It’s a bit strange to be able to pinpoint the exact moment the most important relationship in your life begins.
For most people who can, it’s a memory stored in the most precious corner of their minds: A chance meeting at a grocery store, a mutual friend that leads to something more. For others maybe there isn’t a singular moment that can be recalled—just a feeling.
For me, it happened on Twitter on June 24, 2018, at 1:13 a.m.—the time Joey messaged me back.
Joey had been on my radar for a little while. His cute smile and ginger beard had me repeatedly visiting his profile, trying to work up the courage to message him.
So when the opportunity finally presented itself, I didn’t think twice. After he posted about a costume he had made for Taylor Swift’s Reputation Stadium Tour accompanied by his coming out story, I shot him a complimentary message. From that moment on, we began talking all the time.
I was lucky to come out pretty early in my life. I was liberated by the support of my family and friends, and I knew that I wanted to explore every facet of love that I could—the kinds that Taylor Swift sings about: From chance encounters to bombastic break-ups.
Around the time I messaged Joey, I was experiencing a “Picture to Burn” moment with a man. He was much older than me and uncomfortable with his sexuality; he weaponized my naive view of romance to keep me under his heel. The “situationship,” as I would call it, quickly deteriorated, and by the end of it, it was like he had taken a flamethrower to the butterflies I used to get when I thought about love.
Joey was my solace.
When that toxic relationship ended in a crash landing, he gently helped me pick myself back up. We messaged every night at first, and quickly nights spilled into days. We chatted about our daily lives, wandering deeper into the archives of our personal struggles and desires. Joey confided feeling intimidated by coming out fully, and I shared what I was experiencing with my toxic situation.
As I discussed the growing pains of walking away from it, Joey listened intently with genuine patience. He reminded me that the ruins of my romantic endeavours were still worth revisiting.
I started to believe him.
A couple of weeks after we first started talking, I drunkenly broke the romantic ice between us.
“I do think you’re really handsome,” I sent him while eating appetizers at Applebees with my friends late one night. I quickly realized what I’d done, and qualified my declaration with: “And I’m a mess. And drunk.”
He insisted that I wasn’t a mess, but that I should probably head home soon so that I didn’t end up ordering another lava cake.
The next day, I reached out to him, worried that I might have scared him away with the drunken texts I had dropped on him. He insisted that it was fine. Days later, we exchanged numbers, and our Twitter DMs graduated to FaceTime calls.
When I moved back home in August and resumed classes, the extent of how complicated our situation was dawned on me. Joey and I lived in two different states; I was still reeling from what was essentially a bad break-up.
But I was still so drawn to him, and I knew the feelings were mutual. That January, in an effort to rip the Band-Aid off and figure out what exactly “it” was between us, I booked a flight to Florida to see him.
It’s a bit hard to describe the feeling of being in the Orlando International Airport, waiting for the guy that you met on Taylor Swift Twitter to pick you up—someone that you may or may not want a relationship with. Very humid. Very trepidatious. Before I could collect my feelings, he pulled up in his black Kia Soul wearing a checkered maroon shirt. My favourite colour.
I knew that was “it” as soon as I got into the passenger seat.
Our first trip together couldn’t have been more like a movie: Accidental hand grazing, firework watching at Disney World, sentences with double-meanings like, “I’m so glad to be here with you.”
In my longing gazes of him from the passenger seat of his car on the way back to our hotel, I realized that this is why Taylor Swift has so many songs about being in cars with guys she’s enamoured with; that this is what so many of my friends who didn’t have to worry about coming out or desperately settling for any form of intimacy had already experienced.
I wanted him. I wanted Joey.
In the whirlwind of our budding relationship, there were so many exciting moments, from spending time together in the Rocky Mountains, to meeting his family on the beaches of Jacksonville, Florida. But the craziest moment was undoubtedly the time I was invited to Taylor Swift’s house.
This moment, like Joey and me, began with a fateful DM on Twitter— this time from Taylor’s official team, asking for some personal information.
To non-Swift fans, this may seem utterly bizarre, but this DM came about a month before the release of her album, Lover. I immediately knew I was being invited to a “secret session,” the most coveted experience for a Taylor Swift fan—one that involves meeting her and listening to her new album before it’s released to the public.
I was over the moon, but one really important thing kept me from fully revelling in the excitement: Joey wouldn’t be there with me.
I was hit with an immense feeling of grief; I could picture so perfectly the moment the three of us could have shared in the bizarre, jubilant happenstance of meeting, as if there was an invisible thread linking us together. She was the reason I had met him, after all.
To remedy this, I came up with a plan: I knew that I would most likely get at least one photo with Taylor. The cogs in my mind began to turn. I had about a week and a half before I needed to fly to Nashville, Tennessee, for the “event.” Let’s just say super, super expedited shipping saved the day, and I acquired a T-shirt with Joey’s face on it that I decided to wear under button-down.
Arriving in Nashville at the confidential meet-up location, myself and fellow Swifties forfeited our phones and were escorted by her team onto a fancy black bus. The bus brought us to a fenced-in estate, with huge, regal gates that slowly opened, beckoning us in. We filed out of the bus, received golden bracelets and were led into a courtyard.
We were greeted with homemade treats and food, and explored the fanciest house I’d ever stepped foot in, adorned with photos of Taylor and her family. After about an hour of mingling, we were brought further into the house and led to a spacious room where we were all seated.
Moments later, the room erupted in cheers and screams.
The ethereal queen of pop herself, walked into the room, clad in a pink pin-striped button-down. She had maroon tips in her iconic blonde hair.
“Welcome to the Lover Secret Session!” Swift yelled. And we began listening to the album.
I attended Catholic school for eight years, yet I will always and unironically say that was the most spiritual moment of my life. The energy in the room was palpable—people laughed, cried, cracked jokes and simply savoured the fact that we were there: We had come from all around the world, and we were experiencing that moment with Taylor Swift herself.
As we were about to listen to the album’s second track, “Cruel Summer”—an upbeat song about a surreptitious summer fling—she posed the question to the room: “Have you ever heard of those fleeting relationships that are only temporary… Maybe just for a season?”
As she struggled to define exactly what that would be called, I piped up. “A situationship?”
With her piercing blue eyes, Swift looked right at me and said, “Exactly! A ‘situationship.’”
The song began, and chills ran down my spine. I couldn’t believe how much I identified with the lyrics: “I don’t wanna keep secrets just to keep you.”
At the conclusion of the album, Swift announced that she would begin doing one-on-one meet-and-greets, which would be done in alphabetical order. My last initial being near the end of the alphabet bought me about eight more hours at her house (she wasn’t rushing anybody), and this gave me time to really process everything that had happened.
I paced around her pool throughout the night, thinking of all of the people that I had met because of Taylor Swift. These people weren’t just random accounts on Twitter anymore, but friends, best friends and even people that I love with my whole heart. I thought about days as a kid on weekend trips to the Jersey Shore with my entire family, hearing “Love Story” and “You Belong With Me” on the radio. Those moments were all memories now, and this one would be one soon, too.
It all began to feel like a series of chronological events had somehow led to this moment looking across Taylor Swift’s pool, waiting for my chance to meet her.
At 4:30 a.m., I walked through a pristine white hall and was greeted with Taylor exclaiming my name and embracing me. I hoped that all of those moments could be heard in that hug.
We sat on her couch and began talking like two friends on a Friday night. I told her about my boyfriend that I had met because of her. Despite meeting almost 100 other people before me, she still gave me her undivided attention as I shared with her what I had always wanted to.
When I was young and still in the closet, one of the ways I sought comfort was by searching the names of people I looked up to along with “LGBT” to see what their stances on the queer community were. I told her that it fills me with such joy that when young kids in the closet search that now, they will see countless articles and posts about her support of and allyship with the queer community.
I could feel the genuine warmth of empathy when she thanked me for sharing that with her. She told me how important my story was and how she loves hearing new perspectives like mine. When the time came, we posed for a picture (Swift, being the queen she is, let me change positions to get my good angle). Then I stood up, and said, “Taylor, I was hoping there was one more thing you could help me with.”
The look of bewilderment on her and her team’s face was priceless as I began to unbutton my shirt. Once the T-shirt with Joey’s face on it was revealed, it quickly changed to pure excitement as the entire room erupted with, “Awww!”
“I was hoping you wouldn’t mind getting a picture with me in this shirt with Joey,” I asked.
Swift looked at me like she would be honoured to, and said, “Um, of course!? It’d be impossible to say no to that!”
After posing for our second photo, we hugged one more time. Each person received a special tote bag with exclusive merch in it on their way out; Swift absolutely insisted that I take another tote to give to Joey. Just as quickly as it started, I was back in the fancy black bus, taking a mental screenshot of the way the lights in the windows of her house look before they faded away into my memories.
The next day Joey was in tears (of joy) when I surprised him with the photo and tote. Posting the photo on Twitter was the cherry on top, as hundreds of Swifties left comments about how much they loved us as a couple and how adorable our story was.
I had come out of the closet hoping that someday I’d be able to meet a guy that I could be this crazy about, and who would return my feelings.
And there I was, in a photo with Taylor Swift, giving our relationship her stamp of approval, with hundreds of people celebrating what we had found.
When I think back to those moments, I always find myself beaming—and I know Joey does too. Even now, when we’re driving to our next destination after I fly out to see him (or vice-versa), one of us will randomly say, “Isn’t it wild that Taylor Swift knows who we are?”
When we reminisce about it, I always go back to the lyrics of one of her most underrated songs:
“This life is sweeter than fiction.”