Ani DiFranco

I have to admit, I have an addiction.

It’s to Ani DiFranco’s music; more specifically, the lyrics of her songs.

She’s led a very unconventional life, spending a great deal of adulthood being unapologetically bisexual and pro-abortion rights. Some of the people in my family would know this about her, and write her off completely. They might be willing to offer her a little bit of unnecessary redemption for the fact that she is now married and has a beautiful baby girl; she also spends a lot of time, money, and effort trying to make the world a better place.

She’s outspoken about politics (“I wonder who’s going to be president, Tweedle dum or Tweedle dumber?“), society, how we fail each other (“I remember the first time I saw someone lying on the cold street; I thought, I can’t just walk past him, this just can’t be true. But I learned by example to keep moving my feet; it’s amazing the things we all learn to do.”), she asks things like “What if no one’s watching? What if when we’re dead we are just dead? . . . What if it’s just us down here, what if there are things we need to do, things that need to be said?”

I discovered her by accident, one summer at Interlochen Arts Camp. I was looking at the brochure, deciding which concerts I wanted to attend, thought it would be interesting to go to hear someone I knew nothing about, and the description of her music piqued my interest. Her performance had more integrity, more energy, than anything I had seen in a long time, and the bits of words I could catch here and there really caught my attention, specifically the poem Grand Canyon (I’ll post this link as soon as I can; this part of her website is “under renovation.”) and the song To The Teeth.

I now own almost every one of her “albums” and I continue to discover new words that speak to me in a new way. Despite the dramatic differences between her life and mine, she just seems to “get” me, it; to “get” what it means to be a woman. Two songs in a row from her album Knuckle Down shook me out of the lethargy of 20 years of an unhappy marriage and unsatisfying relationships with my children and “friends.”

The first, “Studying Stones”:

I am out here studying stones/trying to learn to be less alive/using all of my will/to keep very still/still even on the inside . . .You see, numb is an old hat/old as my oldest memory/see that one’s my mother and that one’s my father/and the one in the hat, that’s me/it’s a skill i hoped to abandon/when i got out on the open road/but any more pent-up emotion/i think i’m gonna explode. There’s never been an endeavour so strange/than trying to slow the blood in my veins/to keep my face blank/as the stone that just sank/until not a ripple remains. . .”

and then, “Knuckle Down”:

“And there’s a dusty old dust storm on Mars, they say, so tonight you can’t see it too clear/still i stood in line to look through their telescope/looks like a distant shiplight, seen from a foggy pier/and i know that i was warned, still it was not what i hoped. . . Lecherous old lady wannabe, much too young and shy/flailing her whole life just thinkin’ she can teach herself to fly/vehement romantic, frantic, for forever right now, but forever’s goin’ nowhere tonight/Think i’m done gunnin’ to get closer/to some imagined bliss/gotta knuckle down, and be okay with this.”

The song that’s “speaking to me” the most this week is Imperfectly.

I’m married, now, to “the” man I used to look for, and decided didn’t exist. He’s smart, and sensitive, and complicated; my favorite person to talk to, my favorite person to be with. When we “started” we lived in an imaginary world of ideals and perfections; how happy we would always be, how our devotion and deep, profound friendship would take away all of the pain and disappointment the world had to offer.

As we got to know each other better, and to realize that there are hurts and disappointments and frustrations that our love, no matter how deep and true and profound, can’t make go away, we worried that the resulting “misalignments” (I’m not being coy; we don’t actually, ever, argue) would chip away at this ideal, this perfection that we envisioned, and that we would end up with a derelict, crumbling edifice that didn’t look all that different from our previous marriages.

What I’ve seen this week, as we dealt with the consequences of parking a car in an un-level garage and not applying the parking brake, and the fact that I might have won my first game of Scrabble if G hadn’t “surrendered” first, is that these flaws are part of what cement us together. Besides the fact that we’re getting to know each other better, we’re building something, something that’s stronger where it’s been mended than it was before. Love, life, in three dimensions, imperfectly.


. . .we get a little further from perfection
each year on the road
i think that’s called character
i think that’s just the way it goes
better to be dusty than polished
like some store window mannequin
touch me where i’m rusty
let me stain your hands

when you’re pretty as a picture
they pound down your door
but i’ve been offered love
in two dimensions before
and i know that it’s not all
that it’s made out to be
let’s show them all how it’s done
let’s do it all imperfectly

© 1992 ani difranco / righteous babe music

p.s. To my bff M: hang in; complicated is good, remember?

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