I Will Probably Never Date Taylor Swift
A reflection on uncertainty, nomadism and love.
Last year, I was traveling in the western part of France on a high-speed train before it abruptly stopped in the middle of nowhere. A few minutes later, I saw two paramedics walking along the tracks inspecting the train after the driver announced that there had been a human accident. The vast majority of human deaths on the French rail system are caused by suicide, which averages 300 cases per year, and about 40 accidental deaths. Since France records 15,000 train departures per day, the odds of being on a train involved in a fatality could be simplified to 1 in 15,000, or a probability of 0.000067. A few months later, I was traveling again, and during a motorcycle trip in Sri Lanka, I unfortunately ran over a snake that surprised me by being in the middle of the road. At that moment I felt guilty, but after looking in the mirror I realized that I was being followed by a truck and felt relieved. I told this story to a few locals and apparently most of them have never experienced this or don't remember. A few days later, I went surfing in the morning and later learned that two crocodiles had been spotted swimming near the surfing area at the exact time of my session. There are two species of crocodiles in Sri Lanka: the saltwater crocodile and the mugger – commonly referred to as the river crocodile. The occurrence of seeing one of them swimming in the sea seems to be rare. Someone who has worked and lived by the sea for the past fifteen years told me he had seen crocodiles three times, and others said similar things, while presenting a narrative in which the muggers are usually the ones seen near the beaches, despite their eyes being injured by seawater, disorienting them and suggesting they may have ended up there by accident. Or maybe this is just a more convincing story to reassure tourists.
The train collision, the snake on the road, and the crocodiles swimming near surfers are unrelated stories that don't have much in common – unless the first one involved Mark Zuckerberg. However, they may have one common factor: they are all very unusual events. Logically, none of these events would have happened if I hadn't taken the train, ridden a motorcycle, and surfed. And conversely, by doing these kinds of activities, I increased my chances of encountering unusual situations. If you think about pursuing something like finding a soul mate through the lens of uncertainty, it's basically like buying lottery tickets for a compatible – and possibly – life partner. One of the questions I'm sometimes asked is whether non-casual dating is something that's appropriate if you're a nomadic person. Because essentially my lifestyle revolves around packing up my belongings (every month on average) and moving to a new place to start over with a different set of people. One of the benefits of this lifestyle is more social encounters, which means more opportunities, which means more chances of finding the right person. This sounds like a reasonable assumption, although the reality is somewhat more nuanced. You might wonder why Taylor Swift is involved, but I realized that considering dating her provides a meaningful explanation.
The odds of dating Taylor
When people think of uncertainty, they do not think of randomness purely, because the unknown unknown is something that is quite difficult to grasp. However, we do think about the consequences of randomness because it can lead to unpredictable events. This means that there is very little chance for the most unexpected scenarios to happen, which allows us to fantasize about different things. Some people dream of a reality where they are successful, others are haunted by catastrophic events, and in my case it's more about dating Taylor. More seriously, I don't really think about it that much, but I recently learned from Spotify that I'm above the 90th percentile of her listeners, which makes me one of the most dedicated fans, but possibly also one of the most fanatical. Ultimately, if I were to hope to date Taylor one day, she would have to be single again first, which seems plausible given her track record of 12 ex-boyfriends. While this number is not very optimistic, it could be interpreted in different ways. This has led me to develop two models that attempt to predict two possible outcomes.
The pessimistic model is the red line, and it follows the Bad Payer Hypothesis, which is based on the premise that a history of default reduces the likelihood of solvency – since you wouldn't feel confident lending money to a friend who has never paid anyone back. In other words, Taylor may be a bad payer in the sense that she is not suited for a stable relationship. If the Bad Payer model is accurate, her odds of being in a lasting relationship should follow a negative logarithmic trend, decreasing in probability as her number of failed relationships increases. The blue line is the Wisdom model, which is basically the opposite of the Bad Payer model, emphasizing that Taylor is suited for a sustainable relationship, but she may suffer from poor dating choices. The Wisdom model views failure as a learning opportunity, which means that her chances of finding the right person should increase over time.
It's reasonable to assume that in reality, bad payers are quite rare, otherwise most relationships would be doomed to failure, which is somewhat true, but it would also mean a very small number of long-lasting marriages. Although the Bad Payer model is more common among celebrities, where certain dispositions like narcissism are more prevalent. But since Taylor regularly complains about attracting narcissists in her songs, she may not be solely to blame here. Moreover, as someone who has consistently performed at the top of her game, it seems unlikely that she suffers from emotional turmoil. Therefore, I'd be more confident in believing that she's following the Wisdom model, which, given her number of past relationships, would suggest that there's a high probability that she'll stay with Travis Kelce (her current boyfriend) in the absence of extraordinary circumstances. Except that Taylor is already living under extraordinary circumstances, and probably one of the most extraordinary lives. Of course, the Bad Payer and Wisdom models are oversimplified explanations, but they are more appropriate for people with non-extraordinary lives. On the other hand, extremely notorious people are subject to external influences that can drastically affect their relationships.
Pre and Post conditions
When people look for a partner, they tend to focus first on the pre-conditions, which are essentially what makes someone attractive, whether it's physical aesthetics, personality, intelligence, or other contributing factors. The post conditions are the underlying requirements that come into play when committing to a long-term relationship, such as financial situation, occupation, lifestyle, or health conditions. Post conditions can usually be discarded if they don't differ too much, but can be a deal-breaker if they are highly abnormal or unorthodox. Let's say you're actively looking for a life partner and you meet someone who almost perfectly matches your pre-conditions, but after Googling their name, you realize they worked in the porn industry. Would you still consider a serious relationship?
The people who belong to the green area can be considered as non-extraordinary, they often have normal jobs, hobbies or social structure. What defines normality is difficult to define, although there are many cases where opinions roughly converge on the significance of what can be considered off the charts. People in the blue area structure their lives in ways that can be considered unusual. For example, base-jumping for leisure, living as a monk, or being politically engaged to reduce the suffering of cockroaches could be considered unusual. The pink area is for extraordinary people, and it's usually made up of famous people such as artists, politicians, athletes, or intellectuals. Being famous is not a prerequisite, but you could think of pink extraordinariness as a threshold, like standing out among 10,000 people in a field of public interest – so being the only one obsessed with cockroaches is not enough. The majority of non-extraordinary people will probably never know anyone in the pink area. However, people in the blue area are more numerous, and most of them are not famous, but still weird.
Someone like Taylor Swift is at the end of the pink spectrum, and her massive fan base is mostly made up of people from the green and blue spectrum. These people would most likely never meet her at mundane social gatherings because they are mostly not associated with people from the pink social circles. However, there are stronger arguments for not meeting Taylor, which may not be due to a lack of vector for meeting her, but rather her post conditions. Probably a lot of people would dream of dating Taylor, but after weeding out all the fans with unrealistic expectations, there aren't many people who would seriously consider compromising their anonymous status and being willing to endure following the lifestyle of someone extremely notorious. Even people in the pink zone would probably think twice about dating someone way out of their league. A relevant case study is the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Before they got engaged, Meghan's notoriety was basically at the entry level of the pink area. She may have thought she was qualified to embrace the 99.999th percentile of extraordinariness, but it resulted in the couple leaving the royal family, selling their dramas to Netflix, and ending up complaining about their lack of privacy.
Opportunity vs Constraint
Extraordinary people tend to have more dating options, but also heavier constraints. Marrying a member of the British royal family means accepting lifelong harassment; living with an internationally renowned artist means focusing a lot of energy on their career at the expense of the relationship. The French astronaut Thomas Pesquet renounced having children because his job was incompatible with being a full-time father, a compromise that his partner had to accept. This rule does not apply in a linear fashion to every extraordinary individual, and understandably, sharing your life with a Nobel laureate has different constraints than with a famous artist.
Living as a nomad is somehow unusual, whether it could be part of the blue area is debatable, as some people may set higher standards like living in a camper, a boat or something fancier. Yet, I can testify that dating as a nomad does not make the task any easier, mainly because of the post conditions, which are not suitable for many people. Firstly, because there aren't many people out there who would seriously consider dating someone who is just transiting to their place, and even if they did, it's unlikely they would travel with that person or start a long-distance relationship.
On the other hand, I've had a lot of opportunities, not specifically dating opportunities, but opportunities to meet new people. Some dating situations were a bit difficult and felt like finding the right person in a terminal, but they have to take a different flight than you, and several times, I thought that my nomadic journey should require an expiration date for finding a life partner. The difficult part of this question is whether living in one place would be more fruitful than traveling. I think that in writing this article, I have come to the conclusion that there is no obvious answer to this question. Because the opportunities to form genuine connections are rare enough to suggest that chance has more influence than predetermined criteria.
Uncertainty is often disregarded because, in retrospect, it seems easier to explain life's outcomes as resulting mainly from individual choices. Taylor Swift wouldn't be successful without hard work, but how much of her success is due to chance is unknown. It's also dubious to think that she's been more lucky than others, because luck remains concealed in many ways – you may have avoided death several times without knowing it. Some people may live extraordinary lives that seem far removed from the reality of non-extraordinary people, but everything is perfectly normal for those who live extraordinary lives. What's really extraordinary, and experienced by everyone, is uncertainty.