“I wonder if she can tell I’m hard right now?” Next’s “Too Close” evidently begins. I say EVIDENTLY because this song was a huge fixture in my childhood and yet not once did I hear these words. Or if I did, I certainly didn’t understand them. The last time I had heard this song was in 5th grade, in a state of pure innocence and bliss, while riding the school bus home and listening to my Walkman. Re-listening to Next’s “Too Close” now, at (almost) 25-years-old, is a harrowing experience. One I wouldn’t wish upon anyone.
I don’t know about you guys, but grinding was a really big deal for me when I was younger. I was introduced to this salacious mode of dancing during the eight years I attended sleep away camp. The days leading up to our socials (e.g. dances with a boys camp) we would practice grinding in our bunk. Then we would try out our new moves on the boys, who were always a full head shorter than I. The only criteria we had for grinding was as follows:
- Never look him in the eye.
- Make sure his leg is in between yours; if it’s not, put yours in between his—it’s the second best option.
- Put your right arm on his right shoulder, and sort of cup his neck with your inner elbow.
- Make sure his hands are on your waist.
- Then you sway, goddamnit. Sway like you’ve never swayed before.
Those were the days…
Yet despite the fact that the word “grinding” was a big part of my vocabulary back then, I still wasn’t hearing the word “grinding” when listening to Next’s “Too Close.” Instead, this is what I was hearing: “Baby when we’re cryin, I geh so besah meh.” (“Crying” always interchangeable with “fighting.”) Which perhaps explains why I deemed it a-okay to march around my parents’ home singing this song.
But it wasn’t only those specific lyrics I misinterpreted. It was really the entire gist of the ditty. The times I did discern the word “excited” in the song, I thought they meant excited in a woo!-Sunday-night-football kind-of-way. I also just ADORED this part, which—to the detriment of my parents’ ears—I would sing to no end, “Feel a little hoo comin’ throughhhh on youuuu” (or so I thought she was singing).
They say ignorance is bliss and this tale is a case in point. Only after re-listening to “Too Close” did I realize how joyful and pleasant my life was before I was privy to the real lyrics of the song. I recently tweeted my 11-year-old interpretation of the song, to which a dude tweeted back at me, “You can’t prove that those are not the lyrics.” Well sadly this is no longer the case. Now, at (almost) 25, my hearing has matured. My ears hear what they want to hear and right now that’s unfortunately the true, bonafide lyrics to “Too Close.”
This is all really hard for me. I feel like I’ve seen the dark side, like I’ve lost any hope of even remembering what it feels like to be innocent. Because what I know now is this: Next is not jovially singing, “Feel a little hoo comin’ throughhhh on youuuu!” What they’re singing (and quite lamentably) is this: “Feel a little poke comin’ throughhhh on youuuuu.” And part of me wishes I had known this sooner; if I felt a little poke while dancing with a dude I’d run for the hills.
What I used to think was a girl merely beckoning a man I know now is her actually telling him to back off (re: “Step back you’re dancing kinda close”). Would it be too much of a stretch to call this sexual harassment? I used to belt this part into my piano teacher’s ear, “Now girl I know you felt it / But boo, you know I cant help it,” thinking nothing of it. Now I hear it and shudder. Because the 12 years that have passed since I last listened to this song have taught me that men actually CAN stop—and frankly should stop—their boner from poking they girl they’re dancing with. And ugh. Telling me “I know you felt it” isn’t going to make me want your poking boner any more. Finally, there’s the part where he tells her he “wants her now and here”—“here” presumably being le club. And GOOD GOD boy, listen to yourself! Learn some self-restraint! Has your mother taught you nothing?
All in all, re-listening to “Too Close” has cleared some things up for me. Namely why the boys on my school bus would always laugh whenever I sang this to myself. But also why my parents were averse to me belting it around the house. Mostly, however, it’s just made me into a changed woman. And not for the better.