Dear Sir
I know I asked for this
My greedy heart is never full
Dear Sir
I begged for something more
Anything, but only on my terms
Dear Sir
I can't recall my name
Or much of anything
Before you came

It breaks my heart to be ungrateful
And I'm sorry I'm so hateful
But I'm not Mary Ann
No, I'm not Mary Ann
I know you wrote this for me
But this not my story
I'm not Mary Ann
No, I'm not Mary Ann

Dear Sir
I think we're both confused
There's been too much too soon
Disguised as something beautiful
Dear Sir
I hope you'll understand
I asked for more than I could take
My mistake

It breaks my heart to be ungrateful
And I'm sorry I'm so hateful
But I'm not Mary Ann
No, I'm not Mary Ann
I know you wrote this for me
But this not my story
I'm not Mary Ann
No, I'm not Mary Ann

Dear Sir
She must've been your world
I hope you'll find her here again...


Lyrics submitted by MelancholyXIII

I'm Not Mary Ann song meanings
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  • 0
    Lyric CorrectionI'm pretty sure it's: Dear Sir / I can't recall my name / Or much of anything / Before you came..."
    and not "Or much of anything / before you can."

    Otherwiseon December 19, 2010   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationI’ve been wrong before, but I’m pretty sure that the narrator in this song’s name is “not Mary Ann” for a very specific reason… namely, I think this is a reference to Chapter 4 of Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.

    In this chapter, the White Rabbit mistakes our heroine for a girl named Mary Ann (who Alice assumes is his housemaid), and sends her off to fetch his gloves. Once she arrives at the Rabbit’s house, however, she drinks a liquid that makes her grow so large that she can hardly move, and “there seemed to be no sort of chance of her ever getting out of the room again, [so] no wonder she felt unhappy.” She eventually finds little cakes to eat that make her shrink again, but by that time she is so small that, by Chapter 5, even a mushroom looms over her. From that point forward in the story, Alice never quite seems sure of her own identity, answering the Caterpillar’s question “Who are you?” in a very uncertain way: “I--I hardly know, sir, just at present-- at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then…. I can't explain myself, I'm afraid, sir … because I'm not myself, you see.”

    It’s my instinct that Alice, or at least a version of Alice, is serving as a guiding metaphor for this song. Alice makes sense as a metaphor in the wider context of the song — at another point in her shapeshifting career she is mistaken for a snake and has difficulty explaining the difference between a girl and a serpent… which of course ties in with the serpent theme in Ego Likeness’ work… and this song in particular, coming from the “Lowest Place on Earth” release, ties into Alice’s reaction to falling down an infinite rabbit hole (“After such a fall as this, I shall think nothing of tumbling down stairs!”). This isn’t to say that this is a song ABOUT Alice in Wonderland, but rather that Alice — both the character and the actual child/muse — seem to me to contribute to the meaning of the piece.

    I read this song as an essentially feminist reaction to and personalization of Alice’s situation. Alice-in-the-book is NOT actually the Rabbit’s Mary Ann, but when he orders her to run fetch his things, she does it anyway. She assumes the role he wants simply because as an obedient Victorian girl-child she has been trained to do so. Even when she has gotten so big that she literally cannot even move inside his house, Alice is still a little afraid of the rabbit. She looses her self-identity because of all the changes she undergoes. However, at the same time Alice-in-the-book is also NOT actually the real-life-Alice either. Real Alice in the years since the book was published has been almost lost to the popular imagination under the power of the imagined self that Carroll created. In both cases, the girl-herself becomes lost when a “Sir” (a dominant but possibly admirable male) is allowed to define who she is and what she will do.

    I think that the lyrics for this song spring off from that moment of miscreation, and that sense of self-loss… and possibly the sensation of having grown to large to move anymore within the strictures of the home… and jumps off to imagine a new dialogue between the narrator and the “Dear Sir” who has imagined her to be someone she is not.

    I feel this song is about what happens AFTER you become someone’s muse, or their long-lost soul mate, or any of those other wonderful romantic ideas we see in Victorian (and modern) Gothic literature. Old gothic stories often have these incredible relationships such as we see in Phantom of the Opera with a deep connection between a the dark man and the innocent muse/ingénue that seems romantic on the surface but is barely more than abusive when one really considers it. Of course modern retellings only heighten these aspects (consider the “Bram Stroker’s Dracula” movie and the subplot about reincarnated love linked to vampirism). In these stories, women often play along with the fantasy, and allow the tall-dark-thin-and-tortured antihero to define them and shape them into the gothic heroine or muse. Of course, this also happens in real life, when people of either gender come into a relationship with a willingness to play a fantasy game with each other in which one person is swept up in the other’s imaginations and wants to become that fictional angel of their dreams…

    The problem with being an angel or a muse, of course, is that it’s hard to also be an authentic self at the same time. I find this to be a tragic but empowering song about someone who needs to walk away from her constructed identity and become a real and authentic self, but at the same time wishes that does so wouldn’t be as earth-shattering and terrible for her lover as it will be.

    Glancing quickly over the lyrics:

    “Dear Sir” — explains in just two words the existing power relationship. I think the “Dear” here is sincere, reflecting a real emotional connection (which was necessary to create the fantasy) while at the same time the “Sir” shows the addressee’s gender, his position of relative power/authority over her, and also the distance that remains between them. Neither of them are really relating as individuals — he doesn’t know her real name, and she doesn’t use his.

    “I know I asked for this / My greedy heart is never full…” I get the impression here that the relationship may have been to some degree initiated by the narrator, which fits well with the Alice angle. Alice asks Carroll to write down the story in which she stars, and it is on her own request that she becomes a muse — but she doesn’t realize the effects that will have. Likewise, I think many people willingly–possibly even forcefully--submerge themselves’ in another person’s dreams and fantasies, even if later they will learn to regret it.

    “I begged for something more / Anything, but only on my terms.” Here she admits again that she initiated this, but then tries to explain that the terms she should have insisted upon–assumably that she retained her selfhood– have not been met.

    “I can't recall my name / Or much of anything / Before you came.” As mentioned above, this shows the loss of self also typified in the metaphor of Alice who is no longer sure who she is because of all the changes she has undergone. The narrator’s life has been reshaped by the relationship, so that she is unsure of who she is without it.

    “It breaks my heart to be ungrateful / And I'm sorry I'm so hateful / But I'm not Mary Ann.” Here we have the central reversal of the story — the moment of rejection. The affection is sincere, still, but the narrator realizes that she is not being accurately portrayed by the Dear Sir and that she is not in fact capable of being the person he desires nor remaining herself by attempting to do so.
    “I know you wrote this for me / But this not my story / I'm not Mary Ann.” This is where I see the reference to the Real-Life-Alice and her relationship to Carroll as a metaphor; the fictional Alice’s role is made clear in the name choice. Of course, moving beyond the Alice in Wonderland metaphor, this section also shows how the Sir’s script for their life together does not fit the narrator’s own identity. She rejects his ability to script her life and rejects the identity he has created for her.

    “I think we're both confused…” Here we have her essential compassion coming through again. I identify this as a feminist song, but definitely not as an angry one. The narrator has been constrained and misidentified and in some ways dehumanized by the Dear Sir, but here she admits that he has also suffered in the process because he has misrecognized something profoundly important to him.

    “There's been too much too soon / Disguised as something beautiful.” Referring both to the confusion of the wonderland experience and also the way that their underlying failure to connect was hidden in a fantasy of ultimate connection.

    “I hope you'll understand / I asked for more than I could take / My mistake.” Another reference to the fact that to some degree the narrator has initiated this situation and welcomed being cast in this role… even though now she must reject it. To me, this compassion and the recognition of mutual responsibility is part of what makes the song so compelling.

    “Dear Sir / She must've been your world / I hope you'll find her here again.” There are a couple options for how to read this line. On the one hand, drawing from the Alice in Wonderland plot metaphor, it suggests that there was an original Mary Ann and that the Dear Sir is trying to replace a lost relationship by shaping the narrator into Mary Ann. Sometimes when I hear the song I imagine it in the context of a story that involves this sort of mystical relationship in which one figure imagines the other to be a reincarnation of a soul mate, the fulfillment of a prophetic dream or childhood story, or something like that. However, alternately the narrator could simply be rejecting the “Mary Ann” identity that has been created within the confines of this relationship. “Mary Ann” isn’t necessarily a pre-existing person; it could just as easily be an identity created solely for the two of them without a prior model. In this case, the narrator is saying that the Mary Ann identity isn’t actually her real self, but that she recognizes how important it was to the Dear Sir, and how that imagined person must have been his world, and she hopes that he will find someone else who can fulfill that role for him.

    All in all, I feel it’s a song about ending oppressive relationships (even ones that have had some really beautiful elements!) and remaining true to your authentic self. Of course, I also think it also touches on important second-wave-feminist sorts of issues, such as the way in which women’s identities are constructed and limited by relationships, especially domestic ones which keep a person confined to the house even when they’ve really outgrown it.

    -Otherwise-
    Otherwiseon December 19, 2010   Link

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