"Hands Clean" as written by and Alanis Morissette....
If it weren't for your maturity none of this would have happened
If you weren't so wise beyond your years I would've been able to control myself
If it weren't for my attention you wouldn't have been successful and
If it weren't for me you would never have amounted to very much

Ooh this could be messy
But you don't seem to mind
Ooh don't go telling everybody
And overlook this supposed crime
We'll fast forward to a few years later
And no one knows except the both of us
And I have honored your request for silence
And you've washed your hands clean of this

You're essentially an employee and I like you having to depend on me
You're kind of my protege and one day you'll say you learned all you know from me
I know you depend on me like a young thing would to a guardian
I know you sexualize me like a young thing would and I think I like it

Ooh this could be messy
you don't seem to mind
Ooh don't go telling everybody
overlook this supposed crime
We'll fast forward to a few years later
And no one knows except the both of us
And I have honored your request for silence
And you've washed your hands clean of this

What part of our history's reinvented and under rug swept?
What part of your memory is selective and tends to forget?
What with this distance it seems so obvious?

Just make sure you don't tell on me especially to members of your family
We best keep this to ourselves and not tell any members of our inner posse
I wish I could tell the world 'cause you're such a pretty thing when you're done up properly
I might want to marry you one day if you watch that weight and keep your firm body

Ooh this could get messy
Ooh you don't seem to mind
Ooh don't go telling everybody
and overlook this supposed crime
We'll fast forward to a few years later
And no one knows except the both of us
And I have honored your request for silence
And you've washed your hands clean of this

Ooh this could get messy
Ooh I don't seem to mind
Ooh don't go telling everybody
and overlook this supposed crime
We'll fast forward to a few years later
And no one knows except the both of us
And I have honored your request for silence
And you've washed your hands clean of this


Lyrics submitted by Lamia

"Hands Clean" as written by Alanis Morissette

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Hands Clean song meanings
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  • +3
    General Comment‘Hands Clean’ reflects Alanis relationship with an older man, who is as the first verse of the song states, involved with the music industry and has helped her with her success in it. (the male is not identified, some say its Ryan Adams)
    At the time of the relationship, Alanis was very young, 15 years of age , the male partner was much older than her, 30 or so (age not definite.)
    Hands Clean may confuse some, because it was written mostly in the perspective of the older man, not hers.

    Verse one:
    "If it weren't for your maturity none of this would have happened
    If you weren't so wise beyond your years I would've been able to control myself"
    -this section of the song is pretty self explanatory... If it wasn’t for Alanis being mature, more mature than her 15 years, if she wasn’t "wise" & thought and acted like most 15 year olds, he [the older man] wouldn’t have fell in love with her,
    "[he] would've been able to control myself"…realizing she was young, immature etc.

    "If it weren't for my attention you wouldn't have been successful and
    If it weren't for me you would never have amounted to very much"
    -self explanatory, the older man is giving credit to himself for alanis’ success, if it weren't him getting involved with her music, she would not have been "successful", wouldn’t have made it big and be where she is now. He is basically giving himself credit for everything.

    “Ooh this could be messy
    But you don't seem to mind”
    - Older man is saying the whole love affair with 15 year old alanis could become “messy” with law can getting involved with the age difference aspect, but reality is not essential right now, because love is blinding [us].

    -again, don’t “go telling everybody” because this is a “crime” in modern day’s society, people are going to look at this love much differently than we do (“supposed”-dealing with the fact that, two people love each other… why should that be a crime...)

    Chorus:

    “We'll fast forward to a few years later
    And no one knows except the both of us”
    -few years later, their age difference wouldn’t seem too odd


    ”You're essentially an employee and I like you having to depend on me
    You're kind of my protégé and one day you'll say you learned all you know from me
    I know you depend on me like a young thing would to a guardian”
    -shows that Alanis is an ‘employee’ or ‘protégé of the older man, obviously in the music industry, he likes Alanis having to need him.

    “I know you sexualize me like a young thing would and I think I like it”
    -“young thing” refers to Alanis, makes a point that he is the older partner in the relationship…he is happy she does this to him and he feels the same for her. “sexualize” may show that alanis and the older being may have had a sexual affair (hence, “overlook this crime”-for a crime to be committed there had to be a sexual accountance)

    “what part of our history's reinvented and under rug swept?”
    -what you THINK was right, and what may have happened, is different from the ACTUAL reality of it all
    what part of your memory is selective and tends to forget?
    -“your version of what happened soon replaces your actual memory” as one stated.
    what with this distance it seems so obvious?
    -shouldn’t the ACTUAL reality of this whole relationship and what you THINK happened express a difference somehow (again, the concept of love blinding you)

    “Just make sure you don't tell on me especially to members of your family”
    “We best keep this to ourselves and not tell any members of our inner posse”
    -“me” referring to the older man. Assuring alanis not to tell her family… the law will get involved, realize that a crime was committed, etc,

    *******“I wish I could tell the world cuz you're such a pretty thing when you're done up properly”
    - “I” referring to the older man. “done up properly” states when she is looking her best, she looks “pretty” when she is slim and fit

    ******“I might want to marry you one day if you watch that weight and keep your firm body”
    -the older man will consider her, if she “watches her weight” –lose a couple of pounds and keeps a ‘fit’ body.
    *******These two verses take a major role in alanis adolescence… it seems as if though the older man triggered her eating disorders…he would ‘consider’ her as a wife if she was skinn[ier], which lead to years of her bulimia and anorexia nervosa.
    meaningoflifeon July 20, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Commentshe realizes she's getting into something that she probably shouldn't, but she's going to do it anyway. that, simply put, is what this song is about. it's a fantastic song - easy to identify with.
    catherinekson April 30, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General Commenti think this song is about her when she was young haveing a relationship with a much older guy....she looks back on it now and realises it was wrong...the verses are what he was saying to her when she was young and the courses is what shes say back to him from the future now that shes older....i also think he was in the music bissness and was telling her he would get her in the bissness hence the:
    "You're essentially an employee and I like you having to depend on me
    You're kind of my protégé and one day you'll say you learned all you know from me "

    Ronion June 16, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI love how Alanis writes the lyrics to this song; they're all long, yet they work together so well. IMO, she's definitely one of the best song writers.
    KreeS.on September 30, 2008   Link
  • +1
    Song MeaningI believe it is about Leslie Howe. She met him when she start recording around 13/14 and then was dropped from her record company at 19. At the time Howe would have been 29, so that's 15 years. She also has said in interviews that it's about having an affair with an older man that lasted 5 years. Well, that's 5 years between recording and time she was dropped. Also, the line "I might want to marry you one day if you watch that weight and you keep your firm body" relates to other comments of hers that when she was younger they would call her in to do vocals and wound up hearing about how she had to stay thin and this is what led to her eating disorder.

    Just my two cents.
    djdukeron January 29, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI wrote this as a reply to someone, but it deserves to be posted separately

    The story I've heard is this song is about Alanis's relationship with Dave Coulier.

    Basically, when Alanis was a teenager she had a relationship with Coulier, who I believe was in his early 30s at the time (and a star on family favorite Full House). This relationship remained more or less a secret until "Jagged Little Pill" was released. Coulier heard "You Oughtta Know" and was so convinced it was about him that like the egotistical jerk he apparently is he went and started blabbing in the press that he was the guy Alanis had gone down on in a theater, no longer caring if people thought he was a s sick puppy because, hey, who doesn't want to have a platinum single be about them?

    Alanis has categorically said "You Outtata Know" is not about Coulier, however, this song seems to be (I can't remember if she's openly said so, or just strongly implied it). Basically, she was like "Okay ahole, you want a song about our relationship? It's go time" and this is what she wrote.

    The lines "We'll fast forward to a few years later / And no one knows except the both of us / And I have honored your request for silence" Would seem to be a deliberate jab at the fact she kept her mouth shut about Coulier when it could have gotten him into trouble and probably ended his career, but then as soon as he saw a chance to profit he started telling the world about them.

    After reading this, you will never be able to watch Full House the same way ever again.
    akagoldfishon September 28, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General Comment"What part of your memory is selective and tends to forget?"

    Fantastic. Love this song, such powerful and deep lyrics.
    jedzeeon September 04, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General Commentcan someone tell me who this song is written about? did she write it about anyone in particular?
    rebelwithoutacluexoon January 19, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General CommentActually - I was watching something (MTV|2, maybe) and they made a point to say that during her teenage years, Alanis battled many different eating disorders. They also said that it was one boyfriend of hers (an older guy, obviously (from the frist few lines of the song)) who caused it. He would tell her things like "I wish I could tell the world..." and "I might want to marry you one day if..." (both are lyrics in the latter half of the song), and that caused her eating disorders (along with other things). But the long answer to a short question is, YES, this song is about one person....and older ex-boyfriend.
    epochblueon February 23, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General CommentWhoever this song is about - it's great!
    Sunnyon March 07, 2002   Link

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