I am nothing without pretend
I know my faults
Can't live with them
I am nothing without a man
I know my thoughts
But I can't hide them

Must you keep my baby teeth
In the bedside table with my jewelry
You still sleep in the bed with me
My jewelry, and my baby teeth

I don't need another friend
When most of them
I can barely keep up with them
Perfectly able to hold my own hand
But I still can't kiss my own neck

I wanted yo give you everything
But I still stand in awe of superficial things
I wanted to love you like
My mother's mother's mother's did
Civilian, civilian

Lyrics submitted by HELLisHERE, edited by TheEggroll, SongMeanings, Defelin, actoroutofwork, flashbulbeyes, thebutterthief, remembuary, miel716, elblossom, micheal116

Civilian Lyrics as written by Jennifer Lynn Wasner

Lyrics © ROUGH TRADE PUBLISHING, Songtrust Ave, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

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Civilian song meanings
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  • +12
    General Comment
    Such a beautiful song.... here's my interpretation- I'm surprised nobody has suggested the same yet: I find this to be about holding onto a past relationship and placing your happiness in another's hands. She knows the way she feels is "wrong" but she still can't help it.... sometimes you know you need to let go of someone or you see your own flaws but you can't bring yourself to get over it. The line about keeping her baby teeth suggests that she's sentimental and has always had a hard time with letting go of the past, and the "you still sleep in the bed with me" suggests that she's still not over a past lover. The ex is probably just trying to be friends, but she doesn't want that... she already has more friends than she can keep up with as it is... she just needs someone to love. I don't really understand the civilian reference at the end either. Can't get this off repeat. I wish I didn't relate to these lyrics so much...
    lnzrogon April 24, 2012   Link
  • +6
    My Interpretation
    "I am nothing without pretend I know my my thoughts Can't live with them I am nothing without a man I know my faults but I can't hide them" She is stuck in that trap that many girls fall into, pretending that things are different than they are, pretending to be someone she isn't, unable to live with the truth of herself and her feelings. She feels she is defined by the man in her life and "is nothing without him". She knows this is wrong, but can't help it. "I still keep my baby teeth in the bedside table with my jewelry You still sleep in the bed with me, my jewelry and my baby teeth You still sleep in the bed with me My jewelry and my baby teeth" She keeps the things she has lost that once were a part of her close, she keeps the things that she adorns herself with close. Her man is both; she has already lost him, and whether he is still "physically" there or not, she still keeps the idea of him there in that realm of illusion and comfort, he "still is a part of her" when he's not anymore, she still "wears him on her arm" although he's gone "I don't need another friend When most of them I can barely keep up with them I'm perfectly able to hold my own hand But I still can't kiss my own neck" Her reaction to the "let's still be friends" She doesn't NEED another goddamn friend- in fact, she's racked up enough of the boyfriend-who-left-her, "lets-be-friends", can't keep up with them. She can get her friendship need met; hold her own hand, what she NEEDS is a LOVER; can't kiss her own neck. "I wanted to give you everything But I still stand in awe of superficial things I wanted to love you like my mother's mother's mother did, Civilian" She wanted to make it work, wanted to give the failed relationship her all, Be real, be loving, be the ultimate old fashioned love, but she's hung up with her own humanity, her flaws, her superficiality As far as "civilan", that's a big one. I think of "civilian" more as the innocent masses, as opposed to what would be the opposite; the military, the law. She's saying the man was an innocent; she brought the war, she brought the rules, and he was caught in crossfire and left her, and that ONE word signifies her acknowledgement of that; that SHE is the one chasing off these men that she clings to so desperately. Beautiful, haunting, simple, and yet so deep and common I think everyone can relate to it in one way or another
    Terinon June 25, 2013   Link
  • +5
    General Comment
    good job with these. i just hear this part reversed, like so: i am nothing without pretend i know my THOUGHTS can't live with them i am nothing without a man i know my FAULTS but i can't hide them (also thought she was saying CAN here, but not sure)
    TheWrongGirlon March 31, 2011   Link
  • +3
    General Comment
    This song seems to me like it's written from the perspective of a woman who's relationship has ended. The line about 'you still sleep in the bed with me' is, I think, more metaphorical. Like they linger there in her memory. The 'baby teeth' line kind of ties into it, describing a person who really holds onto their past tightly.
    CatAtomic99on May 17, 2012   Link
  • +3
    My Interpretation
    "Civilian" suggests a non-combatant, an unarmed person caught in the crossfire. In this case, it could refer to the singer's lover (ex-?), who walked into her emotional crossfire, so to speak. I think this works better than the other connotation of "civilian" (that is, an outsider to some group). The rest of the song dwells on the singer's emotional complexity, insecurities, and regrets, suggesting that her lover entered into the relationship unprepared for her intensity.
    McHaggison October 17, 2012   Link
  • +2
    General Comment
    for me it just sounds like a relationship/marriage slowly falling apart, the loneliness you feel when youre with someone. an emotional history that silently weighs on them, and growing older. ..she needs it (the relationship), but cant give it everything it needs to work ..he's still there (bodily, if not in mind), but has given up on them actually going to work it out, essentially they both see its over..so until the inevitable breakup all they have is the memories, and pretend.
    sleighton January 08, 2012   Link
  • +2
    Lyric Correction
    Regarding the thoughts/faults ordering, she clearly sings it both ways at different times (lyrically it works either way). And it is "can hide them." There are about a half dozen acoustic videos of her doing the song on YouTube to check out. She always does sing "without amend," however. How people are hearing "without a man" is beyond me. Wishful thinking perhaps...
    jlibon March 05, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General Comment
    frick this is so good. seems to be about insecurities..
    hab204on April 02, 2011   Link
  • +1
    Lyric Correction
    This is what I'm hearing. Especially the "amend" part because it makes more sense than "a man." I am nothing without pretend I know my thoughts can't live with them I am nothing without amend I know my faults but I can hide them
    embracedon June 19, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General Comment
    "I don't need another friend When most of them I can barely keep up with them" I totally feel this line with me, because it's true, I can't keep up with my friends, because all are all apart and they have nothing to do with most of others, so I'm always juggling with some, so when someone falls out of me... I feel guilty and horrible, and I try my best sometimes, and sometimes I just can't help but let 'em slip out... This song is totally about insecurities, and I feel too about feeling uneasy with being an adult and fear of letting go of the childhood. The second verse is a total example of this. Great song, totally loved it.
    xwexarexbulletsxon July 25, 2011   Link

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