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.