I Want What They Have: Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn

Joe Alwyn is to Hulu’s upcoming Conversations with Friends series what Paul Mescal and his legendary chain were to 2020’s Normal People: the sexy, stifled, not-infrequently naked love interest in a Sally Rooney adaptation. But while Alwyn (artfully!) bares plenty of skin in the show, premiering May 15, he has revealed very little about his notable real-life role as Taylor Swift’s boyfriend—as has been the couple’s practice.

“If I had a pound for every time I think I’ve been told I’ve been engaged, then I’d have a lot of pound coins,” Alwyn told The Wall Street Journal Magazine amid resurgent rumors that he and Swift, who are believed to have been together since 2016, were getting married. Secret-wedding speculation has also circulated during Swift and Alwyn’s relationship due to close (mis-)reads of her “Lover” lyrics: “Ladies and gentlemen, will you please stand? / With every guitar string scar on my hand / I take this magnetic force of a man to be my lover.”

Alas, Swift and Alwyn would very much like to be excluded from the narrative of excavating the details of their relationship. “I mean, the truth is, if the answer was yes, I wouldn’t say, and if the answer was no, I wouldn’t say,” Alwyn told WSJ interviewer Lauren Mechling, before going on to make the incredibly prescient point that what is now considered intensely private behavior used to be simply living one’s life, free of the vulture-clutch of social media. “We live in a culture that people expect so much to be given. So that if you’re not posting all the time about what you’re doing, how you’re spending a day or how you made a breakfast, does that make you a recluse?” Alwyn mused. “I’d also like to feel slightly less guarded sometimes in interviews or in whatever kind of interactions, but it’s just a knee-jerk response to the culture we live in. If you give it to them, it just opens the door.” Alwyn’s comments echo similar statements from Swift in a 2019 interview with The Guardian: “I’ve learned that if I [talk about my relationship], people think it’s up for discussion, and our relationship isn’t up for discussion,” she said.

In an era of overzealous PDA, where tongue-touching has become the red carpet norm—to say nothing of the standard practices of staged paparazzi walks and cementing “Instagram official” status—Alwyn and Swift’s commitment to privacy is rare, refreshing, and, frankly, hot? There’s something incredibly romantic to me about a joint oath to hold on to what is sacred about a relationship rather than inviting the world in, as even normal, non-famous people constantly do in performing their anniversaries online. How delightful to be coy. Imagine, in 2022, leaving a little something to the imagination! It’s giving Julia Roberts-decamping-to Taos-with-Danny Moder-energy. Like Roberts, Swift has reached an echelon where doesn’t need to use her romantic relationships for publicity or image-crafting. Privacy: it’s also a power move.

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