OK, fair enough. But is that the universally-held view?
The counter-argument is cogently set out in any number of other songs: I’m Yours, sings Jason Mraz; You’re m-m-m-Mine, agrees Devin in a rather shouty way. Then there’s You Belong to Me, I Belong to You, She Belongs to Me, He’s Mine and She’s Mine and many more by, as they say, various artists. The balance of opinion seems to be swinging in the direction of ownership. It seems clear that, at some stage in a loving relationship (and I’m talking now of a stage somewhat later than passing notes in class and hanging out at the shopping mall) we are prepared to give up ownership of ourselves and allow possession of our very persons to pass to a third party. Or is it only second?
Whatever. Does this make sense?
On the face of it, and looking at the phenomenon with a chilly, dispassionate eye, the tendency to give oneself away does seem a little rash. Would you give her your record collection? Would you let her have your Diesel jeans? Would you surrrender your iPhone? I think not. And yet you are quite prepared—if these soppy songs are to be believed—to give her yourself. Or him, of course. And she seems equally prone to such reckless acts of extreme donation. Would she give you her French Connection leather jacket, the one with the silver buttons? Would she give you the teddy she’s had since she was nine? And would she give you her iPhone? Certainly not. Yet, difficult though it is to believe, she seems positively thrilled for the opportunity to give you herself.
What is behind this generosity? It can’t be merely that love makes us dopey, because, as demonstrated above, while passion renders us careless with ownership of ourselves, it’s clear that our attachment to the wherewithal for personal mobile telephony remains undiminished. If some woman at a gig starts making doe eyes at you, you’re not going to give up your phone, even if she’s Gwyneth Paltrow. No, it must be something specific about our own selves, something about them that makes us generous to the point of carelessness when it comes to presenting them to our lovers.
What could it be?
Oh, I know.
It’s the fact that giving yourself to someone means diddly squat.
It’s simply not recognised under contract law.
You fall in love with some girl in a bar and give her your watch (hear me out; it could happen). The next morning, or possibly afternoon, you come to realise that, the previous night, you suffered an attack of lunacy, so you retrace your footsteps, find the girl and ask for the watch back. Cannot! It’s a shame there isn’t a pop song to cover this situation but if there was it would be called Now It Belongs To Her.
On the other hand if, instead of the watch, you had given the bargirl yourself, you would be on much safer ground. You get a bit rat-arsed; Darling, I’m yours. The next day you plod selflessly back to the bar and locate the object of your passion.
‘Er, you know last night I gave you myself? Well, I’ve been having a little think about that and, er, could I possibly have myself back?’
‘So that’s a yes, then?’
‘Get out of here, you loser. I never want to see you again.’
While such an exchange is never pretty, and can make you look bad in front of company, at least it achieves the desired outcome: you have got yourself back.
When you give yourself to someone else, have you really given yourself to her or are you just saying something you’ve heard in a song in order to gain entry to her undergarments? Contrariwise, if you’re a girl smitten with love for some silver-tongued Lothario and, in a moment of intimacy, you murmur ‘I’m yours, big boy’ in his ear, have you really surrendered ownership of yourself or is it all a ruse to make him buy you a yellow Toyota Yaris for your upcoming birthday?
In the film, Goldie, Diane and Bette are all married to their husbands. They must all have gone though a courtship which involved love songs, moons and Junes, and promises of love undying. It’s a fair bet that, at some stage in this process they said something along the lines of ‘I’m yours, my sugar plum’. And yet, now that their marriages have broken down, here they are reneging on their promises and retracting their earlier gifts by singing ‘You Don’t Own Me.’ It can only mean that the original gift was nothing but a sham. It’s simply not possible to give yourself to someone else in any meaningful way. Try going to the police. I guarantee it will get you nowhere.
‘I’d like to report a theft.’
‘I see, sir. And what has been stolen?’
‘This girl I met at a party. She said she was mine, but now she says I don’t own her. She has clearly stolen herself back.’
‘I suggest you go and have a little lie down, sir.’
You just can’t get a charge like that to stick.
It’s good to end on a positive note so let us remember that ownership is not always welcome. Recall the embarrassing cardigan you were once gifted by a visiting aunt that you had to wear for the two weeks of her stay? Or, worse, imagine waking to find yourself in bed with Bette Midler. It’s at times like these that you’d positively welcome hearing a tune like ‘You Don’t Own Me.’