I found the moment Taylor Swift became a PR evil genius

I realize this is not usually what people read my blog for. No one super cares about Taylor Swift right now, nor did they ask for my thoughts about an episode of Saturday Night Live from nine years ago. But as a devoted, unabashed fan of both, this is something I think about a lot and tonight happens to be the anniversary. So, here we are.

I take Saturday Night Live very seriously. It’s been probably a decade since I missed an episode. The cast and characters have established places in my personal relationships and inside jokes, and occasionally, when I am at my lowest, I revisit skits and moments that will make me laugh. I will defend the show with my life while my critic friends slam it, and I am still selfishly hoping that Bobby Moynihan’s new series gets cancelled so he can come back and be the Secondhand News guy forever.

Re: Taylor Swift. I bought tickets to not one but two of her Reputation tour shows (both of which I had to miss for personal reasons). I still listen to her OG country albums despite how poorly they have aged along with my feminism, and I think she is a PR evil genius. She is very much by Problematic Fave / Milkshake Duck. This I know for sure. 

Okay so anyway, the performance:

The eve of Taylor Swift’s Monologue Song was her first time hosting, but her second time appearing on the show after her January 2009 performance as the musical guest. Usually, SNL hosts come on to promote a recent show, movie, or album release, but as far as I know this wasn’t the case for Taylor because Fearless had been released a year earlier and Speak Now wouldn’t come out until October 2010. The now-infamous MTV video awards where Kanye West stormed the stage to avenge Beyoncé’s loss for Best Female Video, on the other hand, had taken place about 7 weeks prior on Sept 13, 2009. So maybe they asked her to host just because she was very much In The News. 

Anyway, SNL does its whole, “Ladies and Gentleman: Taylor Swift!” intro, and Taylor struts out — and I use the word struts intentionally here — wearing her trademark sequined gown and perfectly-curled blonde hair. This is old school Taylor, y’all. She immediately cracks a joke about her age, says that she’s having all kinds of nervousness and excitement about hosting, and pulls out her trusty guitar. (One thing I didn’t realize until recently is that the frets have her name embroidered in gold lettering). What follows is something she calls “Monologue Song (La La La)” — both an Easter egg for those familiar with Taylor’s 2006 hit “Mary’s Song (Oh My My My)” and a catchy, perfectly-crafted, wink-wink kickoff for what no one realizes is going to be a 10-year  PR game that she has already mastered.

She starts off with several innocuous jokes about her favorite things — glitter, sparkly dresses, stuff that smells like winter — then she pivots toward what the song really is: a campaign to make herself the likeable, honest victim.

She croons about the men in her life who have cheated on her and acknowledges writing their names into songs so they’re afraid to go in public. She dedicates several lines to addressing Joe Jonas who she claims broke up with her over the phone. She blows a kiss to her then-beau Taylor Lautner of Twilight fame. She intentionally overacts as well as sings — weaving and sighing and batting her eyes in an “I’m so mysterious” motion that makes the audience laugh. And then she wraps it up with, “You might be expecting me to say something bad about Kanye, and how he ran up on the stage and ruined my VMA monologue. But there’s nothing more to say, ‘cause everything’s ok. I’ve got security lining the staaaage!” It’s almost catchy enough to believe that she is being the bigger person.

Except, of course, she’s not. This extremely catchy, funny, captivating little song was written deliberately to make Taylor look innocent above all else. She’s just a girl who likes baking in a sea of scary, mean adults. She’s publicly addressing being dumped because it’s only fair after Joe hurt her first. She’s retaliating against the world being oh-so-unfair to her. She is setting the stage for a decade of this behavior, and it totally, one-hundred percent worked.

These days, Taylor Swift swings wildly between supervillain and saint — something Constance Grady captures really well in her 2017 essay. She’s recently dipped her toes into the previously off-limits territory of politics (which Reihan Salam calls an act of “competitive wokeness”), and is experimenting with embracing the snake — a version of her reputation that I am extremely here for.

Anyway, that’s all I wanted you all to know. I love SNL, I love Taylor, and I am still regularly struck by how long she has been playing this game and how I got to watch it happen on SNL.



The Arbor Walk at Carneros Resort

Day 3 in Wine Country: It’s drinking time

I promised more parts to the California vacation saga, so here is part 2 — where we got serious about wine-tastings.

On Wednesday, our third full day in Sonoma, we drove over for a noontime tasting a Caymus Vineyards. The four of us had identified Caymus as a must-try for our trip after trying some of their 2015(?) Cabernet at Arethusa Al Tavolo in Bantam, CT. The tasting wasn’t cheap and didn’t come with snacks, but the wine definitely held up and the ambiance was phenomenal. Think: birds chirping, serene music, and patios with ivy-covered wire tents. Hands down one of my favorite tastings of the trip.

It was also at Caymus that I first learned about Wine-Away (which is apparently the holy grail of red wine stain removers) when our sommelier balked at my all-white attire. I didn’t end up needing any, but I must have walked past a dozen different strangers talking about the product during our trip. Probably something you should consider picking up if you’ve got a trip to wine country planned.

Immediately after Caymus, we popped over to Domaine Chandon for another tasting and light lunch. No photos from here, unfortunately, but we sat outside on some Adirondack chairs and enjoyed some of their sparkling varieties. This was a great, relaxed way to kill time where you don’t need a reservation and can try something new for relatively cheap.

Finally, we swung by Inglenook Winery chateau afterwards for a cup of coffee and brief walk through the museum as part of a leisurely drive down the Silverado trail. The winery is owned by Francis Ford Coppola and his wife, Eleanor, and our visit late in the day meant that it was largely empty and extremely peaceful. I think we tried one glass of wine — their blancaneaux.


The Chateau at Inglenook Winery

It was a day full of drinking. The best thing I did was hydrate like hell, wear sunblock, and take turns driving with my husband and in-laws. I’ve also heard that people hire drivers to take them to different vineyards, but that seemed like an unnecessary extra expense to us.

And that brings me to: our dinner at the Restaurant at Meadowood, which 100% deserves its own post. I’m hoping to have that up soon (largely since we did the “three-course” and there are not enough reviews of that on the internet).

In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions about recommendations, tasting-strategies, etc.

Love, me.


Our first two days in wine country

For the past few months, Jake and I have been planning a trip out to California wine country with his parents (my in-laws) for spring break. Though we were only in town for a total of 7 days, it felt like far longer, and frankly I’m impressed at how much we were able to do while still taking time to unwind and relax. That, of course, means there’s no way I can fit everything into a single blog post, so I’m breaking this out into probably three chapters. Starting with our first two days primarily in Sonoma:

  • From when we flew in on Sunday to Thursday morning, we stayed at Beltane Ranch in Glen Ellen (in Sonoma Valley). It’s a breathtaking property with architecture that somehow felt Southern and a distinctly rural-luxurious vibe. Every morning, we woke up to peaceful vineyard views and were then served a full country breakfast. In the afternoons, there would be fresh-baked cookies up for grabs in the kitchen. I know that my father-in-law particularly enjoyed reading on the balcony while the rest of us were still asleep. I was extremely sad to leave and would definitely return, especially in the warmer months and ideally when they were hosting one of their signature Sunday dinners.
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Fresh chocolate chip cookies with sea salt!

  • Dinner at Glen Ellen Star, a Michelin-recommended (though not starred) restaurant only five minutes away from Beltane Ranch, was honestly fucking outstanding. We made this reservation for the first night of our trip, and I think it tied for first as one of the best meals of the whole vacation. Also maybe one of the top 10 meals of my life. It gets rave reviews from media outlets everywhere and I am 100% still dreaming about the roasted carrots we got as an appetizer and the strawberry shortcake dessert — not to mention the wine recommendations from our waitress (Three Sticks and Father’s Watch). If you’re planning a trip to wine country, Glen Ellen Star is a must. Must must must.

  • As far as actual vineyards go, we had an educational and beautiful tour at Kendall Jackson on Monday afternoon. I’ll admit, I was skeptical; it felt like we would be better off sticking to smaller businesses instead of industry giants. But, Jake and his parents encouraged me to keep the reservation I had booked for us, and I am so glad we did. The property was stunning, our tour guide was excellent, and I even spotted the Instagram-famous Farmer Tucker.


Shopping outfit

Shopping in downtown Healdsburg

  • After Kendall Jackson and some shopping in downtown Healdsburg, we drove over to Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa. This was basically the only thing Jake had really wanted to cross off the list so we made sure to make it a priority. He ordered a flight of 19 two-oz(?)beers that we didn’t finish, alongside their Nu Deal pizza, and it was a fun experience / pit stop for lunch / opportunity for Jake to purchase some to beer with him to Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Tacoma, WA, where he’s currently doing an internal med rotation.

Count ’em

  • We spent most of Tuesday in Sonoma at a close friend’s country house. I cannot possibly overstate how beautiful it was, and their property was extensive enough for a long walk followed by clay-pigeon shooting. Unfortunately, this is not open to the public, but I couldn’t not share.

  • Finally, we (and the aforementioned friends) ate dinner at El Molino Central in Sonoma. The San Francisco Chronicle called it “The Bay Area’s best Mexican food,” and it one-hundred percent delivered. Enjoy any of the red mole dishes and order some guac and chips to share. Important side note: consider bringing a blanket or at least a light jacket because the almost-exclusively-outdoor seating can get a little chilly, even with the space heaters. And basically everything there is at least a tiny bit spicy, but in a really delicious way.

Some other honorable mentions I’d like to note but not give their own bullet point: Ad Hoc (Thomas Keller’s “more affordable” restaurant in the area) and Flying Goat Coffee (which was recommended by The Everygirl). Both were, in my opinion, fine, but I probably wouldn’t intentionally go back to either. Ad Hoc’s menu changes daily, which means that you don’t necessarily know that you’re going to love the menu if you make a reservation. And when we went, it was BBQ, which meant I didn’t love anything except the salad and wine pairings. But if you’ve got an adventurous palette and enjoy most Southern food (like my husband father-in-law), you might disagree. Flying Goat was, similarly, good…but definitely nothing to write home about.

And that’s a wrap on (Jesus Christ I’m gonna have to write a lot of posts) days one and two! Let me know if you have questions as I’m happy to help answer. Now off to draft posts for the rest of the trip…

Love, me.

PS: I love organizing these kinds of things, and I’m really pleased at how the itinerary turned out. I think in another life I’d be a travel agent or event planner. If I were to do a post on how to successfully plan a vacation, would anyone read it? Let me know.