You first came into my life with your sweet love song, “You’re Still the One,” which a classmate sang during music class. New to Arizona, and country music as a whole, I didn’t know which voice originated the lyrics she sang, or the name of the song, but serendipity struck one day while driving to school.
I heard the familiar lyrics singing over the radio and as luck would have it, the DJ announced your name.
I bought your CD, Come On Over, still my favorite, and listened to it on loop for years. If a movie is ever made of my life, the inevitable montage of my childhood would play over the lyrics of “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” I mean, men’s shirts (okay, my dad’s) and short skirts became my outfit of elementary school.
I spent countless hours flipping through your CD booklets, memorizing each and every lyric and breath while your albums blasted into my ears through the crappy headphones of my old Walkman. I would lay on my bed, using the booklet sometimes more as a catalog than anything else. Your wardrobe would be the cherry on top of my young life.
The only thing I wanted to do all day every day was choreograph dances to your songs. Usually they were quite literal and, yes, pantomime was featured often, but man, that red two-piece outfit of yours would have really taken the choreo up a notch.
In second grade my teacher was pregnant and towards the end of the year it became questionable whether she would make it to the last day of school. As an activity, she passed around a worksheet for us to fill in ideas about the baby. Questions included whether we thought it was a boy or girl, how much we thought it would weigh, and what we thought the baby should be named. That’s right, she was taking name suggestions.
I couldn’t have cared less about the rest of the worksheet, boy or girl, doesn’t matter, I couldn’t wait to influence my teacher, change her life forever for the better. On the worksheet I wrote the following:
“If it’s a girl, what should I name her? Shania Twain.”
“If it’s a boy, what should I name him? Shania Twain.”
You read that correctly. Under both name suggestions I wrote not only your first name, but both your first and last. I’m not sure if I intended “Twain” to be a middle name, a hyphenated first, or simply for my teacher to forgo her own last name entirely.
Let’s just say that my teacher finished the year before having her baby and didn’t return to work the next year, so I never did find out what she named the baby. But I’d like to think there’s a little male Shania Twain running around central Arizona.
More importantly, you taught me lessons about my own life. You taught me that I could be both feminine and boyish, that I could both love romance and be powerfully independent, that I could live between two contraries rather than choose one identity, just like your music which was both pop and country. Weird and elegant and spunky and strong and delicate and lovable, despite holding very high standards.
You taught me not to settle for less and you taught men to respect women… your song, “If You Wanna Touch Her, Ask!”—I mean I’d never heard anything like that before.
I finally got to see you in concert a couple years ago when you came to the Staples Center in Los Angeles for your Rock This Country Tour and it felt like everything in my life had led me to that moment. While the show was punctuated with unforeseeable difficulties, both technical and audience-influenced, you took the stage and mic with grace that I’d only expect to see from you. It was, simply put, one of the best nights of my life.
This is a love letter in a sense, but greater than that, it’s a thank you note. Thank you for providing my childhood with depth and for doing so in such a fun, lyrical and musically inviting way. I owe a lot of my self-esteem to your influence.
Forever your fan,
If you’re feeling the love for strong female role models, click HERE to read Ashley’s love letter to one of the greatest Disney heroines, Megara from Hercules.