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.