Friday, January 25, 2013

COLUMN: T-Swizzle

I remember one of the biggest fights I got into with my ex-girlfriend like it was yesterday.

We were driving her little sister up to church camp in Wisconsin, and all the way up there, I'd been subjected to a barrage of sugary teenage pop music that had already worn through my last nerve and was grating at the very core of my soul. After two hours of this puerile sing-along nonsense, I'd reached the breaking point.

"Say, honey," I asked. "Is there any chance we might be able to change CDs to something a little less, umm, sucky?"

My girlfriend looked at me incredulously. "But you said you liked Taylor Swift!?"

"Oh," I explained, "Yeah, I really like Taylor Swift. Just not her MUSIC."

Note to self: In the future, if one wants to keep one's girlfriend from becoming one's EX-girlfriend, one should probably keep any crushes one might happen to harbor for barely legal, leggy pop-country superstars to oneself. On the lighter side, I didn't have to worry about any more boring small talk for the rest of trip. And above all, that insipid CD -- which, it turns out, was from MY collection -- came out of the player.

So am I a total skeevy pervert for thinking that Taylor Swift is SUPER cute? Okay, so maybe she IS half my age, and, I suppose, had I been more, umm, "busy" in high school, I could theoretically have a daughter her age and be spending my days worrying about whether or not any 41-year-old men were leering at her.

But think about this. Ron Wood of the Rolling Stones dated an 18-year-old when he was 61. Anna Nicole Smith married an 89-year-old. Demi Moore has 16 years on Ashton Kutcher. Martha Raye was 75 when she married a 42-year-old. Hugh Hefner dated 20-year-old TWINS. At the same time! And we all know how well all of THOSE relationships played out, right?

The point is, it's possible. Sure, people would talk. And there'd be paparazzi. And the unforgiving press would probably call me a dirty old man and I would read that and it would hurt and I would be sad and then I would look up and realize I'M DATING TAYLOR SWIFT and the rest of the world can bite me.

You might laugh, but you don't know how close it came to being true. You see, Taylor Swift and I had a moment.

A couple years ago, Taylor played Moline, and yours truly was tapped to review the show. Now, country music isn't really my thing -- in fact, it's pretty much the exact opposite of my thing -- but, c'mon, it was Taylor Swift, so I accepted the assignment with glee. When I got to the iWi and picked up my review tickets, I was stunned to see the ticket attached to a meet-and-greet pass. The gods had spoken, and the gods wanted me to meet Taylor Swift.

Now, I don't know if you've ever been to a meet-and-greet with a major label artist, but it's not as magical as you might think. I've been lucky enough to attend a few, and they all usually work the same way: ticket-holders are taken backstage, lined up like cattle, and paraded quickly and efficiently past the artist, who's usually surrounded by a team of managers and security. If you're lucky, you get about twenty seconds to make awkward small talk while a manager takes your picture, and then you're paraded far, far away. Sometimes you get a cookie. It's entirely awesome.

As I took my position in the cattle line, the goal was simple. I needed to make country superstar Taylor Swift fall hopelessly in love with me, and I was going to have 20 seconds to do it in. No problem, right?

I knew what it was like to botch a meet-and-greet. Once I found myself in a similar cattle line to meet the band Oasis, a group I spent most of the 90s worshipping as rock gods. I knew that their singer Liam Gallagher had a penchant for being a jerk, so I figured my best approach would be spending my 20 seconds making fun of corporate meet-and-greets.

"Hi Liam," I said. "Thanks for taking the time to do this. Do you guys have to put up with these stupid events in every town you go to? That's got to get old real quick."

That's when Liam Gallagher looked up at me and said, and I quote: "If you don't like it, mate, there's the door." Fail.

So I knew what NOT to say. Instead, I had to come up with something cute, and quick. "What's a country superstar like you doing with a nerd like me?" No. "I can't wait to hear what songs you'll write about ME." God, no. Umm... ummm...

And like that, it was my turn. And there she was. Now, there's two things you need to know about the real Taylor Swift. First is that she's really nice and really cute and pretty much perfect. Second is that she's TALL. Like, really tall. Taller than me. And there she was, all shiny and cute and tall and signing my CD and someone's taking our picture and this was it. I cleared my throat...

And that's when Taylor Swift gasped. Not at the beautiful words that came out of my mouth. Not at my manly physique. No, instead Taylor Swift gasped because a kid two spots behind me in line figured out the PERFECT way to get her attention: he passed out, cold, onto the floor. Needless to say, Taylor ignored me and went racing to this kid's aid. The last thing I saw as I was led out of the room was this kid coming to as his head was being cradled on Taylor Swift's lap. Well played, kid. Well played, indeed.

It's okay, though. Taylor and I will have another moment. At the rate she goes through boyfriends -- and if she's true to the words of her hit single and will, in fact, never ever get back together with any of them, like, ever -- eventually I'll be the only guy left that she hasn't dated. I'm a patient guy; I can wait.

In the meantime, to be fair, recently I bought her new album "Red" -- and it's good. REALLY good. Maybe even one of the best records of the year. It's confident without being pretentious, edgy without losing its appeal, and a statement of maturity from a songwriter with a huge career ahead of her. Which is a good thing, because it's gonna take some serious songwriting skill to pull off her future hit single, "Stay Away From Me, Chubby Old Newspaper Guy (Restraining Order)."

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