Taylor Swift asks fans to not 'defend' her against her exes as she performs 'Dear John' for the first time in 11 years

Taylor Swift asked fans to avoid bothering her ex-boyfriends online. (Photo: Shanna Madison/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
Taylor Swift asked fans to avoid bothering her ex-boyfriends online. (Photo: Shanna Madison/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Taylor Swift is making it clear that she doesn't want her fans to troll her exes — including (presumably) John Mayer.

The pop icon, 33, surprised fans in Minneapolis on Saturday during a performance of her "Eras" tour when she performed the song "Dear John," which has long been rumored to have been about her romance with Mayer, 45. The performance served as a "surprise song," and was the first time in 11 years that the star performed it live, Rolling Stone reported. The song is featured on Swift's 2010 album Speak Now, which the pop star is releasing as a re-recorded version.

But despite the nature of the ballad, which tells the story of a failed romance with an older man and his "dark twisted games," Swift kicked off the acoustic portion of the concert by telling the audience that she's not looking for them to attack any of her ex-boyfriends online.

"I was hoping to ask you that as we lead up to this album coming out, I would love for that kindness and gentleness to extend into our internet activities," Swift, who wore a floor-length red dress, told the audience at the U.S. Bank Stadium.

The singer told the crowd that while she's incredibly proud of the album's songs, she no longer identifies with the pain of her teenage romances.

“I’m 33 years old. I don’t care about anything that happened to me when I was 19,” she shared. “I’m not putting this album out so that you can go and should feel the need to defend me on the internet against someone you think I might have written a song about 14 billion years ago.”

Swift and Mayer dated briefly back in 2009, and the following years proved to anything but peaceful. Two year later, Mayer told Rolling Stone that the song "made me feel terrible," and chalked it up to "cheap songwriting." He even went as far as saying she "humiliated" him, Yahoo Entertainment previously reported.

"It made me feel terrible. Because I didn't deserve it. I'm pretty good at taking accountability now, and I never did anything to deserve that," he told the magazine. "It was a really lousy thing for her to do." He went on to say that despite the "Dear John" letter-nature of the song, he "never got an email. I never got a phone call. I was really caught off guard."

In response, Swift told Glamour it was "presumptuous" of Mayer to assume the song was about him. "I never disclose who my songs are about," she said.

Swift's song lyrics have long been associated with her famous exes. Jake Gyllenhaal is reportedly the subject of Swift's 10-minute song "All Too Well," which was re-released in 2021 on Red (Taylor's Version). Fans have long speculated that the song, which again describes a toxic relationship between a younger woman and an older man, was inspired by Swift's 2010 romance with the actor, now 42. Following the re-release, speculation about Gyllenhaal's identity was so significant that he turned off commenting on his social media.

In an Esquire profile last year, Gyllenhaal seemed to emphasize that it's Swift's responsibility to call off the army of angry Swifties who criticize him.

"At some point, I think it’s important when supporters get unruly that we feel a responsibility to have them be civil and not allow for cyberbullying in one’s name," he said, without naming Swift, Yahoo Entertainment previously reported. "It has nothing to do with me. It's about her relationship with her fans. It is her expression. Artists tap into personal experiences for inspiration, and I don't begrudge anyone that."