Alanis Morissette: a reliable guide through your 20s. Now a feminist columnist

Alanis Morissette: a reliable guide through your 20s. Now a feminist columnist

When earlier this week, the Guardian announced that Alanis Morissette would be an advice columnist for their weekend edition - that too a feminist one - I wondered what entitled the increasingly-irrelevant former rockstar to that position.

So I dug out the digitally remastered album of Jagged Little Pill, and with a little help from A-Z lyrics, began discovering.

How I missed Morissette for 20 years

I was born in 1990. And I have a sneaking suspicion that most people my age haven't seriously discovered Alanis Morissette. Because her really famous, record-breaking album Jagged Little Pill happened in 1995. And at five years old, I was more equipped to understand the music of Raja and Karan Arjun then Morissette.

And when by my early teens I was equipped to understand her a little bit - to somewhat comprehend notions of fidelity, objectification and body image, maybe even feminism - I was busier headbanging at Foo Fighters and Puddle of Mudd and Deep Purple.

Alanis Morissette was far too popular - her videos made it to MTV India alongside Mandy Moore - to be cool. She was too recent to be classic. Too subtle to be anguished. And at the time there was no appeal to loving a female rockstar who didn't dress like Avril Lavigne.

So I bypassed her entirely. And now, here I was, listening to

"I hear you're losing weight again Mary Jane

Do you ever wonder who you're losing it for"

A very good question, Morissette. And one I should have asked myself before. But now that you've done it for us, I'll make a list of people I've ever lost weight for.Because if it includes anyone but myself, then I've got some more wondering in store.

How to be a woman

There are some 'epiphanies' that belong in our tortured early twenties.

These include how to love your body. And then how to treat it better. How to choose courage as a character trait in a partner over charm. How not to be treated as a punching bag. How to assert. How to experience anger, then rage, at the many unfair ways you will be treated for your gender. Then how to channel that anger.

How to have a heart broken ungracefully. And then gracefully. What songs to sing when you're down. Why having lots of friends is important. How to treat those friends well. Exactly how and why a career is deeply linked with self-esteem. How to filter out pop-culture that is bad for your sense of self, and how to learn from pop-culture that is healthy.

Also read: Forgiveness. And resentment: 5 accounts of parental abuse

And what is healthy.And all of these little, silly, obvious little skills would have been much easier to acquire if only I'd had Morissette to croon to.

Because, unbeknownst to me, she had already given words to a common and equally difficult-to-articulate feeling too many of us recognise.

Also read: Roxane Gay's new book is important because she started writing it fat. And she still is.

That of not being taken seriously. For being a foot too short, a few inches too wide, or - the worst - for being too damn female. And that hollow anger we subsequently dismiss. But shouldn't.

You took me for a joke

You took me for a child

You took a long hard look at my ass

And then played golf for a while

Your shake is like a fish

You pat me on the head

You took me out to wine dine 69 me

But didn't hear a damn word I said

And then, in 2008, she wrote about breaking up. But not with Adele anguish, or with any desperate and failing desire for revenge. And also not with the false bravado of Sia's Titanium. Instead, she wrote of the quiet, solitary and irreversible decision to move on.

Day one

day one

Start over again

Step one

Step one

With not much making sense just yet

I'm faking it till I'm pseudo making it

From scratch begin again but this time I as I

And not as we

Oh, and that most valuable lesson, that could have saved many of us oh so many years: to not be anyone's saviour, or doctor, or fixer.

Because, there isn't really a better half. One and one always makes two.

I don't want to be adored for what I merely represent to you

I don't want to be your babysitter

You're a very big boy now

I don't want to be your mother

I didn't carry you in my womb for nine months

Show me the back door

Visiting hours are 9 to 5 and if I show up at 10 past 6

Well I already know that you'd find some way to sneak me in and oh

Mind the empty bottle with the holes along the bottom

You see it's too much to ask for and I am not the doctor

You learn

Twenty years ago Morissette's music already could - and still can - help make our little tragedies make sense. She was the feminist who refused to wear a feminist badge. She was the cool who didn't need to look it. And now, with two decades of experience loaded on all that intuitive understanding, she clearly has a lot more to give.

Especially outside the kind of limited package of 3-4 minute long songs. And most especially without the distance that comes with a processed, filtered and packaged record, album cover and distortion guitar.

This time, to my own benefit, I'll be listening.

Read others:

Also read: What's Indian chicklit got that Western doesn't? Flaws, & thank god for that

Sneha Vakharia

Sneha Vakharia @sneha_vakharia