Longform

On Form N-400


This essay was originally published by the literary journal Rock & Sling in Vox, a special edition issue on the 2016 presidential election. You can get your hands on this issue, as well as the upcoming Vox II: American Identities by visiting their online store

“You can color in the bubbles for me,” Courtland offered, sliding the ballot across our kitchen table.

I looked at him, horrified. “That’s fraud!”

“Only joking,” he said. “I’ll let you wear the sticker though.” He held up the small white oval stuck to his thumb.

Peeling the sticker off of his finger, I noticed that the Los Angeles edition was different than the kind I had seen growing up in the South. Instead of the standard blue letters stating “I Voted” across a waving American flag, this version translated the words into six other languages including Tagalog, my native tongue. “Bumoto Ako” was emblazoned across the bottom of the oval.

“Makes sense,” I thought, considering how frequently I overhear conversations in Tagalog while walking around the area. On the bus, at gas stations, and without fail, every time I approach the free samples table at Costco. But no matter how accommodating L.A. County may be towards Filipino immigrants, no matter how well I can mix into the melting pot, I can’t claim to be Filipino-American, much less American in general.

I stared at the sticker. Bumoto Ako, it said.

But I didn’t, I thought in response.

“It’s not the same,” I groaned out loud. I placed the sticker on my forehead as I walked away, leaving Courtland to sort out Senator X from Representative Y, Measure M from Proposition HHH.

I dread election season. Like millions of other immigrants such as myself, I loathe having to listen to politicians deliberate on our relative worth, like we’re abandoned dogs waiting to be admitted to a shelter. Ban them all, there’s no more room! Take pity on them, they just want a better life! Keep only the young ones ’cause the adults can’t be trained! We don’t know what kind of diseases they carry—think of the children!

But the thing I dread the most doesn’t have anything to do with politicians or their opinions at all. Well at least, not directly.

“Did you register to vote yet?”

I suppose this question isn’t an unreasonable one to ask of a fairly liberal, politically active writer, particularly one who speaks with a neutral American accent that has been described as “straight out of Sesame Street.”

I never know how to answer. If I say, “I’m not an American citizen,” this tiny nugget of personal information almost always turns into a half-hour long discussion about how the American immigration process works—“Yes, I’ve lived here that long,” and “No, I don’t get automatic citizenship because I’m married to an American,” and “Of course, the citizenship application costs that much.” Or worse, my simple “no” is met with a look of bewilderment, disbelief, and utter disgust. People who ask this question are not exactly the type to answer, “Me either.” This compels me to again put on my best college professor impression and outline the immigration process to someone who probably only wanted an alternative discussion topic to the weather outside.

It’s not the mini-lecture I dread. It’s the follow-up questions. “Why aren’t you a citizen yet?” or “When are you going to apply?” are the most common. The firm belief that duh, of course you want to be an American never ceases to surprise me.

I didn’t exactly have a say in coming to America. In my case, as a typical eleven-year-old faced with a big move, I was actively against it. I screamed. I cried. I tried to run away. I came up with a plan to live with my relatives, who would take rotating shifts to serve as my surrogate parents until my own realized the error of their ways and moved back to the tropics. But alas, I failed. My mom zipped me into a puffy turquoise snow jacket, buckled me up for a 21-hour plane ride, and prodded me through the never-ending “New Arrivals” line at the Detroit airport one snowy winter day, the first day of the rest of my new life.

I didn’t choose to come to the United States. That being said, this country has been my home for almost fifteen years—far longer than any other. My immediate family lives here. Most of my friends live here. I’ve even started a family of my own in a little apartment by the Pacific Ocean. Well, right now it’s just two people and one cat, but we might add a few more four-legged critters to the mix. At least, that’s the goal according to Article I, Section 1.1 of my personal five-year plan. In contrast, citizenship is somewhere in the draft stages of the plan’s Amendments section. Early draft stages.

So why not apply? For years, it’s been a matter of money. One does not casually fork over $680 like it’s a free paper napkin. But, at some point in the past few years, right around the time I became eligible for citizenship, I reached a turning point in my post-grad life and managed to make enough for a trip to Paris and London. So there goes that excuse.

Another viable explanation I often use is the time commitment. This kind of application, you know, the type to ask you to list every single group you’ve been affiliated with in your whole entire life—service organizations, volunteer corps, drinking clubs, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, Gryffindor, or Slytherin—can’t be completed in an afternoon. It can’t be done in five. I need time, lots of it, enough for snack breaks and naps in between. And as a full-time graduate student with a part-time job, an internship, and a husband and a cat to take care of, spare time is a luxury. A luxury designated for doing laundry and dusting the bookshelves—not for typing marathons on Adobe Acrobat.

But then again, I did find enough time to go to Paris and London.

Truth be told, it’s a bit of both of these things. No, I certainly don’t have $680 or twenty hours of free time handy in my back pocket. But if I had to choose again, and I acknowledge my incredible privilege in having this choice, I would still prefer to use these things on airline tickets and fancy French cheeses.

Because I think there is something else that holds me back.

Citizenship is an odd thing. At birth, it’s given freely, often times by the country in which you’re lucky (or unlucky) enough to be born. Unfathomable to many Americans, some countries even allow the parents to choose their child’s citizenship. As you get older, however, the window closes. You are forced to accept your citizenship like you’re forced to accept your eye color or the size of your nose. It’s an intangible, yet no less defining characteristic that shapes who you are as a person and how you view the world.

But at the same time, it’s just a word on a birth certificate. A concept made up by people as a means of self-definition. A cultural construct that holds no real value outside of the citizenship-defined society we have created for ourselves. At our core, we are no different than someone on the other side of the world. We’re all just human beings in the end.

Funny how we tend to forget this so easily.

And thus we draw borders. We fight wars. We promise to build walls. Situations become “us” versus “them” rather than “all of us” versus “those who are trying to do us harm.” We forget the idea of shared humanity and cling instead to our identity as citizens of this place or that.

My Filipino citizenship is a document. A legality. A formalized reflection of where I was born. But it’s also my last connection to a country that is quickly fading in my memories. I hesitate to say it, but trading in one citizenship for another feels like letting go of a part of me, even though the culture, rather than the citizenship status itself, makes me who I am.

Funny how a simple identifier can signify nothing inherent, nothing regarding the true nature of the identified. And yet, the same identifier is collapsed with the culture it represents. It is imbued with so much meaning by the identified in order to self-describe to a world that only understands national allegiance—national culture even—via citizenship.

Maybe this is the year I convince myself of the lesson I’ve been trying to teach others all along—that citizenship says nothing about who someone is at their essence.

Maybe this is the year I realize that I don’t have to compromise my identity as a Filipino immigrant to become a civically empowered member of American society.

Maybe this is the year I fill out my citizenship application. Because as much fun as it has been planning my exit-from-America strategy if Mr. President decides to kick all of us brown-skinned immigrants out, I’d rather not leave it up to chance the next time around.

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Social Justice

One Day in a Nation of Guns: Grappling with the Aftermath of Las Vegas

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Sometimes, a tragedy is so immense and unfathomable in scope that it becomes a challenge to process what exactly has happened, much less how to move forward. Such seems to be the case for many in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting last week, which claimed 58 lives and injured at least 500 others.

Artist David Plunkert’s cover for the latest issue of The New Yorker, titled “October 1, 2017: One Day in a Nation of Guns,” attempts to confront emotions that many of us are currently wrestling with at the moment—sorrow, anger, bewilderment, hopelessness, and fear among them. At the same time, the work underscores the undeniable epidemic of gun violence in this country: The Las Vegas shooting was the 337th mass shooting on American soil this year alone.

At this point, any sensible person knows that “thoughts and prayers” aren’t enough to fix this rapidly worsening problem. (For more on what science says about that uniquely American platitude, check out this article on The Atlantic.) And as The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza points out, “Mass shootings are so frequent in America that the political responses to them have become ritualized to the point of parody.” So then, what are we to do? Where do we begin? Of the first question, I only wish I had an answer. Of the second, maybe we should return to the history books and review how we got here in the first place to figure out how things took a turn for the worst—and perhaps what we can do to change course. Here are some reading materials to start.

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Longform

A 9/11 Story

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Historical amnesia is dangerous. It’s a phenomenon that wreaked havoc in the immediate post-9/11 aftermath and continues to rear its ugly head in the current political climate. Today, we share with you a moving story by native New Yorker and psychology blogger Jessica Taylor on that fateful day sixteen years ago, when she was just seven years old. I think Jessica would agree that it’s important to remember these events not to incite fear and promote divisiveness, but rather to locate them in the larger narrative of history in order to move forward in a fruitful, generative manner—for all willing to contribute to the betterment of this country.

I just checked outside and the sky looks exactly as it did in 2001. Clear skies. Blue. Beautiful. 7 years old. Math lesson was in full effect. Before being sent off to our tables, the building shook and swayed, lights flickering quickly. Next thing I know, my dad is in the doorway of my classroom. Very confused, nobody told me I had a doctor’s appointment that day. Normally that’s what an early pickup means, right? Wrong. Paps was sweating. Nothing new. Frantic with fear gobbling up his eyes? Of course like most children being able to pick up feelings, and out of sheer curiosity, we begin to question everything in existence.

“Daddy what’s wrong? Daddy what’s going on? Daddy where are we going?”

I wasn’t given a concrete answer as I’m being pulled down the stairs, my arms feeling like they were about to pop off like a plastic doll.

“Our friend is in trouble. Bad people are trying to hurt us.”

Like an owl, “Who daddy, who?”

Finally, running outside, we encounter a man who was covered in dust. Filthy. It looked like he took a swim in a vacuum cleaner.

Being exposed to more people in fear, still confused, man begins to stutter: “I-I-I-I don’t know. I was on my way to work, and the building just fell!”

Anyone who knows my black ass father knows in the summer he always carries a damp wash cloth to wipe his face when he was too hot. It always sat around the back of his neck like an accessory. He gave it to the dusty man, who wiped his face, thanked him, and stumbled away. We were now going to my great-grandma’s house. My dad insisted I leave my book bag there while he tried to round up my grandmother. They were arguing. I walk throughout the apartment, and the woman is calmly putting up her clean laundry over a rack she had in the shower.

“I’m not leaving Charles. If I’m meant to die today, I will die in my own house!”

“Ma!”

I go to my uncle’s room at the time, at the end of the hall and checked out the window. Debris. Ashes. Large, grayish clouds. It was still very silent outside…….

Now I’m beyond distressed. My grandmother is staying home, and I’ve fully picked up that everyone is scared about something. If the adults are scared, I should be too.

On our way to meet with my mother was when I saw it. Everyone in the area stopped, looked up, and I swear to God it was just like a movie. We all witnessed the second plane crash into the South Tower. I can’t even begin to explain the noise, but it still haunts me.

My dad screams, “Ruuuuuun!” And I begin to push my little legs, trying to keep my eyes forward. It was hard to focus when everyone was screaming, crying, and running like animals. My mom had put sandals on me (which she constantly tells me to this day she regrets doing) and while running, I tripped and scraped my knee. I was crying harder, and my dad picked me up and threw me on his shoulders.

We were now on the corner of Catherine and Monroe, and we met my mom who was also crying hysterically, claiming that their friend Shaz was in one of the buildings. People are still running and crying all around us and beginning to vacate the area. It was decided that we go to my aunt’s house who lived on Pitt Street. Perhaps 20 minutes away from where we lived.

Concrete barricades upon barricades made the journey long and tiring. Phone lines were taken down entirely, and my little seven-year-old mind still wasn’t processing anything. I just wasn’t sure who would do this and how this could ever happen.

It is a haunting day that I’m doomed to remember and reflect on for the rest of my life. Conspiracy theories lie awake, floating on the internet even past the anniversary date, and it really makes you think.

Yet, you can’t escape it. This is one reality me—and millions of New Yorkers who witnessed and lost loved ones—cannot escape. So many freak stories about people not going to work that day because of some extraneous reason. I mentioned a woman in the story—Shaz. She’s okay. She didn’t go into work that day because her husband Junior had fractured his ankle, and she had to stay home to care for him.

September 11th. Never forget.

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Feminism

On Nia Ali and the Olympics

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Lilia is a former college cross-country runner from Tennessee. The following was originally published as a Facebook post on her personal page. The post has been reformatted and edited for publication on this site.

I wish I could watch the Olympics all year, every year, not only because it’s the only time I can see the sports I grew up training for on TV, but because of moments like this one.

Cause here’s the thing: I can turn on the TV or check social media any day and see women engaged in self-starvation, self-mutilation, racing to burn away evidence of having just grown an entirely new human, petty drama just to rack up ratings, or competition for a rose and a man.

Women on TV often only exist in competition to tear each other down. The prize is always male attention. Women who lose that attention, women who have won it enough to become mothers, simply disappear. And if instead of disappearing, they keep getting attention, they’re bad mothers. This is what we see daily, until those magical holidays of female strength and power we call FIFA, Olympics, WNBA.

And they really are like holidays because it’s hard to see footage of women—much less, mothers—building up and respecting their own bodies and respecting each other as admired opponents or loyal teammates any other time of year.

Last night the USA women’s track and field team swept all three medals in the 100m hurdles, and Nia Ali (silver) cradled her baby son as she spoke to NBC. I grabbed a screenshot just to be able to hold on to this moment because I need more moments like this, because it kind of feels like Christmas.

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Social Justice

Guilt, Historical Amnesia, and the Question of Empathy: Appendix

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Talk is cheap. If we want change, we have to do something about it. Something substantive. Something that doesn’t co-opt the cause for our own benefit, even if it is unintentional. Something that doesn’t obscure the very reason why we fight but instead shines a light on the issues. Something that can be of help for those who need it the most. Here are some starting points:

Understand the problems at hand.

In order to address systematic racism and police brutality from a policy standpoint, one must first have a firm grasp on the complex, tangled laundry list of causes why black people are killed by the police at a higher rate than white people. While a lack of empathy is arguably the root cause, one needs to dismantle the structural forces created by this lack to reach the heart of the matter. Now, I’m not telling you to dive headfirst into some Frantz Fanon book—though if that’s your M.O., I wholeheartedly support your decisions. We all have other obligations beyond our causes, and sometimes, foundational text on postcolonial race relations can get a bit dense for reading on the side. Instead, I recommend beginning with this New York Times op-ed by Charles M. Blow that gives a thoughtful overview of the inherently racist society we have created for ourselves. This older, but still painfully relevant piece on Mother Jones explores the intersection of criminalization and city revenue, reminding us that crimes are, in fact, a social construct created by those who possess cultural hegemony. Historian Keri Leigh Merritt draws connections between slavery, black incarceration, and the history of the professional police force in this powerful article. And, if you’re more of a documentary person, The House I Live In does a thorough job in addressing systematic injustices and racial bias in the American carceral system.

Arm yourself.

With knowledge and facts, that is. Hats of to this post on Aida Manduley’s site, which offers a blow-by-blow response to detractors. If you are unsure about how to respond to inquiries (or hostile accusations) such as  “Why do black people take this so personally?” feel free to quote one of the extensive and pointed responses.

Stay tuned on pending legislation.

The Center for Popular Democracy and PolicyLink maintain an incredibly informative site to demand for justice in policing. The resource section in particular provides ample reading material regarding statutes, policies, and practices about various aspects of policing and criminalized acts.

Contact your officials and ask for change, particularly when legislation comes up for a vote.

Don’t know where to start? The U.S. Senate website provides both physical addresses and email links to contact your senators. The House website has a search function to find your representative by zip code, and this links to said representative’s website. Also, remember that police in America are governed on a local level, so make sure you contact your respective city councilmember; if you live in a larger city, it may be easier to get a hold of their field representative instead.

Donate.

Not everyone has the luxury of spare time. If you want to help but really and truly don’t have the time, I suggest donating to fund the work of career social justice fighters instead. Besides the organizations mentioned above, I recommend giving to the American Civil Liberties Union or to NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund (which allows you to designate your contribution to particular issues such as voting rights or police reform).

Don’t lose sight of what you’re fighting for.

Through all this, however, I implore you to do everything that you can to remember that behind all the theories and statistics and numbers are real people. Never forget this.

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Social Justice

Guilt, Historical Amnesia, and the Question of Empathy

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Lately, I seem to hear the same voice every morning when I turn on the radio during my daily commute. I can practically feel the pent-up anger, like a suffocating cloud of smoke, filling up my car as Donald Trump’s gravelly voice huffs and puffs through another grandiose yet substantially wanting speech. A few weeks ago, he said he could “relate” to police brutality against black people. Yesterday, he rehashed the subject of building a wall to stop illegal immigrants. Today, the topic was tax reform.

Commentators on the NPR program agreed that his proposal—though, like usual, lacked any fleshed-out details—hearkened back to Reagan-era policies. Trickle-down economics, as those of us who like to keep ourselves at least somewhat informed know, doesn’t work in favor of anyone but the already rich. It slows down economic growth, widens the income gap, and further harms those at the very bottom of the economic ladder. But it’s easy not to pay attention, to hear “less taxes” and cheer. It’s easy to forget what has already happened and learn nothing from the past. It’s also easy, with facts, articles, and knowledge on your side, to feel superior, to dismiss Trump supporters as ill-informed and be done with it.

A lot of you have wondered why I haven’t commented on any of the recent incidents of racism and police brutality in America. The simplest response I can come up with is that I needed some time to think. I may be a minority, but I am not black. I will never be subjected to the very specific brand of prejudice inherent in both explicit and implicit acts of racism against black men and women in America. I needed to figure out, as Roxane Gay discussed in this article for Marie Claire, how to become more than an ally. I needed to figure out how to take on this fight in a way that addressed my own privilege; does not ask more of those who have nothing left to give; and does not further marginalize those who I’m trying to help.

We’ve failed black men and women in America. In light of interpersonal racism and police profiling, this is fairly easy to see. But I think it is harder to understand how all non-blacks have failed them, and this is even more difficult to accept.

When a black person is shot and killed, their bodies, like many black bodies before them, are objectified, politicized, and stripped of their personhood by news reports and water cooler talk from non-blacks. Their stories are repeated until all that’s left of Trayvon Martin and Alton Sterling and Philando Castile are observations and analyses of racial injustice and social struggles, and though often with the best of intentions, these discussions remain divorced from the fact that people—living, breathing human beings—lost their lives.

So we continue to talk and analyze and squabble on Facebook about these matters. But, at some point, we forget and go back to our daily lives. We, as non-blacks, have the privilege to forget. We get excited for the latest Harry Potter book or the Olympics or some other funny thing on the internet. Meanwhile, our black brothers and sisters can’t afford to forget. The person behind the news story could easily be a relative or a friend. The person could be them.

We’ve all failed black men and women in America. We’ve failed them in terms of systematic injustices, yes, but we’ve failed them even when we have every intention to help. As this piece by John Metta brings up, the inability to acknowledge our role within a racist system makes us just as guilty. (This article specifically calls out white people, but I would argue that this discussion extends to anyone who has enough privilege to only worry about a ticket when pulled over by the police.) Those of us who think of ourselves as socially conscious, as “woke” even, draw a line between us and them, between the “real” racists and the “allies,” even as we continue to benefit from a racist system and politicize, dehumanize, and co-opt these stories to produce outcomes that create little more than elevated chit-chat. We continue to forget that after awareness must come action. Voting. Writing to your local police chief or Washington representative. Calling out people on their implicit racism even though they may accuse you of pandering to political correctness. We continue to forget the people who have died as a result of this racist system, as a result of negative stereotypes and groundless associations as old as the country we live in.

I witnessed a police shooting not too long ago. Two police officers were involved in an altercation with a black man. I’m not entirely sure what happened, whether the man genuinely posed a threat to the police officers or not. I’m not sure I’m even qualified to judge such a matter. What I do know is that a man ended up on a stretcher, bullet wounds on the side of his body, his white t-shirt soaked in his own blood. I know that even in the face of such an incident, even with the blood right in front of our eyes, the talk that surrounded the incident, even the words that came out of my own mouth, denied the victim of his personhood. Instead, our sorrow was expressed in platitudes, our analysis of the event purely political. Our words were no different than those we would have used if we saw this event on TV, or even simply heard about it in a passing conversation. We’re desensitized to such things. We are numb.

Such incidents sadden and anger us at the time, but rarely do these sentiments last beyond a news cycle. They don’t shake us to our core, lead us to change how we act around police officers, how we act around strangers in general. We keep on keeping on, because we have privilege.

Now let’s get back to Donald Trump. While his horrifying talks about nuking America’s enemies and dismissing Mexican immigrants as drug smugglers and rapists are enough to make one worry—to say the least—about his ability to serve as a diplomatic world leader, it’s his distinct lack of empathy, and the seeming popularity of this particular trait, that worries me the most. A lack of empathy leads a demagogue like Trump to categorically condemn all Muslims as one and the same. A lack of empathy leads thousands to cheer for such a condemnation.

This again relates back to the subject of police brutality and systematic racism. Though there are certainly other factors that filter into such situations, a lack of empathy arguably plays a role in power relations between police and the public, preventing one from seeing the person behind the stereotype. And while abstraction as a way of thinking can lead to important realizations and a deeper understanding of the inner workings of various social tensions, a lack of empathy erases the human face from such political discussions, rendering the very reason for these discussions as irrelevant.

It is simple to go through the exercise of absolving oneself of guilt regarding racial injustice if you consider yourself politically aware, socially conscious, even sensitive to racial issues. It is easy to forget the past, to overlook the fact that in retrospect, the blame for the tragedy extends beyond the perpetrator and involves the onlooker, the witness who saw, who pitied, who understood, but still did nothing.

True empathy should compel one to act. We already know that we will never fully understand nor experience the systematic injustice that black men and women are subjected to in this country. But if we say that black lives matter, what are we going to do about it?

Stay tuned for a list of reading material to aid in thinking critically about these issues, personal stories to remind you of why this really matters, and most importantly, resources to guide you in doing something about all of this.

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Pop Culture

Is It OK to Hate Taylor Swift? A Reflection, in List Form

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Let me start off by saying I don’t actually know Taylor Swift on a personal level. Granted, by sheer luck (or misfortune, depending on how you look at it), I have found myself within one or two degrees of separation from her by a) living in the Nashville metro area for four years, and b) inadvertently befriending several folks who do know her. Well, knew her I suppose, back when she was more #solo and less #squad. Thus, I’ve heard, maybe more than most, a somewhat absurd number of reasons why I should hate her.

“She’s stuck up.”

“She’s so fake.”

“She hardly writes any of her songs.”

“She went on a date with [insert sorority sister’s name here]’s boyfriend once, and he still tells everyone.”

“She was super mean in middle school choir. All that stuff in her first album about the mean kids at school? There was a reason no one was nice to her—she wasn’t very nice in the first place.”

Now, with Hiddleswift upon us, these occasional asides from friends and acquaintances have morphed into full-blown listicles either worshiping her every Insta-move or dealing a play-by-play blow to her new beau. Swift has taken over my newsfeed. She’s taking over my text messages. She has even found her way into my fifteen-at-work break room convos, which are usually reserved for venting about customers who can’t seem to fathom the concept of a “return policy.”

I’d like to consider myself an intellectual, which I suppose is a bit presumptuous and a lot narcissistic of me. It is an identifier I have nonetheless come to embrace, snootiness and all. But I also have an unquenchable thirst for pop culture that seems to puzzle those I meet in more academic settings, such as in study groups for a graduate-level research design class. And so, dear reader, I attempt to present to you my version of a listicle: a (somewhat) researched, (semi-) theoretical, and (not-at-all) comprehensive run-down of acceptable and unacceptable reasons to hate Taylor Swift, based on an informal survey of peers as well as my own personal reflections.

OK Reasons to Hate Taylor Swift:

1) You can’t stand her music and think of dying goats every time “I Knew You Were Trouble” comes on the radio.

I get it. I feel the same way every time I hear a twenty-one pilots song on the radio. I don’t care how many times someone tells me they are the best live touring act out there right now (barf). Science has shown links between musical preference and personality. To each her own.

2) You consider yourself “of a certain age” and don’t know who she is other than the fact that her name keeps popping up as “News” on your social media (or local newspaper).

This is also very annoying and probably one of the most understandable reasons to begin to dislike someone strongly. As someone in my mid-twenties, I feel the same way about YouTube stars and/or any famous person without a well-rounded IMDB profile.

3) You are jealous of her cats.

As a fellow cat lady, I can empathize. I too want cute little munchkin cats to act as accessories in lieu of traditional purses and such. But alas, we can’t all be so lucky.

NOT OK Reasons to Hate Taylor Swift:

1) You think she’s a “slut.”

But what is the threshold for “slut,” even? Is it rebounding too quickly like with Hiddleswift? Is it dating too many guys in general (and how many is too many)? What about those unconfirmed reports that Swift has never *gasp* cashed in her V-card? If the former is true, is the threshold the number of boys you’ve swapped spit with? Once, I made out with three different boys in two weeks (all with the middle name of Edward, weirdly enough). Does that make me a slut? Why should we even care about which (and how many) dreamboats Swift has shared snuggles and/or sexy times with, other than the fact that we would like to be the one sharing snuggles with said dreamboats? (And if you’re trying to assert that you wouldn’t love to be on a swan with a Scotsman who looks like this, you’re lying to yourself.)

Without even bringing in any hardcore feminist theory, I think it’s pretty clear that this is a moot point. But if you want feminist theory on “sluts,” read this.

2) You think she’s a “mean girl.”

Have you actually been personally victimized by Taylor Swift? No? I didn’t think so.** I suppose it’s pretty easy to infer from those picture-perfect Instagram blasts that Swift and her squad are trying to rub their picture-perfectness in your face—along with the fact that you weren’t invited. But maybe, just maybe, these ladies are just snapping some pics to remember the occasion. I mean, how many times have you done the same with your gal pals? Not to mention the number of times you made your friends retake that #candidselfie because someone’s bangs were parted funny, or someone’s smile gave them a fat chin face, and so on…

**Exceptions can be made for those I know who have actually felt belittled by Swift during an in-person encounter, either as a child growing up in Pennsylvania or as an awkward adult at an industry-only party (or if you’re Camilla Belle). I’m sure there are those out there who feel the same hatred towards me. Apologies to everyone who may fall into this category. I hope I can make it up to you someday.

3) You think she promotes unrealistic ideals for women.

Now this is a tricky one. I must admit that on certain days, days when I’m scheduled to work fourteen hours between two jobs after attending class in the morning, days when I find my tummy pudge larger than usual and my chin riddled with acne because all I’ve eaten in the past 24 hours are a giant bag of Ruffles I keep in my desk drawer in case of emergencies and a $1.19 Taco Bell burrito I managed to scrounge up the change for since payday is still two days away, days when I get up at 5:30 a.m. and don’t stop moving until 11:30 p.m., I really, really, really hate Taylor Swift. I hate how I open up Instagram, or Buzzfeed, or even just my Facebook in search of mindless entertainment and instead have to be confronted with her unnaturally perfect blonde head of hair, or her otherworldly glowing complexion, or her perfect little chicken legs. I hate how she takes on the “I’m just like you” stance by posting photos of her bloody cat scratches one minute—just to turn around and flaunt her glamazon Vogue shoot a few posts later. I hate how it seems that at least 50% of her year is spent being fabulous and not working, while I watch my (surprisingly) above average household income be siphoned off into rent payments and car payments and tuition payments and health insurance payments and so on… I hate how fun and lovely and celebrity-filled her 4th of July holiday seemed to be, all while on my end, I was grateful for the mere fact that a) I had some alone time waiting for my husband in the car while he worked a late shift and b) I could use said alone time to catch up on paying bills and sending work emails and scheduling doctor’s appointments that, between working two jobs and being a full-time student, I haven’t even had the time to think about.

But this story, this hatred, really isn’t about Taylor, now is it? It’s about me. It’s about the luck of the draw. It’s about white beauty. It’s about capitalism. It’s about uneven playing fields and neoliberalism and obsession with celebrity and everything in between. It’s about the kind of media I choose to consume, even though it has a greater chance of giving me FOMO than helping me relax. It speaks volumes about what we value, consciously or otherwise, as a society, and very little about the pop star herself.

Bet you didn’t think this listicle would take such a dark turn, did you?

In short, it’s easy to hate on celebrities because we—well most of us—don’t really know them. It’s easy to project all of your hopes and dreams and fantasies and frustrations upon a (flawless and perfectly coiffed) representation of a human being staring back at you from your TV/laptop/movie/iPhone screen. Though, if you pause for a second from drinking the haterade and reflect, you might realize something about yourself. Even if it is just that you secretly have a thing for malicious Norse gods.

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