I’ve had the song I’ve Been to Paradise by Charlene in my head most of the day. Why? No idea. Now there is a strong possibility I’m overthinking the lyrics but they are really getting my goat. When the popular version of the song was released in 1982 I was 12 years old and it seemed really poignant and beautiful to me. I remember thinking it was a much needed cautionary tale for women. In 2013, however, I’ve got a lot of questions for Charlene. Here are the lyrics along with my thoughts.
Hey lady, you lady, cursing at your life
You’re a discontented mother and a regimented wife
As in kept in line? Or as in decorated? I always imagine the mother character wearing a uniform with a lot of medals on it. You know, from her regiment.
I’ve no doubt you dream about the things you’ll never do
But, I wish someone had talked to me
Like I wanna talk to you…..
You know, today I started crafting a long response to someone’s post on Facebook because I really felt like, as an older, wiser woman, I had something to offer the conversation. Then I deleted my comment before posting it because, let’s face it, no I don’t. Nobody wants to hear it. Keep it to yourself, Charlene.
Oh, I’ve been to Georgia and California and anywhere I could run
So, mostly in the South and Southwest of the USA then? Again, I really don’t think this qualifies you to give anyone advice. I’ve been to Ottawa and Hull but you don’t hear me beaking off at overwrought mothers in supermarkets.
I took the hand of a preacher man and we made love in the sun
I always imagine the preacher as Father Mulcahy from M*A*S*H* which, fair enough, is pretty scandalous. You did push the envelope there, Charlene.
But I ran out of places and friendly faces because I had to be free
You ran out of places? You’d only gone from California to Georgia! You didn’t even cross a body of water. And also, the whole “because I had to be free” thing kind of reminds me of when people say things like “People are intimidated by me because I am a truthteller”. No, you’re a jackass who spouts off half-baked opinions about things and has no respect for other people’s points of view. That’s why people don’t like you. (Although people do hate me because I’m beautiful.)
I’ve been to paradise but I’ve never been to me
Well, it sounds like plenty of other people have been to you, if you know what I’m saying, so why don’t you ask them what it’s like?
Please lady, please lady, don’t just walk away
‘Cause I have this need to tell you why I’m all alone today
Is it because you walk up to overwhelmed women with crying babies and try to tell them how good they’ve got it?
I can see so much of me still living in your eyes
Won’t you share a part of a weary heart that has lived million lies….
Let’s not pretend it’s your heart that’s weary.
Oh, I’ve been to Niece and the Isle of Greece while I’ve sipped champagne on a yacht
Okay, well now we’re getting somewhere, geographically speaking! Wait…I didn’t major in Mapology but I’m pretty sure Greece is not an island.
I’ve moved like Harlow in Monte Carlo and showed ’em what I’ve got
Kidney failure? Like Jean Harlow? Who was never actually in a movie called Monte Carlo, for the record, nor was she in Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo.
I’ve been undressed by kings and I’ve seen some things that a woman ain’t supposed to see
Okay, this is the part of the song I can’t stop thinking about. What did she see? I mean, she’s made it pretty clear she’s seen a lot of man bits etc., so it’s not that. So what has she seen? A bride in her wedding dress before the big day? The Ark once it’s been opened in Raiders? What?!
I’ve been to paradise, but I’ve never been to me
You know, just because you can’t even be happy IN PARADISE, don’t go putting your stuff onto other women. Are you really comparing her screaming child and jackass husband (conjecture on my part) to you being to paradise? Reality check! Paradise wins!
Okay, no one likes the talking parts of songs. Not from you, not from Boys II Men. Never.
Hey, you know what paradise is?
It’s a lie, a fantasy we create about people and places as we’d like them to be
But you know what truth is?
It’s that little baby you’re holding, it’s that man you fought with this morning
The same one you’re going to make love with tonight
That’s truth, that’s love……
And you know this because…? Walk a mile in this woman’s hush puppies pushing a jogging stroller and nursing some pregnancy-related hemorrhoids and I guarantee you’ll be on the next plane back to Paradise, on the Isle of Greece.
Sometimes I’ve been to crying for unborn children that might have made me complete
You’ve been to crying? Been to? This makes me almost as crazy as when my wife says “on accident”. And trust me, I don’t think you’d be any happier if you had a bunch of unborn children.
But I took the sweet life, I never knew I’d be bitter from the sweet
I’ve spent my life exploring the subtle whoring that costs too much to be free
Subtle whoring? What does that even mean? I guess you’re saying you’re not like the prostitute in Full Metal Jacket who said things like “Me love you long time,” “Me so horny,” and “Me sucky sucky”? Oh, I see, you’re more subtle? Got it.
I’ve been to paradise, (I’ve been to paradise)
But I’ve never been to me
Hey lady. Listen, lady. I feel like you really need to take a look at your inability to appreciate what you’ve got. Yeah, that’s right, you’re doing exactly what you’re criticizing this mother of. You’ve been to paradise! How many people can say that? And yet, you say you’ve never been to you? Guess what. You’re there right now! I don’t want to get all metaphysical on your ass here but you are in you right now. And always. And the sooner you realize this, the sooner you’ll stop giving hand jobs to priests (albeit subtly) and start figuring out what you really want to do with your life. And if that’s have a husband you get to fight with in the morning then make love to at night, well then great. But don’t go calling out other bitches until you’ve looked in your own back yard.
And before you start accusing me of slut shaming, let me be clear, lady; I have no problem with whoring if it’s what you want to do and it makes you feel good and you earn a fair salary. But you strike me as the kind of person who wouldn’t be happy in any line of work. You’d always find something to complain to your boss about at staff meetings but you’d never have any solutions to offer up and you’d never offer to take minutes because of your carpal tunnel syndrome. But, truly, I’m on your side here. I want you to be happy. And I really think you could be if you just stopped thinking other women’s grass is greener and try being in the moment. I say, if you can get a king to undress you, go for it. That sounds like good times. Unless it’s King Wenceslas because then it would probably be too cold for nakedness what with the snow lying around all deep and crisp and even like.
Good luck to you, Charlene. I hope you get to you one day. Until then, you know…glass houses and all that, okay?