I've become a Taylor Swift fan… just so my daughter will talk to me!

I’ve become a Taylor Swift super-fan… just so my daughter will talk to me again!

  • The flat I share with my daughter, Bethesda, 17, is now littered with Taylor memorabilia and rings night and day to her music 
  • READ MORE: Taylor Swift superfan gets MARRIED in the front row of her concert

My name is Antonella, and I am a middle-aged Taylor Swift super-fan. That’s not something I ever thought I would have to admit.

My musical tastes have always run more to Nirvana and the Sex Pistols and, until a year or so ago, I believed that successful mainstream pop stars were below my dignity.

This dignity is long gone. The flat I share with my daughter, Bethesda, 17, is now littered with Taylor memorabilia and rings night and day to her music.

We are beside ourselves with excitement about her record-breaking tour, which kicked off to global fanfare this week and will – eventually – make its glitter-laden way to the UK. Bethesda’s greatest fear is that we won’t be able to get tickets.

My partner, Gavin, an acclaimed music producer who could not be more amused by it all, now calls me The Swiftie, and, after any minor disagreement, opens phone calls with the words, ‘It’s me, hi. I’m the problem, it’s me’ – the chorus of Taylor’s recent number one hit, Anti-Hero.

The reason I have jettisoned my carefully preserved air of cool musical sophistication is in order to ‘get in with’ my teenage daughter, who is so deeply in love with Taylor that the global superstar might as well be another member of the family.

Every mother-daughter relationship stretches, or even fractures, during the teen years. Inevitably, she asserts her independence and what once seemed magical about you grows ho-hum. It’s a natural stage of development – but wow, it hurts. From birth, Bethesda was the centre of my universe. 

This dignity is long gone. The flat I share with my daughter, Bethesda, 17, is now littered with Taylor memorabilia and rings night and day to her music. Bonding: Antonella and her daughter Bethesda

Her jaundiced head looked like a squashed satsuma but, to me, she was the most gorgeous creature ever born. The prospect of being separated from her for more than a few hours was unthinkable.

I remember my then husband’s incredulity when, in Bethesda’s infancy, I turned down the opportunity to interview Clint Eastwood in Los Angeles because I couldn’t bear to leave my daughter.

Over time, friendships based on anything other than motherhood fell by the wayside; hobbies other than baking cupcakes and playing with my little girl seemed dry and empty.

Bethesda and I grew to rely on each other even more closely during my protracted divorce from her father.

He left the family home when she was eight and, to my terror and despair, called in aggressive lawyers. For the next six years, I fought in and out of court while caring for Bethesda, whose anguish about the situation was, at times, close to unmanageable. Once so serene and happy, she had changed beyond recognition.

Almost two years passed before the family court barred Bethesda’s father from all contact other than by letter. No longer willing to show hurt, Bethesda feigned an indifference far more frightening to me than her grief.

At times, it felt like we only had each other. And yet the dynamic between us grew troubled as she got older. She was too young to understand the pressures I was under. Preoccupied trying to keep our small family afloat, I was barely able to remember my name. In retrospect, I realise that I tended to shoo her away, only ever half-listening to her.

It may seem ridiculous, but I actually resented Taylor’s influence on my child. I’d plan to surprise Bethesda with a batch of freshly baked brownies, and find her bedroom door shut in my face. ‘Not now!’ she’d bellow. ‘I’m listening to Taylor!’

Naturally, as Bethesda grew up she began to lose interest in the innocent pleasures that had filled our life together. The rejection was disorientating. I felt as if I’d been slapped when she announced she wanted to give away her gorgeous Flower Fairies pop-up books.

Slowly, I realised that all those thousands of hours of reading, playing, baking and crafting — the happiest of my life — were part of a childhood she was forgetting. I felt as sidelined as the Flower Fairies.

It was during this time that her obsession with Taylor Swift began to develop. Looking back, I can see that it was Taylor’s music that allowed Bethesda to release the stifled sadness she no longer trusted me to contain. In effect, Taylor gave my daughter permission to feel.

Unwittingly, I had unleashed Taylor into my daughter’s life myself. I showed her the joyous Shake It Off YouTube video (which has had a staggering 3.2 billion views). Her eyes widened with wonder and she instantly asked me to play it again.

From then on, she would spend hours dancing around to Taylor’s music on the pink plastic CD player I bought her.

There were many times when I wondered what I’d started. Her adoration became so all-consuming, I began to feel like an interloper in my daughter’s life. After years where we’d relied solely on each other, it wasn’t a comfortable feeling.

It may seem ridiculous, but I actually resented Taylor’s influence on my child.

I’d plan to surprise Bethesda with a batch of freshly baked brownies, and find her bedroom door shut in my face. ‘Not now!’ she’d bellow. ‘I’m listening to Taylor!’

Soon Bethesda knew the lyrics to Taylor’s every song and followed the details of her every relationship and public statement.

She bought clothes like those Taylor wore in her videos and practised applying the same style of make-up — which, at times, brought her into conflict with my views about how a pre-teen should present herself. ‘But Taylor wears red lipstick!’ she’d say, as though that were the ultimate validation.

Bethesda’s adolescence will, for me, forever be encapsulated by a single image: dancing barefoot to Taylor Swift — eyes closed, enraptured, pink metallic headphones on — under a garland of tissue paper stars in her bedroom.

Among Taylor’s overwhelmingly young, female fans, Bethesda found a community of sorts — one that demands fierce loyalty and thrives on the glorious ‘drama’. They tweet all Taylor-related developments, spend hours filming themselves miming to her songs, and text each other, squealing, over her triumphs.

Along with every other ‘Swiftie’ (as devotees are called), Bethesda adored Taylor’s mother, Andrea, and detested Taylor’s enemies (her ex-boyfriend, Jake Gyllenhaal, Kanye West and his former manager, Scooter Braun), dismissing them as lunatics, wastrels and woman-haters.

Taylor’s romance with her rumoured fiancé, British actor Joe Alwyn, moved her to tears.

Annoyed, I asked Bethesda how it was possible to invest so much thought and emotion in a stranger while demonstrating almost complete indifference to the feelings of the woman who had and would always be there for her — namely, me.

This question was, of course, rhetorical: I was just a mum, with my exhaustion, endless work commitments and boring insistence on a tidy bedroom, whereas Taylor was God. I was — I can’t deny it — madly jealous.

Eventually, I realised that I would have to try at least to understand this passion in my daughter’s life.

I thought it would be difficult, if not impossible — that I’d have to, in essence, fake it.

Still, I prepared to sacrifice my musical integrity to regain our closeness. And so, on New Year’s Day last year, I agreed to listen properly ‘to just one song’.

Bethesda and I lay together on her bed, just as we used to when she was little. Then she pressed play on the song she’d been badgering me to listen to forever.

We held hands as the piano chords began. To my surprise, halfway through, I burst into tears. The song, New Year’s Day, was simply beautiful. Bethesda’s eyes were shimmering, too.

‘Finally you understand!’ she told me. We lay there for an hour or so, listening to it on repeat and talking, mostly about Taylor.

The whole evening stands out clearly in my memory as a turning point — the moment I finally swallowed my pride and met my daughter on her own terms.

Our mutual love for Taylor became a bridge across that tricky teenage territory I privately refer to as ‘The Hellscape’.

I’d even say that Taylor Swift and her beautiful music has saved our relationship.

We began listening together at night before Bethesda fell asleep. She explained the history of each song, introducing me to the mythology of a woman I have come to understand as extraordinary.

It is no accident that Taylor has such a powerful appeal to young girls. Known as ‘mother’ to her fans, the 33-year-old is treated by them with a reverence that borders on the religious.

This week, Taylor kicked off her first tour in five years. In America, 3.5 million people – the largest number for any concert, ever – registered for tickets, repeatedly crashing the Ticketmaster website. Tickets were then resold for up to $33,750 (£27,600).

Bethesda, who stayed up until some ungodly hour to join the priority list for the UK leg of the tour (even though the dates have not yet been announced), is desperate to see her idol live. All I can say is that I’ll do my best.

The Eras Tour also stands to make Taylor the first billionaire ever to have achieved this status solely through music.

She is, in other words, arguably the most successful musical artist of all time.

She also won’t play dumb, won’t submit to sexualisation and won’t conform to body standards that have been determined by men.

Perhaps most impressively of all, she is managed by her mother, which I believe to be the foundation not only of her unique emotional equilibrium but of her success.

So it seems fitting that — now I’ve finally surrendered to her improbably potent sweetness — Taylor’s music has brought Bethesda and me closer than we’ve been for years.

Of course, Bethesda sees this as her victory. ‘I’ve finally worn you down!’ she crows.

But as we sit hand-in-hand, listening yet again to Taylor’s tenth album, Midnights, which broke every streaming record you can think of, I know I am the real winner.

I even dusted off my guitar and taught myself, with agonising ineptitude, to play one of her singles, Cardigan. My rehearsals were so bad that Gavin could not stop laughing.

Ignoring the flagrant mockery, I played it at our first ‘Swiftmas’ last year (this is what Swifties call Christmas).

Once Bethesda had recovered from the shock, she hugged me as though she never wanted to let me go.

Taylor has inspired me in another way, too. I have started a band with Gavin. I Want What I Want, our first single, will soon be released. Part of the reason I dared to do that is because Taylor has taught me to fly in the face of expectations.

And I’ll admit, I’d like to appear daring in my daughter’s eyes, sharing just a little of her idol’s glitter, rather than remaining forever the tired, dowdy mum barking about sweet wrappers under the bed.

I like to think that when she’s older, Bethesda will appreciate that, like her hero, I had the courage to step out of the box.

However, much I admire Taylor, becoming her sidekick in Bethesda’s eyes was insupportable. I needed my daughter to understand that I exist beyond the narrow confines of what she understood as ‘Mum’ — that like Taylor, I, too, could be full of surprises.

Partaking in Bethesda’s passion has made me feel less of a beleaguered, put-upon mum, and more of a wide-eyed, emotionally open enthusiast.

It has reminded me that loving a child is not only about responsibility but also excitement and joy. Much to my surprise, I have Taylor Swift to thank for that.

  • Sign up for more about Antonella and her band on mamafeaturingantonella.com

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