Love me some ‘Lover’

After binge-listening to Taylor Swift’s album, Lover, and recently learning about the Karlie Kloss – Taylor Swift (conspiracy) relationship, I’ve been blown away by some of Swift’s work. No, this isn’t just a shoutout to T-Swizzle’s songs—even if I’ve been a fan since wayyy back in the day and still know the entire rap to “Thug Story” (feat. T-Pain)—I’m impressed with how significantly her album resonates with my experience in pseudo-dating a straight girl.

At 5:10am on August 23rd, I started streamed Lover while getting ready for work at the cafe. I was pleasantly surprised by the bops, but just two minutes and 35 second into the second song in the album, my brain lit up. “I don’t wanna keep secrets just to keep you.” What.

Having been out for five-ish years, I’ve dated a few women in shorter and longer-term relationships. At times, some of those women were closeted. I’ll be honest; dating someone who won’t call you their significant other to significant people (or strangers) in their life can allow your doubts about the relationship to creep in unless you have amazing communication and understanding with your partner.

For some of those closeted women, I was the shallow end of the pool, offering just enough to dip their toes and test the waters. To others, I was the entire oasis. Whether acting as someone to talk to about their questioning orientation or someone to dive in head first with, I appreciated my time and learned so much about myself and people’s experiences in coming out with each one of those women.

But this takes me back to what Swift is saying here. Sometimes I feel like I’ve ~been there, done that~ with closeted women. I understand that is a controversial statement that isn’t fair for those who haven’t come out (and every case is unique, especially with families; that’s a different topic), but frankly, I don’t want to keep secrets just to keep you.

If I am dating someone I’m crazy about, I want the world to know. I want to show my partner off, for my friends and family to love her as much as I do, and I want every stranger who slides into my DM’s to know that what they’re doing is absolutely pointless. I also want her friends, her family, and her strangers to know it’s a mutual kind of love.

However, if my exes wrote a list of words to describe me (alongside hilarious, thoughtful, and authentic (💁)) they’d include “patient.” If I believe there’s hope, I’ll do whatever I can to make us work, even if it means waiting for my partner to be comfortable in her own skin. My only condition is that I have to know that the secret has an expiration date.

So, two minutes and 35 seconds, and Taylor Swift got me hooked on more than her… hooks.

The conspiracy within Lover, most simply put, reveals that Taylor Swift and Karlie Kloss had a romantic relationship that resulted in sharing an apartment on Cornelia Street (yes, like the song) and the two potentially getting engaged during Karlie’s birthday week at a Swift-rented estate in Wyoming.

I can’t fathom trying to synopsize the entire conspiracy, so if you want to read about the ~maybe Kaylor relationship~, you can read about it here (fun fact, this site was temporarily taken down after Lover released… sounds fishy, eh?).

Honestly, I’m not here to fight about whether the relationship happened or not (it definitely did), so regardless of the circumstances, this kinda ~gay lens~ is how I hear Swift’s album. I hear it through the life I’ve lived, with the relationships I’ve had, and it means more to me that way.

I don’t know what happened between Taylor and Karlie. I’ve painted a picture from listening to the album, but I’ll probably never know the truth. I do know that they were once inseparable, that they loved each other, and that everyone knows how it feels to lose someone that significant in their lives. I can only hope that it wasn’t some secret—some fear of facing one’s true self—that caused the divide.

As progressive as the world is (sort of) becoming, there is still a mountain of norms to fight just to be ourselves. So, I get it. As much effort as I’ve put in to become who I am, I don’t want to keep my life a secret just to keep someone….

Unless I do—which is the craziest part about this all. Who knows what we’d put ourselves through if the real thing came along.

The fireflies we caught

You are the fireflies,
laughs in the bodega,
the skip under my step,
the late night in a city we don’t know.
You are the butterflies in my stomach,
the numbness in my arms,
the smile aching on my face.
And no, you aren’t only these things,
but they hold pieces of you
that will never be lost.
No matter how many more memories
I build on top of them,
or how much I sometimes wish
you weren’t.
You are every late night phone call,
every FaceTime ring,
and all of the texts I prayed
were from you.
For the entirety of my life,
you are the happiness
I will search for,
because you are the fireflies
we caught that night.

Continuing.

I once wrote a letter. It contained my deepest thoughts and feelings about you… and I never sent it. I wanted to, trust me, but ultimately, it’s now tucked into my journal—the pages torn from being carried around for so long—and it’s going to stay there, invisibly so.

I think I wrote it wrong. I think I was right to leave you be, but again, I was wrong to believe that letter could change something. I’m not sure what it was; that you’d finally understand why I was so hurt, that you’d empathize and feel for me, or that I’d convince you to love me.

But I couldn’t do that to you. Deep down I knew the truth—even if I couldn’t live with it. Even if they were the most powerful words I’ve written, I knew they wouldn’t move you. Maybe that’s why I stopped writing—if I couldn’t make you feel, I couldn’t make anyone feel.

Maybe that’s why it’s so hard for people to not talk after a breakup. We rely so heavily on a partner to be there, and then one day they’re not. Even when we are restricted from communication we seek that rush from our ex’s name popping up on our phones—even when we claim we don’t. We want their attention, their love, and we want their time to be our time once again, but with one slip up, we crave more.

That’s the tip of the iceberg of my fears in reaching out to you. If I told you I didn’t spend hours upon hours thinking of the right words to say leading up to that day, I’d be lying. However, that day, somehow, the words poured out of my fingertips. Completely different ones than you’d find in that letter, but ones that felt right. As always, things were so easy when it came to you.

They weren’t romantic and they didn’t plead or explain more than you needed to know, but they were honest. They told you what was going on, explaining that it wasn’t an option for me to reach out—that I couldn’t be more grateful for you to exist because of who you are and what you did for me.

I had no fear in your response—unknowing that I’d ever get one. I didn’t need one because I knew the words did nothing but good for you and me. I felt good, but I have never felt so great to read the reply. I felt pardoned of a crime I spent sentenced to for one year; a crime you now wrote that I never committed.

I tortured myself for that year. Countless time was spent wondering what I did, how things ended in that way, and how imperfect I really was, but you said it wasn’t me or anything I did. Things just had to be that way because they did and I believe you now because I’m unable to write a different reality.

On the phone we once talked for hours about space as a metaphor for relationships. I told you how gravity is my favorite force because it’s infinite. Everything is pulled towards everything, but sometimes other variables get in the way of two objects meeting.

I told you then that if you were a shooting star (which you are), that all of the objects you pass are attracted to you, as you are of them. Sometimes you’ll pass an object and feel such a strong pull that you’ll loop into it’s orbit. Sometimes you’ll pass an object and never see it again.

Life has moments that must be appreciated in the now because we’re unaware of so many of our orbits. If they’re lasting, then we must appreciate the objects that pull us so. If they’re fleeting, then that short time was an infinity among itself.

You thanked me for being who I am and helping you to see who you are. Our two-text interaction was the capstone to everything we lived—the months of sleepless excitement, the days of butterflies throughout our bodies, the hours of video chat dates—all timing down to two texts.

Just as you and I continue on, so will the words you find here. They’ll describe new eyes, serendipitous moments, and other adventures of the heart, but our gravity will always be there, shaping and moving us, even invisibly so.

How to Manipulate Anyone into Loving You

I say this all the time: I am so grateful for the people who surround me. When I’m with these people I feel justified, challenged, and loved. The comfort that comes with finding those who match what you are looking for in lifelong friends is like finding a dozen soulmates you can be yourself with, endlessly.

So, how did this happen? I’ll get into it, but fortunately for me, it runs in my blood. My greatest credible example comes from Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, in which my great-grandfather’s business model is featured.

Business men are learning that it pays to be friendly to strikers. For example, when two thousand five hundred employees in the White Motor Company’s plant struck for higher wages and a union shop, Robert F. Black, the president [my great-grandfather], didn’t wax wroth and condemn, and threaten and talk of tyranny and Communists. He actually praised the strikers. He published an advertisement in the Cleveland papers, complimenting them on “the peaceful way in which they laid down their tools.” Finding the strike pickets idle, he bought them a couple of dozen baseball bats and gloves and invited them to play ball on vacant lots. For those who preferred bowling, he rented a bowling alley.

This friendliness on President Black’s part did what friendliness always does: it begot friendliness. So the strikers borrowed brooms, shovels, and rubbish carts, and began picking up matches, papers, cigarette stubs, and cigar butts around the factory. Imagine it! Imagine strikers tidying up the factory grounds while battling for higher wages and recognition of the union. Such an event had never been heard of before in the long, tempestuous history of American labor wars. That strike ended with a compromise settlement within a week—ended without any ill feeling or rancor.

Carnegie, D. (1940). How to win friends and influence people. New York: Pocket Books.

In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt passed the National Industrial Recovery Act, which allowed employees to form unions and petition for their rights. This meant that all good business leaders should have been preparing for walk-outs. Black was not president of the White Motor Company until 1935, the year the company’s strike began, but by that time there had been hundreds of strikes in the U.S. for him to learn from.

Being the heart of The Great Depression, the guy could have ruined the lives of those strikers. He could have used his power to hire new employees at the same wage as the strikers. He could have moved on, leaving all 2,500 workers to unemployment, and yet, he didn’t.

Black understood that his best move was to learn from the mistakes of other companies in order to stay afloat. From a human to human level, what was the greatest concern for the strikers? Well, what better way to learn than to ask them himself?

Providing activities for his employees allowed Black to step in and talk to the strikers in their environment. He got to understand their needs and kept his employees’ minds off of their struggles while resolving the real issues at hand. His tactics were authentic and real and effective.

Maybe Robert F. Black knew it’d cost him more to train 2,500 new men and gave his strikers baseball bats so they would stick around. Maybe they would even feel guilty that they’re enjoying themselves while their families became closer to starving with every passing day. It’s possible… but I don’t believe coercion was Black’s tactic. I believe he wanted to be a good person and get what he wanted.

Black was accommodating for his employees; he created carpool programs, learned people’s names, allowed anyone to enter his office, and opened the workplace for women to take their husband’s positions once deployed in WWII. He was approachable, he cared, and he retired as a beloved President.

Be it nature or nurture, I understand why my great-grandfather did what he did. I believe it was incredibly brilliant from a business perspective to end the strike as early as possible, but on a human level, the guy aligned his actions with how he understood his strikers wanted to be treated.

Now, my word choice in the title of this piece is purposefully problematic. Manipulation is the use of control over another person to influence change in their favor. This means a manipulator understands what brings a person to act, and uses that as leverage to get what they want. It is a dangerous, dangerous word that leads to the despair of at least one person, and the inauthentic satisfaction of another.

It’s hard to see manipulation when you’re in the middle of it, be it from one side or the other. When you want something, you want it, and that may be a blinding goal to some, especially when the manipulator sees their manipulation affirmed in action.

I often take a step back to see the course of my actions and ensure that what I am asking of others doesn’t cross their desires. I think it’s something everyone should do because it’s so easy these days to make others feel the way that we want them to feel, not the way they would otherwise feel (especially to the people we know and care about most).

I am easily manipulated in romantic relationships. I know I am, and I often allow it to happen because I want others to be happy. What I am learning more though, is that giving people what you believe they want is not giving people what they want, especially if you don’t get what you put into your relationship; friendship or otherwise.

To get back to the big picture, how can one manipulate another into loving them? From one side, or the other, you can’t. You can only be your authentic self and allow whatever comes into your life to be the real thing. There are no shortcuts, but you can be a good person who levels with others in order to understand their circumstances.

I believe that’s how I managed to scrap together the best people in the world. My friends are the glue to my universe, and I try my best to let them know I feel that way. I didn’t have the quality of friends growing up as I do now. They were hard years with sprinkles of good, but were years I learned how friends shouldn’t treat others.

As I understand myself more, I see the goodness in others that I strive to have myself. There’s a quote that goes, “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.” As I grow, I’m beginning to see how true that is of every quality I want in myself, and how acting by example keeps me in the lives of those I refuse to lose.

Maybe that’s how my great-grandfather felt about his employees. Maybe his circumstances didn’t limit his ability to learn from others. After all, the actions of Black’s employees were as significant a movement as Black’s efforts to settle the strike.