My burgeoning sexuality is 15

You can’t swing a mouse around the Internet without learning that Liz Phair’s “Exile in Guyville” is 15 this year. I love Liz Phair’s music with the kind of blind passion and dedication that is usually reserved for Paul Westerberg and my childhood musical hero, Billy Joel.

Liz Phair’s music means more to me than I could possibly convey and I feel its ingrained in my bones. Her music, her voice, is the soundtrack of me discovering my own sexuality and femininity in a world where I will never fit even the broadest definition of what feminine is.

The second time I was ever hit on was during a Liz Phair concert at First Avenue back in March of 1994. I was hit on once before during a really creepy incident at Valleyfair when I was a 6-foot, fair-haired 12-year-old. That was the first time I was ever hit on, and that just scared the shit out of me.

The second time was just as scary because I was pretty much still a clueless 12-year-old deep down inside.

And I was standing 6’5″ instead of 5’5″ like a normal girl. I was in my favorite red sweater dubbed the couch sweater because it looked like tasseled upholstery, trying to resist the urge to look at my brand new, first-ever tattoo (a dorky purple daisy under my right collarbone). I was 21 and besides an awkward peck from Rob Hobot in the front seat of my 1978 Ford Fairmont, never been kissed. I was standing in the upstairs bar of First Ave waiting for Skal to come back with the beer. While she was gone a blond-haired boy came up to me and tried to make conversation.

I had no idea what in the hell he wanted and pretty much blew him off at every turn. It wasn’t until he left, discouraged, that Skal told me that he was hitting on me. My mind was blown. So that’s what hitting on was? Of course, I just played it cool and shrugged it off as if I would ever deign to entertain such a dork. Inside I was reeling. I got hit on. I got hit on!

It was on that night that Liz Phair and the idea that I might just become a desirable woman became inextricably linked. I’m not sure if the moment would have had such resonance had it been a Gin Blossoms or Spin Doctors concert.

It was Liz and her music that supplied the magic. She was expressing things that many 20something girls in the early 90s were feeling but were too afraid to discuss or even admit to ourselves. Liz was boldy sexual, not afraid to talk about it, and even better not afraid to admit how confusing that was to her. It was confusing to all of us. Hell, it still is. Fifteen years hasn’t really changed anything.

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5 Comments

  1. shokkou 01.Apr.08 at 6:08 am

    Fifteen years. Amazing. I remember reading the review for Exile In Guyville in the local Sunday paper, how it was an answer to the uber-macho Stones’ Exile On Mainstreet, and thinking that she sounded like somebody i’d want to listen to. I don’t know about being the answer to the Stones but i sure do like to listen to her!

    You’re right that nothing has changed. I still can’t tell when i’m being hit on. It just seems like people are friendly sometimes.

    Reply
  2. Lori 01.Apr.08 at 8:05 pm

    Brilliantly articulated and I couldn’t agree more. For me, Liz Phair and PJ Harvey helped me understand and internalize girl power as horribly cliche as it sounds. It was such an empowering time in my life; I will love that music forever. To this day, I have yet to recreate the absolute joy and rage and strength that came from that music, that era. Thanks for the reminder.

    Reply
  3. david 04.Apr.08 at 10:28 am

    Great piece, Jodi. I was surprised to see that this album was out of print a couple of weeks ago when I tried to order a new CD for a friend’s birthday. I have high hopes for the remastered edition, but have doubts since it’s coming from Dave Matthews’ ATO Records.

    I’ll always link Phair to my time in Minneapolis. I showed up in the city on a house hunting trip with three CDs, one being her Whip Smart album. The other two were stolen from my rental car the first day, and Whip Smart quickly became my soundtrack to the city that first week (until I could find the time to get to a music store).

    Reply
  4. Jodi 04.Apr.08 at 10:31 am

    ATO is Mike Doughty’s label, so I have no worries. Of course I have no idea about ATO’s output aside from Doughty. So maybe there is reason to worry.

    Whip Smart is one of two albums I can listen to when I’m writing.

    Reply
  5. david 04.Apr.08 at 3:40 pm

    I was hoping that Matador would release the remastered edition, because their reissues (Pavement, Mission of Burma, etc.) are so exquisitely put together.

    ATO has a surprisingly solid roster, given its founder. Radiohead, My Morning Jacket, the Whigs, Mike Doughty, etc.

    Reply

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