So here's a thing about the 90's that you may or may not recall. If you were an awkward guy, having no luck in finding love, this was a terrible time to listen to the radio (or to go to the movies or to turn on the TV) because it would constantly be re-enforcing your very worst ideas about life. See, a long time ago even the legendary sex gods The Rolling Stones figured out that "you can't always get what you want" but somewhere during the 90s it was as if pop culture decided to reject that notion completely and got super fucking whiny about it too. The prevailing message was "if you want a girl, no matter what, you should be able to get the girl. Yes, even that girl. Especially that one because YOU want her and therefore you are entitled to her." How? Well easy, just keep passive-aggressively hanging around her, constantly going on to all who would listen about how stupid women are because they always choose the total asshole and not the obviously superior guy (you) that is hanging around her constantly, (pretending to be) her best friend. If you just hang around long enough and act nice long enough you will get your chance declare your love completely out of the blue and she'll realize how perfect you are and reward you with all the sex ever.
In case I actually need to point this out, THIS IS TERRIBLE ADVICE TO GIVE TO AWKWARD TEENAGE BOYS!! Yet it was everywhere. Every song on the radio, every romcom you took your "friend" to, this was the prevalent message of the time. And it sucked. I don't think I even realized how much it sucked until much later when I could take a sober look back and see just how many great friendships I poisoned and how many great relationships I missed out on thanks to these toxic, self pitying - and lets be honest - downright creepy ideas.
As the song famously doesn't say:
"If you're having girl problems I feel bad for you son...
Cause in this current atmosphere you probably have no healthy outlets for your hurt feelings"
Well, there was one exception. One night the DJ on the local student radio station dared to defy the code of standards & practices and played a beautiful song that happened to have the words "Fuck You" prominently in the chorus. I listened raptly and immediately loved the song. Unfortunately I forgot the artist and title almost immediately and this was back in the infancy of the Internet so Yahoo, altavista and ohmygodI'msoveryold.com was no help in tracking down a song you knew next to nothing about. It was only years later when I tried "lesbian song" + "fuck you" on Google (#StopJudgingMe) and rediscovered Ani DiFranco's Untouchable Face. This song has been on every device ever since and features prominently in my "Most Played" playlists. This is the song I wish I had been listening to as a teen instead of those self pitying, incredibly entitled rock songs about love.
Firstly, this is a song that doesn't tell you what to feel, this song already knows what you feel. The very chorus gives you permission to feel that bittersweet mix of love-anger-hope-frustration-disappointment-despair-warmth-sadness-longing that you feel when you love someone you can't have:
"So fuck you
And your untouchable face
For existing in the first place
And who am I
That I should be vying for your touch
Who am I
Bet you can't even tell me that much"
However, before that point it spends a couple of verses making clear that while it's OK for YOU to feel that way it's not OK to go make the other someone miserable too. After all if they're happy and you really, truly like them then you should want them to stay happy.
"Think I'm going for a walk now
I feel a little unsteady
I don't want no one to follow me
Except maybe you
I could make you happy, you know
If you weren't already
I could do a lot of things
And I do
Tell you the truth I prefer the worst of you
Too bad you had to have a better half
She's not really my type
But I think you two are forever
And I hate to say it, but you're perfect together"
I love how this song makes it clear that feeling hurt and accepting that you can't have this person are not mutually exclusive processes. These things can live side by side in the same heart, albeit uncomfortably at times.
I could make you happy, you know
If you weren't already
That one achingly beautiful line is worth more than all the pop culture garbage I absorbed over the years. In it I find that I'm not bad for loving you and you're not bad for not loving me back. We both have worth and we both want to be happy and while I may not always be feeling it right now, I'm happy you're happy. I hope to one day be as happy as you are now.
Anyway you should just go find this song and listen to it if you haven't already, I'm not sure I'm doing it justice here. Ani is the poet here, not me. Get it first hand. I mean look at these lines:
You know I really don't look forward
To seeing you again
You look like a photograph of yourself
Taken from far far away
And I won't know what to do
And I won't know what to say
You know, if I had to explain to an AI what that means I don't think I would have the words. And yet, AND YET I know EXACTLY what that means because I've felt it. Deeply. That. Exactly that. Whatever that is. Willing to bet that if you ever hung out with someone blissfully unaware of how painfully in love you are with them, you know it too.
So... off topic a bit but fuck you to all the homophobes out there insisting that homosexual love is somehow other, alien & perverse. I don't know that I have much in common with Ani DiFranco but I do know that I have felt every bit of emotion she is expressing here. There's really no difference, we all love the same. So in the words of the poet: Fuck you.