The year 2012 was emotionally draining for a variety of reasons: the first Avengers movie was released, Instagram introduced filters, and the world didn’t end in December. Personally, I entered my freshman year of college. Finally, and most importantly, Taylor Swift began dating the lovable but edgy, shaggy-haired Brit Harry Styles. Not only that, but she dropped an album of I-Love-Bad-Boys ballads right around the same time, titled Red. All of these cosmic events lined up like the butterfly effect to lead me to pine over my first “bad” boy. After all, what Taylor sings goes, right?
I immediately became smitten with a poetry major who smoked hand-rolled cigarettes and wore nothing but stained white T-shirts, corduroys, and boat shoes, despite never having been on a boat. Looking back, shame on me. But, as someone who was obsessively listening to “I Knew You Were Trouble,” he just made sense to me. Me and Taylor were the girls in the cute dresses obsessing over boys who liked to rhyme words. If Taylor could do it, why couldn’t I? After all, she and Harry seemed like a perfect match. At first.
Taylor’s just-released album Red became the soundtrack to my own turbulent relationship. While her words were allegedly about Jake Gyllenhaal (another boy who loves indie records), they also applied to her and Harry. Therefore, my 18-year-old self, who believed that everything happened for a reason, and every crush must amount to some cinematic love story, was all in on the new boy. I was blissfully unaware that sometimes relationships simply fizzle out after a few months of cold, hard miscommunication.
Taylor and Harry were photographed at various touristy NYC hot spots; they held hands in Central Park, strolled around the zoo, and were caught kissing on New Year's Eve — and the fandoms went wild. Directioners hated Taylor, and Swifties thought she was too good for him. The parallels to my own relationship were clear: his friends thought I was boring, my friends thought he was a terrible influence. Did it stop me? Nope! For what felt like an eternity, as most things do when you’re young, we went back and forth between seeing each other every day, to him forgetting I existed.
Looking back, I wish I would tell my teen self he wasn’t worth it. As Taylor quietly sings on “Fifteen" (which was released four years prior to Red) “wish you could go back and tell yourself what you know now.” Yes, Taylor, I do! But because I listened to Ms. Swift religiously back then, I thought if she could date Harry, I could date this poetry major. It gave me hope that maybe the weird girl who felt out of place in high school could finally be with an aloof, brooding man who had weird tattoos and lovable idiosyncrasies. I saw how Harry made Taylor happy, and thought … I deserve that, right?
But, just like that, Taylor and Harry had broken up. Candid photos of Taylor leaving their vacation alone in a boat after being dumped surfaced, but I was certain I would never be that girl. Who is that girl, anyway? I was thinking of the photos of Taylor while I was waiting in the dining hall for the guy who wouldn’t show up. Suddenly, I was that girl. I left the dining hall (only after spending $15 worth of meal points to sit alone for half an hour), and realized that for us, it was over.
Taylor wouldn't stand for this and neither would I. Cue my breakup playlist, which was just “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” on repeat.
Styles later admitted the pressure of having all eyes on them was ultimately what ruined the months-long relationship. And though Taylor earned a reputation as a “serial dater,” in reality, she’s just a person who falls hard for people, fast. And I understand that.