By Sherrie Page Guyer
One of the lucky ones, I’d just struck Ticketmaster gold. As in eight lower-level seats to see Taylor Swift in concert gold. My immediate thought after did this really just happen? was, “Who do I take?”
My mind went straight to my girl squad. The friends I wanted dancing beside me in concert T-shirts and heart-shaped sunglasses, singing into the night about the ones who broke our hearts. Howling at the moon from outdoor stadium seats at the 40-yard line.
Did I mention that I’m 54-years-old?
Just like Taylor’s song, I’m often “22” in my mind, routinely shocked when I notice long gray strands building up in my hairbrush or when I come nose-to-sagging knee skin while in downward facing dog. Taylor’s songs forever resonate because I’m always telling my younger self that she will be okay. Life is a journey, we’ll survive our mistakes and the hard stuff (like losing my mother early, my divorce after twenty-years of marriage, my recent scary return to grad school). I needed this concert to celebrate perseverance at high volume.
So when I reached out to my best buddies to make plans for an epic GNO, I was baffled by multiple friends’ hesitation. “I just don’t think I could go without my daughter,” and, “How could I explain to my Maya that I was going to Taylor Swift without her?” and, “It would be bad parenting to go without Kathryn,” and, “I’d love to go, but only if I can bring my daughter.”
My Eras Tour vision did not include middle schoolers. I wanted to belt out, “I’m the problem, It’s me!” without a seventh-grade girl in my periphery. Shedding my mom-skin to be a 22-year-old Swiftie for the night was the point. I wanted to be free with no one else depending on me—not a child, not a dog, not a deadline.
“I get all that,” my best friend since high school assured me. “It’s just I couldn’t enjoy the concert through the guilt I’d feel. These are Maya’s dream tickets.”
Bad parenting and guilt, my friends intoned, making me wonder whether I was maternally deficient for not feeling the same way. My own daughter, Alex, now 28, had been a Swiftie with me even before the term Swiftie was coined.
Taylor’s debut CD lived in my Volvo, the backdrop to Alex’s teen years. My girl had a powerful breaststroke, fearlessness in the face of a steep mountain, and owned the spotlight whenever on stage. Swimming, skiing, musicals, we spent a lot of time in that car, with those tunes, and one another.
Ski meets meant two hours of Swift’s songs each way, belting “Teardrops On My Guitar” as my SUV chugged up Wintergreen mountain. And even if Alex hadn’t experienced romantic heartbreak at that point, I loved watching her connect to the deeper meaning of song lyrics, a relationship she maintains with Taylor’s music today.
Would my daughter be a collegiate swimmer? An Olympic skier? A Broadway star? Taylor Swift made it all seem possible—a hometown girl writing her own songs professionally at 14, signing a record contract at 16, winning a Grammy at 20. And that was just the beginning. Ever evolving, she’d gone on to break music industry records by speaking to the awkward teen girl in all of us. Taylor reminds the outcast, the lovelorn, and the dreamers to hang in there. She’s living proof that life will reward you with sparkly sequins and stadiums full of adoring fans, if you just dig deep and believe that, girl, you’ve got this!
I dubbed my friends’ responses: FODMO (Fear of Daughter Missing Out). Beyond FOMO, I’d stumbled across a different kind of mama bear fear based on a daughter missing a transformative moment. While Taylor’s songs send a message of female strength and resilience to girls, she telegraphs a second one to their mothers: If you bestow this powerful experience on your daughter, she will forever be empowered.
My friends who were still raising kids had to bring their daughters.
So you’ll find me in Pittsburgh at Acrisure Stadium, howling at the moon with four of my dearest friends and three of their daughters, singing about heartbreak and reveling in the moment of feeling 22. And while it would be fun to have Alex by my side for this GNO turned mother-daughter event, she’d already seen Taylor with her girl squad. Grown, independent, and empowered, I didn’t need to take her. That part of my job was done.
Sherrie Page Guyer is a freelance writer, Swiftie, and mom of two launched adult children. A registered nurse for over 30 years, she is currently pursuing her doctorate at the University of Virginia School of Nursing. Find out more at sherriepageguyer.com.
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