Publicity is the kiss of death for true love
The 'Hiddleswift' affair was a Showy Short-Term Relationship - real ones work best out of the public eye
Published 11/09/2016 | 02:30
I have a theory that to be a celebrity in the throes of a romance is to date in dog years. If any news outlet has an interest in who you're seeing and what you're doing with them, you can cover as much ground in a month as a pair of "civilians" can do in a year. Every piece of jewellery is a rumoured engagement ring, every big dinner a baby bump.
But even by these standards, the pace of "Hiddleswift" - the coupling of actor Tom Hiddleston (35) and singer Taylor Swift (26) - was enough to give us all motion sickness. Their public appearance schedule was so intense that it made a William and Catherine royal tour look like a fairly low-key holiday. But love doesn't always win, and Hiddleswift are reportedly going their separate ways.
The alleged reason for the break-up is that Hiddleston was desperate to take Swift to the Emmys, and she balked at being his "arm candy" and claimed to be uncomfortable with the relationship being so public. Which is ironic, because if we cast our minds back over the Tom-Taylor relationship timeline (and I'll admit to being obsessed, it was the only news story this summer that didn't imply the end of the world was imminent) it began at the Met Ball, which is akin to starting a romance by taking out a full-page ad in Vogue to declare your intentions.
Within weeks, they were at the beach with several of Swift's friends, Hiddleston wearing an 'I heart TS' tank top. She met his mother at a point when most of us would be struggling with the correct spelling of a new partner's surname. Of course, conspiracy theories abounded, and plenty of Hiddleswift deniers claimed it was nothing but a 'Showmance', or 'Fauxmance'.
Fake relationships have existed in celebrity circles since the birth of cinema, but we can't judge love's performing seals too harshly. The Showy Short-Term Relationship is a relationship rite of passage.
Most of us will have gone "full Hiddleswift" at some stage. Recently, a friend threw a dinner party to introduce us to the boyfriend she'd started seeing two months ago. "He was talking about having kids on the second date! When you know, you know!" she said smugly. After an hour-and-a-half, the food was cold, we were starving and no boyfriend had arrived. She rang his phone and an unfamiliar woman picked up. "Who's this?" asked my pal, sounding slightly shrill. "His girlfriend," came the reply.
A little while ago, I started seeing someone new immediately after a bad break-up. "I know you'll say it's a rebound, but it's definitely not," I'd explain to my friends and parents.
Far too soon, I asked him to spend the summer in the south of France with my folks, and organised "casual drinks" for everyone to meet my new man. You might think you're fooling your friends and avoiding a SSTR with the C word, but call it "casual drinks" and you might as well turn up in full white tie, or a tuxedo jacket emblazoned with "I am taking this very seriously indeed".
It turned out I wasn't falling in love, I'd just been drunk for the first six dates. The evening was dire. A friend caught my eye when my paramour was earnestly telling her how to score a discount subscription to The Economist, and shook her head. Deep down, I think I'd known it wasn't right, but I'd believed that going public would fix the faults of our nascent relationship.
The new series of Cold Feet has shown that the SSTR does not respect age or experience. James Nesbitt's character, Adam, is desperate to conduct his new relationship in full view of his friends, even though they're sceptical about the age gap, his intentions and their lack of compatibility. Adam seems to be adopting the Hiddleswift template - you can get your relationship to a good place if you force the world to acknowledge it.
We live in a time when it's never been easier to overshare and brag, but as behavioural psychologist and relationship expert Jo Hemmings explains, when you force a relationship into the public arena, you start to lose perspective on it. "You lose sight of what being in a relationship means. Doing everything very publicly means you don't spend enough time alone to know who you are as a couple."
When I first met my husband, I kept things quiet. Partly out of superstition, party because I was dating with such enthusiasm that I knew my friends would all roll their eyes and say: "Oh, who is it this week?"
Months passed before I allowed myself to coyly refer to my "boyfriend". I only introduced him to friends when I knew exactly how I felt about him. To some extent, it happened organically, as when we started seeing each other, spending time together was so much fun that I was too selfish to want to share him. But keeping things quiet removed the pressure to perform. When you don't need to update anyone about how the relationship is going, it has more space to flourish.
If I were Swift or Hiddleston, I'd keep quiet about any new relationships, at least until the day after the wedding. But as a gossip fan, I have to acknowledge my own part in the SSTR, too. Regardless of their newness, I am desperate for information about celebrities' - and my friends' - partners.
If the rest of us weren't so nosy, perhaps we wouldn't give the SSTR the oxygen that ultimately suffocates it.
Romance or showmance? A short list of Taylor Swift’s star-studded life... in dates
Taylor and Harry went public in December 2012, and split up the following January. Still, Taylor squeezed in a trip to Cheshire to meet Harry's family on her birthday and have plenty of pictures taken at his local.
SSTR score: 5/5
He's dated a string of beautiful women from Jennifer Aniston to Katy Perry; singer Mayer exudes showy short-term-ness. Swift's song, Dear John, is thought to be all about this ex.
SSTR score: 4/5
The Disney pin-up turned pop icon was one of her first high-profile boyfriends. It seemed to be for real until Jonas dumped her over the phone. It might not have been a typical SSTR, but made for a showy break-up.
SSTR score: 2/5
This affair, back in 2010, attracted tons of press interest - so much that it ended after three months, with Jake reportedly uncomfortable with all the attention they were getting.
SSTR score: 2/5
Every moment and milestone played out in front of us, and it seemed that marriage might even be on the cards when he posted a picture of her cats to his Instagram. It might have been showy, but they made it last for more than a year.
SSTR score: 1/5