Archive | 2:26 PM

Dancing with our Hands Tied- Chains and Restraints [Part R]

17 Jan

Logistical Info:

Remember we’re looking at words in the lyrics of Question… to try to decipher who and what and when.

We’ve almost gone through the entire song, pulling lyrics containing the same words to get a sort of consensus or feeling about Taylor’s intention.

Now that we’re toward the end of Question… lyrics, we need to address the central part of the song: Kiss in a crowded room. And the kiss really brings to mind Dancing with our Hands Tied and maybe Kissgate.

We will analyze Dancing with our Hands Tied to see if it parallels Question….

Except this particular line within Dancing with our Hands Tied got a bit long because I really don’t know for sure and there was no solid direction to take the analysis. I will go into it in detail in this post so the guesses don’t overwhelm the analysis of the song as a whole.

And I’ll spell out my conclusions from this post in the full analysis of Dancing with our Hands Tied. But that post was getting very long and I was afraid nobody would read it. So to make things even more confusing each line in DWOHT is going to be its OWN post. But then I’ll do a main DWOHT post with just links to each different post. It’s a whole big thing.

Then we’ll get back to the end of Question

Was that explanation as confusing as trying to guess who Taylor’s songs are about?

Dancing with our hands tied, hands tied

We’ve discussed how Taylor construes “dance” to mean having no inhibitions. She talks about how children are willing to dance without shame in Fifteen. The word is used to show the elation, relief, and liberation of being herself, as in the song, Long Live (Question…  [Part 17]).  Slightly adjacent to being in an uninhibited, unflappable mode relating to her queerness (NOT her default state of anxiety and fear) Taylor uses “dance” to express allegiance and belonging. When she dances in Welcome to New York it shows that Taylor found people that accept her and “Dance” is used to show affiliation with these urban queers. Same with Beautiful Ghosts. She “dances” or unites with these other gay people because that’s who she is, and they integrate her into their chosen family (Question…  [Part 17]).  The preponderance of “dancing” in Taylor’s catalog is relaxation and ease with her innate sexuality.  

Dancing with our Hands Tied, however, is not completely free.  With that phrase, Taylor is not only describing the physical representation of her and her lover’s arms and hands tangled and intertwined.  She is telling us despite the dancing, there were always handcuffs, chains, restraints, hemming-in of their relationship.  And with her own relationship to her (queer) self.

This bejeweled dress also looks like chains, shackling Taylor Swift into her public image. With the money she makes from her brand, comes the forced closeting and bearding and straightwashing. “Where’s that man who threw blankets over my barbed wire?” in Tolerate It [a song about people not accepting Taylor’s sexuality] shows how the TS brand hides Taylor’s barbed wire (rough edges, sexuality) by propping a man next to her. The song is telling us Taylor beards to hide her sexuality. Invisible String reiterates how Taylor the brand looks beautiful dripping in jewels, but Taylor the person is restrained by these same gems. “Something wrapped all of my past mistakes in barbed wire/Chains around my demons…”

Taylor loves, but in secret.  Taylor uses dancing in Cowboy Like Me to misrepresent her sexuality to the rich folks. She dances with this other queer person to look outwardly romantic and mollify homophobic reactions (Question…  [Part 17]).  This is Taylor’s personal life:  She feels she has to dance and spin on her tiptoes, al-la Mirrorball, showing her audience, the media, and the general public everything they want to see.  The closet stifles Taylor, but also makes her feel safe, per Clean and Lavender Haze. It’s no accident the gold mirrorball dress also has the jewel/chains. She is shining for others, but the mirrorball mentality also keeps her tied up in that image.

The specific event of Kissgate hurt Kaylor because Taylor defaulted to brand damage control instead of opening up and coming out.  All the anxiety kills the partnership.  The half moon eyes in Question… are the combination of anxieties constantly tugging Taylor and any sapphic lover apart.  

Not sticking up for your (sapphic) love out of fear of social rejection is a common theme in so many of Taylor’s songs because it’s the primary problem in Taylor’s real life (Question…  [Part 14]). Her actions and inactions cause her partner to be relegated to the back of the closet.  And all the hiding, and secrets, and lies are hurting their love.  Which is why in Betty, Taylor wants to rectify the situation by publicly kissing Betty/this woman she loves (Question…  [Part 17]).  

Taylor’s early romances ended nearly the same as her current romance has ended.  She has always felt regretful about her situation and wishes the lover would show up below her window.  But there are just too many secrets, lies, miscommunications, and accusations complicating things.  For example, Betty, a highly autobiographical allegory for Taylor’s real life, shows a common conflict of closeting and bearding.  James (aka Taylor) was nowhere to be found, because she hates the crowds (creates a spectacle wherever she goes).  But she saw Betty dance with HIM, which James/Taylor misconstrued as legitimate. It’s just like reality where bearding is sometimes pulled off too well, creating jealousy and mistrust. 

In both Betty and in Taylor’s real dating life, a chain of negative reactions follows the act of bearding and the relationship between the female lovers suffers.  So after being pushed away by Taylor’s closeting, instead of throwing pebbles at Taylor’s window, the girlfriend actually leaves (Question…  [Part 14]).   Then, there is just sadness about what will never be. 

In the case of Kissgate and Kaylor, I think Taylor wanted to go to The Lakes and be a private couple, just the two of them.  But I suspect Karlie felt obligated to be with Jo$h, and still wanted to be with Taylor, as attested by Ivy.  There is a back and fourth in that song. Taylor is anxious at the impending doom of Karlie’s wedding (among other things) and Karlie answers, trying to assuage Taylor’s fear of the Ku$hners burning the house down. These lines (starting from “How’s one to know” are from Karlie’s perspective:

Karlie lived and died for her affair with Taylor despite an upcoming deadline with Jo$h. Taylor gets afraid and tells Karlie to just go to the guy, but Karlie asks Taylor to sit with her, drinking Jo$h’s wine, and wait and see what Kaylor can be. Karlie, further says all of this is under Taylor’s control. Karlie’s pain is in Taylor’s freezing hands, but she wants to hold on to Taylor. Even though Karlie has made a commitment that is soon to start, she says Taylor impacted her and she can’t pretend their love isn’t centered in her life. Karlie didn’t choose to fall in love with Taylor, and she acknowledges that falling in love with Taylor is messing up the future that she had long ago planned, but it happened. Karlie is covered in the invasive, inconvenient ivy of Taylor’s love. Taylor couldn’t go along with continuing an affair with a married Karlie because of distress about losing control, apprehension about the unknown, and antipathy of those political associations (Question…  [Part 10]). 

Because each of their hands are tied due to bearding, Kaylor had to stop “dancing” despite truly loving one another. Taylor’s break-up with her lover kills her.  And Karlie is dead to Taylor now that she has a child and a (diabolical) husband.  Karlie politely lived with being hidden and put on the back burner, until she didn’t (Question…  [Part 10]).  She eventually left the deprivation of the closet which erased her.  Karlie went ahead and “married” the guy or more accurately, commissioned this heteronormative life (Question…  [Part 9]). 

Now both Taylor and Karlie are dead inside, cold lifeless hands reaching out (“do you wish you could still touch her?”) grieving for the living.