My friend, who was wary of admitting he liked Taylor Swift’s album Red, now has a separate but related and yet maybe even more significant problem: Step by step, chord by chord, he is learning to play every Red song on his guitar. And to sing them too.

SHOULD MY MIDDLE-AGED MALE FRIEND JUST ADMIT HE LIKES THE NEW TAYLOR SWIFT ALBUM?He started out with noble intentions. His young daughter’s guitar skills were advancing, so he thought that in order to keep the momentum he’d get the complete Red guitar tablature songbook. It was brilliant. The vegetables had been hidden within the pizza. He didn’t have to force her to practice. She did it on her own almost every day. 

Then, one evening, as she practiced in the living room, the same snake-charming power that had seduced him into listening to Red in the first place began to toot its little intoxicating tooter. He became entranced, lost. When he awoke, he found he had picked up his own guitar and was playing in a Taylor Swift jam session. It was fruitless to resist: Every single one of those songs was tasty, juicy. He sounded damn good even though he was forced to go at least an octave higher than his comfort level advised.

At the end of the chorus to “We Are Never Getting Back Together” they stopped playing, and, imitating Taylor’s Valley Girl tone, spoke the magic words together: “Like ever.” They almost always got a giggle out of it.

Thinking about that made me wince a little. But it’s in the natural order of things. There is a time in a dog’s life to be ferocious, to bare teeth and to rule the pack. He will howl all night and intimidate all the other hounds in the alley. At some point, the dog gets a little softer, a little meeker. He flops his belly down on the porch and lets the puppies crawl all over him.