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I’m Only Me When I’m With You This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.

I have a friend – let's call her Patty – who spent the whole summer with her boyfriend. She loved him so much – maybe too much. Whenever he'd travel to the city for a few days, she'd cry. Later he broke up with her for being too needy. Crying because of three to four days apart? I couldn't come out and tell her, but I had to agree with him. Their relationship seemed more like codependency than a healthy romance.

But how can we blame Patty for acting this way when we are constantly exposed to the overexaggeration of the importance of being in a romantic relationship? Codependency is everywhere – in movies, on television, in your friend groups, and in music.

Take Taylor Swift, for example. I think she is a fantastic artist, but I have noticed that her lyrics glorify men and the importance of having a boyfriend to feel complete. The title of her song “I'm Only Me When I'm With You” is alarming when you think about the millions of impressionable young girls listening to her music. Swift has not appointed herself as a role model, but she is one, and I don't think she should release songs that stress codependency to a fan base mostly made up of young girls.

Another song I don't think she should have released is “Your Anything”:

I'll be your angel giving up her wings/If that's what you need/I'd give everything to be your anything/It's not like I'm giving up who I am for you/But for someone like you it's just so easy to do.

I can tie these lyrics to Patty's situation with her ex-boyfriend. When they were dating, Patty's dad was unhappy with her relationship. He said that she used to be very well-rounded, with an array of hobbies and friends. Patty dropped all of these to spend as much time as possible with her boyfriend. To me, a relationship should add to your life, not be your life.

Taylor Swift's songs imply that a boyfriend equals happiness, and that when you are in a relationship you will feel more complete than when you are alone. Obviously, Swift has the right to sing about whatever she wants, but I think girls should know that a great relationship is not comprised of two people “making each other complete,” but of two complete people forming a bond of love and ­respect for each other.

When your well-being is dependent on your boyfriend, it's a precarious situation for your
self-­esteem, which Swift acknowledges in “Breathe” (“I can't breathe without you”). In “Haunted,” she sings, “I can't breathe whenever you're gone,” and in “I Heart Question Mark” the lyrics are “You took everything I had away.” How can we expect Patty not to feel worthless without her boyfriend when one of her favorite artists endorses these beliefs?

It seems that girls around the world still hope that their Prince Charming will one day “rescue” them and make them feel worthy of love, thanks in part to artists like Swift. In “Today Was a Fairytale” she calls herself a “damsel in distress.” Whether she is waiting around for her love interest, being “saved,” heartbroken, or cheated on by him, Swift sings from the point of view of someone who is weaker. For example, from “Love Story”: “Romeo save me/I've been feeling so alone/I keep waiting for you but you never come.” And from “Forever and Always”: “And I stare at the phone/He still hasn't called/And you feel so low/You can't feel nothing at all.”

I am singling out Taylor Swift because she is someone whose music I am immersed in on a daily basis, but there are countless other examples in the media that encourage codependency. Let's look at one of the bestselling books ever. The Twilight series depicts a teenage girl named Bella, who is described as average-looking, awkward, and bumbling. Bella falls irrevocably in love with the vampire Edward, who is said to be beautiful, graceful, and sexy.

If you ask a “Twihard” (Twilight fan) what they think of Edward and Bella's relationship, they will likely use words including “amazing,” “perfect,” and “magical.” In reality, their relationship is abusive, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline. This organization offers 15 questions to determine if you are in an abusive relationship. If you answer even one of them yes, you may be in an abusive relationship. Bella would answer yes to all 15. Here are a few:

Has your partner …

looked at you or acted in ways that scare you?

Since Edward feeds on blood, he is always struggling against his urge to kill Bella.

threatened to commit suicide?

Edward tells Bella that he would kill himself if he ever had to live ­without her. When he believes Bella is dead, he almost succeeds in becoming un-undead until Bella stops him.

threatened to kill you?

Edward threatens to kill Bella on their first date.

pushed, slapped, bitten, kicked, or choked you?

When they “get physical,” he bruises her badly.

abandoned you in a dangerous or unfamiliar place?

Edward breaks up with Bella in a forest. Distraught and lost, she must be rescued by the police.

forced you to leave your home?

To escape the dangerous vampires, she drops everything to flee with him to Italy.

Twilight's fan base includes millions of people, and the franchise has pulled in billions of dollars. I have never understood why girls like bad-boy types, but the proof is in the pudding. It's one thing to be smitten with the quintessential archetype of a “bad” boy – one who may have a tattoo or an earring and wears a leather jacket with lots of nonconformist views – but a boyfriend who is abusing you physically or emotionally is not someone to seek.

And yet we find this particularly troubling lyric in Taylor Swift's song “Tell Me Why”: “I need you like a heartbeat/But you know you've got a mean streak/That makes me run for cover when you're around.” Is Swift, America's sweetheart, condoning relationship abuse to her young fans?

Blaming the other woman is another unfortunate relationship norm in our society. When my friend Patty found out that her boyfriend had been spending time with another girl, instead of being furious with him, she started verbally attacking the other girl. I found this mind-boggling. Patty's boyfriend was supposedly committed to Patty; this other girl had no obligation to Patty, so why was Patty angry with her? Maybe Patty behaved this way because she was so shocked and hurt. Maybe she was too afraid to blame her boyfriend because she was still in love with him. But then, I remembered the Taylor Swift song “Better than Revenge”: “She came along, got him alone and let's hear the applause/She took him faster than you could say ‘sabotage'/She underestimated just who she was stealing from … She should keep in mind/There is nothing I do better than revenge.”

I am baffled by women who believe that men can be “stolen.” A man who cheats is making the decision himself. Women already hate each other too much; I wish people would stop supporting songs and novels that put men on a pedestal and throw women under the bus.

I do not dislike Taylor Swift or Stephenie Meyer. I just believe that women base too much of their self-worth on how men view them. I hope one day all women will realize that they are unique and that they don't need a man's approval to make them feel good. I encourage women to spend time searching for themselves before searching for a mate. In the long run, they will be much happier and more confident in their relationships if they do.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the February 2014 Teen Ink EBSCO POV Contest.

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sarahcarp63This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 23, 2014 at 9:01 pm
I think that everybody has their own idea of what love is and I think that a lot of Taylors songs are about being saved but also about saving someone else too. I think its a mutual thing. But everyone can express the way love feels to them and saying that Taylor Swift has it all wrong isn't fair. Maybe thats just not the kind of love you want.
samanthaleeciotti replied...
today at 9:58 am
Hi Sarah, Thank you for your comment. I wrote this at a time when I was trying to figure out what my views on feminism and love were. I have a better idea of how I feel now. I commend Taylor Swift for her illustrious career, as well as being a huge inspiration, and a positive one, for people all over the world. I don't think that I have a right to judge how she chooses to express herself, and I shouldn't hold her accountable for young girls acting codependent. Like all people, Taylor has a r... (more »)
juliannamd17 said...
Jan. 25, 2014 at 10:49 pm
Taylor's song "I'm Only Me (When I'm With You)" has been stated- both by herself and by her record label Big Machine Records- to be about the summer of 2004. It is about her FRIENDS. Female friends, presummably, whom "[She] couldn't live without." It has NOTHING to do with being too 'needy' over a guy. Also, the song "Your Anything"- written in October 2004- WASN'T EVEN RELEASED. The only known copy of the song is in a YouTube video relea... (more »)
samanthaleeciotti replied...
today at 9:59 am
Hi Julianna, Thank you for your comment. It is obvious that you have done a lot more research than I have, and I thank you for clearing up certain elements of my essay for me. I wrote this at a time when I was trying to figure out what my views on feminism and love were. I have a better idea of how I feel now. I commend Taylor Swift for her illustrious career, as well as being a huge inspiration, and a positive one, for people all over the world. I don't think that I have a right to judge how ... (more »)
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