Updated: Nov 19, 2021
Last week I put out a blog about how I was learning to let go - I waffled on and on about how I planned to make a conscious effort to focus on nothing but joy and happiness. I need you to know I wasn't lying to you when I stated such intentions - I wholeheartedly meant it when I claimed I believed I was ready to forget about my past. However, last week, Taylor Swift also put out an album revisiting hers, and as a result, I remembered who I really am. All too well.
I have spent the last week of my life listening to ‘Red (Taylor’s Version)’ after spending the preceding 471 weeks of my life listening to the unethically sourced version of the same album (I refer to anything owned by Scooter Braun as ‘unethically sourced’). The following statement should be, but sadly is not an exaggeration - I have listened to Taylor Swift every day, for, what is now, over half of my life. Feel free to consider me a case study in why one should not do this.
I was particularly excited to listen to Taylor’s previously unreleased tracks, and having now done so an unhealthy number of times, I could spend the rest of my days talking about every clever reference in Taylor Swift's recently released work. However, instead, I’ll give you a concise summary of my favourite one - there are some subtle and some very unsubtle nods to “Nocturnal Animals” (a film starring Jake Gyllenhaal) in her “All Too Well” short film (a film also starring Jake Gyllenhaal).
If it’s not already abundantly clear, I relate massively to Taylor Swift, because I also have never once truly let anything go - especially if it involves someone telling me that I am not funny. It appears that Jake said this to Taylor a lot - so I totally get why she has an axe to grind. Someone once told me I wasn’t funny and I’m a comedian now - so like Taylor I am also willing to ruin my own life to prove a point.
There are loads of lyrics about Taylor’s apparent lack of humour in the eyes of an absolute fool, like “you laughed at my dreams, rolled your eyes at my jokes”. Even when she moved on from this loser, she sang to the new guy “you throw your head back laughing like a little kid, I think it’s strange that you think I’m funny, cause he never did”. In the new version of ‘All Too Well’ she sings “I was never good at telling jokes but the punchline goes ‘I’ll get older but your lovers stay my age’”. Now this is arguably more of a premise than a punchline, and I’ll admit - probably needs more of a set up to actually get a laugh in a club setting, but I respect a reverse engineering approach in one’s writing, and Tay has already proved she has a solid 10. Anyway, regardless of what Jake thinks of her humour, I, for one, happen to think that committing to a bit for 10 years is jokes.
I could and I very much want to, but I will stop myself from allowing this to become a fully-fledged Taylor Swift fan account, even though, let’s be honest, it already is. I also won’t go into too much detail about “Nocturnal Animals”, but what you need to know for the sake of this blog entry - which you will already if you’ve done the mandatory pre-reading - is that it is a film that explores the idea that the past is never really ever through with us. It would still be an excellent film to nod to when singing about an ex-love from a decade ago, even if it didn’t happen to star Gyllenhaal himself.
In “Nocturnal Animals”, Gyllenhaal plays an author, and in “All Too Well”, Swift plays one. In the former, Gyllenhaal’s character expresses his emotions about his ex wife’s betrayal by penning a revenge novel with some rather obvious nods to their time together. In the film, his ex wife never respected his work and didn’t like how he ”only wrote about himself” - she suggested he ought to find other things to write about. I like how the book within the film shows us that one can write about themselves in a million different ways - to believe that one should not write about one person or one thing is to not acknowledge that one person or one thing can inspire a million stories. Interestingly, when Jake’s author character created art inspired by what his ex wife did to him - by, for the first time “not writing about himself”, but also very much still writing about himself (and her) - he finally had her respect but no longer wanted or needed it. The gender roles, as well as which of them is really seen as the villain, is flipped in “All Too Well” but all the parallels exist - and they are pretty interesting parallels if you ask me.
I’m aware you didn’t, so I will swiftly move towards the actual point I am trying to make - we’re only a few paragraphs in, and it’s probably getting a bit too ‘English A Levels’ up in here - so I will move on from talking about how Taylor Swift compared her short-lived relationship to a psychological thriller, and get back to talking about my significantly more mundane life, and the time this bitch single-white-femaled me.
There’s a few disclaimers I want to make before we go any further. Firstly, I want to say - if you are reading this and we are friends, hello and a warm welcome to the both of you. Secondly, If you are reading this and we are enemies - your time will come. But finally and most importantly - if we don’t know each other, I’m genuinely thrilled you are here - you are part of what we in the biz call “a genuine audience”! You are the exact demographic I want to be reading this blog and I very much would love for you to continue doing so. You are hopefully enjoying yourself, and you are hopefully picking up what I am putting down, maybe relating to what I have to say, and maybe you’re reading this even thinking that we would get along or even should be friends. But if this is the case - please, I beg of you, and I mean this sincerely - stay the fuck away from me.
You might think this sounds incredibly cynical and not a way to foster a relationship with the very people who will be responsible for whether or not I have any success in this world, and you will perhaps even feel sorry for someone who is this closed off and guarded. You might think that is no way to live, and you might be, once again, sighing at me, and asking “Jesus Christ, Hannah, who hurt you?”. I am, once again, sighing and asking you to keep up - why have you not yet grasped the entire concept of this blog? I am literally about to tell you.
I don’t have a huge number of friends but I would say I have the perfect amount - and I am rather pleased with this decision and with those who currently occupy the roster. I could have more friends if I wanted to, I’m great (and I can get two whole references to prove it) but I don’t want to. I have made a conscious choice and I no longer have an open-door policy when it comes to friendship. My new, and far more sensible policy than the one my team (just me) previously had in place, is outlined clearly in the recruitment and application policy. It stipulates that if you like me before we have actually met, your application will, unfortunately, be rejected. Much like almost all legal stipulations, this one has been formed on the basis of precedent - and the reason I ask you, a potentially wonderful person, to stay out of my life, is because of the time that I welcomed a relative stranger into my life simply because she liked what she had seen of me from my work - and well, it did not end well.
You might once again be sighing and saying “For goodness sake Hannah, why do you attract such weirdos into your life?”. I am also, once again, sighing because it is an interesting question you ask, and one that I would desperately love to know the answer to. Let’s explore this together.
As I said, I used to have an open door policy when it came to friendship. In the past, if someone wanted to be my friend, I thought, “how lovely”. Friendship, after all, is a lovely thing. In theory. So when someone recently came out of nowhere and really wanted to be my friend, I was flattered, and I thought “why not, absolutely nothing weird about this”. Reader, I no longer have this policy, because let me tell you - it got fucking weird.
I am nowhere near successful enough to claim to have a groupie, yet, unfortunately, that is the best way to describe this person. This person knew nothing about me - besides what she had seen from my stand up and social media - but she started calling me her best friend in no time. I was slightly uncomfortable with my position on her MySpace friends list as I didn’t remember doing anything to ask for it or earn it, but given I was now her best friend, I didn’t want to flag that we didn’t actually know each other and hurt her feelings. How could I? That’s not something a best friend would do.
From her behaviour, and a professional’s analysis of it, I came to learn what the phrase ‘love bombing’ means. I didn’t know what ‘love bombing’ was prior to meeting her as I am not a big fan of either of the words within the phrase. If you don’t know what ‘love bombing’ is - then please accept my congratulations on your healthy relationships and allow me to explain. It is essentially when a narcissistic sociopath inserts themselves into your life, showers you with praise, affection and attention, putting you on a pedestal - and then as quickly as the compliments came flooding in, so eventually do the insults, and they get to knock you off the pedestal they put you on. Essentially, these people will build you up, just to let you down - as if you were the green Powerpuff girl (Buttercup).
She told me I was pretty and funny and smart and initially it did seem like a little too much from a relative stranger, but I didn’t question it - I thought “oh that’s nice, she’s just spitting straight facts”. (Sorry I don’t know why I’ve started talking like that). She complimented me loads, and actually displayed what seemed to be genuine kindness - to the point where I felt like I could open up to her. So I did. I told her so many things - my greatest fears, my deepest darkest insecurities, my favourite Jonas brother (Kevin, I always felt bad that he was no one’s favourite). And then she started using them against me, which, when it came to all apart from the Kevin thing, was totally uncalled for.
I went through an awful friendship break-up with one of my oldest friends last year and it genuinely broke my heart. I told this new person/groupie in my life all about it - how it was a horrible thing to go through and was the first and only time I have ever cut someone out of my life, how it was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made. It was my decision and only mine, and it was justified, but this new person in my life encouraged it, telling me that the way I had been treated by the other friend was wrong (it was) and telling me that I deserved better (I did). However, after that, every time she did something shitty (which became increasingly often), and I politely called her out on it, asking her not to talk to me the way she had started to talk to me - she told me I was overreacting and that I have a history of doing so - she said I have a bad history with friendship - a history of “cutting people out of my life”. Which I’ve got to say - I didn’t love.
She also started to insert herself into parts of my life that she had no right to be involved in - she would make my romantic choices about her, telling me that I shouldn’t like the guys I liked because it would end badly and she’d have to deal with that (as if who I choose to date has anything to do with her). She tore down my self esteem telling me she knew my romantic endeavours would end badly before they’d even begun, and she would cite my insecurities I had confided in her as her reasoning - she claimed, because of everything I’d previously told her, she knew me better than I knew myself. She took the things I had said and used them to undermine my choices and feelings.
Before it went this sour - she offered a lot of positive things, offers of kindness and tonnes of praise, but she also expected a lot. She expected something I am not used to giving in friendships - constantly updating her on everything I was doing. She started to get angry when I didn’t give her the amount of attention she expected - if I didn’t reply to a message in a time that she deemed acceptable she would be upset with me. She became controlling and manipulative and I didn’t know how to respond to it, because I’d never met anyone who had treated me like this before. She treated me so disrespectfully and so unkindly. She went from saying the kindest things anyone had ever said to me, to the very cruelest.
I regretted having told her personal and private things when I started hearing them back from other people. When I asked her to not tell people the things that I told her in confidence, she told me she hadn’t - which was weird, because every time, she was the only person I had told, so it turns out, there’s a lot of people out there making impressively accurate guesses about my personal business!! I reckon those people really ought to jump on Sportsbet.com immediately and profit from their talent!!
I decided I didn’t need this in my life and I would just walk away. I felt awful but I didn’t want to talk to people about it because I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know how to talk about it because she made me feel like I was the problem - since I didn’t meet her expectations, she made me feel like I was a bad friend. She made me feel insane, but I had made up my mind - I was going to let it go. Seriously, reader, I really was. But then she told me that I am not actually as funny as I think I am - which unfortunately, for her, means I just could not let it go.
I am not proud of much but I am very proud of my comedy and the brand I am working hard to build. I’ve built my brand and comedy persona on stage very deliberately. The way I see it is - my comedy persona is the person I wish I could be - it’s the person who actually says things in the moment that the real me thinks of but doesn’t say or comes up with in the shower a few hours after an argument. It’s the person who actually stands up for themselves, because that is something the real me has always struggled to do. My comedy persona is the seemingly low status person getting the last laugh and managing to bag a win. I’m never playing the bully - sure, I might be cynical and cutting and at times, dark, but I’m playing the person who stands up to the bully - never the person who started the fight, but the one who knows how to finish it. I’ve always really enjoyed art that centres around the idea of revenge and I like dark comedy. I like my comedy persona. But it’s not me.
This person used my comedy persona - a deliberately curated and heightened version of a very small part of myself for stage - against me. I started hearing that she told people that what I’m doing in my comedy isn’t funny - that I’m actually a mean and petty person - that I am actually someone who is just spiteful and driven by revenge. Now, unfortunately given that I have built a comedy persona around being spiteful and driven by revenge, I can imagine that when people heard from her that I was spiteful and driven by revenge, it might have tracked.
It might have tracked if they have only seen me on stage and not had an actual conversation with me, like she hadn’t, which is why I no longer wish to be friends with someone who has not had an actual conversation with me. I don’t want to be friends with someone who has come to any conclusions (whether they are positive or negative) about me based on anything other than me.
I think that any comedian who is fully who they are on stage, off stage, is insufferable. Even if a comic is incredibly likeable on stage, behaving like you do on stage - always being on, always being the centre of attention and always needing to get a laugh makes for an exhausting human being. Having a one-way conversation in real life is an insane thing to do outside of comedy - unless you’re in therapy, talking about the weirdos you met in comedy.
In real life, I think I am a very kind person. I’m also quiet and reserved. I wish I was the type of person who stood up for themselves in the moment, but I very rarely am. Instead, I am the sort of person who opens up their diary every day, and if someone wrongs them, I am the sort of person who says absolutely nothing until they decide to share their writing with the world (or 10 people on the internet) significantly after the fact. Kind of like I’m doing now.
I’m also the kind of person who would be more than happy to spend the next decade leaving clues as to who the real villain was after a dickhead did their very best to villianise me. I am also smart enough to understand that exhibiting a trait like this - such an unwavering unwillingness to let something go and to prove I was right and she was wrong - could, definitely, in many people's eyes, actually prove her right. She would inevitably say “oh my god, she’s insane, she wrote a blog about me”, and I could see how it would give further ammunition for people to believe her when she says that I am spiteful and driven by revenge.
I’m aware I have created a comedy persona that is easy to critique - a new enemy each week sure does make me look spiteful and driven by revenge. But it’s not actually a new enemy each week if you look close enough - that’s simply how it could be seen by someone who doesn’t realise that one person or one thing can inspire a million different stories.
So maybe she is right. Maybe I ought to find something else to write about. Maybe I am spiteful and driven by revenge. Maybe I was never good at telling jokes. But maybe she’ll notice how much I have written about what she did to me - and even though it’s not something I want or need anymore, now, maybe, I might actually have her respect.