"Letter to a John" as written by and Ani Difranco....
Don't ask me why I'm crying
I'm not going to tell you what's wrong
I'm just gonna sit on your lap
For five dollars a song
I want you to pay me for my beauty
I think it's only right
'cause I have been paying for it
All of my life

I'm gonna take the money I make
I'm gonna take the money I make
I'm gonna take the money I make
And I'm gonna go away

We barely have time to react in this world
Let alone rehearse
And I don't think I'm better than you
But I don't think that I'm worse
Women learn to be women
And men learn to be men
And I don't blame it all on you
But I don't want to be your friend

I'm gonna take the money I make
I'm gonna take the money I make
I'm gonna take the money I make
And I'm gonna go away

I was eleven years old
He was as old as my dad
And he took something from me
I didn't even know that I had
So don't tell me about decency
Don't tell me about pride
Just give me something for my trouble
'cause this time, it's not a free ride

I'm gonna take the money I make
I'm gonna take the money I make
I'm gonna take the money I make
And I'm gonna go away

Don't ask me why I'm crying
I'm not going to tell you what's wrong
I'm just gonna sit on your lap
For five dollars a songs
I want you to pay me for my beauty
I think it's only right
'cause I have been paying for it
All of my life

Now I just want to take
And I'm just gonna take
I'm gonna take
And I'm gonna go away


Lyrics submitted by aur0ra

"Letter to a John" as written by Ani Difranco

Lyrics © A SIDE MUSIC LLC D/B/A MODERN WORKS MUSIC PUBLISHING

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Letter to a John song meanings
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11 Comments

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  • +2
    General CommentAni wrote this song when she moved to NYC from Buffalo. She had lots of dancer/stripper friends and she wrote it for them. Great song! One of my faves!
    SisterSoleilon May 01, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General Comment"i was eleven years old
    he was as old as my dad
    and he took something from me
    i didn't even know that i had
    so don't tell me about decency
    don't tell me about pride
    just give me something for my trouble
    'cause this time, it's not a free ride"

    I agree with those who thought this was about a past sexual abuse. I always thought the lyrics were alluding to her being raped at eleven years of age.
    But then I read the comment below about this being about her dancer/stripper friends and I guess not. I guess it was more of a tribute to them and their experiences, but who knows...?
    Either way, really powerful song. I've always loved this one, but I love them all. : ) Love Ani!
    shortstuff9608on September 28, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti was eleven years old
    he was as old as my dad
    and he took something from me
    i didn't even know that i had
    so don't tell me about decency
    don't tell me about pride
    just give me something for my trouble
    'cause this time, it's not a free ride

    -- everytime i hear this part of the song i feel all sad &sick. she has such a powerful voice. i think it's obvious as to what that particular lyric is saying..but still. i love her lyrics
    prettybabyon November 18, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentAgreed....that verse....

    yeah.
    StrangeOutOfContexton February 06, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI loveee this song! It's about have self respect and worth even when you have been crumpled by life's circumstances. But there is a very important correction on the lyrics.... The first verse begins "I'm gonna sit on your lap for five dollars a song..." But in the last verse she raises her price to ten dollars. Which I intrepreted as her raising her self worth from the horrible experiences she's had rather than lowering it.... Complete perfection and always lifts my mood!!
    city212girlon May 31, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI always connected to this song because i understood it to mean that Ani had a sexual abuse past. Does anyone know if she is actually singing about her stripper friends pasts? Not that it matters because it is still an amazing song, I'm just curious. Her songs and this one in particular got me through some really tough times in high school.
    hearandbeheardon August 30, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General Comment"I want you to pay me for my beauty
    I think it's only right
    'cause I have been paying for it
    all of my life"

    These lines. It's like the narrator of the song is saying to give her something for her looks because she's been being abused because of them for "all of (her) life". It's almost like a bit of a reference to all the things women have to deal with (rape, abuse, etc).
    I've heard this song since I was ten years old and I never understood it then, someone read it to me during some really tough times during high school and I didn't think much of it, and I just listened to the song again now, and the song really hit me. Quite a powerful song.
    shmunkon July 25, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentWhenever I hear the bit about her paying for her beauty I think of this story about a girl who was raped by this fifteen-year-old boy, and the third verse reminds me of another story that hints to a similar event. Did this really happen to Ani herself? So creepy and scary.
    SideshowJazz1on January 25, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentWhenever I hear the bit about her paying for her beauty I think of this story about a girl who was raped by this fifteen-year-old boy, and the third verse reminds me of another story that hints to a similar event. Did this really happen to Ani herself? So creepy and scary.
    SideshowJazz1on January 25, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI definitely always took this as a girl who had been raped and abused, and that's why she feels she's been "paying" for her looks. It's obvious how angry she is about it.
    There's a song by Emilie Autumn that's very similar in premise, called "Thank God I'm Pretty", and I advise everyone reading to check it out. The lyrics are basically sarcastically saying "Thank you for giving me these looks", and it has lines like "Every ill merely brought on by myself", "I'm truly privileged to look this good without clothes on" and "It's lucky I hate to be taken seriously", and even "Everybody thinks I'm a fucking suicide girl".
    SideshowJazz1on October 04, 2012   Link

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