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The dark truth about Taylor Swift Too many young women yearn for annihilation

Taylor's Eros across the Eras. Credit: John Shearer/Getty

Taylor's Eros across the Eras. Credit: John Shearer/Getty


August 16, 2023   6 mins

The scene at the ship’s bow in Titanic is so iconic it has spawned innumerable homages and pastiches. But would the fictionalised love story between Jack and Rose carry the same iconic power, had their relationship not been doomed? Would Romeo and Juliet be bywords for romantic intensity, had they not tragically ended their lives in the flush of youthful passion?

It’s common knowledge that women like love stories. And those which gain iconic status tend toward tragedy. Why? Is it just that tragedy speaks to the emotional intensity of being young? I’m staid and middle-aged now, but I remember the exquisite agony of teenage unrequited love, not to mention the perverse draw of sexual liaisons too edgy, kinky, or otherwise intense to last.

What’s less well-recognised is that this kind of emotional intensity, and the motif of doomed passion that serves as its carrier, has roots in a thousand-year-old religious schism. And while its origin story has been largely forgotten, the spiritual hunger it encodes lives on in a perplexing trait often seen in the young, and perhaps especially young women: a craving for romantic transcendence that’s difficult to distinguish from self-destruction.

Nowhere does this kamikaze mysticism hide more flagrantly and influentially in plain sight than in the wildly popular music of Taylor Swift, and the worldwide cult of “Swifties” she has inspired. The only artist in pop history to occupy all of the Top Ten single slots at the same time, Swift more recently racked up four simultaneous Top Ten albums. She has spawned “Swiftogeddon” all-Taylor club nights; the internet swirls with footage of “Swifties” singing in unison; there is even a Taylor Swift-themed university course. Even someone as square as I am can quote lyrics from more than one of her songs. Taylor Swift is a phenomenon.

So what is it about her work that so captivates the young women who form the backbone of her fanbase? Crucially, I think, her love songs don’t tend to be about relationships that end well. A few — “Mine” and “Love Story” for instance — describe happy endings. But by and large even her requited ones are upbeat only when describing the first flush of infatuation, as in “Enchanted“, “Fearless“, and “Ready For It?“.

Instead of inclining towards the happy ever after, Swiftian passion comes with its own doom baked in: an assumption that, for any number of reasons, the high won’t last. “Delicate” is a stuttering, anxious hymn to the fear that declaring your feelings will destroy a budding romance. “Endgame­” captures both the longing to be someone’s “happy ever after” and, implicitly, the expectation that this the dream will turn sour.

And perhaps it’s no wonder. For in Swift-world, the next step from the buzz of first love seems to be thrill-seeking: passion made more intense by the fact that it will be over any moment.

Other songs make still more explicit this pursuit of intensity at the expense of permanence.”Wildest Dreams” describes a liaison made more magical by anticipating how it’ll feel to remember, after it’s over. And “Blank Space” describes a woman who throws herself with wild vigour into every new liaison, while warning her new paramour that she is “insane” and will make him miserable.

Beyond the first flush of love, then, lies mostly darkness, longing, and perhaps bittersweet recollection. My takeaway from Swift’s oeuvre is that a happy ending matters less than the sheer romanticness of love elevated by whatever dooms it to destruction, whether that’s the lover, some external circumstance, or the protagonist’s inner demons.

We could just shrug and say well, Swift has been unlucky in love — her fans are as well-versed in her doomed love affairs as they are her lyrics cataloguing them — and she has a knack for singing about this in a way that resonates with a wide audience. But why is this theme of thwarted, exquisitely painful romance so powerful?

Our love-affair with doomed love begins in early 13th-century France with the two-decade Albigensian Crusade which saw the Cathar sect persecuted, tortured, slaughtered and scattered by the orthodox Christian Knights Templar, leading to the deaths of an estimated 200,000. Their books were burned. But inasmuch as their beliefs are known, they were seen as heretical for their rejection of the Christian belief that God was made man. Rather, in their view the world was evil, and incarnation imprisoned souls who longed to be freed to return to the divine. And, also heretically, in their view this return would be to unity with God, not — as orthodox Christians believed — “communion”.

This bloody episode in European Church history has made its way into pop culture via the phrase, attributed to Papal legate Arnaud Amalric, at the massacre of Béziers: “Kill them all. God will know his own.”. But that violent religious struggle also had another, subtler and further-reaching legacy stemming from what happened to the Cathar faith.

For it didn’t disappear: it went underground. And the origins of the recurring theme of doomed passion in Western culture, according to the Swiss medievalist Denis de Rougemont, lie in the survival of Cathar heresy, hidden in plain sight in “courtly love” literature.

This work was created by the “troubadours”, poets and composers attached to Provençal courts — who were, de Rougemont argues, at least Cathar-influenced if not all secret heretics. For there are eerie parallels between their poetic mythologisation of knights and “courtly love”, and the heretical faith they were slaughtered for. If, as it was for the Cathars, every soul was trapped in a state of longing for reunion with the Divine, when the troubadours sang of unrequited love of a knight for his “Lady” that wasn’t a literal love story. On the contrary: it stood for that spiritual pain and longing.

And because such a longing could only be attained by escape from the prison of flesh — which is to say, by death — the love of a knight for his “Lady” could not be consummated, except by the death of one or both. In other words: to convey its esoteric meaning, the narrative “romance” couldn’t have a “happy ever after”. In these terms, the only real happy ending is death.

This myth proved so powerful it outlived the sect that inspired it. Long after the esoteric double meaning of the romance myth was largely forgotten, the motif of doomed love continued to flourish in Western culture, from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, or indeed Jack and Rose in Titanic. But the tragedy is that even as this myth has influenced what we believe love is, and what it means, we’ve slowly lost not just the faith that first spawned the ideal of tragic passion, but also the mainstream religious framework that served to keep it in check by nudging young people toward the real-world “happy ever after” of marriage.

Now, though, most no longer believe strongly enough in any kind of God to argue the toss over “union” versus “communion”. Against this backdrop of a culture largely shorn of coherent shared spiritual beliefs and moral framework, even the “happy ever after” option of communion with a long-term partner in this life is losing adherents, to say nothing of a commitment as permanent as marriage. And this, in turn, has left the myth of tragic passion all but unconstrained — revealing a true face that is less enchanted than terrifying.

What began as an esoteric way of describing the yearning to leave flesh behind and reunite with the divine becomes, in a world with no divine, something more like a longing for passionate self-annihilation. Taylor Swift, of course, has the toned-down, romantic version of self dissolved in the lover, in “willow“, singing: “I’m begging for you to take my hand / Wreck my plans / That’s my man.” But the longing for oblivion manifests in still darker, more intense, and destructive ways, too.

One of these is “breath play”: that is, choking during sex. There’s no doubt some of the impetus for this trend emanates from a male desire to hurt women. But studies suggest it’s not just women putting up with it: some actively like it. I suspect the practice is a by-product of the same buried hankering after passion-as-annihilation, modulated by the now-ubiquitous moral and visual vocabulary of porn. After all: if the only transcendent desire is one that ends in death, the closer sex comes to that threshold, the nobler and more intense it is.

And nor does this intensity end with sex and relationships. It cross-pollinates into body hatred too. Thinking back to my passionate younger self, I remember not just the exquisite agony of unrequited love, but also the agonised and very Cathar-ish sense of wanting to escape the prison of my own flesh. I pursued these linked longings for escape from flesh not just via unrequited or self-destructive liaisons, but also gender confusion, eating disorders, and simply fleeing into the bodiless realm of the internet.

Since I was an adolescent in the Nineties, the internet has eaten most of culture and normalised mass disembodiment. Perhaps it’s no wonder so many more of us — and especially young women — now experience these interconnected longings: first to escape embodiment, and relatedly, to be dissolved in passionate intensity. Taylor Swift’s genius is her capacity to give catchy tunes to that sweet, painful, multifaceted longing for something other or higher than what’s in front of us.

On the surface, her work recounts relatable romantic highs and lows. But its 800-year-old undertow implicitly glorifies those who renounce any possibility of happiness in this world, in exchange for the exaltation that comes from seeking something higher — even if the price of reunion with the divine must be death.

For the young women who thrill to this promise, and don’t even realise that what they crave is not sexual, or romantic, but spiritual, it’s the cruellest imaginable way of both promising and denying relief. But that’s the fault of the age — not of the 21st century’s foremost troubadour, Taylor Swift.


Mary Harrington is a contributing editor at UnHerd.

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Matt Sylvestre
Matt Sylvestre
10 months ago

Ms. Harrington is one of our very best writers and thinkers (anywhere in our present time) but this submission is a bridge to far. To much naval gazing… Swift is a marketing genius and a good writer for her audience as far as it goes. That’s it. Thant’s all…

J Bryant
J Bryant
10 months ago
Reply to  Matt Sylvestre

Another MH fan here, but I agree with your comment. The analysis felt a bit forced to me. The thematic thread trying to link the Albigensian Heresy, Taylor Swift and choking sex was stretched to breaking point.

Last edited 10 months ago by J Bryant
Bret Larson
Bret Larson
10 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I think the analysis is still in transition. Its hard to shirk your youthful exuberance fully in one go.

Claire D
Claire D
10 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I also agree, but I don’t think it’s navel gazing as much as misdirected intellectualisation.
I would argue that, i. cult happenings such as the Albegensians & Cathars take off at a certain time and place because primitive men-tal and emotional tendencies have been activated by circumstances; and ii. the tendency amonst young women in this instance is self abnegation for love.
For survival of the species purposes females are generally, naturally inclined to sacrifice themselves for the sake of their offspring, ie, love. Right now in the 21st century the trend, if not the convention, is the opposite of this natural inclination. Be selfish, put yourself first, you deserve it, prioritise your career, women’s rights etc. But the underlying natural tendency for self sacrifice needs an outlet, and it’s likely going to be dramatic and highly emotional in expression, hence the popularity of Swift’s songs.
It may be atavistic in another way as well. For thousands of years men were much more likely to die a violent death than today and perhaps sorrowful songs were a cultural, psychological preparation and/or expression of such a loss. Thay are laments.
That’s my view on this anyway.

*It’s interesting that the very few Anglo-Saxon poems from a woman’s point of view (we do not know if any of them were in fact written by women) are similarly romantic and tragic.

Last edited 10 months ago by Claire D
0 0
0 0
7 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Or, whatchacall a “reach.” Nevertheless, gotta hand it to Taylor. She is what the Beatles were when I was in my late teens.

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
10 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I think the analysis is still in transition. Its hard to shirk your youthful exuberance fully in one go.

Claire D
Claire D
10 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I also agree, but I don’t think it’s navel gazing as much as misdirected intellectualisation.
I would argue that, i. cult happenings such as the Albegensians & Cathars take off at a certain time and place because primitive men-tal and emotional tendencies have been activated by circumstances; and ii. the tendency amonst young women in this instance is self abnegation for love.
For survival of the species purposes females are generally, naturally inclined to sacrifice themselves for the sake of their offspring, ie, love. Right now in the 21st century the trend, if not the convention, is the opposite of this natural inclination. Be selfish, put yourself first, you deserve it, prioritise your career, women’s rights etc. But the underlying natural tendency for self sacrifice needs an outlet, and it’s likely going to be dramatic and highly emotional in expression, hence the popularity of Swift’s songs.
It may be atavistic in another way as well. For thousands of years men were much more likely to die a violent death than today and perhaps sorrowful songs were a cultural, psychological preparation and/or expression of such a loss. Thay are laments.
That’s my view on this anyway.

*It’s interesting that the very few Anglo-Saxon poems from a woman’s point of view (we do not know if any of them were in fact written by women) are similarly romantic and tragic.

Last edited 10 months ago by Claire D
0 0
0 0
7 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Or, whatchacall a “reach.” Nevertheless, gotta hand it to Taylor. She is what the Beatles were when I was in my late teens.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
10 months ago
Reply to  Matt Sylvestre

I disagree. It’s too easy to dismiss the article as “navel-gazing”. What MH is seeking to put her finger on is something deeper than what Swift does, and there’s no doubt that young women are having problems accommodating themselves to the demands of their bodies, ever more commodified by social media. In doing so, it’s only natural for the author to look to the historical origins of what popular culture calls “love” (or lurve, as some would have it). It’s the same youthful lifeforce that the Beatles tapped into with their early hits, sending masses of teenage girls into hysterics. This should be examined to be better understood; or we can just carry on hand-wringing about the problems young women are now presenting with in ever greater numbers.

Along with the realisation that their physical form can give birth to new life, the opposing potentiality may arise, i.e. to choose not to do so, or fail to do so should they die; hence the heightened stakes brought about by being choked. The reference to the Cathars becomes relevant due to their separating the physical body from its spirit; the echoes with gender identities in today’s culture is intentional, as something perhaps intrinsic to humans which the internet has now further unleashed, perhaps as a direct result of the heightened consciousness it brings.

We’d dismiss this analysis at our peril.

Last edited 10 months ago by Steve Murray
Matt Sylvestre
Matt Sylvestre
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Excellent perspective!

Shrunken Genepool
Shrunken Genepool
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

I agree Steve

Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Very good, we need the interpreter of MH on board!

Matt Sylvestre
Matt Sylvestre
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Excellent perspective!

Shrunken Genepool
Shrunken Genepool
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

I agree Steve

Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Very good, we need the interpreter of MH on board!

Xaven Taner
Xaven Taner
10 months ago
Reply to  Matt Sylvestre

Agreed, this isn’t her best work. Doomed love allows people to keep the fantasy alive of “what if?” rather than accepting things were never going to work out. I remember Zizek’s take on the ending of Titanic, suggesting that rather than letting Jack go, Rose pushes him away. He was from an lower social class, a completely unacceptable match, and now she was free to go marry her fiancé and sort out her family financial problems as planned. The death of Jack allows her to keep the fantasy alive while carrying on with life as normal.
As an aside Mary should read R.I. Moore’s The War on Heresy as her knowledge on the Cathars and their persecution is rather out of date. Modern scholarship suggests that the image of them being a sect of gnostic quasi-Manichees was concocted by the Parisian scholastics and inquisition as support for intervention by the French monarch, with approval from the Papacy, into the lands of the languedoc. What resulted was what Raphael Lemkin called Europe’s first genocide.

Cynthia W.
Cynthia W.
10 months ago
Reply to  Xaven Taner

‘Agreed, this isn’t her best work. Doomed love allows people to keep the fantasy alive of “what if?” rather than accepting things were never going to work out.’
It also avoids that fact that when a relationship does “work out,” it lasts for undramatic decades.

Emre S
Emre S
10 months ago
Reply to  Xaven Taner

Is it modern scholarship that can’t decide who’s a woman – or is it more substantial than that?

Cynthia W.
Cynthia W.
10 months ago
Reply to  Xaven Taner

‘Agreed, this isn’t her best work. Doomed love allows people to keep the fantasy alive of “what if?” rather than accepting things were never going to work out.’
It also avoids that fact that when a relationship does “work out,” it lasts for undramatic decades.

Emre S
Emre S
10 months ago
Reply to  Xaven Taner

Is it modern scholarship that can’t decide who’s a woman – or is it more substantial than that?

R Wright
R Wright
10 months ago
Reply to  Matt Sylvestre

I disagree, but then perhaps I am more interested in the esoteric than most posters here.

Ben Jones
Ben Jones
10 months ago
Reply to  Matt Sylvestre

I’m pretty much with Matt, this is pretentious guff not befitting one of UnHerd’s best writers.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
10 months ago
Reply to  Ben Jones

Then you’re missing the point spectacularly. This isn’t just about Taylor Swift or “love”, but something much deeper in the human psyche, and if that isn’t befitting Unherd i don’t know what is.

Last edited 10 months ago by Steve Murray
Terry M
Terry M
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

My gripe with MH is that she puts it on the Albigensian heresy, as if young women of the prior 100,000 years had different biologies and would not have experienced teenage angst as intensely.
Who knew that young women are highly emotional, subject to ups and downs, and some can’t get over it, and may be driven to suicide?
No news.

Ben Jones
Ben Jones
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Playing ‘three degrees of Kevin Bacon’ with pop culture and obscure historical events is a pseud’s parlour-game. I didn’t ‘spectacularly miss’ anything, thanks.

Terry M
Terry M
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

My gripe with MH is that she puts it on the Albigensian heresy, as if young women of the prior 100,000 years had different biologies and would not have experienced teenage angst as intensely.
Who knew that young women are highly emotional, subject to ups and downs, and some can’t get over it, and may be driven to suicide?
No news.

Ben Jones
Ben Jones
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Playing ‘three degrees of Kevin Bacon’ with pop culture and obscure historical events is a pseud’s parlour-game. I didn’t ‘spectacularly miss’ anything, thanks.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
10 months ago
Reply to  Ben Jones

Then you’re missing the point spectacularly. This isn’t just about Taylor Swift or “love”, but something much deeper in the human psyche, and if that isn’t befitting Unherd i don’t know what is.

Last edited 10 months ago by Steve Murray
Wynn Wheldon
Wynn Wheldon
10 months ago
Reply to  Matt Sylvestre

It does seem something of a stretch, but the Swift phenomenon is real and ought to be taken seriously. And this is taking it seriously. What’s more, it is quite interesting.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
10 months ago
Reply to  Wynn Wheldon

I think it’s nothing more than the physical/mental addiction to the euphoric feeling that new love brings. Sort of narcissistic, actually.

MJ Reid
MJ Reid
10 months ago
Reply to  Wynn Wheldon

And there was before Taylor Swift, Allanis Morrisette, Janis Joplin, Patty Smith to some extent, and Françoise Hardy. All wrote similar songs to Swift at some point and young lasses in their generations were drawn to their angst. It is nothing new. Think original fairy tales before there were recordings. It has all been done before and has little to do with the Cathars or any other specific group, I suspect. It has more to do with female puberty and how young girls/women deal with it.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
10 months ago
Reply to  MJ Reid

And don’t forget Elvis Presley who still draws the crowds. What’s that all about?

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
10 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Elvis’ singing is one long mating call.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
10 months ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

Yes please.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
10 months ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

Yes please.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
10 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Elvis’ singing is one long mating call.

Laurence Siegel
Laurence Siegel
10 months ago
Reply to  MJ Reid

I can go back a couple more millennia with that list but I’m glad you mentioned Françoise Hardy because she is underrated, almost unknown to Americans, and very much on point in this discussion.
I think young women being emotional, craving love, making mistakes in the pursuit of it, and writing sad songs about losing it is a universal in human life.

Claire D
Claire D
10 months ago

I agree with you. I spent a considerable amount of my youth (long time ago) mourning a lost love, a young man, who I had dumped not the other way round. It was as if I preferred to create a situation of unattainable love for myself, rather than experience the reality of a relationship I was not ready for.

Claire D
Claire D
10 months ago

I agree with you. I spent a considerable amount of my youth (long time ago) mourning a lost love, a young man, who I had dumped not the other way round. It was as if I preferred to create a situation of unattainable love for myself, rather than experience the reality of a relationship I was not ready for.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
10 months ago
Reply to  MJ Reid

And don’t forget Elvis Presley who still draws the crowds. What’s that all about?

Laurence Siegel
Laurence Siegel
10 months ago
Reply to  MJ Reid

I can go back a couple more millennia with that list but I’m glad you mentioned Françoise Hardy because she is underrated, almost unknown to Americans, and very much on point in this discussion.
I think young women being emotional, craving love, making mistakes in the pursuit of it, and writing sad songs about losing it is a universal in human life.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
10 months ago
Reply to  Wynn Wheldon

Exactly. Wot’s it all about, Alfie?

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
10 months ago
Reply to  Wynn Wheldon

I think it’s nothing more than the physical/mental addiction to the euphoric feeling that new love brings. Sort of narcissistic, actually.

MJ Reid
MJ Reid
10 months ago
Reply to  Wynn Wheldon

And there was before Taylor Swift, Allanis Morrisette, Janis Joplin, Patty Smith to some extent, and Françoise Hardy. All wrote similar songs to Swift at some point and young lasses in their generations were drawn to their angst. It is nothing new. Think original fairy tales before there were recordings. It has all been done before and has little to do with the Cathars or any other specific group, I suspect. It has more to do with female puberty and how young girls/women deal with it.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
10 months ago
Reply to  Wynn Wheldon

Exactly. Wot’s it all about, Alfie?

Eric Mader
Eric Mader
10 months ago
Reply to  Matt Sylvestre

Harrington isn’t “navel gazing” here. She’s on the mark. First, she’s not writing about one pop singer so much as about eros in the West. Second, all of us are too likely to universalize our culture’s understanding of “romantic love” because we are inside it—and all the more so because the West has now spread it globally. But our understanding of love and passion, from the Middle Ages to Shakespeare all the way to Hollywood and pop, is particular.

In fact “romantic love” is called such precisely because of *romance*, a literary genre of the Middle Ages. And that genre has just the roots Harrington indicates, and it grounds a framing of love and sex that we’re still, surprisingly, living out. That it’s shaped western culture through and through is what makes it very possible for someone like Taylor Swift to both live through it and write popular lyrics reflecting it without ever having studied Catharism or the Troubadors. Because it’s the air we breathe. More or less, in terms of love, it’s our very idea of “lyrics”.

I’ve now spent half my adult life living in a non-western culture. From this distance, the particularity of the West is more tangible, visible. Our eros is arranged differently than, say, Chinese eros or even ancient Greece’s eros. They too would have found our “romantic” foreign. We maybe would do well to start finding it foreign ourselves—or at least recognizing it as just one possible framing.

BTW, Denis de Rougemont’s book, *Love in the Western World*, is well worth the trouble.

Last edited 10 months ago by Eric Mader
MJ Reid
MJ Reid
10 months ago
Reply to  Eric Mader

But not all young girls buy into this romance. It solely depends on ones upbringing and experience. I remember being completely turned off by romance, romantic novels and music and girls’ magazines when I was a teenager and still feel the same today. Personally, I put this and religion in the same bucket, fantasy to keep the populace in its place and easier to manage!!

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
10 months ago
Reply to  Eric Mader

There wouldn’t be the longing and intensity of romantic love without hormones.

MJ Reid
MJ Reid
10 months ago
Reply to  Eric Mader

But not all young girls buy into this romance. It solely depends on ones upbringing and experience. I remember being completely turned off by romance, romantic novels and music and girls’ magazines when I was a teenager and still feel the same today. Personally, I put this and religion in the same bucket, fantasy to keep the populace in its place and easier to manage!!

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
10 months ago
Reply to  Eric Mader

There wouldn’t be the longing and intensity of romantic love without hormones.

William Shaw
William Shaw
10 months ago
Reply to  Matt Sylvestre

I hear a lot about her but have never heard any of her songs.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
10 months ago
Reply to  William Shaw

It’s worth checking her out on youtube just to get a feel for what it’s all about.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
10 months ago
Reply to  William Shaw

It’s worth checking her out on youtube just to get a feel for what it’s all about.

Melissa Martin
Melissa Martin
10 months ago
Reply to  Matt Sylvestre

Perhaps it’s like being a good comedian? Sometimes you overstep the line.

I’m quite sure my parents’ divorce (and Taylor Swift’s commercial success) had sweet FA to do with the Cathars. But I’ll run the theory past them.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
10 months ago
Reply to  Matt Sylvestre

Far too dismissive. The obvious question is why does she focus so strongly focus on the theme of doomed destructive passionate love? To say it is down to marketing simply begs the further question as to why the market, mainly of girls and young women, is so enamoured by thes subject?

Mark M Breza
Mark M Breza
7 months ago
Reply to  Matt Sylvestre

Yes Mary seems a bit jealous .
Comparing the Massacre at Montsegur to
problems with modern women !!
Maybe pick on that pop star
who sang in a catholic cathedral about killing boys .

Last edited 7 months ago by Mark M Breza
J Bryant
J Bryant
10 months ago
Reply to  Matt Sylvestre

Another MH fan here, but I agree with your comment. The analysis felt a bit forced to me. The thematic thread trying to link the Albigensian Heresy, Taylor Swift and choking sex was stretched to breaking point.

Last edited 10 months ago by J Bryant
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
10 months ago
Reply to  Matt Sylvestre

I disagree. It’s too easy to dismiss the article as “navel-gazing”. What MH is seeking to put her finger on is something deeper than what Swift does, and there’s no doubt that young women are having problems accommodating themselves to the demands of their bodies, ever more commodified by social media. In doing so, it’s only natural for the author to look to the historical origins of what popular culture calls “love” (or lurve, as some would have it). It’s the same youthful lifeforce that the Beatles tapped into with their early hits, sending masses of teenage girls into hysterics. This should be examined to be better understood; or we can just carry on hand-wringing about the problems young women are now presenting with in ever greater numbers.

Along with the realisation that their physical form can give birth to new life, the opposing potentiality may arise, i.e. to choose not to do so, or fail to do so should they die; hence the heightened stakes brought about by being choked. The reference to the Cathars becomes relevant due to their separating the physical body from its spirit; the echoes with gender identities in today’s culture is intentional, as something perhaps intrinsic to humans which the internet has now further unleashed, perhaps as a direct result of the heightened consciousness it brings.

We’d dismiss this analysis at our peril.

Last edited 10 months ago by Steve Murray
Xaven Taner
Xaven Taner
10 months ago
Reply to  Matt Sylvestre

Agreed, this isn’t her best work. Doomed love allows people to keep the fantasy alive of “what if?” rather than accepting things were never going to work out. I remember Zizek’s take on the ending of Titanic, suggesting that rather than letting Jack go, Rose pushes him away. He was from an lower social class, a completely unacceptable match, and now she was free to go marry her fiancé and sort out her family financial problems as planned. The death of Jack allows her to keep the fantasy alive while carrying on with life as normal.
As an aside Mary should read R.I. Moore’s The War on Heresy as her knowledge on the Cathars and their persecution is rather out of date. Modern scholarship suggests that the image of them being a sect of gnostic quasi-Manichees was concocted by the Parisian scholastics and inquisition as support for intervention by the French monarch, with approval from the Papacy, into the lands of the languedoc. What resulted was what Raphael Lemkin called Europe’s first genocide.

R Wright
R Wright
10 months ago
Reply to  Matt Sylvestre

I disagree, but then perhaps I am more interested in the esoteric than most posters here.

Ben Jones
Ben Jones
10 months ago
Reply to  Matt Sylvestre

I’m pretty much with Matt, this is pretentious guff not befitting one of UnHerd’s best writers.

Wynn Wheldon
Wynn Wheldon
10 months ago
Reply to  Matt Sylvestre

It does seem something of a stretch, but the Swift phenomenon is real and ought to be taken seriously. And this is taking it seriously. What’s more, it is quite interesting.

Eric Mader
Eric Mader
10 months ago
Reply to  Matt Sylvestre

Harrington isn’t “navel gazing” here. She’s on the mark. First, she’s not writing about one pop singer so much as about eros in the West. Second, all of us are too likely to universalize our culture’s understanding of “romantic love” because we are inside it—and all the more so because the West has now spread it globally. But our understanding of love and passion, from the Middle Ages to Shakespeare all the way to Hollywood and pop, is particular.

In fact “romantic love” is called such precisely because of *romance*, a literary genre of the Middle Ages. And that genre has just the roots Harrington indicates, and it grounds a framing of love and sex that we’re still, surprisingly, living out. That it’s shaped western culture through and through is what makes it very possible for someone like Taylor Swift to both live through it and write popular lyrics reflecting it without ever having studied Catharism or the Troubadors. Because it’s the air we breathe. More or less, in terms of love, it’s our very idea of “lyrics”.

I’ve now spent half my adult life living in a non-western culture. From this distance, the particularity of the West is more tangible, visible. Our eros is arranged differently than, say, Chinese eros or even ancient Greece’s eros. They too would have found our “romantic” foreign. We maybe would do well to start finding it foreign ourselves—or at least recognizing it as just one possible framing.

BTW, Denis de Rougemont’s book, *Love in the Western World*, is well worth the trouble.

Last edited 10 months ago by Eric Mader
William Shaw
William Shaw
10 months ago
Reply to  Matt Sylvestre

I hear a lot about her but have never heard any of her songs.

Melissa Martin
Melissa Martin
10 months ago
Reply to  Matt Sylvestre

Perhaps it’s like being a good comedian? Sometimes you overstep the line.

I’m quite sure my parents’ divorce (and Taylor Swift’s commercial success) had sweet FA to do with the Cathars. But I’ll run the theory past them.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
10 months ago
Reply to  Matt Sylvestre

Far too dismissive. The obvious question is why does she focus so strongly focus on the theme of doomed destructive passionate love? To say it is down to marketing simply begs the further question as to why the market, mainly of girls and young women, is so enamoured by thes subject?

Mark M Breza
Mark M Breza
7 months ago
Reply to  Matt Sylvestre

Yes Mary seems a bit jealous .
Comparing the Massacre at Montsegur to
problems with modern women !!
Maybe pick on that pop star
who sang in a catholic cathedral about killing boys .

Last edited 7 months ago by Mark M Breza
Matt Sylvestre
Matt Sylvestre
10 months ago

Ms. Harrington is one of our very best writers and thinkers (anywhere in our present time) but this submission is a bridge to far. To much naval gazing… Swift is a marketing genius and a good writer for her audience as far as it goes. That’s it. Thant’s all…

John Murray
John Murray
10 months ago

While I applaud managing to get the Albigensian Crusade and Taylor Swift into the same article, I am not sure I am buying this one. Classical literature had plenty of doomed romances, e.g. Aeneas and Dido, Jason and Medea, Helen and Paris (as well as stories of deeply committed marriages surviving against the odds, e.g. Odysseus and Penelope). So the evidence is really that the pagan ladies liked a good doomed romance as much as the modern ones.

Cynthia W.
Cynthia W.
10 months ago
Reply to  John Murray

Exactly what I was going to say.

Robert Hochbaum
Robert Hochbaum
10 months ago
Reply to  John Murray

If only she could have found a way to include unrequited love some have for their lousy football teams.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
10 months ago
Reply to  John Murray

Well said.

Laurence Siegel
Laurence Siegel
10 months ago
Reply to  John Murray

Yes, I think that Harrington was over her skis on this one even though it’s fun to link the Albigensian Crusade and the Taylor Swift Crusade across eight centuries of romantic literature and song. Romance has its roots in biology and we find it in every ancient culture – although, admittedly, the 13th century French made a fine art of it.

Cynthia W.
Cynthia W.
10 months ago
Reply to  John Murray

Exactly what I was going to say.

Robert Hochbaum
Robert Hochbaum
10 months ago
Reply to  John Murray

If only she could have found a way to include unrequited love some have for their lousy football teams.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
10 months ago
Reply to  John Murray

Well said.

Laurence Siegel
Laurence Siegel
10 months ago
Reply to  John Murray

Yes, I think that Harrington was over her skis on this one even though it’s fun to link the Albigensian Crusade and the Taylor Swift Crusade across eight centuries of romantic literature and song. Romance has its roots in biology and we find it in every ancient culture – although, admittedly, the 13th century French made a fine art of it.

John Murray
John Murray
10 months ago

While I applaud managing to get the Albigensian Crusade and Taylor Swift into the same article, I am not sure I am buying this one. Classical literature had plenty of doomed romances, e.g. Aeneas and Dido, Jason and Medea, Helen and Paris (as well as stories of deeply committed marriages surviving against the odds, e.g. Odysseus and Penelope). So the evidence is really that the pagan ladies liked a good doomed romance as much as the modern ones.

Mark Vernon
Mark Vernon
10 months ago

I’m more pursuaded by an alternative hypothesis (Simon May’s Love: A History) that c18th century, as atheism started to become a real possibility, people began seeking in other humans what they formerly had known could only be found in God, namely unconditional love.

That impossibility from mere humans, now a standard request, leads to a disenchantment with love, and then, in turn, a perverse love of the void itself. Which in an inverse way is unconditional, disinterestedly negating all without regard.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
10 months ago
Reply to  Mark Vernon

I appreciate this hypothesis myself and I am glad you mentioned it, because there’s a word for placing faith in the human rather than the divine. I speak, of course, of humanism, which fails to persuade me on any level, requiring as it does a leap of faith far greater than the hokiest religion, the notion that humans collectively or individually stand at the pinnacle of understanding, presumably by virtue of their being the only things we know of capable of said understanding. That we are the makers of our own destiny, gods of the universe by default due to the fact that we can’t objectively define or directly and reliably perceive any other with our meager faculties at this moment. A sort of let’s have faith in ourselves because that’s the only thing we have right now, a metaphysical cop out. As a highly logical person, I will never understand how any serious thinker ever conceived of this idea or what its appeal is. It’s the highest form of hubris, objectively disprovable by any serious person looking at the evidence of history and present human behavior. Humans are obviously imperfect, flawed. Our perception is clearly quite limited and there is demonstrably much more in the universe than we presently understand or will at any foreseeable point in the future. Humanism is a philosophy for infantile minds who cannot or will not look or accept anything beyond the small corner of reality that is human understanding. The only philosophies I consider logically valid, i.e. they don’t require accepting things that can be objectively disproved, are the religions, whose tenets of faith are clearly stated and must be accepted on faith as beyond human reasoning and understanding, and true nihilism, love of the void in its purest form, a belief in nothing, that everything returns to nothing, the meaning of life is nothing, the universe itself in total means nothing, our experiences count for nothing, there is no good, no evil, no rules, and no reason at all for me to listen or pay any heed to anything but my own desires. If you want an example of the practical implications of this philosophy, watch some Rick and Morty, which explores the implications of nihilism in an infinite universe pretty well. I don’t personally ascribe to nihilism myself, but I concede that it is at the very least logically consistent, which is more than I can say for humanism in any form.

Last edited 10 months ago by Steve Jolly
Clare Knight
Clare Knight
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Do you feel a bit better now having got that off your chest!

Last edited 10 months ago by Clare Knight
Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
10 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

I feel quite the same actually. That was an exercise in evidence based reasoning and simple logic. You clearly believe religion is irrational. That viewpoint is justifiable. Humanism, however, is just as irrational with the disadvantage of not conforming to the available evidence. My complaints are towards humanism as a philosophy, and those who advertise it as ‘scientific’, ‘evidence based’, etc., and superior to religion, a claim which does not stand up to logic. If people would call it the religion that it in fact is, I would have no issue with it, as we’re all entitled to our own faith, however ridiculous, in this thing we call life. Further, as I said, nihilism is a perfectly consistent and valid viewpoint that does not require a belief in the divine, or anything else really. I can respect those who adhere to it. Humanists strike me as the type who want the morality, rules, charity, values, etc. that accompany religion without the need to believe in things they can’t see, touch, measure, or personally understand, a view that makes no sense because we can see the universe is huge and what we know and understand is some infinitesimal fraction of the whole. There is quite a bit that we know that we do not know, and who knows how many things we haven’t even conceived of yet, plus those things that might be forever beyond human perception or measure with any gadget, device, or method. If you are a humanist, you’ll just have to accept that I find your religion as ridiculous and irrational as you find mine, and agree to disagree, and there’s nothing particularly wrong with that. Further, if you have some serious intellectual argument to make, let’s hear it, because snarky comments only make you look like a troll and rather prove my point about infantile minds.

Last edited 10 months ago by Steve Jolly
Clare Knight
Clare Knight
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

That’s a rather snarky comment at the end there Steve (misnamed Jolly). Actually, I don’t aspire to any of the “isms” or any kind of religion, and I’m not a follower, so I suppose I’m a bit hard to pin down.

Last edited 10 months ago by Clare Knight
Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
10 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Granted, but mine is at the end of a fairly lengthy paragraph of explanation, not tacked on to someone else’s argument like a schoolyard taunt. Also, good for you not subscribing to any ‘isms’. Most of them are just religions masquerading as something else to appeal to those who are hostile to religion in general, of whom there are understandably a great many.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
10 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Granted, but mine is at the end of a fairly lengthy paragraph of explanation, not tacked on to someone else’s argument like a schoolyard taunt. Also, good for you not subscribing to any ‘isms’. Most of them are just religions masquerading as something else to appeal to those who are hostile to religion in general, of whom there are understandably a great many.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

That’s a rather snarky comment at the end there Steve (misnamed Jolly). Actually, I don’t aspire to any of the “isms” or any kind of religion, and I’m not a follower, so I suppose I’m a bit hard to pin down.

Last edited 10 months ago by Clare Knight
Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
10 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

I feel quite the same actually. That was an exercise in evidence based reasoning and simple logic. You clearly believe religion is irrational. That viewpoint is justifiable. Humanism, however, is just as irrational with the disadvantage of not conforming to the available evidence. My complaints are towards humanism as a philosophy, and those who advertise it as ‘scientific’, ‘evidence based’, etc., and superior to religion, a claim which does not stand up to logic. If people would call it the religion that it in fact is, I would have no issue with it, as we’re all entitled to our own faith, however ridiculous, in this thing we call life. Further, as I said, nihilism is a perfectly consistent and valid viewpoint that does not require a belief in the divine, or anything else really. I can respect those who adhere to it. Humanists strike me as the type who want the morality, rules, charity, values, etc. that accompany religion without the need to believe in things they can’t see, touch, measure, or personally understand, a view that makes no sense because we can see the universe is huge and what we know and understand is some infinitesimal fraction of the whole. There is quite a bit that we know that we do not know, and who knows how many things we haven’t even conceived of yet, plus those things that might be forever beyond human perception or measure with any gadget, device, or method. If you are a humanist, you’ll just have to accept that I find your religion as ridiculous and irrational as you find mine, and agree to disagree, and there’s nothing particularly wrong with that. Further, if you have some serious intellectual argument to make, let’s hear it, because snarky comments only make you look like a troll and rather prove my point about infantile minds.

Last edited 10 months ago by Steve Jolly
Clare Knight
Clare Knight
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Do you feel a bit better now having got that off your chest!

Last edited 10 months ago by Clare Knight
Clare Knight
Clare Knight
10 months ago
Reply to  Mark Vernon

But thinking you’re getting unconditional love from a god is a fantasy. It never gets tested. Same with Jesus because he’s dead. The dead can’t disappoint.

Dominic S
Dominic S
10 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Jesus isn’t dead. That’s the whole point of the Christian faith – He has conquered death.

Dominic S
Dominic S
10 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Jesus isn’t dead. That’s the whole point of the Christian faith – He has conquered death.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
10 months ago
Reply to  Mark Vernon

I appreciate this hypothesis myself and I am glad you mentioned it, because there’s a word for placing faith in the human rather than the divine. I speak, of course, of humanism, which fails to persuade me on any level, requiring as it does a leap of faith far greater than the hokiest religion, the notion that humans collectively or individually stand at the pinnacle of understanding, presumably by virtue of their being the only things we know of capable of said understanding. That we are the makers of our own destiny, gods of the universe by default due to the fact that we can’t objectively define or directly and reliably perceive any other with our meager faculties at this moment. A sort of let’s have faith in ourselves because that’s the only thing we have right now, a metaphysical cop out. As a highly logical person, I will never understand how any serious thinker ever conceived of this idea or what its appeal is. It’s the highest form of hubris, objectively disprovable by any serious person looking at the evidence of history and present human behavior. Humans are obviously imperfect, flawed. Our perception is clearly quite limited and there is demonstrably much more in the universe than we presently understand or will at any foreseeable point in the future. Humanism is a philosophy for infantile minds who cannot or will not look or accept anything beyond the small corner of reality that is human understanding. The only philosophies I consider logically valid, i.e. they don’t require accepting things that can be objectively disproved, are the religions, whose tenets of faith are clearly stated and must be accepted on faith as beyond human reasoning and understanding, and true nihilism, love of the void in its purest form, a belief in nothing, that everything returns to nothing, the meaning of life is nothing, the universe itself in total means nothing, our experiences count for nothing, there is no good, no evil, no rules, and no reason at all for me to listen or pay any heed to anything but my own desires. If you want an example of the practical implications of this philosophy, watch some Rick and Morty, which explores the implications of nihilism in an infinite universe pretty well. I don’t personally ascribe to nihilism myself, but I concede that it is at the very least logically consistent, which is more than I can say for humanism in any form.

Last edited 10 months ago by Steve Jolly
Clare Knight
Clare Knight
10 months ago
Reply to  Mark Vernon

But thinking you’re getting unconditional love from a god is a fantasy. It never gets tested. Same with Jesus because he’s dead. The dead can’t disappoint.

Mark Vernon
Mark Vernon
10 months ago

I’m more pursuaded by an alternative hypothesis (Simon May’s Love: A History) that c18th century, as atheism started to become a real possibility, people began seeking in other humans what they formerly had known could only be found in God, namely unconditional love.

That impossibility from mere humans, now a standard request, leads to a disenchantment with love, and then, in turn, a perverse love of the void itself. Which in an inverse way is unconditional, disinterestedly negating all without regard.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
10 months ago

Note to self… be open-minded and listen to another Taylor Swift song. I listened to one once and never felt the urge again.

J Dunne
J Dunne
10 months ago

I clicked on a couple of links in the article.

Nah, just sounds like bubblegum pop.

Won’t bother again.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
10 months ago
Reply to  J Dunne

It is hard for rock gals!

Laurence Siegel
Laurence Siegel
10 months ago

It’s also hard for rock guys. If I’m going to pay attention to a current pop star, it will be Lana Del Rey – at least she’s weird like the rockers of old, and says things that make you feel uncomfortable.

Laurence Siegel
Laurence Siegel
10 months ago

It’s also hard for rock guys. If I’m going to pay attention to a current pop star, it will be Lana Del Rey – at least she’s weird like the rockers of old, and says things that make you feel uncomfortable.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
10 months ago
Reply to  J Dunne

It is hard for rock gals!

Claire D
Claire D
10 months ago

I’d stick with your first urge Lesley.

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
10 months ago

You’ve taken the road less traveled, it seems.

J Dunne
J Dunne
10 months ago

I clicked on a couple of links in the article.

Nah, just sounds like bubblegum pop.

Won’t bother again.

Claire D
Claire D
10 months ago

I’d stick with your first urge Lesley.

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
10 months ago

You’ve taken the road less traveled, it seems.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
10 months ago

Note to self… be open-minded and listen to another Taylor Swift song. I listened to one once and never felt the urge again.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
10 months ago

Did the a Knights Templar really participate in the Albigensian Crusade?
Pope Innocent III seems not to have invoked either the aid of the Templars nor the Hospitallers during the Albigensian crusade, and their involvement in the fighting in southern France appears to have been minimal.
They are mentioned only three times in the ‘Chanson de la croisade albigeoise,’ and of these references only one occurs in a completely military context.

The Cathars just weren’t the right type of enemy, particularly when there were still plenty of Muslims left in the so called Holy Land.

Xaven Taner
Xaven Taner
10 months ago

Indeed, the main fighting force was led by Anglo-French nobility like Simon de Montfort, who were very eager for the opportunity to acquire lands in that region with both Papal and Royal approval.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
10 months ago
Reply to  Xaven Taner

In short, a massive land grab by the ‘north’ on the ‘south’ might be a better way of describing it, rather than sanctifying it with the word Crusade!

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
10 months ago
Reply to  Xaven Taner

In short, a massive land grab by the ‘north’ on the ‘south’ might be a better way of describing it, rather than sanctifying it with the word Crusade!

Xaven Taner
Xaven Taner
10 months ago

Indeed, the main fighting force was led by Anglo-French nobility like Simon de Montfort, who were very eager for the opportunity to acquire lands in that region with both Papal and Royal approval.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
10 months ago

Did the a Knights Templar really participate in the Albigensian Crusade?
Pope Innocent III seems not to have invoked either the aid of the Templars nor the Hospitallers during the Albigensian crusade, and their involvement in the fighting in southern France appears to have been minimal.
They are mentioned only three times in the ‘Chanson de la croisade albigeoise,’ and of these references only one occurs in a completely military context.

The Cathars just weren’t the right type of enemy, particularly when there were still plenty of Muslims left in the so called Holy Land.

Melissa Bently
Melissa Bently
10 months ago

I know exactly what you mean here. I am religious though, and I could funnel my desire for communion, union, self-destruction, abnegation into…religion, where it can be channeled.
St. Therese of Lisieux explains it better than I do…check her out. She had suitably dramatic life. Her mother died when she was three, she was raised by her extremely religious sisters in 1890s France, and then followed them into the convent where she died of tuberculosis at 24. She finds ways to channel these feelings into prayer and devotion…but also into doing chores without complaining and being nice to annoying people. These are good goals for the religious and non-religious alike.

Dominic S
Dominic S
10 months ago
Reply to  Melissa Bently

She was bonkers. Running round the convent yelling for joy when she realised she was about to die? Potty as a fruit cake.

Dominic S
Dominic S
10 months ago
Reply to  Melissa Bently

She was bonkers. Running round the convent yelling for joy when she realised she was about to die? Potty as a fruit cake.

Melissa Bently
Melissa Bently
10 months ago

I know exactly what you mean here. I am religious though, and I could funnel my desire for communion, union, self-destruction, abnegation into…religion, where it can be channeled.
St. Therese of Lisieux explains it better than I do…check her out. She had suitably dramatic life. Her mother died when she was three, she was raised by her extremely religious sisters in 1890s France, and then followed them into the convent where she died of tuberculosis at 24. She finds ways to channel these feelings into prayer and devotion…but also into doing chores without complaining and being nice to annoying people. These are good goals for the religious and non-religious alike.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago

This article uses a protracted and doubtful historical reach to comment upon a present day pop star, making her into an emblematic figure that “illuminates our darkness”.
I thought that from a routine conservative perspective the world began unraveling at a breakneck speed in about 1963, or for one prominent commenter here, 1914. But now that’s been rolled back to 1014?
Before that, I guess that several centuries of retreat to monasteries and convents, with many extreme ascetics seeking sainthood by perching on pillars for years or self-flagellating all the livelong day, was a life-affirming time of great bodily acceptance. Let’s also look past the doom cult that surrounded the approach of the year 1000 AD.
Must everything be used as a symbol of inexorable, unidirectional decay from some Golden or at least Bronze age, and into a tinfoil and plastic wrap present that will itself be recalled fondly by some in 20 years?
From what I’ve seen of their poems, some troubadours also had strong physical appetites, with an appreciation of womanly charms and other real-world beauties, not just some idealized courtly death wish. Many were not devoid of (often-vulgar) humor. I think this also-ran effort by Ms. Harrington shows that she could take a page or two from the more humane, hopeful, and humorous lyrics of the troubadours. Hyper-romantic pop songs don’t “deny” relief to their listeners, they provide escape, perhaps of a trivial or unhelpful kind, and often at a particular time in the (often) youthful listener’s life.
Let’s not pack ourselves into rotten boxes oflost virtue!and “dreadful decay!”, by imagining that people were happier and more sensible in some general way in the year 1962, 1913, or 999.

Last edited 10 months ago by AJ Mac
Albert McGloan
Albert McGloan
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

“I thought that from a routine conservative perspective the world began unraveling at a breakneck speed in about 1963, or for one prominent commenter here, 1914. But now that’s been rolled back to 1014?”
Things went to pot circa 800 BC. The moment the Iliad was written down it was all over bar the shouting.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  Albert McGloan

Ah, the Plato and Socrates era argument: “We’re losing our oral tradition! Now let me write down an enduring dialogue that banishes poets from The Republic”.

Laurence Siegel
Laurence Siegel
10 months ago
Reply to  Albert McGloan

I thought that sexual intercourse began in nineteen hundred and sixty-three, which was rather late for me, between the end of the Chatterley ban and the Beatles’ first LP.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  Albert McGloan

Ah, the Plato and Socrates era argument: “We’re losing our oral tradition! Now let me write down an enduring dialogue that banishes poets from The Republic”.

Laurence Siegel
Laurence Siegel
10 months ago
Reply to  Albert McGloan

I thought that sexual intercourse began in nineteen hundred and sixty-three, which was rather late for me, between the end of the Chatterley ban and the Beatles’ first LP.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

1962 was a very good year for many of us.

Dominic S
Dominic S
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Taylor Swift is a modern phenomenon. Her mastery of marketing is astonishing, her music is not especially special, and yet millions of people desperately await her next rendition. She says woke things, and yet lives a lifestyle that seems to contradict them. And her personal morality doesn’t line up one bit with the emotions and expression of the tragedy of relationship loss which she peddles in her songs. And yet still they fork out ridiculous sums of money to get her records and go to her concerts.

Albert McGloan
Albert McGloan
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

“I thought that from a routine conservative perspective the world began unraveling at a breakneck speed in about 1963, or for one prominent commenter here, 1914. But now that’s been rolled back to 1014?”
Things went to pot circa 800 BC. The moment the Iliad was written down it was all over bar the shouting.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

1962 was a very good year for many of us.

Dominic S
Dominic S
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Taylor Swift is a modern phenomenon. Her mastery of marketing is astonishing, her music is not especially special, and yet millions of people desperately await her next rendition. She says woke things, and yet lives a lifestyle that seems to contradict them. And her personal morality doesn’t line up one bit with the emotions and expression of the tragedy of relationship loss which she peddles in her songs. And yet still they fork out ridiculous sums of money to get her records and go to her concerts.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago

This article uses a protracted and doubtful historical reach to comment upon a present day pop star, making her into an emblematic figure that “illuminates our darkness”.
I thought that from a routine conservative perspective the world began unraveling at a breakneck speed in about 1963, or for one prominent commenter here, 1914. But now that’s been rolled back to 1014?
Before that, I guess that several centuries of retreat to monasteries and convents, with many extreme ascetics seeking sainthood by perching on pillars for years or self-flagellating all the livelong day, was a life-affirming time of great bodily acceptance. Let’s also look past the doom cult that surrounded the approach of the year 1000 AD.
Must everything be used as a symbol of inexorable, unidirectional decay from some Golden or at least Bronze age, and into a tinfoil and plastic wrap present that will itself be recalled fondly by some in 20 years?
From what I’ve seen of their poems, some troubadours also had strong physical appetites, with an appreciation of womanly charms and other real-world beauties, not just some idealized courtly death wish. Many were not devoid of (often-vulgar) humor. I think this also-ran effort by Ms. Harrington shows that she could take a page or two from the more humane, hopeful, and humorous lyrics of the troubadours. Hyper-romantic pop songs don’t “deny” relief to their listeners, they provide escape, perhaps of a trivial or unhelpful kind, and often at a particular time in the (often) youthful listener’s life.
Let’s not pack ourselves into rotten boxes oflost virtue!and “dreadful decay!”, by imagining that people were happier and more sensible in some general way in the year 1962, 1913, or 999.

Last edited 10 months ago by AJ Mac
cynthia callahan
cynthia callahan
10 months ago

This is plain old Gnosticism.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago

I had the thought that maybe Harrington should just surrender to old-fashioned, institutional faith–if not outright mysticism–since she seems so fascinated by it from a distance, and disaffected with most present-day secular realities.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Nah.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Nah.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago

I had the thought that maybe Harrington should just surrender to old-fashioned, institutional faith–if not outright mysticism–since she seems so fascinated by it from a distance, and disaffected with most present-day secular realities.

cynthia callahan
cynthia callahan
10 months ago

This is plain old Gnosticism.

David Morley
David Morley
10 months ago

Is it not in part just that good sad songs are easier to write, and possess depth, while most happy songs sound trite and shallow. Witness Paul McCartneys ability to write sad and moving songs, but his failure to write happy ones that aren’t a bit ridiculous. And it’s clearly not for lack of trying or wanting to.

Sadness tends to be private and personal and it’s emotions are complex, happiness is just party time.

Something similar can be said about minor and major keys.

David Morley
David Morley
10 months ago

Is it not in part just that good sad songs are easier to write, and possess depth, while most happy songs sound trite and shallow. Witness Paul McCartneys ability to write sad and moving songs, but his failure to write happy ones that aren’t a bit ridiculous. And it’s clearly not for lack of trying or wanting to.

Sadness tends to be private and personal and it’s emotions are complex, happiness is just party time.

Something similar can be said about minor and major keys.

Kyle Pelletier
Kyle Pelletier
10 months ago

Taylor Swift provides (for profit, of course) the soundtrack to contemporary psychopathy. What else can it be? Her music is all skin, no meat—all dolled-up to the nines, wearing its best evening gown, with nothing on underneath. An archetype of “high culture” in which all obsessed therewith can find some chameleonic shard of their idealized “truth.” It is a never-ending, putrid panoply of shallow impressions, of sideways glances at the urinal, of sparkling green astroturf. It’s a nexus—a utopia—where all strands of all things composing falsity eventually meet, and from there resume their normal weave, underpinning the rotting corpse of the American Dream. Her music is perfect. It’s contemporary. It expresses, never treading a step past the purely-oblique, the entirety of the 21st century experience, where the most powerful force is the economic transaction…
… or something.
Either way, I think Taylor Swift is gross, and I think this article is great.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
10 months ago
Reply to  Kyle Pelletier

Just looking at Taylor Swift it’s hard to imagine she experiences any deep feelings. She’s always so fresh and perky and virginal looking, except for the ever present blood red lipstick that looks like she’s playing dress up.

Last edited 10 months ago by Clare Knight
Laurence Siegel
Laurence Siegel
10 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

I thought that about Debbie Reynolds a half century earlier, but I was wrong. People have inner lives that we don’t get to see (and usually shouldn’t try to).

Laurence Siegel
Laurence Siegel
10 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

I thought that about Debbie Reynolds a half century earlier, but I was wrong. People have inner lives that we don’t get to see (and usually shouldn’t try to).

Dominic S
Dominic S
10 months ago
Reply to  Kyle Pelletier

Excellent description. You just forgot to point out her moral turpitude.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
10 months ago
Reply to  Kyle Pelletier

Just looking at Taylor Swift it’s hard to imagine she experiences any deep feelings. She’s always so fresh and perky and virginal looking, except for the ever present blood red lipstick that looks like she’s playing dress up.

Last edited 10 months ago by Clare Knight
Dominic S
Dominic S
10 months ago
Reply to  Kyle Pelletier

Excellent description. You just forgot to point out her moral turpitude.

Kyle Pelletier
Kyle Pelletier
10 months ago

Taylor Swift provides (for profit, of course) the soundtrack to contemporary psychopathy. What else can it be? Her music is all skin, no meat—all dolled-up to the nines, wearing its best evening gown, with nothing on underneath. An archetype of “high culture” in which all obsessed therewith can find some chameleonic shard of their idealized “truth.” It is a never-ending, putrid panoply of shallow impressions, of sideways glances at the urinal, of sparkling green astroturf. It’s a nexus—a utopia—where all strands of all things composing falsity eventually meet, and from there resume their normal weave, underpinning the rotting corpse of the American Dream. Her music is perfect. It’s contemporary. It expresses, never treading a step past the purely-oblique, the entirety of the 21st century experience, where the most powerful force is the economic transaction…
… or something.
Either way, I think Taylor Swift is gross, and I think this article is great.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
10 months ago

There’s nothing wrong with anyone who tries to explain contemporary phenomena, including popular songs, by pointing to medieval or ancient prototypes. I did so myself, after all, in a book on The Wizard of Oz. Whether Harrington succeeds or not, in this suggestive but brief essay, is another matter.
 
One problem is that her explanation for the morbidity in many popular songs of our time is so specific (troubadours channeling Cathar spirituality in Provencal courts of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries), that it would require a mountain of evidence to satisfy any historian.
 
For one thing, the Cathar worldview was by no means unusual (either within the Christian world, let alone the larger Western world, or the larger world beyond even that) in identifying the material realm as a prison to be escaped through either gnosis or death (or both). As for Christianity, Jesus himself saw a profound distinction between the current realm of time, or history, and eternity. St. Paul elaborated on that by distinguishing, often, between the material body (sarx referring to the transience of “flesh”) and the immaterial body (soma referring to the immortality of “spirit”), a distinction that had been a common feature of pre-Christian gnostic “mystery religions” and was probably much older than those. Although both marriage and monastic life enabled Christians to live in anticipation of a new cosmic order, no spouse or institution within the realm of time and space could inaugurate it. Since the very early Church, Christians have sought ultimate salvation in some sort of relationship with the risen Christ. Where Catharism went wrong, according to the Church, was not in dualism per se (flesh vs. spirit) but in following dualism to its logical conclusion of di-theism (one good god and one evil god) and therefore denying the value of God’s incarnation.
 
The notion of “courtly love” glorified not only unrequited love (in a purely carnal sense) but also marital infidelity (in a spiritual sense). This was probably new in medieval Christendom and confined exclusively to aristocratic circles. But I see no obvious connection between any of that and either Christianity or what it considered the Cathar heresy. Maybe the source was external. During the crusades, after all, Christians came into close contact with Muslims for the first time. The latter allowed polygamy and therefore had a distinctive notion of marriage and relations between men and women. But I can’t do more than speculate about that.
 
I suggest a much more obvious matrix for the unhappiness and even morbidity of some popular songs of our time. That would be romanticism, a movement that originated in the late eighteenth century as a reaction against rationalism and has continued to do battle with it ever since. At the heart of romanticism is its insistence on the primacy of “feeling,” “passion,” or emotion over thinking, thus giving rise not only to the “blood and soil” of nationalism or racism but also to the “sublime” (a secular version of the sacred, or the ecstatic, that prevailed in painting), the courageous but lonely “bohemian” who starves to death in a garret (a stereotype that prevailed among avant-garde painters), the brilliant revolutionary or seeker who dies young (notably among poets), the beautiful courtesan, or anyone, who dies young of consumption (a literary trope) and so on. From this point of view, death—early death—takes on a kind of irrational glamour.
 
But Harrington’s main point is neither historical nor theological. It is the current link, which she spells out more than once in a brief essay, between fantasies of unhappiness or death and girls. She offers no evidence for this connection, but she probably could do so. I’ll take her at her word, because intuition points me in the same direction. There is statistical evidence of more girls than boys who attempt suicide, often as a way of calling for help (although far more boys than girls actually want to die and therefore succeed in committing suicide). Similarly, there is evidence that more girls than boys have eating disorders (although boys turn to dangerous body-building drugs). Moreover, the vocabulary and linguistic cues of depression itself have been feminized (which is why psychologists often fail to recognize how relatively inarticulate boys express or allude to depression). And, as Harrington points out, the fragility of contemporary families, partly because of ideologies that have tried to destroy it, means that no one is assured that marriage, the primordial hope of girls who hope to have children, will lead to “happily ever after.” Finally, feminists have spent well over half a century (joined recently by wokers) telling women and girls that they belong to a class of victims (and, for wokers, always will due to the innate characteristics of both them and their oppressors). 

Last edited 10 months ago by Paul Nathanson
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Certainly nothing wrong with such parallels in and of themselves, I agree. But the connection is thin here or at least, as you note, unsupported within this piece, which after all is categorized as “Opinion”.
I think there are quite a few studies helping to establish what is plain to common-sense observation: Girls and women are more likely to turn their despair and anger inward, boys and men outward. This is shown, in one glaring way, by the number of despondent (mostly) adolescent and young-adult male mass shooters, who take other peoples’ lives with them on their way to hell, so to speak.
A longing to be absorbed into, or “annihilated by” a romantic partner certainly seems more typically female, and not necessarily to any pathological degree.
Certainly a culture of victimhood and grievance–even among many conservatives–has reached a grotesque height, one that I hope represents a pre-correction peak.
Yet I think many Taylor Swift fans come from intact families in the Bible Belt, go to church, support Trump–or whoever the Republicans roll out–according to their parents’ preferences, and live in different informational bubbles than the Awokened youth do. In other words, I think there is something rather more elemental and inborn at work than just a 50-year campaign of ideological indoctrination and cherished victimhood.

Last edited 10 months ago by AJ Mac
Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I referred last to victimology, AJ, because it could be the least important factor. Maybe I should have reversed the order with that in mind. At any rate, I agree that the pervasive despair or anger of both girls and boys, no matter how they express it, is “not just” due to fifty years of victimology. Swift sings to or for fans who live, as we all now do, in a world of pervasive emptiness (a.k.a. hedonism and cynicism). This is true, to some extent, even of those who happen to grow up with intact families, live in wholesome (or at least safe) neighborhoods and even attend churches. That’s the larger and deeper context of Swift’s fans. I’ve tried to argue elsewhere, many times, that some phenomena, no matter what their particular origin, either suddenly or gradually take on lives of their own. The unusual becomes the norm.

At one time, for example, divorce (along with the psychological disruption that accompanied even the “good” divorce) was rare. Even in my childhood, it was confined to the experience of relatively few children–many of whom showed up eventually in almost every study as being at far greater risk than other children of every psychological and sociological pathology (although most social scientists chose to ignore the risks to children out of “compassion” for their unhappy parents). In other words, the threat of divorce was safely contained, not a likely possibility. That’s no longer the case. As Barbara Dafoe Whitehead argued convincingly in The Divorce Culture (1997), it was already firmly embedded in the culture of every Western society and therefore a fact of life, at some level of consciousness, for almost everyone (except in religious communities, such as those of the Hasidim or the Amish, who isolate themselves from the larger society).

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
10 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I referred last to victimology, AJ, because it could be the least important factor. Maybe I should have reversed the order with that in mind. At any rate, I agree that the pervasive despair or anger of both girls and boys, no matter how they express it, is “not just” due to fifty years of victimology. Swift sings to or for fans who live, as we all now do, in a world of pervasive emptiness (a.k.a. hedonism and cynicism). This is true, to some extent, even of those who happen to grow up with intact families, live in wholesome (or at least safe) neighborhoods and even attend churches. That’s the larger and deeper context of Swift’s fans. I’ve tried to argue elsewhere, many times, that some phenomena, no matter what their particular origin, either suddenly or gradually take on lives of their own. The unusual becomes the norm.

At one time, for example, divorce (along with the psychological disruption that accompanied even the “good” divorce) was rare. Even in my childhood, it was confined to the experience of relatively few children–many of whom showed up eventually in almost every study as being at far greater risk than other children of every psychological and sociological pathology (although most social scientists chose to ignore the risks to children out of “compassion” for their unhappy parents). In other words, the threat of divorce was safely contained, not a likely possibility. That’s no longer the case. As Barbara Dafoe Whitehead argued convincingly in The Divorce Culture (1997), it was already firmly embedded in the culture of every Western society and therefore a fact of life, at some level of consciousness, for almost everyone (except in religious communities, such as those of the Hasidim or the Amish, who isolate themselves from the larger society).

Laurence Siegel
Laurence Siegel
10 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

I hope you acknowledged that Wizard was a political satire with one meaning for kids and another for adults, like any good children’s literature.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
10 months ago

Actually, Laurence, I acknowledged that this movie (my analysis was not primarily about the book) has many meanings. In fact, three of the most interesting ones got chapters of their own.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
10 months ago

Actually, Laurence, I acknowledged that this movie (my analysis was not primarily about the book) has many meanings. In fact, three of the most interesting ones got chapters of their own.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
10 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Certainly nothing wrong with such parallels in and of themselves, I agree. But the connection is thin here or at least, as you note, unsupported within this piece, which after all is categorized as “Opinion”.
I think there are quite a few studies helping to establish what is plain to common-sense observation: Girls and women are more likely to turn their despair and anger inward, boys and men outward. This is shown, in one glaring way, by the number of despondent (mostly) adolescent and young-adult male mass shooters, who take other peoples’ lives with them on their way to hell, so to speak.
A longing to be absorbed into, or “annihilated by” a romantic partner certainly seems more typically female, and not necessarily to any pathological degree.
Certainly a culture of victimhood and grievance–even among many conservatives–has reached a grotesque height, one that I hope represents a pre-correction peak.
Yet I think many Taylor Swift fans come from intact families in the Bible Belt, go to church, support Trump–or whoever the Republicans roll out–according to their parents’ preferences, and live in different informational bubbles than the Awokened youth do. In other words, I think there is something rather more elemental and inborn at work than just a 50-year campaign of ideological indoctrination and cherished victimhood.

Last edited 10 months ago by AJ Mac
Laurence Siegel
Laurence Siegel
10 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

I hope you acknowledged that Wizard was a political satire with one meaning for kids and another for adults, like any good children’s literature.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
10 months ago

There’s nothing wrong with anyone who tries to explain contemporary phenomena, including popular songs, by pointing to medieval or ancient prototypes. I did so myself, after all, in a book on The Wizard of Oz. Whether Harrington succeeds or not, in this suggestive but brief essay, is another matter.
 
One problem is that her explanation for the morbidity in many popular songs of our time is so specific (troubadours channeling Cathar spirituality in Provencal courts of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries), that it would require a mountain of evidence to satisfy any historian.
 
For one thing, the Cathar worldview was by no means unusual (either within the Christian world, let alone the larger Western world, or the larger world beyond even that) in identifying the material realm as a prison to be escaped through either gnosis or death (or both). As for Christianity, Jesus himself saw a profound distinction between the current realm of time, or history, and eternity. St. Paul elaborated on that by distinguishing, often, between the material body (sarx referring to the transience of “flesh”) and the immaterial body (soma referring to the immortality of “spirit”), a distinction that had been a common feature of pre-Christian gnostic “mystery religions” and was probably much older than those. Although both marriage and monastic life enabled Christians to live in anticipation of a new cosmic order, no spouse or institution within the realm of time and space could inaugurate it. Since the very early Church, Christians have sought ultimate salvation in some sort of relationship with the risen Christ. Where Catharism went wrong, according to the Church, was not in dualism per se (flesh vs. spirit) but in following dualism to its logical conclusion of di-theism (one good god and one evil god) and therefore denying the value of God’s incarnation.
 
The notion of “courtly love” glorified not only unrequited love (in a purely carnal sense) but also marital infidelity (in a spiritual sense). This was probably new in medieval Christendom and confined exclusively to aristocratic circles. But I see no obvious connection between any of that and either Christianity or what it considered the Cathar heresy. Maybe the source was external. During the crusades, after all, Christians came into close contact with Muslims for the first time. The latter allowed polygamy and therefore had a distinctive notion of marriage and relations between men and women. But I can’t do more than speculate about that.
 
I suggest a much more obvious matrix for the unhappiness and even morbidity of some popular songs of our time. That would be romanticism, a movement that originated in the late eighteenth century as a reaction against rationalism and has continued to do battle with it ever since. At the heart of romanticism is its insistence on the primacy of “feeling,” “passion,” or emotion over thinking, thus giving rise not only to the “blood and soil” of nationalism or racism but also to the “sublime” (a secular version of the sacred, or the ecstatic, that prevailed in painting), the courageous but lonely “bohemian” who starves to death in a garret (a stereotype that prevailed among avant-garde painters), the brilliant revolutionary or seeker who dies young (notably among poets), the beautiful courtesan, or anyone, who dies young of consumption (a literary trope) and so on. From this point of view, death—early death—takes on a kind of irrational glamour.
 
But Harrington’s main point is neither historical nor theological. It is the current link, which she spells out more than once in a brief essay, between fantasies of unhappiness or death and girls. She offers no evidence for this connection, but she probably could do so. I’ll take her at her word, because intuition points me in the same direction. There is statistical evidence of more girls than boys who attempt suicide, often as a way of calling for help (although far more boys than girls actually want to die and therefore succeed in committing suicide). Similarly, there is evidence that more girls than boys have eating disorders (although boys turn to dangerous body-building drugs). Moreover, the vocabulary and linguistic cues of depression itself have been feminized (which is why psychologists often fail to recognize how relatively inarticulate boys express or allude to depression). And, as Harrington points out, the fragility of contemporary families, partly because of ideologies that have tried to destroy it, means that no one is assured that marriage, the primordial hope of girls who hope to have children, will lead to “happily ever after.” Finally, feminists have spent well over half a century (joined recently by wokers) telling women and girls that they belong to a class of victims (and, for wokers, always will due to the innate characteristics of both them and their oppressors). 

Last edited 10 months ago by Paul Nathanson
Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
10 months ago

Indeed, the “little death”. 
I never could stand or understand defeatist, self-pitying or drippy love songs.
As a kid, I used to wonder why all the love songs were so slow, so whiney, so drippy, so boring.
Frank Zappa noted that “broken hearts are for assholes”, and he is of course correct.
And this article goes some way towards explaining the popularity of all that navel-gazing / Swifty / broken-hearted stuff.
But, from what this article says, maybe that’s as good as it gets for some?
How awful!
By contrast, my favourite love song as a young person was “New Rose”, by The Damned – arguably, the first proper punk track, swirling with energy, and with the critical line:
“It’s kind of strange, like a stormy sea”
The exhilaration, the sense of potential – this song encapsulates what it’s like to be young and just realising someone you fancy like mad (unbelievably!) fancies you back.
Other faves include “I wanna be your dog”, by Iggy & The Stooges; and “Wild Thing”, by The Troggs.
Of course, many will claim that such exuberant ditties are not love songs at all, but whatever – they worked for me.
So many conventional love songs are relentlessly negative.  So few of them reflect the mad excitement, the churning in your heart, the utter exhilaration of falling headlong for the first time.
“New Rose” did, and, for that, it’s never been bettered.
PS: My short blog on Taylor Swift: https://ayenaw.com/2023/01/08/is-taylor-swift-our-greatest-living-poet/

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
10 months ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

Welcome to Pseuds Corner!

polidori redux
polidori redux
10 months ago

Stopped clocks tell the right time once every twelve hours.
Well done!

polidori redux
polidori redux
10 months ago

Stopped clocks tell the right time once every twelve hours.
Well done!

Rick Lawrence
Rick Lawrence
10 months ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

Enjoyed your blog, Frank

Betsy Arehart
Betsy Arehart
10 months ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

Well, the ecstasy is when the object of infatuation “fancies” you in return—an experience I’ve never had. Just a lot of pain and frustration.

Last edited 10 months ago by Betsy Arehart
Clare Knight
Clare Knight
10 months ago
Reply to  Betsy Arehart

I don’t think the ecstasy is when the object of infatuation fancies you in return. The ecstasy is the longing, the unrequited love. Infatuation is all about projection and doesn’t have much to do with reciprocation. That can be terrifying.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
10 months ago
Reply to  Betsy Arehart

I don’t think the ecstasy is when the object of infatuation fancies you in return. The ecstasy is the longing, the unrequited love. Infatuation is all about projection and doesn’t have much to do with reciprocation. That can be terrifying.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
10 months ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

How about Nina Simone singing ‘Black is the color of my true love’s hair’ to make you weak at the knees.

Last edited 10 months ago by Clare Knight
Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
10 months ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

Welcome to Pseuds Corner!

Rick Lawrence
Rick Lawrence
10 months ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

Enjoyed your blog, Frank