Taylor Swift needs time to grieve, and actually enjoy being single

Over the years, other elements of their lives, careers and personalities have been replaced by an incessant focus on whether they have partners or children

Izzie Price
Wednesday 07 June 2023 11:44 BST
Taylor Swift makes Pride speech during Chicago concert and slams anti-LGBT legislation

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


Another day, another rumour that Taylor Swift has updated her relationship status.

Only a few days ago, she was reportedly head over heels with 1975 frontman Matty Healy. Now, according to Entertainment Tonight, they’re reported to have called it quits after realising they were “not really compatible with each other”.

I don’t like it. I don’t mean I don’t like this rumoured relationship specifically – I don’t know anything about Matty Healy. If Taylor’s happy, I’m happy.

No, the thing I don’t like is the incessant rumour mill that continues to surround Taylor Swift’s love life.

Swift still hasn’t been granted any sort of respite from dating in the wake of her reported break-up from Joe Alwyn earlier this year.

Taking time to clear her head after the ending of a six-year relationship? Forget it. Grieving the loss of someone who meant the world to her? Not a chance. Actually enjoying being single? I can practically hear the indignant spluttering of anyone who still fervently (it’s always a fervent belief) believes a woman’s greatest success, happiness and fulfillment comes from being partnered up. Better yet, married with children.

And that’s what I really, really don’t like. The “Who-could-Taylor-Swift-be-dating-because-she-MUST-be-dating-someone” rumour mill is sexist and demeaning, and that’s putting it mildly.

It’s disrespectful – not least because Swift asked the media years ago to stop speculating on her dating life, tweeting: “As my 25th birthday present from the media, I’d like for you to stop accusing all my friends of dating me.” And it has more than a few shades of “Poor Jen”.

“Poor Jen”: the patronising, demeaning, sexist and, most of all, incorrect moniker that’s been repeatedly applied to Jennifer Aniston over the years.

It started when her ex-husband Brad Pitt ended their relationship in 2005 in order to pursue one with Angelina Jolie (and, to be fair, that’s when the moniker was at its most appropriate; going through a divorce of that nature, let alone your name being splashed across headlines with false narratives like “your husband left you because you refused to give him a baby”, is a form of pain I can’t begin to get my head around).

Then, it continued to bubble to the surface of media headlines every time one of her relationships ended, with the inference being: “Poor Jen. She’s single, and she doesn’t have children. She must be unutterably, inexpressibly miserable.”

Jennifer Aniston never wanted or needed our pity. With an estimated net worth of $320 million, she’s one of the most successful women in her industry – and, given the competitive, ruthless nature of Hollywood (particularly for women), that equates to… the world.

She’s universally well-liked (how many other celebrities have literally broken Instagram by getting so many followers in such a short space of time?) and famously beloved by her close-knit circle of supportive friends. She’s a beacon of stoicism and grace, and this dates back to 2006 when she was going through her divorce from Pitt.

Take her 2006 Vanity Fair interview, for example. “I’m not interested in taking public potshots,” she said. “What happened to [Pitt] after the separation – it’s his life now. I’ve made a conscious effort not to add to the toxicity of this situation.”

Jen is, in short, fine. She’s always been fine.

But over the years, all those other elements of her life and personality have been made redundant by whether or not she had a partner and/or children. Nothing else she did, or was, or said, was ever enough.

There are a great many similarities between Swift and Aniston. Positively, their success and their universal (and personal) popularity; negatively, the neverending speculation around their love lives. And that’s why I find the ongoing, incessant rumours surrounding Taylor Swift’s dating life so disturbing.

Never mind how phenomenally successful her current Eras tour is; or her insistence, as we saw in the Miss Americana documentary, on speaking out on political issues in 2018 – despite being warned against it by the men around her. Let’s talk about Taylor’s love life – because that’s where her real worth is, right?

It’s a slippery slope from frantically trying to romantically pair Taylor Swift with whichever celebrity she’s recently been seen with; to injecting misogyny and sexism in the guise of unwarranted pity, sympathy and bewilderment. Ultimately, they’re the same thing anyway. Can’t we just… let the woman be single?

“NO!’” I can already hear the tabloids protesting. “Because Taylor Swift is a symbol for women everywhere, and women aren’t complete unless they’re coupled up!”

Like so many other women, I’m so, so frustrated by continually having to point out that, actually, yes, they are. I’m so bored of being faced with this oh-so-subtle accusation that I’m incomplete because I’m not with a partner.

At a recent school alumni event, the first question from some of our former teachers was whether or not we were engaged. They’d peer keenly at the hand holding my drink, gently enquiring as to the possibility of a ring.

Never mind that I have two degrees, or a job that I’ve worked for years to get to and am proud of, or a close-knit friendship group that makes me happy and grateful every single day. Let’s talk about whether or not I’m walking down the aisle any time soon; because that’s the only question that’s really worth asking. Right?

These former teachers are unequivocally good people, and that’s important to point out; because the world is not split into good people and People Who Ask If You’re With A Partner. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t call out this overt “Poor Jen” sexism when we see it.

I don’t know if Taylor Swift has broken up with Matty Healy or not. I really don’t care, to be honest. I’m far more interested in discussing her Eras tour, or what music she might be coming out with next. If she announces a new relationship herself, then I’ll be happy for her. If she writes a song about it, I’ll absolutely listen.

But until then, I’ll ask for the second (but likely not the last) time: can we just let the woman be single? It’s really not the death knell the tabloids (and, by extension, society) would have us believe. If anything, it may well be Taylor at her happiest, unequivocal best.

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