What Everyone Is Missing About “All Too Well”

Lisa Papademetriou
3 min readNov 23, 2021

Taylor Swift isn't just talking about an ex-boyfriend and a scarf, y’all

Photo by Omid Armin on Unsplash

You can always count on Dionne Warwick’s Twitter account.

Dionne Warwick is talking about Taylor Swift’s song “All Too Well”—which she recently re-released—in which the narrator of the song leaves a scarf at her boyfriend’s sister’s house and he keeps it even after their relationship ends. Fans widely believe that the boyfriend in the song is actor Jake Gyllenhaal, who is ten years older than Swift, and whom she dated briefly when she was twenty years old.

Dionne Warwick’s tweet cracked me up. Of course, let’s state the obvious — Taylor Swift doesn’t need her scarf back from Jake Gyllenhaal. She can buy her own damn scarf. Warwick is a master storyteller; she knows the scarf is a metaphor—that’s why the tweet is hilarious.

The song is the story of a young woman who throws her whole self into a relationship, thinking that she and this man are in love. She assumes it’s as meaningful for him as it is for her. Her song is about the pain of realizing that the relationship was much more transactional than she had realized. When the relationship ended, it left her feeling as if she had lost her sense of self.

For the older man in the song, it just wasn’t that deep.

Now, ten years after the initial release of the song, Taylor has re-recorded a ten-minute version. And not only that, she wrote and directed a short film based on it, and she went on SNL to perform her longer version live and show the film. The new lyrics make the age difference between the young woman and the older man clearer and establish the lopsided power dynamic between them.

Which left me wondering…why? Why revisit this particular song so thoroughly? “All Too Well” wasn’t her biggest hit (it was never even a single, although it has always been a fan favorite) and it wasn’t her only personal song. I’m sure that she isn’t still hung up on the actor she dated for three months ten years ago. So what’s so special about this song?

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Lisa Papademetriou

Helping writers craft better plots. 🖋 Founder, Bookflow. 📚 Snag my free novel outlining guide and 36-scene template: https://bit.ly/2YBOKSt