I’ve Been to Me


I’ve Been to Me

I have been places. Down the shops, to Europe, to New York long enough to get stoned and visit Williamsburg. I once saw Air Force One parked on the tarmac in Rome. This year I’ve managed Auckland, London, Norwich and Barcelona. (Sound the toot of another Ryan Air flight landing on time.) In 2007, I honeymooned in Nerja, a little village in the Costa Del Sol. The honeymoon was a year late; Nerja out of season. My ex-husband took loads of photos of the scrawny stray cats that frequented the beach (perhaps the pets of marriages long since past). At night, we got drunk on Long Island Ice Tea, and later woke to find pellets of small black poo all over the apartment floor. I’d like to blame the cats…

In short, I’ve been to me, but I’ve never been to paradise. At this point I’d like to introduce my Mother. My Mum has also been to me.

Bullet points about Mum:

  1. Has read a lot of self-help books.
  2. Has never been to paradise.

Why can’t we go to paradise? Please. When we get there, I don’t want to have to pay for it on my credit card and we need longer than a long weekend.

I’ve Never Been to Me

The song I’ve Never Been to Me was originally recorded by Motown singer, Charlene and reached no. 97 on the US Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in 1977.  In the chorus Charlene sings, “I’ve been to paradise, but I’ve never been to me.”

Charlene, it’s such a bogan name. I don’t believe she’s been to paradise either and I’m right because she didn’t even write the song. Discouraged by the poor performance of her first studio album, Charlene married a Brit, moved to London and got a job in a sweet shop in Ilford. I didn’t even make that up. Which brings me to another major cliché: fact is stranger than fiction.

I’ve Never Been to Me was co-written by Ron Miller and Kenneth Hirsch. And the song had two versions. One version – Charlene’s – was addressed to a desperate housewife who would like to trade motherhood for the hedonistic, yet spiritually barren, lifestyle the song’s narrator has led: “I’ve moved like Harlow in Monte Carlo and showed ’em what I’ve got.”

The other version was addressed to a young man by a dying elderly bum begging for a dime so he could buy a cup of coffee. I can see why the bloke’s version didn’t take off.

As a feminist anthem, I’ve Never Been To Me also has a few weak spots.

“Hey, you know what paradise is?

It’s a lie, a fantasy we create about people and places as we’d like them to be

But you know what truth is?

It’s that little baby you’re holding, it’s that man you fought with this morning

The same one you’re going to make love with tonight

That’s truth, that’s love…”

I’m sure when Ron and Kenneth wrote these lines they believed every word and when Charlene sang the song she made it sound true. In 1982 she was handing out bags of mixed sweeties. An American DJ began to recycle I’ve Never Been To Me on the airwaves, reigniting her career and turning her into a one-hit wonder.

My point is simple: self-knowledge is overrated. I can’t speak for Charlene, but I’ve been to me and I’d prefer to get the hell out.