Last week, news broke that shook the foundation of what we've come to know as the hierarchy of Hollywood friends: Selena Gomez and The Weeknd, otherwise known as Abel Tesfaye, were spotted getting hot and heavy in Santa Monica.
The minutiae of their relationship is up for debate and publicist's spin; We can't confirm whether they're an official item or whether this is the blossoming of a serious relationship (it's heretofore been described as just two young people having fun with each other). But the pictures, which portray a very obvious public display of affection (some of which is denoted through locking of lips) can't lie, and neither can the choice of venue for the couple's, or non-couple's, first outing: A Los Angeles restaurant even more notorious for its waiting hive of paparazzi than its status as a date spot.
As soon as the pictures dropped, it spurred many questions. How did this happen? When did this start? And, most importantly, what does it mean for Taylor Swift's squad?
Yes, the squad. That bastion of all those #goals, full of #blessed women, both in talent and in appearance, that serves to both boost up its individual members and also to subtly remind the rest of us that, no matter what we do, we'll never have the squad. The total was always greater than the sum of its parts.
Membership was slightly fluid depending on work schedules and relationship status, but its core was made up of Swift, of course, as well as Lorde, Karlie Kloss, the Hadid sisters, Lilys, both Aldridge and Donaldson, Lena Dunham and, well, you get the idea.
If you've made it this far without knowing from the start why the news of Gomez and Tesfaye's conscious coupling is groundbreaking, bless you, and here you go: The Weeknd and Bella Hadid just got out of a very serious relationship. Which, at first glance, seemingly breaks Girl Code (and, presumably, Squad Code) provision número uno not to date your friends' exes (and recent ex, at that).
It's worth mentioning that according to E!'s sources, Bella and Selena were more members of the same friend group and less friends with each other specifically, so any coupling between The Weeknd and Gomez isn't aimed at jealousy. But, even if the hookup news weren't the cause of a monumental rift—because, let's face it, not everything having to do with a man having dated two women amounts in those women being pitted against each other—it still makes potential future hangouts super awkward. Friendship politics aside, no one wants to sit there and watch an old boyfriend make out with anyone, much less someone you know.
This somewhat shocking reshuffling of Young Hollywood in a way that is very much not favorable to Bella Hadid (and the resulting vacuum of response from the rest of the women, be it via shade on the DL or outright calling-out—Bella's unfollowing of Selena notwithstanding) is just the latest piece of evidence that all is not right in Squadland. Savvy celeb-watchers and our fellow citizens who also need more hobbies will cop to noticing a lack of activity for some time now.
For all intents and purposes, the squad members have been living wholly separate lives. Swift has been keeping a low profile since the breakup of Hiddleswift (and, God willing, working on a new album), Gigi Hadid has been deep in the throes of her Zayn Malik love affair, as well as having just completed a successful Victoria's Secret show alongside Bella. Aldridge has a husband and a toddler as well as a modeling career, Dunham is about to launch the final season of Girls, and the list goes on.
The result of all this is that the constant stream of SquadGrams and paparazzi shots that America became accustomed to has dwindled greatly. Taylor, for her part, has been largely absent from personal life-related social media, save for a recent tribute to Suki Waterhouse on her birthday and a few snaps from a Thanksgiving trip, which was comprised of a seemingly random group of people that might attest to the assembling of a new squad.
Karlie posted a photo in honor of Taylor's December birthday, but that makes for the only squad-related material, and the same goes for Gigi. Lily Donaldson and Taylor were together for Christmas, but the last major meetup was a Swift-hosted Halloween bash attended by Gigi, Lily and Camilla Cabello (an occasion squad opt-in in the past).
So what happened here? Did the squad simply get too big for its britches? Did it get out of hand, an organism that starts to take a life of its own, a science experiment that outgrows its beaker, like Frankenstein's monster becoming more powerful than the professor?
Or maybe it was the group texts.
Keeping up with the deluge from that chain alone would surely prove to be a full-time job. Think of the battery drain! The data usage during international trips!
Perhaps it was the way others reacted and spoke about the squad. It's no secret that actresses and singers who didn't find themselves within it took every liberty to extol its anti-virtues. And no matter how confident one is in something, hearing detractors go on and on about something's negative qualities can sway a person. Even the name squad evoked cringes, so there's a chance that Taylor and her friends simply got tired of being associated with the word. (And would we blame them? Absolutely not).
But really, it's hard not to believe that the true reason for the non-breakup breakup is that the squad was never anything to begin with. The public created its own fantasies of what those friendships (or, if we're being honest, mere acquaintances, in some cases) were and ran with it. Taylor tells Vogue one story about Karlie Kloss sleeping over and suddenly our imaginations and expectations have made them into forever roommates, sentenced to a lifetime of matching aprons and gluten-free flour stains.
There a good chance that this was just a group of women who enjoyed each other's company and occasionally found, for a certain time, themselves to be in the same vicinity and without plans. Why wouldn't they all want to spend Fourth of July at Taylor's seaside, Kennedian Rhode Island compound, complete with water slides and free matching swimsuits for all? And why wouldn't Taylor want to assemble as many strong (and, okay, very beautiful) women to stand beside her on every 1989 tour stop? She's nothing if not publicity-savvy and we all ate those guest appearances up. They were mutually beneficial for everyone involved, so why not play along with this silly little squad narrative that the public loves so much?
Regardless of whether there was something real there to dissolve or not, if the era of the squad is over, it's probably for the better. It certainly takes pressure off the members—for all the flack Taylor received in the name of friend-collecting, she probably never realized how exhausting it would be to live for the 'Gram that way (or to keep up with the group texts).
And, as great as the fantasy is (or was), it's better for fans to have a more realistic ideal of female friendship; one in which women live full lives and use friends to better themselves, not just their careers. Celebs, they're just like us—they're able to see that one friend every other year and still feel like no time at all has passed.
Or maybe, the squad is still intact, and its members no longer care if we know. Maybe they've been there all along, operating under the radar, behind-the-scenes, free from the glare of paparazzi and magazine interviews and the pressures of Instagram.
Either way, we should all definitely be donating our Squad merch.