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What This Over-50 Woman Really Thinks Of Taylor Swift

And the song that made me particularly melancholy.

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photo illustration of mom and daughter at taylor swift concert, image of taylor swift singing and emerging from box
Photo Illustration: The Girlfriend Staff (Photo: Getty Images)
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In 2009, I surprised my younger daughter with tickets to the Jingle Ball in New York City as a holiday gift.

I was excited to experience the concert with her, but I didn’t think I’d enjoy the music as much as I did. It turned out that I knew a lot of the songs and artists performing from listening to them with the kids while I carpooled them to activities.

There were great performances that night, including John Mayer, Justin Bieber and The Fray. But the one I remember the most, which still makes me tear up, was by 19-year-old Taylor Swift. She already had two albums (Singles and Fearless) but wasn't the event headliner. Still, her music was magical to me, especially because I got to share it with my daughter.

While she sang several songs, “Fifteen” spoke directly to my heart. The lyrics made me nostalgic as Swift perfectly captured what it was like to be a teenager. I was a wife and a mother of three, yet I was transported to my 15-year-old self.

The song also made me melancholy. In a few short years, the 11-year-old child sitting next to me would be 15. She would experience everything Swift was singing about — friends, romance, insecurities, dreams — and I wasn't quite ready for that.

Weeks after the concert, I was still thinking of that song, not even realizing how I was humming the tune as I went about my errands. I mentioned to my daughter how “Fifteen” had resonated with me. My daughter replied, "If you like that Taylor song, you have to listen to ‘Best Day.’”

“Best Day” was written while Swift was touring in the summer of 2008 and released on the Fearless album that November. The following May, Swift released a self-edited video accompanied by home footage of her with her parents.

My daughter played the video for me so I could both hear and visually take in the song. While the “Fifteen” lyrics made me tear up, the words to “Best Day” reduced me to full-blown sobs so intense I couldn't speak for several minutes after the song ended.

“Best Day” narrated special moments Swift spent with her parents, specifically her mother, at ages three, five, and 13. Though it was written from the perspective of her childhood self, it spoke to me as a 44-year-old mother.

She captured what I hope my children will remember about their childhoods and our time together. She sang about afternoons spent doing art projects and in pumpkin patches — those small, almost forgettable moments that create the mosaic of the parent/child relationship. She sang about the love, safety and support her mother had provided. It was all the feelings that I hoped I had given to my children. How could a 20-year-old capture these emotions so powerfully?

From that point on, I became a been a big fan. I listen to her music, follow her career and have attended several concerts. At one of them, it poured rain and even being drenched through to my underwear could not dampen how happy I felt, beside my daughter, listening to Swift together.

I am partial to the old stuff like “Best Day,” “Fifteen,” “Our Song” and “Tear Drops on My Guitar.” But I also love her newer songs like “Cruel Summer” and “Anti-Hero.” At the risk of being “basic,” I admit that songs like “Shake It Off” and “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” are catchy. While I didn't get to see the Eras concert, I did see the Eras movie that came out in October (and if my husband or kids are reading, tickets to the London 2024 concert would be a great gift).

Beyond her discography, I'm awed by Swift as a person. Many teen idols can't handle the pressure. Swift has bent but never broken. She has grown up in the public eye, continuing to reinvent herself, her sound and her music. Swift has endured criticism of her personal life (particularly her love life) and difficult professional situations with the maturity of someone twice her age.

Throughout her career, she has shown grace and strength, fighting unapologetically for what belongs to her and turning criticism into song. The concert where it poured, Swift was drenched too. But she kept going, giving an incredible performance on what had to be a very slippery stage.

In 2013, New York magazine writer Jody Rosen called Swift the “world's biggest pop star” well before her sold-out Eras world tour. Swift proves you can be a savvy, successful businesswoman and kind, generous person (giving large bonuses to her to our tour crew). And just this week, Swift was named TIME's 2023 person of the year.

Just call me a Swiftie. As an over-50 woman, I know I’m not her target audience. Yet so many of her songs speak directly to me, her lyrics resonating regardless of my age.

Sharing Swift with my two daughters has been a source of joy. She has been the catalyst for great memories — listening to her music together on the radio, attending concerts and sharing how Swift’s words speak to us individually. Our many conversations sparked by Swift run from mundane banter (“Did you listen yet?”) to playful arguments (my daughter is adamant we didn’t first see Taylor at the Jingle Ball, I disagree) to deeper, more complex topics about life, love and resilience.

“Don't forget to look before you fall, but I've found time can heal most anything. And you just might find who you're supposed to be,” Swift sings in “Fifteen.”

Those words are true whether you’re 15 or 57. We all need to keep searching, learning, growing and figuring out who we are supposed to be.

This special issue of The Girlfriend is devoted to music and how it shapes — and strengthens — our memories. For more on this topic from AARP, including videos, events and memory games, visit aarp.org/musicandmemory

Are you a Taylor Swift fan? Let us know in the comments below.

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