Yesterday I heard “You Oughta Know” on the radio for the first time in ages, while I was driving Nick to school. I’m not a huge Alanis fan but I did like the song and its album, Jagged Little Pill, when it came out. I liked her upbeat girl rage. So I started singing with the chorus. As I head-bobbed and bellowed along, I saw Nick’s furrowed brow in the rear view mirror, and I suddenly realized I wasn’t singing a break up song. I was singing a mommy anthem.
Well I’m here to remind you
Of the mess you left when you went away!
It’s not fair to deny me
Of the cross I bear that you’ve given me
You YOU YOU OUGHTA KNOW!!
No wonder Nick was looking worried. He’s heard me say stuff like this before; how strange to hear it coming out of the radio! And really, other than a few word tweaks to take the creepy Oedipal/Electra edges off, the whole song — with its vaguely insane rage and sense of betrayal — works well for a mommy dealing with the pig sty living room her kids create every day. I could even play the song’s alternative meaning out into future years, when the kids move on to their own mates and I get to stick my nose into that business.
Turn out the lights, point a flashlight up under my chin, and hear me whisper these words: I’ve been sucked into a horrible vortex, where even songs about nasty sex and messy breakups are reduced to parenting metaphors. Somebody help me.
Enjoy this mommy sing-along song, on me.
It’s like they suck every other part of us away sometimes, isn’t it? Reduced to very domestic lives. Don’t forget your inner 20 something Carla, she still lives!