Yesterday on the local morning show I caught a glimpse of Janis Ian. I wouldn't have remembered the name but I totally remembered the song when they played part of it to introduce her.
AT SEVENTEEN (click here to find a link on playlist.com to hear the song)
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
Remember those who win the game
lose the love they sought to gain
in debentures 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
we 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
I was 11 when the song was released and I remember hearing it on the radio when I was in high school and I will admit that I felt much like the girl in the song then.
When I was in elementary school on Valentines Day you would bring Valentines for the people you wanted to bring them for. You didn't have to bring one for EVERYONE like you do now. I remember girls and boys getting tons and tons of them and I would get maybe one or two. I always hated Valentines day because of that.
When we played dodge ball or any other sport I was ALWAYS picked last. I knew that I'd get picked last but as a kid I'd stand there waving my arm yelling 'pick me pick me'. It never happened. It sucked being the last kid picked.
In high school I never had a date, never had a boyfriend, never went to prom (even though I was on the Jr/Sr Prom committee). Instead there were "reject" parties for those who had no dates. How pathetic!
I wondered if this song was written about me!
My best friend in high school was a cheerleader. She was about 5' 4" and small and I think she wore as size 7 shoe. I was 5'7" and wore a size 10 shoe and not small. I compared myself to her and to all of the other very tiny girls in our high school. I wasn't a shy person and I thought of myself as fun and fun to be around.
I was in Pep Club, I won the senior class vote for Best Actress, I had friends, I had the respect of my teachers and peers. However inside I never quite felt like I was as good as my other girlfriends who were thin. They could shop in the old store called 5,7,9...I always wished I could shop there but not even my feet were small enough to shop there!
It's too bad that during my youth I didn't understand how kids can be or how much our self image is distorted when we have no real perspective in life.
Now here I am, 45 and struggling to lose weight...AGAIN.
I re-read the story of the Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen today. Here is the link...
The Ugly Duckling
I relate to this little "duck"... "And so they made themselves comfortable; but the poor duckling, who had crept out of his shell last of all, and looked so ugly, was bitten and pushed and made fun of, not only by the ducks, but by all the poultry. “He is too big,” they all said,..."
In the end the Ugly Duckling is determined to let the majestic swans kill him to put him out of his misery. He stands near the waters edge and says, “I will fly to those royal birds,” he exclaimed, “and they will kill me, because I am so ugly, and dare to approach them; but it does not matter: better be killed by them than pecked by the ducks, beaten by the hens, pushed about by the maiden who feeds the poultry, or starved with hunger in the winter.”
But here is what happens...
Then he flew to the water, and swam towards the beautiful swans. The moment they espied the stranger, they rushed to meet him with outstretched wings.
Kill me,” said the poor bird; and he bent his head down to the surface of the water, and awaited death.But what did he see in the clear stream below? His own image; no longer a dark, gray bird, ugly and disagreeable to look at, but a graceful and beautiful swan. ...He now felt glad at having suffered sorrow and trouble, because it enabled him to enjoy so much better all the pleasure and happiness around him; for the great swans swam round the new-comer, and stroked his neck with their beaks, as a welcome.
I hope to take a lesson from the Ugly Duckling...I need to enjoy the pleasure and happiness around me. I need to understand the potential that is in me to become what I hope to be.