COLUMN: Life as an 'American Woman'

The Guess Who song makes the perfect anthem — and here's why
Friday, June 18, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

This week I was low on grocery money, which meant resorting to back-of-the-pantry food.

You know what I'm talking about — individual Jell-O packets, assorted half-empty spice jars and alleged potato products that probably have never seen a potato in their entire shelf lives. The kind of food to which you would actually prefer a raw potato.

During a precarious reach for some questionable Velveeta, I dropped a glass bowl off the top shelf, onto my foot, and then onto the floor. It is 83 degrees outside, and I am wearing the only T-shirt I own that is clean: an oversized white one with the phrase "Gettysburg" on the front in blue script and a generic Civil War battle scene underneath. I have never actually been to Gettysburg.

I am crabby, I look like a renegade Civil War enthusiast, my big toe is bleeding and my entire studio apartment smells like two-year-old Velveeta Shells & Cheese.

This is not a good day for me.

Though I'd prefer to smash another bowl or at the very least remain mildly crabby, there is only one thing I can do — one song that I must listen to right this second lest I dissolve into The Grinch (or worse, Jim Carey).

"American Woman."

I have long held the opinion that this song must be the cure for something very unfortunate — like cancer or cramps or The Nothing in "The Neverending Story." 

In my own life, it is most often used as the cure for crabbiness, which, though unfortunate, is not as life-saving as my eventual hopes for this song.

But first, let's get one thing straight. When I say “American Woman,” I am referring to the time-tested, classic masterpiece by The Guess Who; not the less distinguished, less bearable version by (Guess who else?) Lenny Kravitz.

No offense to Lenny, but I am just not that kind of American woman, and I find nothing but fault with bringing shame to a national classic (I’m looking at you, "Legally Blonde 3" and "The Land Before Time XI").

There are several reasons why this song is the penicillin to my infectious bad moods:

I am a woman. I am also American.

But it’s more than that. Maybe it’s all the "Ally McBeal" I watched when I was younger (OK, rewatched this month), but I firmly believe that everyone could use a good theme song. This is not to be confused with a favorite song — of which mine is “Don’t Look Back in Anger” by Oasis. That song can cure my loneliness, amplify my happiness and set quite a few things right, but it cannot cure rage.

On the other hand, a good theme song mentally cues whatever emotion is necessary to keep me "tolerable" in those situations I cannot apply the same word to. "American Woman" is like a concentrated can of Bad-Moods-B-Gone.

A particularly critical occurrence of my need for The Guess Who occurred during a recent trip to the downtown post office.

I visit the bureaucratic hell-mouth on routine pen-pal business at least twice a week, and I have grown used to both its complete lack of parking spots and my complete lack of understanding mail rules.

As I walked into the post office, package in hand, I was immediately tripped by a small, wild child, who then beat me to the extensive line and proceeded to purposely tease me as I slowly waded to the front.

Upon reaching the promised land, I was informed that I had not filled out the correct international mail form and would have to return to purgatory until I had done so. It was then that I realized I had encountered the same problem two weeks earlier.

Cue “American Woman,” which I blasted at four-fifths of my car stereo’s volume on the return trip to my apartment.

It was not over by the time I pulled into my parking spot, and I was still Godzilla-esque, so I remained seated until it was over. Thanks to a well-planned car listen, no unpleasant children were harmed in the making of this unhappy memory.

This song could not be more perfect unless I took to wearing an American flag-print bikini while lathering up a vintage Camaro — a hobby that, sadly, does not often (read: ever) play a role in my life. I’ll leave that kind of thing to Jessica Simpson.

In the meantime, I suggest you get a theme song, too. Might I suggest some Oasis? “Zombie” by The Cranberries is a nice angsty one. Nine Inch Nails?

Kelsey Whipple is the deputy editor of Vox Magazine. She has nothing against Lenny Kravitz, other than that he immortalized a crappy version of an otherwise awesome song, for which she will never be able to forgive him. 

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Shean McCollin July 13, 2010 | 10:58 a.m.

I love this.

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