Wednesday, June 18, 2008

If I End Up with a Daughter Named Kathleen, You'll Know Why

No one has ever written a song about me. The word Jess doesn't easily fit into song lyrics, and Jessica isn't much better. Jessie is more promising, but the only people who call me Jessie are my grandmother (who insists on spelling it Jesse), my ex-best friend from eighth grade, and my mother when she's feeling cutesy. I'm just not a Jessie, so songs about Jessie--while close--aren't the real deal.

But when I was younger, that's all I really had. In 1993, this song--"Jessie" by Joshua Kadison--came out and was played to death on adult contemporary stations across the country.

I tried to throw my support behind it. I tried to like it. I wanted to think that somewhere a boy was listening to that song and thinking about me, even if that was a long shot. Still, there was something about the song I just couldn't love. I'd like to think that back then, even at the tender age of twelve, I knew not to fall in love with a song that discussed the feelings of a cat. I also knew there was something wrong with the fact that the Jessie in question was dreaming of a trailer by a sea. What kind of girl dreams of a trailer instead of a house by the sea? Who shortchanges themselves in their fantasies?

I've been patiently waiting all these years for a new and better song that includes my name to come out, and the closest I've come is Lou Bega's "Mambo Number Five," which features my name in the chorus (a little bit of Jessica...)--and, yes, I'll admit that I milked that quite a lot in college, when that song first became popular, but I hesitate to say that the song does my name justice, especially when you consider Lou Bega lists about twenty-five names before the song is finished. I'm pretty sure a Jess-Jessica-Jessie deserve a song of its very own.

So you could say I'm sensitive to songs that have girl names in them. Some girls have really, really great songs, and that makes me jealous. Angie. Rosalita. Brandy. Jolene. Sally. Carrie. Sara. Veronica. Rhonda. Cecilia. Wendy. Emily. Rhiannon. Jane. Ruby. Caroline. Lola. Jenny. Everyone but me.

In college, my best friend's roommate--Amanda--used to blare Boston's "Amanda," and because I went through an impressive Boston-loving phase in college (oh, shut up), I was incredibly jealous of that one. My best friend has Pure Prairie League's "Amie," which might not be the best song in the history of songs, but it is one of those sweet-sounding songs you can't help but sing along to whenever it comes on the radio. And if that wasn't enough, she also has a Ray Lamontagne song, which is pretty much what I want most in the world.

And then there's this song, which is my favorite song ever.

That is Josh Ritter singing "Kathleen." I love that song. I could write an entire twenty page paper about just how good that song is (including a long discussion about how the first line--All the girls here are stars; you are the Northern Lights--guaranteed Josh Ritter a lifetime of ass-getting, and an equally long discussion about the verse that begins I know you are waiting, and I know that it is not for me... and how that verse is everything I've ever felt in my entire life).

I don't even like the name Kathleen, but there is something inside me that wants very much to give that name to a daughter, if ever I have one. I want her to have those pretty words, all those lovely verses. I want her to feel like someone was predicting her future and putting it down to music so that she would know she had been loved always, even before she'd been born.


Diana said...

I could stand to watch that "Jessie" video about halfway through because I kept thinking that guy needs a haircut and a shirt.

Diana said...

I had that stupid "Jessie" song in my head all day. Thanks, Jessica. Thanks a lot.

Jess said...

Sorry :(
I don't like it either!

Jean said...


You know, the Allman Brothers have a song called "Jessica."

I might not make you feel better to know that it's an instrumental song, but that means you can just add your own words! It's a good, good song. Your new theme song.