Growing up as an awkward girl in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, the turbulent pop scene helped define my life. And back when ponchos were in our closets (shudder), scrunchies were in our hair and “Now 5” was in our Walkmans, there were a few anthems by female artists that shaped us into the strong, self-sufficient women we are today. They taught us how to pick our men and how to not settle for anything less. Now if we only had one of these saviors to produce a song for our college selves called, “Don’t Have Casual Sex When You Want Something More Because It Will Just Leave You Feeling Empty Inside.” Anyway, here are my top five.
1. “Try Again” – Aaliyah
Aaliyah’s sweet voice in this R&B classic made her simple message pretty clear: “If at first you don’t succeed, dust yourself off and try again.” Basically, every girl kisses her fair share of frogs, but we laugh about them eventually. The heartbreak does not define you; it is how you recover from the guy who only called you between 3 and 3:45 a.m. or the one who drunkenly made out with your twin sister, that defines you as a person. It’s a lot easier to grab your pint of ice cream and Tumblr about it than to take chances. It is easier to play the “jaded victim of a society of hedonistic men” than to actually try to make conversation with someone. We all fall victim to this at some point, but if the late, great Aaliyah can recover, so can we.
2. “Survivor” – Destiny’s Child
When I think of this song, I think of Beyoncé, Kelly, and … the other one … in the wilderness wearing their camouflage and belting out how they’re strong, powerful and a bit angry. This song was the “I Will Survive” of our time. Some dude can get an ego boost thinking that you’re all sad and needy without him, but Destiny’s Child comes to the rescue and says that yes, you can breathe without him, and yes, life will go on. This may sound facetious but it’s the truth. Being stronger than he expects will give you the upper hand, and things do get better in time.
3. “No Scrubs” – TLC
In their 1999 pop song, TLC told us the criteria by which they choose their mates, declaring that they “don’t want no scrubs.” Before settling down with a guy, it is important to put him through a “scrub” test. Does he have a way of supporting himself, or is he actively searching for one? Is he also known as a buster? Does he yell out of cars to get your attention? If your answers are “No,” “Yes” and “Yes,” then your guy might be a scrub.
4. “Love Don’t Cost a Thing” – Jennifer Lopez
However, Jennifer Lopez later clarified that even if a guy isn’t trashy and cheap, he still may be a loser. This actor-turned-singer showed us that women actually can be successful and rely on their own incomes. After all, when it comes to “floss,” she can probably buy enough to circle the planet about 50 billion times. Most importantly, she preaches a lesson of which we need to remind ourselves when searching for a mate: someone who can support you financially may not be able to support you emotionally.
5. “Wannabe” – The Spice Girls
This pop anthem of 1996 highlights yet another quality to look for in a companion. The chorus, “If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends,” means simply that if you’re dating a guy, he should be nice to your friends. Period. Your friends should be able to at least coexist with him, even if they think it’s weird that he still collects Pogs, a hobby that you find irresistible. It’s important to keep a happy medium, though; if your friends get bad vibes from him, or if he shows absolutely no interest in getting to know them, that is a red flag. However, he should keep a friendly distance, or else he may actually “get with” your friends.
Published in The Montclarion 11/3/11