"Back To December" sees Taylor apologizing to her ex Taylor Lautner, actor and Valentine's Day co-star, for ending their relationship.
In a Facebook Live interview promoting his show Scream Queens, Taylor Lautner confirmed this song was about him.
I'm so glad you made time to see me
How's life? Tell me, how's your family?
I haven't seen them in a while
You've been good, busier than ever
We small talk, work and the weather
Your guard is up and I know why
This song was written as an apology to someone that she treated badly when they were together, and these lines show her first conversation with him after the break up. Before she apologizes, she chooses to talk about casual subjects first, like work and the weather, which are known for being cliché, go-to subjects when there is nothing else to talk about.
These lines also perfectly express the tentativeness of talking with someone after you've hurt them. Speaking thoughtfully and choosing your words carefully is important in a situation like this. She explained how she treated him carelessly in their relationship together.
"This is about a person who was incredible to me, just perfect to me in a relationship, and I was really careless with him."
She can see that his "guard is up" because he doesn't want to get hurt by her again. He's acting careful and hesitant around her because of her terrible treatment of him.
These days, I haven't been sleeping
Staying up, playing back myself leaving
Often times, when someone feels guilty about something, they replay the scenario over and over again in their mind, dwelling on the past and thinking about how they would have done it differently, hence the "playing back myself leaving" part.
A line at the end of the song shows that she does in fact wish she could have another chance with him and start over again.
I'd go back in time and change it, but I can't
So if the chain is on your door, I understand
She would be willing to take Taylor Lautner back but if he doesn't want her she understands.
While playing a show in Staples Center, Swift changed the line to "So this is for the boy from Michigan…", thus confirming that the song was indeed about Taylor Lautner, since he is from Michigan.
I'd go back to December, turn around and make it alright
I'd go back to December, turn around and change my own mind
I go back to December all the time
Simply put, she wants to go back to the night they broke up, to make it alright again.
The deeper layers of meaning:
About that "change my own mind" Taylor felt insecure about their relationship and didn't trust TL (have to call him that or else it'll be too confusing), so she broke up with him. Now she sees that he was trustworthy all along and wants to go back in time, tell herself to trust him, so they can be together again.
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