As I sat in Matchbox Studio on a sunny May day in 2014, I told Dwight Baker (who mixed the album FORWARD and who was looking over all my lyrics) that I had a song about society and the conventions and expectations and rules placed on women, especially as we get older. I remember exactly what he did: he rolled his eyes, threw back his head with a large sigh, and said, “Oh my god. I bet you have soooooo much to say about that.”
I had to laugh. He knew me well. I had about 4 pages of prospective lyrics written for this song. And I was determined to call it “Sell By,” even though as it developed, everyone said it should be titled “We Do What We Want” (FORWARD producer David Butler deserves credit for making that line shine) or what some people call it, “Hey Girl.” But I overruled those names, because I knew that “Sell By” got the point across better: women struggle with aging, expectations, and norms throughout our lives, and the title needed to reflect that.
The third and final verse is dedicated to the woman who isn’t subscribing to the aforementioned expiration date or any of the restrictive views of the first two verses. I know I sure don’t (although sometimes it’s tough). Forget all that nonsense. We can do anything we want, at any age.
The line in the third verse, “Hey girl, got your pink shoes on” is a reference to the great Wendy Davis, who, in 2013, filibustered a remarkably stringent abortion bill in the Texas legislature for 11 hours, in her famous pink running shoes (the bill was later passed). Wendy is a true example of a strong woman who can take the heat, and stands up (literally) for what she believes in. Wendy had terminated two pregnancies for medical reasons and been honest about it; I personally terminated one for my own reasons many years ago. I am passionate about women retaining choice and autonomy over their bodies and their lives and retaining the ability to make their own decisions, and I wanted to bring that to this song as well, because I thought it fit.
Here are the lyrics to “Sell By,” and you can click here to see the video AJ Vallejo produced and directed for it. The e-drum sound at the beginning of the track is this crazy instrument that my husband Kevin gave me as a gift once when I said I wanted one after seeing Bret from Flight of the Conchords play one (Jemaine said Bret got it at a pawn shop from the future). The song is the theme to my podcast and the theme to “Cooking/Drinking with Johnny & AJ.” Here’s to you, Sell By! May you have a long, happy life!
Hey girl can’t you see the signs
Hey girl, fall in line
Hey girl, your role is defined
They say you’re past your sell by, past your prime
Hey girl not in front of the church crowd
Hey girl, you got kids now
Hey girl you’re bein’ way too loud
Take a look around
That’s not allowed
We do what we want
Hey girl, adjust your attitude
Hey girl, life’s all laid out for you
Hey girl what’re you tryin to do
Just take this pill
And then refill
Hey girl, you can’t go round lookin’ like that
Hey girl, you’ve chosen your path
Hey girl, blah blah blah
Who am I listening to
Hey girl you’re a diva doll
Hey girl got your pink shoes on
Hey girl who says you can’t have it all
They think so small
Running when we call
We do what we want