“Fancy”: A Revisionist Version

You know how sometimes there’s a song you really kind of like, but you can’t stand to listen to it because the lyrics are basically about how if you’re a poor woman all you’re really good for is prostitution? Well, for me, Reba McEntire’s “Fancy” is that song. I have to admit, the chorus is very catchy, and she sings it with conviction, but I just can’t get past the fact that the story she’s telling is basically, “We were poor, so when I was a teenager my mom told me my only chance in life was to sell myself to men, so I did and now everything turned out great.” Which doesn’t strike me as the most woman-positive message you could send, so I thought I’d try my hand at fixing it up.

Fancy
By Raymond Douglas Davies
(Additional lyrics by Daisy James)

I remember it all very well lookin’ back
It was the summer I turned eighteen
We lived in a one room, rundown shack
On the outskirts of New Orleans
We didn’t have money for food or rent
To say the least we had no loot
Then Mama spent every last penny we had
To buy me an interview suit

Mama washed and combed and parted my hair
And she told me to stand up straight
Then I stepped into my brand new suit
That was pinstriped and charcoal gray
It was a linen-blend and it fit me good
Standin’ back from the lookin’ glass
There was a job candidate where a half grown kid had stood

She said here’s some nice pants Fancy don’t let me down
Here’s the number for the jobs board Fancy don’t let me down

Mama picked up my new notepad
And she kissed my cheek
Then I saw the tears wellin’ up in her troubled eyes
When she started to speak
She looked at a pitiful shack
And then she looked at me and took a ragged breath
She said your Pa’s run off and I’m real sick
And the baby’s gonna starve to death

She handed me a heart shaped locket that said
Illegitimi non carborundum
And nodded as I threw away
My wad of chewing gum
It sounded like somebody else that was talkin’
Askin’ Mama what do I do
She said be nice to the administrative assistants Fancy
And they’ll be nice to you

She said here’s the classifieds section Fancy don’t let me down
Here’s your Monster account Fancy don’t let me down

Just remember everything I’ve taught you,
because if you want out
Well it’s up to you
Now don’t let me down you better start
movin’ uptown

Well, that was the last time I saw my Ma
The night I left that rickety shack
The welfare people came and took the baby
Mama died and I ain’t been back

But the wheels of fate had started to turn
And for me there wasn’t time to lose
And it wasn’t very long ’til I was waiting
In a temp agency in my sensible shoes

I knew what I had to do and I made myself this solemn vow
That I’s gonna be successful someday
Though I didn’t know when or how
I couldn’t see spending the rest of my life
Playing a sucker’s game
You know, I might have been born just plain white trash
But Fancy was my name

Here’s your company dossier Fancy don’t let me down
Here’s your annual reports Fancy don’t let me down

It wasn’t long after that I got a job
Filing papers and printing spreadsheets
And one week later I was a permanent employee
In a five room office suite

I worked late, on weekends
Got a night-school MBA
Then I got me a nice apartment
And an off-lease Cabriolet
And I ain’t done bad

Now in this world there’s a lot of small-minded people
Who’d never think I could achieve
And criticize Mama for telling me
No matter what, always believe

But though I ain’t had to worry ’bout nothin’
For nigh on fifteen years
I can still hear the desperation in my poor
Mama’s voice ringin’ in my ear

She said, here’s your one chance Fancy don’t let me down
Here’s your one chance Fancy don’t let me down
Don’t let folks tell you, you can’t do
‘Cause if you want out, well it’s up to you
Now don’t let me down
Your Mama’s gonna send you uptown

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