Watch: Happy Birthday Taylor Swift!: E! News Rewind
If society is undergoing a collective reckoning about the way we all once treated rich, attractive, incredibly famous young ladies, well, Taylor Swift would like a word.
"You know, I went out on a normal amount of dates in my early 20s, and I got absolutely slaughtered for it," she explained to Vogue while posing for their May 2016 cover. At the time, she couldn't quite decipher the underlying misogynistic messaging, but some seven years later, as a woman on the precipice of turning 30, she was ready to call it what she wanted to.
"When I was 23 and people were just kind of reducing me to, like, kind of making slideshows of my dating life and putting people in there that I'd sat next to at a party once and deciding that my songwriting was like a trick rather than a skill and a craft," she explained in an October 2019 chat with Zane Lowe on Apple Music's Beats 1. "It's a way to take a woman who's doing her job and succeeding at doing her job and making things and in a way, it's figuring out how to completely minimize that skill by taking something that everyone in their darkest, darkest moments loves to do, which is just to slut-shame."
With nearly a decade of hindsight, she can so clearly see it, but as a young girl, the speculation, the jokes, the turning of her dating life into, as she put it to Rolling Stone, "a bit of a national pastime," felt like too much and she declared a two-and-a-half-year moratorium on relationships.
Then she realized it was time to stop listening to the messaging "that I'm not allowed to date for excitement, or fun, or new experiences or learning lessons," she noted to Glamour UK in 2015. The idea that she was "only allowed to date if it's for a lasting, multiple-year relationship," lest she be labeled "boy crazy" or a "serial dater," she continued, "I don't think that's fair."
Or all that productive, really.
Because if she hadn't garnered the lessons and the fun from connecting with the likes of Calvin Harris or Harry Styles or Tom Hiddleston, who knows if she would have been ready for the guy that seems primed to fulfill the love story she's been writing about since she was an idealistic Nashville-based teen with dreams of finding the Romeo to her Juliet?
Certainly Joe Alwyn has all the good-on-paper qualities: Attractive, talented, intelligent and British, which, admittedly seems like a bit of a trend. And he has none of the red flags she listed in a 2012 chat with Vogue in which she stressed the importance of being with someone who appreciates a woman with the skills and acumen to build and, at times, rebuild her own damn empire.
"If you need to put me down a lot in order to level the playing field or something?" she said. "If you are threatened by some part of what I do and want to cut me down to size in order to make it even? That won't work."
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But their initial connection back in 2016 also gave Swift something she didn't seem altogether sure she'd be able to find as one of the world's most recognized pop stars—a kinda, sorta, almost normal life.
Though revered in his field (The Hollywood Reporter dubbed him the industry's "next big thing"), Royal Central School of Speech & Drama-trained Alwyn wasn't exactly a household name. Known more for his credits, notably the lead role in the Ang Lee-directed Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, than his personal life, being with him suddenly made it feel possible that Swift could place the focus back on her (many) professional accomplishments as well.