Can we talk about this song for a minute? Or maybe three?
Today was a typical Monday in New York. One that felt unusually slow, one where I planned to go home after work and digest the equally stressful/impactful things I’d worked on that day, one where I wanted several glasses of wine, one where I intended to be a responsible adult human being, but one where I instead attempted to convince a good friend to move to the Upper Westside (from Long Island City) by showing her how magical Broadway and Amsterdam can be at twilight and how there’d be so many precious cafés and bars and restaurants right outside of her pre-war door. And so we strolled along the avenues in the fall chill and I realized how little “convincing” it takes to just sync with and sink into a particular buzzing neighborhood. (She thought so, too.) And so to celebrate her revelations, we had wine and white bean hummus and garlic/kale/ricotta “mini baguettes” at Vanguard Wine Bar on 68th and we talked about apartment hunting, something I have beyond mastered in the last 8.5 years, something I feel very entitled to advise upon, and then, after a few texts, I ended up at my cousin’s on 80th. She is helping curate & develop the brand of a new city gym and wanted my “social media expertise,” and so we drank more wine and ate some delicious vegetables her boyfriend cooked and I gave her the best high-level and low-level information I could from my “Internet experience” — both personally and professionally — and I realized I should be getting paid for this kind of insight. Not from family necessarily, but from those I know I could guide. And I realized how often I undervalue what I actually know about “content” and “putting engaging content on the internet” and what people actually pay thousands upon thousands of dollars for… and THEN. And then, I decided to walk the 30 blocks home, but not before downloading “Welcome to New York” because the internet told me to (and because, let’s face it, I will download anything NY-related), and I listened to it about 7 times between my cousin’s hood and mine, and at first it upset me. Like, what could Taylor possibly know about living in New York beyond looking ***flawless post-workout in her red lipstick and also her portable, city-friendly cat? And dear god, how many naive, Swift worshippers are going to land on this very island any minute now — now that this song exists? Then she spoke to me. She said, “The lights are so bright, but they never find me.” And I was like, yes. Yes, I get it, girl. I understand you. Bright lights, big city, almost impossible to make a significant mark in this mecca of endless talent, to stand out, to shine among the millions trying to be “found” as well. But then, after about 3 playbacks, it occurred to me she was saying “The lights are so bright, but they never blind me,” implying she’s in the spotlight forever-ever, and she’s cool with it. Ain’t no thang. A concept very few can relate to, I think. I mean, I’m not intimated by these bright lights, nor have I ever been — I’m simply just always trying to find the best, most flattering light to stand in.
Thankfully, she redeemed herself with these succinct, cliche, perfect, almost-terrible-but-I-want-more lyrics:
Like any great love
It keeps you guessing
Like any real love
It’s ever changing
Like any true love
It drives you crazy
But you know you wouldn’t change anything, anything, anything…
And so I paraded down Lexington listening to this on repeat, with the Chrysler walking me home, ricocheting between annoyed and smitten, but almost always smitten, and I wasn’t mad at Tay for writing some pop ode to the city, I was mad at myself for not writing my own first, for not doing more with what I know about this city, for not taking these tiny love letters to NYC and sharing them with the world. I had my own “Welcome to New York” years and years and years ago, thinking it was nothing, but now I know it was everything. And not because Taylor Swift said it was.