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Taylor Swift is cursed by the branding of her youth


I have been a self-proclaimed Swiftie for two-thirds of my life. Taylor Swift’s music comforted me through the unrequited crushes and feelings of loneliness as I made my way through school. Now Swift embarks on her Eras Tour, bringing music from the last four years, her four latest studio albums, to fans. Among this national escapade, rumors that she and her partner of six years, British actor Joe Alwyn, have broken up. The rumors seem all but confirmed true except by the stars themselves.

Taylor Swift has been in the public eye since she was a teenager. Every speculated relationship, fling, and crush of the singer has turned into headlines. People comment on the number of relationships she’s had, but many aren’t even confirmed. Claims that her songs are only about her romantic endeavors or breakups are simply untrue. Songs about friendship, cancer, societal expectations, and her internal struggles abound in her discography. She even has two whole albums that almost exclusively follow fictional storylines she created.

I can’t help but wonder if the obsession with Swift’s relationship status stems from the fact that she exclusively sings material she’s written, allowing it to be more emotionally raw through her performances.

CDs were at their prime during Swift’s introduction to the music industry. In her lyric booklets, certain letters would be capitalized, while the rest were lowercase. These letters would create hidden messages which gave hints to the song’s inspiration. 

Messages such as “Tay” for “Back to December” and “Adam” for “Enchanted” directly named the person the song was about. Other messages were more obscure — “Maple Latte” for “All Too Well” — but fans put together the song’s clue and lyrics, connecting the message to a picture of Swift and Jake Gyllenhaal on a walk.

I think this puzzle, once fun and harmless, has turned Swift’s life and music into an ongoing investigation with fans determining it is their role to uncover the truth. Sometimes Swift’s work goes underappreciated, as people put more energy into speculating about the song’s inspiration rather than acknowledging her talent.

I’ve noticed this attitude within the Swiftie fandom as well, especially with the recent breakup news. Fans are determined to uncover the reasons why the couple broke up and are quick to villainize Alwyn. They are constantly checking to see if Swift’s friends are unfollowing him on Instagram, and some fans will even argue that Swift was held captive in private during their relationship.

Other fans are even self-proclaimed “gaylors” — fans who are convinced that she is a lesbian. They are convinced she’s been in secret relationships with Dianna Agron and Karlie Kloss. Some even believe she is still with the latter, despite Kloss being married to Joshua Kushner since 2018.

These fans try to dissect her lyrics to prove that all her relationships with men are to hide her true affections. I understand that there is value in sharing an identity with your favorite celebrity, but speculating their sexuality to this extent is inappropriate. This obsession with her sexuality is just as problematic as misogynistic comments about how she can’t stay in a relationship. All of this should not matter. The obsession with a celebrity’s personal life is insane and a peak parasocial relationship.

Taylor Swift is in the ultimate spotlight. Even though she seems to be thriving, fans and the public have begun to dissect her choices for her tour’s surprise songs and her expressions as she performs them  as post-breakup news. At the end of the day she is a performer, but she is also a person. Speculating and focusing on her personal relationships ultimately undermines the success she has achieved.

“You’re on Your Own, Kid” seems almost too true — it’s 2023, and we are still judging a woman’s success on her relationships.

Ainsley Francis is from Charlotte, N.C.

Her major is English.