"At Seventeen" as written by and Janis Ian....
I learned the truth at seventeen
That love was meant for beauty queens
And high school girls with clear skinned smiles
Who married young and then retired
The valentines I never knew
The Friday night charades of youth
Were spent on one more beautiful
At seventeen I learned the truth

And those of us with ravaged faces
Lacking in the social graces
Desperately remained at home
Inventing lovers on the phone
Who called to say - come dance with me
And murmured vague obscenities
It isn't all it seems at seventeen

A brown eyed girl in hand me downs
Whose name I never could pronounce
Said - pity please the ones who serve
They only get what they deserve
The rich relationed hometown queen
Marries into what she needs
With a guarantee of company
And haven for the elderly

So remember those who win the game
Lose the love they sought to gain
In debentures of quality and dubious integrity
Their small-town eyes will gape at you
In dull surprise when payment due
Exceeds accounts received at seventeen

To those of us who knew the pain
Of valentines that never came
And those whose names were never called
When choosing sides for basketball
It was long ago and far away
The world was younger than today
When dreams were all they gave for free
To ugly duckling girls like me

We all play the game, and when we dare
We cheat ourselves at solitaire
Inventing lovers on the phone
Repenting other lives unknown
That call and say - come on, dance with me
And murmur vague obscenities
At ugly girls like me, at seventeen


Lyrics submitted by starla33

"At Seventeen" as written by Janis Ian

Lyrics © EMI Music Publishing

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At Seventeen song meanings
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24 Comments

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  • +3
    General CommentHah, yeah, I first heard it on the Simpsons long ago. But as someone above said it, a lot of girls can relate to it. Especially ones who aren't part of the "in-crowd" (like myself, though I wouldn't want to be a part of it anyway).

    I definitely relate to this song..
    TheSOADGirlon October 05, 2005   Link
  • +3
    General CommentI could seriously relate to this song....when I was 17 I felt the same way, being surrounded with all my gorgeous friends who all went on dates and were the type of beautiful all guys went for now. I was super awkward.

    But it's true...just remaining true to yourself does pay off. I'm now 21 years old, and these are things you don't longer care about...So for those girls that feel like ugly ducklings now, don't worry--it will all pass once you move on to college. When you're older and more accepting of all types of beauty.

    I love this song....Janis is amazing.
    spunkychickon October 21, 2010   Link
  • +2
    General CommentIm 42 and a fan of music, and in particular -great lyrics. I just heard this song again and totally forgot the shear genius of the poetic words of an outcast...absolutely timeless...

    damn......
    discmannnnnon August 25, 2006   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThis is a song guys and girls can relate.of course just pretend the beauty queens are those jocks and such.
    edwardthomas34on December 09, 2007   Link
  • +2
    General CommentJanis truly touches the heart with many of her songs. I saw her in concert in Ottawa roughly around 1973 while she was promoting her Between The Lines album. And, yeah, guys can relate to this song - At Seventeen - as well. If you weren't a jock, you weren't getting invited to the parties, or meeting the girls.

    I would be interested in others' opinions of some of her other melodic songs from that album, like Watercolors, Tea & Sympathy, Light A Light and In The Winter.

    Also, for those who are unfamiliar with Janis' song Society's Child; she was only about 14 or 15 years old when she recorded it. The song was banned from many American radio stations due to perceived racial complications and inappropriateness of the time.
    LondonMusicLoveron March 28, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General Commentwhat girl doesn't relate?
    catherinekson June 18, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI love her voice. I heard the song on the TV on a Info mertal thing and I had to download it because her voice is so amazing. Does Anyone know if she wrote it? :-) I give it 5 stars
    Dragon Scaron July 06, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General CommentYeah, Janis Ian wrote it.
    theyearlingson September 10, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General CommentMy mum made me download it cause it's one of her all time favourites...

    And to tell the truth... I don't mind it either...
    cabhanon May 13, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI love this song...everyone at some point in their life can and has related to this song and its the main reason it's so popular...
    faded_awayon October 28, 2007   Link

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