The Jenny Lewis Guide to Growing Up


There’s this part in You’ve Got Mail where Tom Hanks’ character introduces a theory: Godfather quotes are applicable to any situation in life. Meg Ryan’s character bemoans the notion’s masculinity, claiming men obsess grossly over the mob film. But she goes with it anyway, learning a thing or two about business and the male mind simultaneously.

Of course, ladies also have cultural touchstones clearly intended for them: entire networks devoted to romance flicks, smut novels like 50 Shades of Grey, pop stars playing the relatable gal-pal on the cover of Cosmo. Many obvious forms of “women’s entertainment” are simplistic portraits of gender roles, so much so that when something true-to-life AND female-targeted catches on in the mainstream — be it Bridesmaids or Broad City — it’s often heralded as subversive.

There are, however, female role models hiding in the shadows, even if they don’t always get the mass idolatry they deserve. Enter Jenny Lewis, former child star, ex-Rilo Kiley frontwoman, Postal Service/Bright Eyes/Dntel collaborator, one half of Jenny and Johnny (with her beau Johnathan Rice), and fearless solo singer-songwriter. This week, Lewis releases her third solo album, The Voyager , on which she tackles the loss of her estranged father, her biological clock, marital pressure, and feeling comfortable in her own skin. We talked to Jenny about the album last month, at which point she proved why she remains indie rock’s ultimate girl-crush.

At 38, Jenny Lewis has qualified as an adult for quite some time now, but as her fans know, every bit of maturation she’s done over the years has been chronicled in her confessional, mostly pessimistic anthems. Ten albums in total comprise her discography, all of them filled with real talk for growing up female. Using the lyrics from 24 of her songs, we’ve put together The Jenny Lewis Guide To Life. It’s broken down into 12 topics women often grapple with when growing up:

– Daddy Issues – Looks/Self-Esteem – Questioning Religion/What Happens When We Die – Battling Depression/Demons – Work/”Adulthood” – Love (Happy-ish) – Love (Bummer) – Infidelity – Marriage – Chasing the American Dream – Domestic Abuse – Parenthood

And there’s also a Spotify playlist of (almost all) the songs. Now let’s get started.


“Bad Man’s World,” from Acid Tongue

I will never forgive you For what you put us kids through Remember that night You tried to take your own life? When I found you You were a shade of blue Success is a state of mind With a little bit of follow through And then you failed at that too


“My Slumbering Heart,” The Execution of All Things

It’s become just like a chemical stress Tracing the lines in my face for Something more beautiful than is there


“Born Secular,” from Rabbit Fur Coat

God goes where he wants And who knows where he is not Not in me

“It’s a Hit,” from More Adventurous

Any fool can play executioner for a day And say with fingers pointed in both directions ‘He went that way, It’s only a switch or syringe, I’m exempt from eternal sins’ But you still wear a cross, And you think you’re gonna get in

“Don’t Deconstruct,” from Take Offs and Landings

Judging from picture books Apparently Heaven is a partly cloudy place And if the sky opened up and they let you in And gave you a formal invitation, would you go? You can work from home


“The Good That Won’t Come Out,” from The Execution of All Things

I think I’ll go out and embarrass myself by getting drunk and falling down in the street You say I choose sadness, that it never once has chosen me Maybe you’re right

“A Better Son/Daughter,” from The Execution of All Things

And sometimes when you’re on, you’re really fucking on And your friends they sing along and they love you But the lows are so extreme that the good seems fucking cheap And it teases you for weeks in its absence But you’ll fight and you’ll make it through You’ll fake it if you have to And you’ll show up for work with a smile You’ll be better you’ll be smarter And more grown up and a better daughter Or son and a real good friend You’ll be awake and you’ll be alert You’ll be positive though it hurts And you’ll laugh and embrace all your friends You’ll be a real good listener You’ll be honest, you’ll be brave You’ll be handsome, you’ll be beautiful You’ll be happy

“Happy,” from Rabbit Fur Coat

They warn you about killers and thieves and knives I worry about cancer and living right But my momma never warned me about my own destructive appetite Or the pitfalls of control


“Plane Crash In C,” from Take Offs and Landings

And how do you do it? And make it seem effortless When its all the stupid things So overwhelming to me Like paying my bills Or showing up for work early Or laughing at your jokes

“Pictures of Success,” from Take Offs and Landings

I’m a modern girl but I fold in half so easily When I put myself in the picture of success


“I Never,” from More Adventurous

So let’s take a loan out, put it down on a house In a place we’ve never lived In a place that exists in the pages of scripts And the songs that they sing And all of the beautiful things That make you weep, but don’t have to make you weak


“Portions for Foxes,” from More Adventurous

And the talking leads to touching, then the touching leads to sex And then there is no mystery left And it’s bad news, I don’t blame you I do the same thing, I get lonely too And you’re bad news, my friends tell me to leave you

“Melt Your Heart,” from Rabbit Fur Coat

When you’re kissing someone who’s too much like you It’s like kissing on a mirror When you’re sleeping with someone who doesn’t get you You’re gonna hate yourself in the morning

“You Are What You Love,” from Rabbit Fur Coat

But you are what you love And not what loves you back

“With Arms Outstretched,” from The Execution of All Things

And if you want me you better speak up I won’t wait So you’d better move fast Don’t fool yourself in thinking you’re more than you are With your arms outstretched to me

“Silver Lining,” from Under the Blacklight

I never felt so wicked As when I willed our love to die And I was your silver lining As the story goes I was your silver lining But now I’m gold


“Does He Love You?” from More Adventurous

Let’s not forget ourselves, good friend I am flawed if I’m not free Your husband will never leave you he will never leave you for me

“Breakin’ Up,” from Under the Blacklight

Betrayal is a thorny crown You wear it well Just like a king Revenge is the saddest thing Honey, I’m afraid to say You deserve everything


“More Adventurous,” from More Adventurous

For me to be saved and you to be brave We don’t have to walk down that aisle ‘Cause if marriage ain’t enough Well, at least we’ll be loved

“Aloha & The Three Johns,” from The Voyager

And if there’s no ring, I will have to say goodbye Nah I’m just playing John, I look terrible in white


“American Wife,” from rkives

We’ll climb up above the smog and Live in blissful ignorance With a dog and a TV set Where we’re flesh ’til we’re fatter than our friends

“Big Wave,” from Jenny and Johnny’s I’m Having Fun Now

Living your life in the gray Is the new American way We’re spending what we haven’t made And we save our money in good faith And we work hard for our living wage But still the banks got to break


“Godspeed,” from Acid Tongue

No good no how no man should treat you like he do So come on right now, it’s time for you to get up and out of his house I’ve known you too long to let you carry on this way When I was in bad shape I’ll never forget what you always used to say What are we gonna do-hoo with you, you don’t make it easy on me What am I supposed to


“Just One of the Guys,” from The Voyager

There’s only one difference between you and me When I look at myself, all I can see: I’m just another lady without a baby