Help! I’m still at the restaurant
Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn

Was Joe Alwyn Sitting In The Booth Really So Bad?

Two Elite Daily staffers debate the infamous booth-gate incident between Alwyn and Taylor Swift.

by Hannah Kerns and Celina Khorma

On a dinner date at Saba restaurant in New Orleans in December 2022, Joe Alwyn sat in the booth while Taylor Swift sat across from him in a wooden chair. A photo of their evening meal has gone viral several times over, with most people commenting on Alwyn taking the booth seat, leaving the chair for Swift. The photo has sparked a heated conversation online — some fans point to this as a sign of the breakup to come, while others maintain the seating arrangements are NBD.

Over two years after booth-gate, one Swiftie tweeted in March, “the picture of Taylor with her ex Joe at dinner with him sitting in the booth and her sitting in the wooden chair was so infuriating.”

But it’s not just die-hard Swift fans who are taking this moment to heart. Since the photo first sparked conversation, people have been criticizing these booth boyfriend moments IRL, too. “at a coffee shop and why did i just see joe alwyn?? (it was a random man who took the booth seat and made his gf sit in the chair seat on valentines day of all days),” one account tweeted in February.

With Tortured Poets’ April 19 release, Swifties have been revisiting the infamous booth moment, as the album has been shedding more light on Swift’s breakup with Alwyn.

But how big of a deal is it, really, if you’re dating a guy who always takes the booth seat? To make sense of the booth-gate phenomenon, Elite Daily staff writer Hannah Kerns and Elite Daily senior social media strategist Celina Khorma sat down to discuss.

X: @LegaIlyBrunette

Hannah: This photo resurfaces every couple of months — and since Taylor started dating Travis Kelce, I feel like the Swifties have become even more fixated on it. But is a booth boyfriend really that much of a red flag?

Celina: I hate it. It could be not that deep, but with everything else we now know about their relationship, it is that deep. To me.

Hannah: When Taylor and Joe first broke up, I remember seeing people tweet, “joe alwyn they could never make me hate you.” There’s still some of that. But now it’s more of, “joe alwyn they could never make me like you” — and a lot of the time, they’re using this picture as a reason why.

I don’t know if it’s just because we don’t have that many pictures of them together.

Celina: I feel like that's partly why I don't like him. There’s not much to go off of.

Hannah: Yeah, but I don't feel strongly enough to actually hate him. They were together for six years for a reason. He couldn’t be that bad. Over the course of their six-year relationship, he wasn't always sitting in the booth.

There are also so many worse things men do than making their girlfriend take the chair seat. I think the fact that this is such a big deal speaks to Joe Alwyn’s character. It’s not like Scandoval. That's a different level of embarrassing and icky. This picture is just a very small snippet of a relationship.

Celina: Maybe everyone’s reading too much into it, but this is literally one of the only photos of them. So, it is what it is. And her body language is...

Hannah: She's so hunched over, her arms are crossed, and she looks so demure. That, paired with the fact that he's sitting in the comfy cushioned booth, which is more private (even though he is so much less famous than her), is just off-putting.

X: @inwond3rlandd

Celina: Everything else in the picture also just looks depressing. Also, the lighting of the restaurant is so bright. It's just not romantic at all. I feel like I would get lunch there with a friend or alone even.

Hannah: I thought you meant like, get a loan there. It's bank lighting.

Celina: Honestly? Might as well.

Hannah: She looks like she's being rejected for a bank loan, but that’s not necessarily the booth’s fault.

I actually don't know if the booth is the most relevant part of the equation as much as everything else: the unromantic restaurant, her looking like she's about to start f*cking sobbing, him clearly in the middle of talking with his hands. Obviously, we don't know how their conversation went. She could only be looking down at her napkin, or maybe she dropped her utensils.

Celina: It could be a one-off and not that serious. The context of everything else is what makes it hard to see.

Hannah: This is kind of old-fashioned, but it reminds me of when I’m on a date with a guy and we’re walking on the sidewalk, I like it if he makes a point to stand closer to the street.

If you were on a date and they took the booth, what would you be thinking?

Celina: I'd be like, "Oh, you’re getting comfortable — don't." Sitting down is literally the first thing you do on a date, besides hugging and saying hi.

If I was meeting my friend and her boyfriend ... and this was their seating arrangement, I would probably say to him, ‘Oh, what? You didn’t give her the booth?’

Hannah: If I was meeting my friend and her boyfriend at a restaurant, and this was their seating arrangement, I would probably say to him, "Oh, what? You didn't give her the booth?”

Celina: Yeah. I would say something.

Hannah: I also think some people might not be that aware of the booth dynamics. For me, even when I'm just walking into a restaurant with a friend, I'm like, "Oh, do you want the booth?"

Celina: When I'm out with my dad, I always let him have the booth. It's something I think about. I feel like I'm rude if I take the booth without asking.

Hannah: Especially on a date with a man, sometimes you want to feel cute and dainty and taken care of. The princess treatment.

X: @suburbantaygen

Celina: It's also *the* Taylor Swift. She sings so much about how much she loves romance. She wants to be pampered.

Hannah: Yeah, it’s such a little thing, but she definitely zeroes in on the little moments. Like in “Lover,” she sings, “At every table, I’ll save you a seat.” Or, “You pull my chair out and help me in / And you don't know how nice that is” in “Begin Again.” She’s not *not* noticing this stuff.

Celina: In so many of her songs about Joe, she was begging him — not in a desperate way, but in a reasonable way — for him to literally just do something. Think about “You’re Losing Me,” which we now know she wrote a year before this. And still, he’s just not getting it.

Hannah: It almost reminds me of TikTok’s orange peel theory, where it’s testing the little things you do to make your partner’s life easier. It's just an easy way to show someone that you are prioritizing them.

Celina: It's a small thing that's telling.

Hannah: I do think it’s important to note that we literally don’t know why they’re sitting that way. I saw a tweet that was like, “the fact they’ve turned Joe Alwyn into public enemy number one for…taking the booth seat at a restaurant will never not make me laugh.”

That’s valid. She could have literally told him, “I don’t want to sit in the booth because then I’m facing out into the restaurant and I have to make eye contact with everyone who goes by.” We genuinely don't have the full backstory for this.

Celina: But that’s also just the vibe of the restaurant. It's not private. They’re seated in the middle of the restaurant. The lighting is so bright. If they wanted privacy, there are more dimly lit restaurants in New Orleans where you can sit in the corner or something.

Hannah: Yeah, every single person who goes to the restroom in that restaurant will see them. So it’s just a weird move.


Celina: Compared to her public romance with Travis now, too, that makes it worse. Everyone thought that she wanted privacy, but now she's out here grinding on Travis at Coachella. There’s also a picture of Taylor and Travis sitting together in a booth, and they just look so much more comfortable together.

Hannah: I do want to say, I did find a picture of Joe and Taylor sharing a booth, too. It's not like he's always taking the booth and making her f*cking stand. They do look really awkward in it, though. They look like they were accidentally seated next to each other.

Celina: They really do look like strangers.

Hannah: I just think it’s wild that this has been memed so much at this point. Some people on X were calling it the booth rule. One person tweeted, “at a brunch spot and all the guys are respecting the booth rule. oh joe alwyn i hope you never find happiness.”

That’s obviously extreme, but I do think it goes to show how much people pay attention to these small moments as real indicators of the health of a relationship. In my mind, the booth boyfriend is not the biggest red flag out there. It’s more like a little sign that maybe there could be more effort or consideration.

Celina: Yeah, it’s just telling of other stuff. Taylor’s sung so many times about how she wants someone to put effort in. “You're Losing Me” is all about asking someone to do something. “Bejeweled” is about feeling undervalued.

Hannah: Yeah, as much as we’re overanalyzing this, I can guarantee Taylor’s overanalyzed it more. That’s why we love her.

Celina: At the end of the day, it also depends on the chair — if the chair is super uncomfortable or if it's a decent chair. That makes all the difference.

This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.