A letter to Clare Bowditch

The beautiful Clare Bowditch

Dear Clare Bowditch,

I have no idea why it took me up until now to listen to your latest CD, Modern Day Addiction. I’ve been a huge fan of yours for ages, ever since I first saw you on stage at Moorilla in Hobart (I went there a fan of Josh Pyke and Paul Kelly. I came away a fan, also, of you). I bought all your other CDs, and even a pair of mittens I got from the merch table when you played at The Republic.

Modern Day Addiction came out while Husband Bear and I were saving for our first Europe trip. I had every intention of buying it anyway, but then I heard The Start of War. Now, don’t get me wrong, I think it’s an awesome song, but it’s kind of not my style of music. Then, I saw pictures of you with a mohawk and all this fluoro stuff going on and I thought, “Wow, Clare’s totally changed her style” (which, of course, you are totally allowed to do), but I wasn’t sure if you’re music was still my cup of tea. Without hearing anything from the rest of the album, I decided I would buy it. Just not yet. Maybe after Europe.

Since we got back from our European campervanning mini-Odyssey, life has been kind of mental. My first novel came out, then I decided to leave my job and be a full time writer, then there was Christmas, then we decided to move cities and there was this flood auction thing I organised, and getting my second novel ready to go …

All of the above is just one big long excuse for why I didn’t buy Modern Day Addiction until two weeks ago, after I saw you on The Late Session, and heard the absolutely heartbreaking song you played. The song was called Your Own Kind of Girl. I was kind of pottering about when it came on, making tea, checking emails and telling Mephy Danger Gordon (my cat) off for trying to eat the sandwich I’d prepared for HB’s lunch. But this song stopped me in my tracks.

I guess the art of a truly awesome songwriter lies in making the listener think you’re talking just to them. Not many songwriters do it for me. Ben Folds (and his current collaborator, Nick Hornby), does it. Josh Ritter and Paul Kelly both do it. There’s an Irish songwriter, Paddy Casey, who does it, too. And, on the song, Your Own Kind of Girl, you did it and then some.

I’m pretty sure the girl you wrote this song for is much younger than I am. She’s probably a teenager – probably at the age I was when I first realised that looks mattered. When I realised I was “skinny” and “flat chested” and “scrawny” and “not hot”. When I realised I didn’t dress the way my friends did, and I didn’t get guys ogling me in the same way they did. When I realised I wasn’t one of “the beautiful people”.

I’m twenty eight now. I still walk with my eyes on the ground, not wanting to be seen. I still think my nose is too big. I still wish I wasn’t so scrawny or, at the very least, if I’m going to be scrawny, can I please lose my little pot belly? I still look at pictures of stars in magazines and think “is that how I should look? If I did, would my life be better?”. I still, sometimes, wonder if Husband Bear wouldn’t prefer a buxom blonde like Scarlett Johanssen instead of a little runt who, on a good day, bears a slight passing resemblance to Audrey Tautou.

Why the bejeepers do I care, Clare? I’m smart. I have a husband who loves me. I have friends who wouldn’t care if I looked like Ricky Gervais (back when he looked like Ricky Gervais). My cat loves lying on my little pot belly. I wouldn’t want to be famous for quids, and, to be honest, some of those girls in the magazines actually scare me a bit.

Why do I care?

Why do any of us care?

Why am I waiting for “Somebody [to] tell me that I’m more than this?”

Listening to that song again today, as I walked through the sunny streets of Battery Point, I fel an indescribable sadness. I don’t want to base my happiness on whether my new jeans look good on me. I don’t want to wish I was something I’m not. I thought, by twenty eight, I’d have it all together. I thought I wouldn’t care. I thought, by now, I’d be “my own kind of girl”.

Some days, I like to fool myself that I am. After all, I didn’t read Eat, Pray, Love, did I? I’ve never bought anything made by Dior, Chanel or Calvin Klein (I used to covet Alannah Hill dresses, but then I found out she likes to wrap herself in dead animals, so I kind of went off her a bit). I’m a proud of vegetarian. I listen to metal and alt country. I write books about shapeshifters. I don’t work nine to five. I don’t wear my hair long, even though people tell me it suits me better like that. I have tattoos, and they’re not of butterflies or my zodiac sign. I’m passionate, kind, opinionated and sometimes a little bit crazy. I like all of that stuff about myself. That should be enough, shouldn’t it? That should be enough for me to give to the world. Why do I want to be more?

I know you don’t have the answer for me. You’re probably still trying to work out your own answers. I really just wanted to say, Clare, that MDA is a masterpiece. The song I’ve talked about is only one of so many poignant, beautiful, insightful, difficult, painful and proud songs on a CD I wish I’d bought months ago. I know that listening to a CD won’t help me figure out all the things I still have to figure out. But maybe it’s a start. For that, I’m so grateful.

Love,

Kate


Lyrics to Your Own Kind of Girl


Chocolate, you’ve got chocolate on your mouth
Oh you long to be like the other girls
But you’re not gonna be like another girl
“Some other girl”

You’ve been reading magazines again
Comparing your sweet body
To the bodies of nature’s longest ones
Smoothed out with airbrush guns

You’ve been wondering
When the answer is gonna come
It’s not gonna come
Till you realise
You are fine
You’re more than enough
The real world needs real girls to love
Themselves enough

I went on my first diet
When I was eight years old
Ten, eleven, twelve, through to twenty one
When I came undone and I thought
“Somebody tell me that I’m more than this?”
So I understand the thoughts get out of hand
I still know all the shame
Of falling for that same old shit
Time time again
That there’s some Simple Answer to the complex life
“It’s only $29.99”

So there “They” sit high in their towers
Writing lists about what women need
With no regard, no understanding
No real care about the pain they breed, oh
My hope for you, my darling girl
Be brave and build a dream in your own size
‘Cause otherwise
You’re buying crap that you don’t need
To feed a world that will not feed you
It will not feed you, my love

Chocolate, you’ve got chocolate on your mouth
Oh you long to be like the other girls
But you weren’t born to be “Some other girl”
You’re gonna be your own kind of girl

4 thoughts on “A letter to Clare Bowditch

  1. We feel a hurt so we build a brick wall to keep out the hurt, not realising that that same brick wall keeps the hurt in with us and we cannot look outside to know that it was a lie.

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  2. Thanks for sharing Kate! Hopefully your words will touch the lives of just as many women as Clare’s lyrics have.
    ps. I love Modern Day Addiction, I first heard some of the songs from the yet to be released album at Woodford in 2009/2010 – wow that was a fantastic performance – you rock Clare!

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  3. Kate,
    THANK YOU
    I too got a little freaked out in a way by Clare’s transformation and have not yet bought Modern Day Addiction – but will be. Now. Today.
    Her lyrics made me cry.
    I’m 32 and still that girl.
    I too wish I knew what to do.
    She really knows how to write to you doesn’t she? I had “Divorcee by 23” that I related to and “On this side” a little while later and everything in between.
    You’ve made me cry and feel not quite so alone and made me buy an album I might not otherwise have bought.
    Thank you.

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  4. This letter is so moving Kate. I resonate with what seem to be some of your struggles and commend you for writing, sharing, as honestly and as well as you have just done.

    Chloe

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