Mary’s Song (Oh My My My) tells the story of two people who have been together since they were children. Written from Mary’s perspective, the song traces a relationship through childhood friendship, adolescent romance, marriage, and old age. In the chorus, Mary repeatedly tells her husband — possibly a time traveler — to “take her back” to significant events from their life together.
Literary Device: Self-Reference
The first lines of Mary’s Song allude to lyrics from Tim McGraw, the first song on the album.
She said, I was seven and you were nine
I looked at you like the stars that shine
He said the way my blue eyes shined
Put those Georgia stars to shame that night
Swift’s subtle allusions to her earlier work hint that Tim McGraw is the key to understanding Mary’s Song.
Additional parallels between Tim McGraw and Mary’s Song indicate that Swift may have had the same relationship in mind. When reflecting back on the early days of their romantic relationship, Mary’s narrative reflects the imagery and phrasing of Swift’s. Both songs reference riding in a truck late at night next to one another:
Two A.M. riding in your truck and all I need is you next to me
Just a boy in a Chevy truck
That had a tendency of gettin' stuck
On back roads at night
And I was right there beside him all summer long
Further, both songs emphasize time and memory. In each, the chorus is addressed to a former or current romantic partner, urging him to recall the past. Swift ends both songs with the same three lines with which they begin, forcing listeners to revisit an earlier time themselves.
Of course, there is one major difference between the two songs. In Tim McGraw, the relationship ends and Swift merely hopes that her ex will remember these significant moments. In Mary’s Song, Mary is certain that her partner remembers because she commands him to — five times. Swift, a metaphysician, uses Mary’s narrative as an opportunity to explore the same theme — memory — but from an alternate universe where the relationship did not end. Whereas Swift had to write her ex a weird letter asking him to remember her whenever he hears Tim McGraw, Mary just has to poke her husband and say “Take me back to the time…” In a relationship that doesn’t end, you can force your partner to share your significant memories, something Swift yearned for in her earlier music.
In addition to security, Mary’s memories have a force and a reality that Swift’s do not. When Mary says “take me back” to her partner, she implies that they are able to visit the past as if it were a place, something that Swift had timidly hoped for in Tim McGraw: “I hope it takes you back to that place.” Several of the memories that Mary references are based on place rather than time: “take me back to the creek beds we turned up” and “take me back to the house in the backyard tree.” Mary conflates traveling to a place with traveling to a time since they aren't as distinct for her. At another point, Mary explicitly expresses a cyclical view of time: “A few years had gone and come around.” A reversal of the phrase "come and gone", Mary implies that once gone, time can come back. Whereas Swift hoped that her memories could be returned to, Mary has experienced it. Swift’s anxiety about losing significant memories is assuaged by imagining a long-term relationship as a sort of time machine where two lovers’ past, present, and future are intertwined and always accessible.