Tag Archives: high school

Tunes Tuesday: Janis Ian

Copyright JC Politi Photography
Students in a hallway in Nicaragua

Tunes Tuesday is a weekly series where I highlight songs that are poetic even without the music.

This song has stuck with me since I was…about seventeen. My dad listened to Janis Ian records when I was young and the words to this song are probably some of the first lyrics I ever really noticed. They are just so poignant and real.

For this Tunes Tuesday, I present At Seventeen by Janis Ian.

At Seventeen
Janis Ian

I leaned 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 homeInventing 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’
Cause  they only get what they deserve”

And  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  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
To cheat ourselves at solitaire
Inventing lovers on the phone
Repenting other lives unknown
They call and say, “Come on, dance with me”
And murmur vague obscenities
At  ugly girls like me at seventeen

What do you think? What other songs expose raw emotion like this? Do you have a favorite song from your childhood that still touches your heart today? Why are the teenage years so hard for so many of us?

I would love to hear your thoughts! Thank you for reading.

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