The thirds, nameless people for whom there is no song

 

Many may be familiar with Taylor Swift’s song Style (I included a video of it below). I have listened to it many times, but it was only this morning that it made me wonder about something: how would “the other girl” feel when listening to it? I do not assume that the song is about real life; I just imagine how this conversation would sound in the third person’s ears.

 

There’s something very human in these verses: a mutual acceptance based on the understanding that we are made of the same stuff. The girl in the song says, “I heard that you’ve been out and about with some other girl.” The guy confesses: “What you heard is true, but I can’t stop thinking about you.” Nothing special, young people sorting out their relationship. But then the girl replies, “I’ve been there, too, a few times.”

Now there is something quite interesting here. First, it is the mutual acceptance that I just mentioned. I can understand another because I have experienced similar things. It shows openness, awareness of human frailty, the possibility of falling, or the acceptance that the personal relationship existing between the two is not diminished by the relation with some other girl (or some other boy). In this last point, however, there is another interesting aspect. I accept that I and the person in front of me can treat others as just that, some other people. No differentiation, no personhood, no “ties attached,” as some may put it. Just some other girl, an object of consumption. What makes me then different than these other people? Am I not a potential object of consumption?

But suppose the third, the some other girl, hears this conversation–any other conversation in which two people who understand one another, who understand their human frailty, talk about someone else as just an object with which they have fulfilled some desire only. What is that some other girl for herself when she discovers that she was just some passing entity? Well, if she’s the subject of a song, she may just be the famous nameless. But usually the thirds are just that, nameless people for whom there is no song, for they have been cut away from it. We do not hate them, we do not love them, but we are just uninterested in them. We use them without paying a second thought to them, mere pieces of furniture for our lives with which we ornate one or two of our days, one or two of our seconds, and then they disappear in the ocean of the some other entity.

There seem to be so many thirds in my life. Just in the four minutes while I listened to this song, I passed by so many cars, with some other girls and boys to whom I paid no attention. Pieces of furniture in my life–at times annoying pieces of furniture because they drive too slowly or change lanes at the wrong moments. The nameless thirds for whom we have no songs are so much usual parts of our existence that we no longer think of them even as thirds. I am always surprised when students come in class, for example. They do not say hello to any other student already present in class unless they know them personally. They walk in, pass by them without even a sign of acknowledgement, and sit in one of the chairs. It is as if they do not pass by another human being. When I bring this to light, they are even surprised that this is potentially an issue. It is as if they were saying, “they are just some other girls and boys.

I am not saying that we should pay attention to the others, to all the others. In fact, I am not saying that we should do anything. I just wonder how a song in which there is no some other human would sound. A song in which every human has a name, a personal name…

A song of songs?

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About Tavi's Corner

Blogging on ancient philosophy, communist persecution in Romania (including deportation to Siberia), and Orthodox Christianity. I've translated books from Romanian to English, and I also write about them from time to time.
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