When Taylor Swift first released Folklore, I wasn’t crazy about it. I had long since grown out of my Taylor Swift phase, and–despite the album’s growing popularity–2020 me was thoroughly unimpressed. I was, however, completely enamored with “Betty”.
“Betty” is the fourteenth track on Folklore, Swift’s eighth album. It plays a role in what fans call Swift’s “Folklore Love Triangle”. The fictional love triangle is between three characters: Betty, James, and the unnamed character that sings “August”, whom fans have dubbed “Augustine”.
The storyline becomes increasingly more intricate with every individual interpretation, but these are the facts: Betty and James were emotionally involved until James met a girl named Augustine. The two spent a whole summer together until James realized he still had feelings for Betty. “Betty” (the song) is James’ apology to her.
So why did the thirteen-year-old me, who was not a Taylor Swift fan by any means, enjoy this track so much?
I think it’s the fantasy of it.
Since childhood, I would gaze out of classroom windows, not paying attention to anything my teachers said. It was easy then to pretend that the world around me fell away and transport myself to a place of my design. I would lay in my bed every night and create worlds where I could be anything I wanted. My life centered around delusion.
As I’ve grown older, my imagination has dwindled. No matter how much I try to focus on fantasy, my mind slams me back into reality. I can’t focus. I can’t concentrate. I can’t even stay still for a moment. I’m trapped in a world bearing harsh deadlines and manufactured smiles.
My time on this earth is diminishing every living second of the day. I’m touring colleges. I’m focusing on building my resume. Reality has come flooding back to me so suddenly and so fast, and it is terrifying.
Why must I rely on stories to keep me vital? Why do I go down deep internet rabbit holes every night until I pass out because I’m afraid of being alone with my thoughts before I fall asleep? I would much rather live in the state I did at age seven when I would waltz through life with my mind elsewhere. Now, I’m always there. And I don’t want to be.
“Betty” provides some delusion. It’s fitting that I would be fixated not on the music, but on the story behind it.
My favorite line from the song is:
“I’m only seventeen / I don’t know anything / But I know I miss you.”
Seventeen is when adults expect us to know what we are doing with the rest of our lives. As I breach the edge of seventeen, I can safely say that I have no idea what I’m doing or what I want to accomplish.
Sure, James messed up by getting with Augustine, but he was just a kid. He’s still young. How is he supposed to know what he’s doing? He’s only seventeen. I’m only sixteen.
At some point, I must forgo dreams and face the harsh reality. But, for a little while, I want to hold on to imagination. So, even now, as I write this, I keep listening to “Betty”. My late-night internet rabbit holes have evolved into learning everything I can about the Folklore Love Triangle. I live through characters that never existed.
Unlike 2020 me, 2023 me loves Taylor Swift. I’ve seen her in concert three times, each better than the previous one. The song that never fails to amaze me is “Betty”. However, if you were to ask me today, I would say that my favorite song from Folklore is “August”.
“August” has a line that says, “To live for the hope of it all.” I’m hoping. I’m praying that my impending future goes in the right direction. I’m not living, though. I want to experience the joys of life. I don’t want to be surrounded by fantasy. I’m trying to live my life as much as I can.
Still, “Betty” is a pretty dang good song. I give it five stars.