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At Seventeen
Janis Ian Lyrics

I learned the truth at seventeen
That love was meant for beauty queens
And high school girls with clear skinned smiles
Who married young and then retired

The valentines I never knew
The Friday night charades of youth
Were spent on one more beautiful
At seventeen I learned the truth

And those of us with ravaged faces
Lacking in the social graces
Desperately remained at home
Inventing lovers on the phone

Who called to say "Come dance with me"
And murmured vague obscenities
It isn't all it seems
At seventeen

A brown eyed girl in hand-me-downs
Whose name I never could pronounce
Said, "Pity, please, the ones who serve
They only get what they deserve"

And the rich relationed hometown queen
Marries into what she needs
With a guarantee of company
And haven for the elderly

Remember those who win the game
Lose the love they sought to gain
In debentures of quality
And dubious integrity

Their small-town eyes will gape at you
In dull surprise when payment due
Exceeds accounts received
At seventeen

To those of us who knew the pain
Of valentines that never came
And those whose names were never called
When choosing sides for basketball

It was long ago and far away
The world was younger than today
When dreams were all they gave for free
To ugly duckling girls like me

We all play the game, and when we dare
To cheat ourselves at solitaire
Inventing lovers on the phone
Repenting other lives unknown

They call and say, "Come dance with me"
And murmur vague obscenities
At ugly girls like me
At seventeen

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
Written by: Janis Ian

Lyrics Licensed & Provided by LyricFind
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Comments from YouTube:


It's hard to believe she thought of herself as an ugly duckling, She's a beautiful young woman in this video


Wow... that's my Uncle Jeff doing the guitar solo. I knew he was in her band for several years, but I was just a kid at the time and didn't know who Janis Ian was. So cool to see him on YouTube, just a typical day at work!

Stuff-n-Such By Lisa

I was 16 in 1976 and I remember thinking this song was the story of my life! I love this song and it still evokes strong emotion from me when I hear it.

Shannon Morris

In her own words - "To me it's never been a depressing song. It says 'ugly duckling girls like me,' and to me the ugly duckling always turns into a swan. It offers hope that there is a world out there of people who understand."

Alakaiokalani Watson

Seriously you don't hear this kind of music anymore and I don't mean the sound or the genre or even the style. It's from human experience and feeling, sad that most people can't even sing the songs they hear or even remember them because they recall a moment like these songs did for many. What happened and when did it change?


A girl friend from high school days introduced this song to me and it took me a very long time to realize that she intended for me to see her pain from this song ....when back in those days, it never occurred to me how lonely she must have felt.


Amazing song. Makes me ashamed of some of the stupid thing's I did as a teenager .


At 65 is much like at 17. Guys deal with this as well as gals.


Three people who watched this were tall, blonde cheerleaders. Because what other possible reason is there to dislike this song?

Lyndie Blevins

This is still as good as it was in 1976, and still speaks to this special age

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