While I’ve always enjoyed Cake’s “Short Skirt, Long Jacket“ I had also always assumed it was a little lewd or racy—after all, they keep talking about short skirts and wanting a girl. Recently the t.v. series, Chuck, even used the song in its credits, drawing an implicit connection to the shows savvy, often-scantily-clad female secret-agent-type character. Upon greater reflection, though, I realized that I’ve been coming away with the wrong impression all these years. Upon closer scrutiny the song not only reveals itself to be downright wholesome, but its subject—this girl with the skirt and jacket—turns out to be nothing less than a modern approximation of the Proverbs 31 woman. Let me show you what I mean through a side-by-side comparison.
I want a girl with a mind like a diamond
I want a girl who knows what’s best
So opens Short Skirt/Long Jacket. Likewise, the God-fearing Woman passage of Proverbs begins this way:
An excellent wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels. 10.
The heart of her husband trusts in here,
and he will have no lack of grain. 11.
“An excellent wife who can find,” roughly translated for the purposes of application, means “you should want an excellent girl for a wife.” The girl with a mind like a diamond is far more precious than diamonds themselves, and her husband can trust in her because she “knows what’s best.” Still not convinced? The rest lines up pretty neatly:
(SS/LJ:) I want a girl with the right allocations
Who’s fast, thorough, and sharp as a tack
(Prov. 31:) She dresses herself with strength
and makes her arms strong. 17.
She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. 18a.
I want a girl who gets up early
I want a girl who stays up late
I want a girl with uninterrupted prosperity
Who uses a machete, to cut through red tape
Her lamp does not go out at night. 18b.
She rises while it is yet night
and provides food for her household
and portions for her maidens. 15.
She considers a field and buys it;
with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. 16.
With fingernails that shine like justice
And a voice that is dark like tinted glass
Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come. 25.
I want a girl with a smooth liquidation
I want a girl with good dividends
At City Bank we will meet accidentally
We’ll start to talk when she borrows my pen
She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. 26.
She looks well to the ways of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness. 27.
She wants a car with a cup holder armrest
She wants a car that will get her there
She’s changing her name
From Kitty to Karen
She’s trading in her MG for a white Chrysler LeBaron
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. 30.
Give her of the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the gates. 31.
I want a girl with a short skirt and a long jacket
And what about this short skirt business? Well, like some of the best proverbs, answering this question may require the help of other wisdom literature; in this case, the Song of Songs. A long coat is a sign not only of industry but of modesty, and the girl who wears it is like the Shulamite daughter enclosed with boards of cedar, who does not awaken love before its time. Beneath the coat, though, she is prepared for the coming of her beloved, adorned and arrayed for love. Even Song of Songs closes with a description of vineyards (one of which belongs to the girl) and a discussion of faithful commerce.
Even after all you’ve just read, I am not quite generous enough to credit Cake with a knowing retelling of the Proverbs, but when they’re right they’re right. And I’m happy to give credit where credit is long overdue.