Presumably Dead Arm - Sidney Gish
This song really resonates with the girls – why?
This song was one that had been bopping around my playlists for a while – I’m not usually one to enjoy female vocalists all that much, but there was definitely something compelling and emotional about this song. It wasn’t what my roommate would claim to be “riotgurl” music, but halfway through the song there becomes something urgent, intense and angry about it.
The song’s meaning is very blatantly about not having romantic feelings reciprocated. It’s obvious, and probably the least uncommon theme of all modern music ever made.
When my friend brought up Sidney Gish – this song specifically – I replied with,
“I love that song! That’s like, my song right now.”
To which one of the most soft spoken people I knew raised her voice and aggressively proclaimed “No! It’s my song.”
While this was surprising, there had been a few people I had talked to up until this point that had strong feelings about this song. And really, it was just another pining love song at the end of the day. So what was so special about it?
“Honey, you are nothing to me
Alcohol and dopamine
I’m dying on the sofa
And I barely know the time
But like an old man, say I reckon
I love you for a millisecond
But I don’t wear a watch or Rolex
And my brain’s a toddler rollerskating down a hill
I took a spill and ran into a tree and suffered minor injuries
Honey, you are nothing to me
I don’t call people anything that’s thought to be so sweet.”
But I’m just being bitchy
‘Cause every stupid boy skipped over me
On our twilight hour meet and greet
A coffee table theater scene
But disregard the soaring chick back there in corner three
I’d rather let the poor kid sleep
And I suppose that I already kind of knew. There was something strangely, vividly feminine about the whole song.
Throughout the song and in the lyrics to the left, there is an underlying theme of comparing the situation to juvenile situations – toddlers and high school prom. This effectively dismisses her feelings as childish, although there are other points in the song where she timestamps the real point in time – junior year of college.
I think this dismissal of feelings, especially in the way of “just being bitchy” is something that resonates particularly with woman. And even further, the second line reflects a frustration that might be less common – growing up conventionally unattractive.
There is a uniquely dehumanizing aspect to being completely ignored by the opposite sex through all of your developmental years, and it is expressed well and aptly in these two lines.
Further evidence of her own alienation from her feelings is show in these lyrics, where she declares her love for concepts. It’s safer to declare love to a concept because it doesn’t change and can’t reject you. This is done immediately after she dreams of knowing someone so intimately that she will know all of the smallest details of their life.
Even as she declares her love for these things with rising intensity, the stanza still ends with her collapsing into bed and returning stubbornly to the chorus: “Honey, you are nothing to me. I don’t call people anything that’s thought to be so sweet.” This is where the song’s tone changes to become angry and spiteful.
“I wanna know your passwords
Without changing them in Preferences
And all the childhood streets and deceased pets that they’re referencing
And in the box, I’ll type
I’ll know all the numbers to try
I wanna know the lyrics that you think of when you’re high
I’m in love with strangers who I’ve never even seen
In love with weird cut bangs and sweaters swaying kind of awkwardly
And I’m in love with fresh air friends from overheated houses
Till I Uber up a giant park and dump my body in my dorm bed.”
And all these pretend spouses are a happy storybook
That’ll turn to stark nonfiction in the time it took
For me to notice that I’m old, which means I’ll be 30 and happy
Likely married to personified business casual khakis
And I’ll forget about it when I wake up late and stupid
I tried to tell the Uber driver till he tried to hit it
I tried to tell myself because I’ve come this far along
Carrying my zombie arm to the 14th-grade prom
The lyrics grow more urgent as the song does. She realizes that she had grown up, and maybe with the time that she let slip by she had managed to unwittingly settle with “personified business casual khakis”.
She paints a picture of coming to this realization in the Uber, where irony strikes and she is hit on by that character. In the context of the rest of the song, this line accentuates a feeling of isolation and being misunderstood by everyone around her.
I think that this song strikes an appeal with women because of the way that it’s written, but it paints a picture of a scenario that isn’t restricted to just women. In all, It’s about being scared to be that vulnerable after years of rejection that cement a self-perception of being undesirable while simultaneously being helplessly romantic.
But at the end of the day, this specific flavor of pining is something that anyone who had ever been an awkward teen girl can relate to, and it’s expressed with a vigor and vitriol that is cathartic and otherwise taboo.