how when i think bout u, a million songs play in my head.,
and then u look at me and i just kno.
u prolly hear crickts when u thnk of me.

Photo Credit: Doll Face

  New Radicals
  Crying Like A Church On Monday
  Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too

Monday, March 15, 2010

if death were good

Have you ever thought about how you would die? I try not to as much as possible but these past few days, the thought seems to be following me around. It was beside me in the movie theater. It was swimming in my morning coffee. I tried to ignore it but it wouldn’t let me.

It started when a friend of mine called me up. He said he was watching the news and he wanted to get tested for HIV. It’s funny how these newscasters often lace the truth with their own opinions. The thought that this disease has become endemic to us night crawlers is hardly fair. Now everyone everywhere is scared. My own mother told me I should leave soon if I wanna make it out alive. I would’ve chosen awareness over fear when it comes to educating the public but if my friend is any indication, the latter is often faster and more effective.

I’m not scared of it. I don’t know why but I’m not. I can understand why some people would be though. After all, our society is not exactly that welcoming to people living with HIV. He wanted me to hold his hand metaphorically and physically as he got himself tested. Suddenly, I envisioned my friend and me in a scene ala The Hours. I was Meryl Streep visiting Ed Harris, trying to be hopeful but gently succumbing to the hopelessness of the situation.

“If you think about it, we’re all dying anyway. In one way or another, we’re all going to bite the dust. Do you really need a bunch of doctors telling you when?”

“But wouldn’t you want to know?” he asked. “I saw this thing on When Harry Met Sally. Billy Crystal said that when he buys a new book, he always reads the last page first. That way, if he should die, he would always know how the book ends.”

“That’s silly. That’s like saying everything prior to the end is unimportant. The ending is just one part of the story.”

“Wouldn’t you want to read your last page?” he asked.

“Are you saying you want to read your last page?” This conversation was starting to confuse me.

“If I have it then yes, that would be my last page. I wanna be sure my book is as thick as possible. I’d start living healthy. Stop drinking, smoking, maybe start eating more vegetables. I don’t know.”

“Why don’t you start now? I mean, today’s as good a day as any. Why do you need a deadly disease to tell you to start making better choices?” He was quiet after that. My neck started to hurt from holding the phone against my left shoulder too long. My fingers held the page in the book* I was reading. I should really buy a bookmark.

“I think you’re scared,” he said. I thought the line had gone dead. Good thing he finally said something. “Your mind is telling you to fight it and that’s not a bad thing. I mean, I’m scared too. That’s why we should do it together.”

I told him I’d think about it. That’s when the signs started coming. I started becoming more aware of my mortality with each movie I see*, each song I hear or even with certain blog posts I read*. It took me some time to realize it but yes, I guess I was a little scared of my future. Did I have a reason to?

I was cleaning my room when I saw the book I was reading the day my friend called. It was under my bed. I must’ve dropped it one night when I fell asleep. I dusted the cover a little and tried to find the last part I got to read.

I don’t know what got into me but I suddenly flipped to the last page.

She was here because he said he’d run away with her, and she believed him- believed, for a few brief, intensely sweet moments, that she was something special, one of the lucky ones, a character in a love story with a happy ending.

Would I have a happy ending? As they say, there’s only one way to find out. I picked up my phone and called my friend.

“Let’s do it.” I said when he finally answered.

“Do what?” He sounded like he just woke up.

“Let’s get tested.” Though I could not see him and we were miles apart, I knew he was smiling. Would we still be smiling after everything is through?

Photo Credit:

Ra Ra Riot
Dying Is Fine
The Rhumb Line

Sunday, March 7, 2010

reprising the bashful

There’s a half moon today. “Not now, not yet but soon,” it seems to say. My best friend once told me that life is like being caught in a half moon. It’s just one transition after another. Nothing is ever completely finished, otherwise there would be no life left for us to live. Funny how the moon and my best friend can be so hopeless yet hopeful at the same time.

There are moments when I question if I made all the right decisions. What if I held on a little longer? What if I said some things? Would that make any difference? What if I was a little too rash? I was never the type to wallow about regrets but I would be lying if I said I didn’t have any.

The memory plays like a movie. I can almost hear the projector hum. It was the eve of John’s absence and for the most parts, I was fine about it. Of course, I would miss him. We’ve been best friends since before I could remember. But people move on. They move forward. Sometimes, they move away. If you stop moving, you stop living. Who was I to stop my best friend from living his life?

We threw a huge party at his house and all of our closest friends were there. Somewhere between drinks and goodbyes, he asked to speak to me in private. I never did get to see how that party ended.

“Oh no. Here it comes. Time for teary goodbyes,” I joked as we went up the stairs to his room. He was strangely quiet. He’s usually a loud drunk but I guess he was more affected about leaving than he was letting on.

“How do you like your party?” I asked as I took his picture with a rusty Polaroid. He was still quiet. It seemed like he needed to tell me something but couldn’t find the right words. He closed the door and slumped down on the floor. I sat down beside him. The tiles felt cold but it was nothing compared to the chill that had managed to follow us all day.

“I’ll miss you,” was all he said. It was all he had to say. I tried to be strong. I promised myself I wouldn’t cry but there I was silently weeping. As best friends, we shared everything except our emotions. I wasn’t sure if he could handle it but when the feeling in my chest became too heavy to hold, I decided to let go.

“Me too. I know it’s selfish. I know I shouldn’t feel this way but I really wish you wouldn’t go.” He looked into my eyes and I could see just how hard this whole thing was for him.

“There are things I want to tell you but I don’t know if I can. I’m sorry if I haven’t been honest.”
I wasn’t sure what he meant. Was he not leaving? Was all this some elaborate prank?

And then he kissed me. All my life, John was always John-my-best-friend. True, I was into him but I never dared to do anything about it. He knew I was different but I had never known that we had so many similarities. I didn’t know he could feel that way about me too. He lay his head down on my lap as a few warm teardrops flowed from his eyes to my denims.

“Why this? Why now?” It almost seemed unfair that all this came to be on our last night together. “Why couldn’t you have told me sooner? Why bother telling me now?” There was a pain that my voice betrayed. I tried to hide it but it was as clear as the nighttime sky. I had so many questions but I didn’t ask him. I didn’t think either of us could afford the answers.

In a most awkward and verbose way, I told him how I felt about him. Truth is, a part of me knew all along but it wasn’t until this night that I finally put the pieces together. I waited for some form of response from him but he was quiet. He was always quiet. Why the hell was he so quiet?

“John?” I called. He mumbled incoherently. He was asleep. In a few hours, it will be morning. In a few hours, we would have to say goodbye again. I wanted to wake him up so we could spend our last night talking but something in me told me otherwise. “Not now, not yet but soon,” the voice said. “Not now, not yet but soon.”

True to form, life moved on for both of us. It’s been years and I don’t know where John is anymore. Funny how at one point, he was always within arms reach. I have nothing left but pictures and memories of him- our last ones being the most vivid and incomplete. In my heart of hearts, I know this is not the end. There are plenty of things unspoken and unheard. I know one day I’ll see him again. Not now, not yet but soon.

Photo Credit: M. Hartmann
Original Post: Lullaby

Liz Phair
Friend of Mine
Liz Phair