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Swift Serenades: Discussing healthy relationships with Taylor Swift

By Elizabeth Van Pilsum, Arts and Culture Editor

Originally Published February 20, 2024

What does Taylor Swift have in common with Saint Vincent College’s Office of Student Affairs and Title IX Office? They all discuss the nature of healthy and unhealthy relationships. February is Dating Violence Awareness Month, and to raise awareness about the complicated dynamics of relationships, the Office of Student Affairs and the Title IX Office are hosting a series of small dinners to encourage student discussion. Each dinner will be inspired by a different music artist and examine how their music represents elements of relationships.

The dinner series kicked off with a discussion entitled “Swift Serenades: Nourishing Healthy Connections” and it centered around Taylor Swift’s music. “Swift Serenades” took place in Anselm Hall on Feb. 5 at 5:00 p.m. and was a celebration of all things Swift. Attendees made friendship bracelets as is a custom of those attending Swift’s Eras Tour and were treated to a Parkhurst-catered dinner of Swift’s favorite foods, including her famous chai sugar cookies. Around 5:30, the discussion leader Angel Scalamogna, Residence Hall Director of Bonaventure Hall and graduate student pursuing a masters degree in Curriculum and Instruction, began to play six of Swift’s songs and analyze the lyrics to initiate discourse on the relationship dynamics.

“I think having a talk on how Taylor Swift’s discography represents healthy and unhealthy relationships is something that can be really helpful for students to connect to,” Scalamogna said. “Her lyrical prose and the emotions she touches upon in her songs feature the beautiful aspects of relationships as well as the ugly sides. Taylor has been growing up alongside us, and her music serves as a reminder of how intricate and complex human relationships are.”

Scalamogna chose the songs “All of the Girls You Loved Before,” “New Year’s Day,” and “You are in Love” to represent healthy relationships. Scalamogna led discussion among attendees to discuss qualities of healthy relationships showcased in those songs, such as trust, sticking around for the rockier or boring parts of the relationship, and seeing one’s partner as a best friend. The songs “All Too Well,” “illicit affairs,” and “You’re Losing Me” represented qualities of unhealthy relationships. Attendees discussed the problems with feeling insignificant or unlovable in relationships and how hurtful it is to attach one’s whole self-worth to a relationship. Scalamogna and Eileen Flinn, Title IX Coordinator, stressed that these lessons could be applied to any kind of relationship, not just romantic, and that it is important to understand these dynamics to have functioning relationships.

Angel Scalamogna led the discussion analyzing Swift’s lyrics to determine lessons on healthy and unhealthy relationships. (SOURCE: SVC WELLNESS CENTER INSTAGRAM)

“Through her music, we are able to relate to the highs and lows of connections, reflecting on our own misfortune and losses—as well as our mistakes,” Scalamogna said. “We are also able to experience the intense feelings of love and support expressed in words, which is something we are oftentimes unable to do.”

Vincent Kaschauer, junior biochemistry major, attended the dinner.

“I really enjoyed revisiting songs I loved in a meaningful conversation,” Kaschauer said. “Everyone brought something to the table, everyone highlighted different lyrics, but we still had a good understanding of what it means to have a healthy relationship.”

The dinner series has been successful so far, and has continued through the rest of the month of February. On Feb. 12, there was a dinner on AJR’s music titled “Entering and Examining Our Relationships with Boundaries,” led by Perpetua Fischer, junior psychology and theology major. On Feb. 19, Flinn led a dinner discussion called “The Relationship Journey” that focused on the music of Darius Rucker and Hootie and the Blowfish. Dr. Anthony Kane, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, will lead the final dinner, which will take place on Feb. 26. That dinner is called “The Stages of Love and Relationships” and is focused on Beyonce’s music. All students and faculty are welcomed and encouraged to attend.

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