my best friend growing up was a sturdily built girl with broad shoulders, a large forehead. however, she did have blue eyes, blonde hair and peach colored skin. truly the epitome of what tom petty, bruce springteen, and every country western singer under the sun has imagined when crooning about the virginal, mythical “american girl”.
i was a stocky, short girl that was way too fond of fart jokes. i did not have blue eyes or blonde hair or peach colored skin but instead i had black, beady eyes, black hair and mud-colored skin. i still have them to this day.
we didn’t notice boys and they didn’t notice us until they started noticing her and befriending me to get to get to her. and every day i’d do it with a smile until i’d get home and sob and look at myself in the mirror and wonder what was wrong with me? why weren’t boys asking me to dances? or singing brown eyed girl to me (this actually happened where my friend david sang her said van morrison song to which she responded “my eyes are blue”)?
and after years of tearing my hair out and going over and over in my head what could possibly be different, it finally dawned on me that i wasn’t the girl that tom petty, bruce springteen or countless country western stars were singing about. i was the antithesis of that — my narrative and existence couldn’t be compacted tightly in a simple little pop ditty, but it was messy and colorful and more than just white, blue and blonde.
i was a different “american girl” and finally after years of searching i have found my song.
mitski’s music video for “your best american girl” is something to behold. it’s so simple with it’s white-washed room and mitski sitting in the middle on a stool. two women tousle her hair and adjust her clothes while she looks off to the side as if she’s uncomfortable with what’s happening. maybe i’m reading too much into it or maybe that’s the all encompassing look i give myself every single day when i stare at myself —it’s the uneasiness my own skin makes me feel and i just want to take it off and settle. and eventually she does settle into her seat.
in the background a twangy guitar plays a simple melody and her ethereal voice floats in the background.
But big spoon, you have so much to do and I have nothing ahead of me.
the camera switches to a boy. a boy with brown hair, stubble and chocolate eyes and this boy is an amalgamation of every simple white boy in elementary school, middle school, high school and college. he is the john’s, the david’s, and the michael’s all melting and mixing together to become a single metaphor of something i could never have.
mitski looks and him and smiles coyly while he looks up at her and smiles. they wave and her face breaks into a full grin.
You’re the sun, you’ve never seen the night.
enter simple white girl. simple white girl has thin pink lips, a flower crown, and has been afforded every luxury of being a white girl in the united fucking states of america. she has never struggled with her identity and place. she has never wanted to rip off her own skin to look like everyone else and she has never felt hopelessly displaced and foreign in her supposed “home”. she knows that they are both the sun, and they have never seen the night. they have never known the disconcert of being in the darkness, the unknown, or the night.
simple white girl drapes a thin arm on simple white boy and looks at the camera. she knows she’s won. she will always win. and my stomach turns and knots in a way that’s so familiar and visceral it makes me feel like vomiting.
“Well I’m not the moon. I’m not even a star…”
Mitski turns to her hand in wide-eyed shock and the two pale, white bodies begin to intertwine and they kiss.
“Your mother wouldn’t approve of how my mother raised me…”
Mitski stares in her hand and begins to kiss her hand as the scuzzy guitar launches into her powerful chorus. And in the background she sings “…But I do I think that I do”. I’d like to believe that while she kisses her hand and as she sings that line, it’s her acceptance of her messy life that doesn’t conform to the simple American narrative. She’s still uncertain of it though and that’s why she qualifies it with “i think”.
Mitski continues to play in the background while the two continue to kiss one another, biting and gnawing at each other’s fleshy, pink skin. They continue to interlace. I can’t tell where one of them ends and the other begins. I think there is a blue lollipop thrown in there. An image of the American boy and the American girl wrapped in the warm, accepting cocoon of this great nation’s flag briefly flashes on the screen. They seem at peace and it also seems right. It’s the kind of image you’d place in a Levi’s ad or some ad about an American-made truck.
Mitski eventually gets up and leaves with her guitar in a glittering gold dress. Fuck this. And yeah, I agree. Fuck that.
I think she’s come to terms with herself. I hope I do too.