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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

At Seventeen

Today I wanted to share a song I ran across, Janis Ian's *At Seventeen*. Do you remember this one? It's a little before my time but somehow I still found it as a kid.

I think many or most people feel *not good enough* at some point. As someone who's been here, not only as a kid but adult as well, I just wanted to reflect that it's important to be kind to people -- you don't know what a smile or sympathetic word may mean to them.

By Janis Ian

I learned the truth at seventeen
That love was meant for beauty queens
And high school girls with clear skinned smiles
Who married young and then retired
The valentines I never knew
The Friday night charades of youth
Were spent on one more beautiful
At seventeen I learned the truth...

And those of us with ravaged faces
Lacking in the social graces
Desperately remained at home
Inventing lovers on the phone
Who called to say "come dance with me"
And murmured vague obscenities
It isn't all it seems at seventeen...

A brown eyed girl in hand me downs
Whose name I never could pronounce
Said: "Pity please the ones who serve
They only get what they deserve"
The rich relationed hometown queen
Marries into what she needs
With a guarantee of company
And haven for the elderly...

So remember those who win the game
Lose the love they sought to gain
In debitures of quality and dubious integrity
Their small-town eyes will gape at you
In dull surprise when payment due
Exceeds accounts received at seventeen...

To those of us who knew the pain
Of valentines that never came
And those whose names were never called
When choosing sides for basketball
It was long ago and far away
the world was younger than today
when dreams were all they gave for free
to ugly duckling girls like me...

We all play the game, and when we dare
To cheat ourselves at solitaire
Inventing lovers on the phone
Repenting other lives unknown
That call and say: "Come, dance with me"
And murmur vague obscenities
At ugly girls like me, at seventeen...


Anonymous said...

I've never heard that song before. Interesting. Kinda folksy

Jessica Nelson said...

Hey, just wanted to let you know I got your book in the mail. Thank you! :-)

KM Wilsher said...

Amy your clairvoyant or something. . . I was looking for these lyrics the other day! I wanted to use the line “I learned the truth at seventeen
That love was meant for beauty queens” for something I was writing. Right now I don’t even remember what it was for.
Good post! You don’t have to be seventeen to feel inadequate!

Gwen Stewart said...

Amy, I think that song is brilliant, quite frankly. :) Easily one of my favorite ballads from that era. Thanks for reminding me of it...I sang right along as I read the lyrics.