To the best of my knowledge, only once have I ever heard a Taylor Swift song. I was standing in a clothing store a couple years ago while the Lady of the House searched for a pair of hiking shorts on sale. As I became aware of the music, I was struck by how, well, childish it sounded. I mean, the melody was just so monotonous and straightforward, like “Baby Shark” or something. Eventually I was able to make out enough of the lyrics, at which point recognition dawned. I had seen them quoted often enough in my online travels to know who the singer was. I don’t remember now what they were; I have successfully expunged them from my memory. It is possible that I may have heard other songs of hers in a grocery store or something without realizing it, but that stands as my only interaction with the iconic artist of our age.
It’s nothing in particular about her. Likewise, I’ve never heard anything by Kanye West or Drake, Jay-Z or Beyonce, Miley Cyrus or the two Justins (Bieber and Timberlake). I heard Lady Gaga once and had a similar sense of bewilderment as with Ms. Swift. However, I did manage to navigate the age of boy bands like the Backstreet Boys and N’Sync and former Disney princesses like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera by stuffing my ears with wax.
I’ve also avoided most of the popular movies and TV shows of the last couple decades. At least two people have called me a barbarian for never having seen an episode of Seinfeld. Likewise for Friends, Sex in the City, and ER. Even in the age of prestige television, I’ve never watched any of The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, or Game of Thrones. I did try to watch some of Mad Men but lost interest after two or three episodes. As for the big screen, well, I only recall being in a theater twice in the last couple of decades, once because I was taken along, and once because of my lingering enjoyment of Halloween.
As that last data point shows, I’m not motivated by snobbery or rarefied taste. I think it has more to do with being what Lin Yutang called a Great Recluse, or what the scholar Aat Vervoorn called a “Zhuangzi hermit,” i.e. a hermit immersed in society, hiding anonymously in plain sight. I’m just too caught up in woolgathering to be much interested in staying au courant.