Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Worst Thing / Eat For Two

The Worst Thing (from the album Motherland)

So you're in love, that's so good for you
live it up girl 'cause it never lasts too long
It's heaven for now, but not for long
It's gonna hurt you
it's gonna make you feel so bad 

Once I could love, I could trust, I could not doubt
but that was just about the worst thing that I could do
it was just about the worst thing that I could do 

Maybe not now, but it won't take long
before it's gonna hurt you
and truly do you some harm 

Once I was open, could hope, I had no doubt
but that was the worst thing that I could do
it was just about the worst thing that I could do 

Once I came close to that most elusive fire
burning with hopeless love and desire
but it was just about the worst thing that I could do
it was just about the worst thing I could do 

En el pasado que estuve ciega como tu
atrapada y perdida, como tu
embelesada y suspendida en mi jaula de plata
esos recuerdos me accompanaran toda la vida 


Eat For Two (from the 10,000 Maniacs album Blind Man's Zoo)

O, baby blankets and baby shoes
baby slippers, baby spoons, walls of baby blue
dream child in my head
is a nightmare born in a borrowed bed
now I know lightning strikes again
it struck me once, then struck me dead
my folly grows inside of me 

I eat for two
walk for two
breathe for two now 

Well, the egg man fell down off his shelf
all the good king's men with all their help
struggled 'til the end
for a shell they couldn't mend
you know where this will lead
to hush and rock in the nursery
for the kicking one inside of me 

I eat for two
walk for two
breathe for two now 

When the boy was a boy, the girl was a girl
they found each other in a wicked world
strong in some respects
but she couldn't stand for the way he begged and gave in
pride is for men
young girls should run and hide instead
risk the game by taking dares with, "yes" 

I eat for two
walk for two
breathe for two now 

Walk for two?
I'm stumbling 

Breathe for two?
I can't breathe 

Five months, how it grows
five months now, I begin to show

Last week, in the middle of the night, I woke up and realized I had just had the most amazing idea while dreaming. I made mental notes in my half-awake state so that I would remember everything when I got up in the morning. Sure enough, when the alarm clock went off I immediately started rehashing what was surely the most ingenious plan that I'd ever hatched while in a state of unconsciousness.

So here was the dream-induced idea: I would throw a Price Is Right-themed party for all my closest friends! I had it all diagrammed – where particular games would be played (putt-putt golf in the dining room), how I would build certain set pieces (one idea involved a large hamster wheel), where I could download the Price Is Right theme song (to be played on a constant loop), and who would play the various roles of host, announcer and...girls. (What are those girls called? Don't they have a name? “Showcase girls”...or something?) As my brain transitioned from sleep mode, though, something slowly dawned on me that you have no doubt already figured it out...This is a horrible, horrible idea.

Seriously, who would want to do this? No one I know, that's for sure. I don't even think a little kid would want to come to an event like this (unless, of course, they watch a lot of TV with their grandma or something.) Not to mention the fact that I absolutely loathe being a host of any kind of largely attended event – especially a themed one and especially one at my house. My sleeping brain apparently doesn't know me at all. At least I figured out what a bad idea it was before I got out of bed that morning or who knows what would've happened.

When you're in the moment, some ideas just feel so right. The problem is that most of the time, we don't come to our senses until long after that moment has passed. And sometimes our bad ideas are not harmless - they are colossally painful. The repercussions of our bright idea can end up kicking us in the pants for a long, long time.

A lot of our most idealistic ideas seem to be centered around love and there are likely few of us that can look back on our lives without realizing there were people we pursued or were in relationships with who were so absolutely wrong for us. When you're young it's easy to be optimistic, to think everything will turn out great. But a few heartbreaks down the road, love can turn even the most romantic of us into a cynic.

I've always thought of The Worst Thing as a song sung inside someone's head, the words of someone silently watching someone else's folly. Warnings like the ones sounded forth in The Worst Thing are all but useless in the face of infatuation. When someone is in love, logic can rarely find its way to their doorstep. The Worst Thing contains the thoughts of someone who knows their words would do no good.

At the same time, The Worst Thing also reveals the unenviable state of the one giving the warning. While many, if not most, relationships turn disastrous before too long, they certainly don't all turn out that way. Not every guy is a cad who's going to break the girl's heart. But clearly in the experience of the person singing this song (and I don't mean Natalie necessarily, just the character or persona she is voicing), love has always led to pain. It's a really, really sad song. I wish things had turned out differently for her, at least just once. I wish things had at least gone well enough to not sour her so completely on love altogether.

It wouldn't be much of a leap to imagine the teenaged voice of Eat For Two eventually becoming the voice of The Worst Thing. I imagine that young girl feeling so thoroughly tricked by “love.”

A quote from Natalie:

It's about a young girl who wants love and gets sex instead, and her whole life is changed: 'She couldn't stand the way he begged and gave in.'”*

She really should've run and hid instead. What amazes me, though, is that this song could be so misinterpreted. I once heard an interview with Natalie where an audience member asked her if once she became a parent, she thought differently about the song Eat For Two, as if the song were simply about how awful in general it would be to have a kid, and had nothing to do with the circumstances of the person having it. When the song came out, apparently some people thought of it as simply a jolly little song about the joy of having babies.

Maybe I was too subtle.”*

Nah. Maybe people should just listen to lyrics a little better.

That all being said, here is another interesting quote from Natalie about the song:

I've talked to many women who have children, who wanted children, and they said that they could understand the character in the song. Many women have moments of panic when they become pregnant. They realize that this will mean a big change in their lives, even in their bodies. It's very frightening."**

Truthfully, I can't imagine any woman not having some moments of panic when realizing how much their lives were going to change, how much they would be responsible for, and how much they just didn't know at all while expecting a child. Here's another quote from Natalie about the music chosen for Eat For Two:

"The melody is supposed to convey the naivete of the young girl, the music has a swelling pulse to it. It rises and falls in the way that the girl is thinking obsessively about her physical condition."***

I really prefer the MTV Unplugged version of this song, rather than the original recording. The slower pace and addition of strings fits the emotion of the words so much better. Natalie performed this song when I saw her live a couple of years ago and it was by far the best version of the song I've heard, at least in part due to the fact that her voice is so much more rich and strong now than it was at the time Eat For Two first came out (a fact that I acknowledge is probably hotly contested. Don't care. I'm right.)

I frequently find myself wondering what happens to the characters Natalie sings about once the song is over. I know that the character in Eat For Two is probably not meant to make me think of just one specific person but of any similar person in those circumstances, but I still can't help but wonder how things went for the girl in this song. I hope she didn't become the voice of The Worst Thing – wise but bitter. I hope things got better. Maybe I can make her the voice of Break Your Heart instead? Yeah...I like that. 

So before I sign off this week, I will take advantage of my last chance to brag about going to see Natalie in concert in (as of publishing) just over a week. Did I also mention I have third row seats? Definitely the best seats I've ever had to a Natalie concert. Anyways, once it's over I will indubitably go into my usual post-concert depression period and hopefully writing a post all about the concert will lift my spirits. I may or may not feature a song on the post, we'll just see. But anyways, look for that in the next 2-3 weeks. And if you've seen Natalie this summer, please send me your thoughts! Thank you to those who have written in recent weeks with concert reviews, you have thoroughly whetted my appetite. 
Take care and catch you next time.

Hey, for those of you who really miss Arsenio Hall (anyone? anyone?) here is a live performance of Eat For Two on his old show:
Wonder where that HUGE poster for Blind Man's Zoo is now. Also, do you think famous women get sick of having their hands kissed by strangers? Not sure I would like it. Too many tickly mustaches.

Download The Worst Thing from Itunes - The Worst Thing - Motherland

Download Eat For Two (Live) from Itunes - Eat for Two (Live) - MTV Unplugged: 10,000 Maniacs

*Musician - August 1989
**St. Louis Post-Dispatch – July 1989
***Newsday - May 1989


  1. Hi Annie-I saw Natalie perform last year in South Carolina....One of the best concerts I have seen. Her mother was in the audience that night. Natalie pointed her out and mentioned the battle she was having with cancer. It was a very emotional night not only for her but for many in the crowd as well.Sadly her mother died just a few days later.

  2. Annie-one question-Do you believe Natalie's noticeably deeper, rougher singing voice is simply a result of maturity or is it deliberate? When listening to Our Time in Eden I can hear glimmers of this and am wondering as others have mentioned that perhaps it was/is a means of separation from her time in the Maniacs and establishing more independence. Any thoughts? Thank You email:

  3. Hi Philip -

    Sorry for my slow reply. I think the changes in her voice are due to maturation, but of course I can't say for sure. I think the change in her voice takes place slowly over the course of her records both with Maniacs and solo. That's what leads me to believe it was natural and not a conscious shift.

    Thanks for writing!