This isn’t a loss for them; for the most part, they’ll be happy when the entire profile format is eradicated. I know this because over the last couple of years, I was on a leave of absence from The Times, and I worked with the exact kind of people I’d written about for years — actors, directors, producers — and sometimes, when we got to chatting, they would tell me about the time they were profiled and it ruined their life, or a relationship, or caused an embarrassment that they carry with them still. Sometimes they told me about a lie they told an interviewer because they were scared or trying to misdirect the journalist. Not one person I ever interviewed seemed to understand why the public was so interested in them personally. They spent their time defensive, waiting for a sneaky question or worrying how I would subvert something innocent they were saying.
So the loss isn’t theirs, but ours — or maybe it’s just mine. Because I like writing other things, but I love writing celebrity profiles. To me, there’s no better way to understand the culture, and to understand the culture is to understand the world — to learn about ourselves by learning about the people we chose to celebrate, the people we voted to represent us in our own imaginations. I don’t know, maybe I’m just too in my earnestness era. Maybe I’m trying to call something a cultural shift when really it’s just a personal one. And it’s not even a big one: If profiles are over, I could, I don’t know, cover whatever else it is that this magazine covers. I could go anywhere I want, just not home. What I’m really saying is that once you go deep-state on Taylor — on the theories, on the codes, on the meanings — once you allow yourself to start thinking of your life in terms of eras, you can’t help but find yourself in your very own Taylor Swift song.
Far below us, Taylor Swift was singing about an affair. “Look at this idiotic fool that you made me,” the lyric goes, and I screamed it along with everyone else, but my voice cracked, and I found that I was crying again.
“What’s wrong?” Ezra asked.
“You wouldn’t understand!” I sneered at him. “You’re just an old man!”
I stood up so that a woman dressed as the scarf that Taylor Swift left at probably Jake Gyllenhaal’s house during her “Red” era could pass me on her way back from the concession stand. If this place looks a little like a comic-book convention or a clown car, that’s because there are no transitions in eras. Eras end definitively and violently. They come while you’re just trying to do your job and live your life, and one day you’re sitting in Section 301, and you realize that the transition happened without you ever even realizing it.
If I did write songs, that would be the bridge.
A little after 11:30 that night, the mayor declared her term over. The stage turned dark, and she sent the moon home, and the sovereign state of Section 301 of Swiftie Clara dissolved into a diaspora.