An Informal Apology to Taylor Swift

Katie Caracciolo //

I would like to apologize. Not for anything I’ve done to you personally, nor because I think you deserve it, but because I finally see what I was missing. I know little of you, what you stand for, or what you love, but over the past several months, your voice has become a friend to me. In this loneliest year of my life, I’ve gained a deep appreciation for your art, which I’d spent well over a decade turning an intentionally deaf ear toward. 

You gave me a second chance. Actually, you gave your 2008 (masterpiece of an) album a second chance, rerecording it with all the maturity and wisdom that a 31-year-old can muster. I imagine you, younger than I am now, writing songs to your high school self, and I hope that I can someday offer the same kindness toward the passions and creations of my own adolescence. I long to take a page out of your book, to find the courage to revisit the ideas I had in the middle of the night between calculus tests and play rehearsals, the sparks of friendship and first loves that I felt, and then quickly abandoned.

Perhaps the person I should be apologizing to is the little girl I used to be. I put a harness on her joy, holding her back from diving wholeheartedly into her friends’ enthusiasm, always relegating herself to the silent sidelines instead of singing along to your songs at sleepovers, summer camp, pool parties. Rolling my eyes, I clamped my lips shut, even as your words wanted to leap out, urging me to join the chorus. You shared yourself, the stories contained within you, with the world, and I wish I’d heard your calls for me to do the same.

Instead, I learned, as I’m sure you did before me, to define myself in opposition to my peers, to reject their interests in order to appease some invisible, omniscient, male audience. Call it God, call it daddy issues, call it a concerning interest in older boys, but all I wanted was that approving word, that warm gaze, that steady smile that would mean I was “not like other girls,” and therefore worthy of the world’s attention. Somehow, rejecting the mainstream brand of heartfelt femininity you represented was supposed to make me unique, when all my holier-than-thou attitude earned for me was alienation.

Tentatively, I try to allow myself to feel the joy you’ve been urging me towards for almost fifteen years. I run your songs into the ground, playing them over and over and over again, making up for lost time. I turn up my speakers as loud as they will go and dance with my roommates to the music that defined our earliest memories, whether we wanted them to or not. I hear you, sometimes, echoing down the streets of my college town, playing in grassy backyards on sunny afternoons, your clear alto haunting my neighbors as acutely as you have for the past decade.

So, I just want to say thank you for your time, your reassurances, all contained in your disturbingly catchy pop songs. When you appear at the top of my Spotify Wrapped at the end of the year, I hope I can wear that statistic with pride rather than the markedly girlish shame I’ve come to know so well.

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