Archetype, n. The original pattern or model from which all things of the same kind are copied or on which they are based; a model or first form; prototype.

Still from Taylor Swift's music video You Belong With Me

I have sat through sixteen playings of Taylor Swift's "You Belong With Me" video during the past week. It was never my favorite Swift song — it trails, most notably, "Back to December" and "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" — but there it is. Sixteen playings. Admittedly, there are Other Factors in play here: the video for "We Are Never..." is busy, even cluttered, and "Back to December" makes me cry every single time I hear it. Every. Single. Time.

Then I look between the panes once more, and I shake my head: how, exactly, did nineteen-year-old Taylor Swift, way back in 2008, manage to duplicate an image that lurked in the back of my head forty years and more before? It certainly wasn't a representation of a current girlfriend; at that point, I hadn't had one, and I was operating under the assumption that I never would. I wasn't even sure what I'd be looking for, should it turn out that I was wrong.

I know what I'm responding to here in 2018: that brief bit where she's singing into a hairbrush; a variety of facial expressions which you won't see on her rival (also played by Swift), and the sheet of paper with three little words. None of those things had any relevance to me in the 1960s.

And it really can't be the words to the song. Swift is known for writing some really pithy lyrics, and there are plenty of them here; "I'm listening to the kind of music she doesn't like / And she'll never know your story like I do" says a whole lot for fewer than twenty words. But I'd heard these words long before I saw the video, and they didn't knock me out before.

So I'm going with the only explanation I have: over the years, the memories have somehow become jumbled, connections created where they should not have been. I've never come close to knowing anyone like this T-shirt-wearing nerdette, and by now it's safe to say that I never will. And if I'm missing anyone today, it's the Taylor Swift of 2008, who, to me anyway, seemed more interested in telling stories than in exacting revenge.

I do, however, know exactly how many sheets of paper I've received with "I love you" handwritten thereupon: one. Probably one more than I deserved.

The Vent

  23 February 2018

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