When Carly Simon released You’re So Vain way back in 1972 everyone wondered who she was singing about. She has remained silent for decades and never revealed the identity of the “vain” person who is the subject of the song. People have guessed the song to be about one of her former lovers: Warren Beatty, Kris Kristofferson, Cat Stevens or maybe Mick Jagger. She has dropped a few hints over the years but has never revealed the actual identity of the man she sang about. Part of the appeal of the song has always been the mystery surrounding the identity of the subject, not to mention the irony. It is a song about a vain man and how he probably thinks the song is about him because he is vain and thinks the world revolves around him so the song must be about him – and it is about him.
It may happen that you read something someone has written or hear about something someone has said and think, “Oh I just know that person is talking about me!” You get all worked up and start to read all sorts of insinuation, innuendo, hints and allegations into the words. The truth is, sometimes it is about you. If you confront the person who you are sure has written or spoken about you, most likely you will get a denial or be accused of suffering from paranoia. They then engage in a game of plausible deniability. You know what they are doing behind your back? They are laughing at you. Yes, laughing at how they got you real good but because they were so clever not to name you directly they managed to get the point across and you can’t prove it’s about you. Are you paranoid yet?
Most of the time it’s pretty easy for others to figure out exactly who they are talking about – if you are privy to some inside information or know the history of the relationship. Sometimes, the innuendo is as obvious as that Carly Simon song is obviously about one of her former lovers. The clever part is to learn to keep your mouth shut after you do a bit of nasty innuendo or take a little sneaky, sideways jab at someone. Ah, but most people can’t stand it, and they just have to revel in their cleverness and their ability to mock, ridicule, insult and attack without naming names. Therein lies their undoing.
“Who is she writing about?” I imagine you are asking yourself right now. Bet you think this is about you, don’t you?
In 2009 Carly Simon re-released the song and teased fans with a hint. She said that the name of the person was recorded backwards and embedded in the song. The name “David” was revealed in the song.