At Seventeen I Learned The Truth

At Seventeen / Janis Ian (Ian)


If only…

But you did know the truth but not the facts.

You knew your story but believed someone else’s.

You could have been a star in your own movie but couldn’t direct it.

Stories about being mixed up between teenage and adult are the thing of legend.

From Hamlet to Wuthering Heights to Catcher In The Rye and this one from my era “At Seventeen” in the 1970’s.


I learned 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 home
Inventing 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
They only get what they deserve”

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 debitures 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
We cheat ourselves at solitaire
Inventing lovers on the phone

Repenting other lives unknown
That call and say: “come on, dance with me”
And murmur vague obscenities
At ugly girls like me, at seventeen


© EMI Music Publishing, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC


What we all needed At Seventeen, we already had; it’s just that we were too busy worrying about what others might think or say.

Arguably, Social Media has made the pressure worse and people are unable to access their own beauty because they are concerned about what others think. Little do they know that others are also too busy with exactly the same pursuit and hence their thoughts about you are much, much less significant than you believe.


It’s a pity that was not around at the time to help us through these wastelands lack of confidence and self-esteem.

Although as you can see from my photo, it didn’t bother me because I was already stultifyingly handsome…

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