Beyond Adultery: On The Good Life’s “You Don’t Feel Like Home To Me”

“You Don’t Feel Like Home To Me”
The Good Life (lyrics from; song available at same link)

He sees her face
the highway signs
the traffic lights
and she’s turning red
at a motel
on a double bed
He swears he feels her lying there

And she whispers in his ear
“You can’t run away forever”

But sometimes
that feels like coming home to me
It feels like coming home to me

But the further off I get
the more I get upset
I could never make it home

She sees his face
in the sweat-stained sheets
the dirty cups
they keep on piling up
and in the backyard
so overgrown
in the dandelions
that peek through the cracks in the patio
She swears she hears the phone
but she only gets a dial tone
so she imagines what’d she say:

“If you feel like coming home to me
Yeah, if you feel like coming home to me
Yeah, if you feel like coming home to me

I’ll be waiting at the door
there’s nothing to be sorry for

So why can’t you call me home?
Don’t you feel like coming home to me
Because you ain’t even comin’ home to me
You don’t feel like coming home to me?

That’s the game you choose
But you don’t have to play the loser”


Tim Kasher has talked about – perhaps he’s already done it – turning the songs from “Help Wanted Nights” into short films. So it is possible this miniature drama has an “official” interpretation, a definite sequence of events and clarity of which actor did what.

We are going to dwell on ambiguities, however. In this world of open relationships and “it’s complicated” and “friends with benefits,” we can’t be sure the “partner” watching her house rot away has been faithful herself. We know our initial protagonist is out and hanging around seedy motels, but why he sees her face – he’s probably cheating, but it almost sounds like she cheated too – and the fact he’s thinking of her far before the motel have to make us wonder what he’s running away from.

What makes this so complicated is that their living together is no guarantee of anything. I’m not saying this to be moralistic, it’s just the way the song goes. We can imagine the situation: we’re kinda seeing each other and talking to each other, but commitment? That’s much larger. Maybe it means living together. And then maybe we get to the living together stage and it’s like we’re roommates that have sex. Isn’t love supposed to be natural? Beyond right and wrong? How come the feelings go away and I still feel like crap for hurting someone, despite a lack of any commitment? How come it feels like there were unwritten rules from the start that we were trying to pretend didn’t exist, because we wanted the right to feel completely at ease no matter what?

“That feels like coming home to me” has a very specific antecedent – “you can’t run away forever.” Our initial protagonist sometimes has no real tie to any particular woman, just a vague notion that being in perpetual motion probably isn’t a good thing. “Anymore” indicates there was a tie that was pretty strong, and we have elaborated on how complicated that gets above.

Why does the distance get him upset? There’s definitely anger, both at himself and her, and a ton at her. I think her whole speech is meant to convey a coldness of the “I don’t really care if you’re dead” sort towards her.

I should note that I’m taking the guy’s side in this song because it is very easy to take her side, that’s all. Again, we’re dwelling on ambiguities here.

Still, it’s interesting what kind of housekeeper she is – not much of one at all, it seems. It looks like he was doing plenty to maintain the house, and where she sees his face most directly is tied in with intercourse. They seem to be birds of a feather in that regard: he sees her somewhat as he travels, and then sees her presence most in bed. She starts seeing him in bed, and then misses his presence in her daily routine.

“Why can’t you call me home” is the key to the whole thing, if I’ve got these lyrics right. The literal imagery of the song is that his absence forces her outward: from the bed to the cups to the yard. Without him, she’s not home to anything.

The last lines are especially revealing as they work both ways. He could be in drama queen mode, i.e. “it was great living with you but I’m really free and not tied down and this isn’t working out anyway.” But it could also be the case – and I’ve known women expert in this game – that she could have cheated and then expected him to be “man” enough to get angry, fuss around, and then come back like everything’s good. Something tells me this debate resolves in his favor, at least from this song alone (the entire album has connections between songs that make this far more complicated). The title is “you don’t feel like home to me” – it’s not clear he was ever really asking for sex alone, especially not given the fact he was doing something around the house. This is a guy who’s doomed to only getting a certain sort of woman, a type we’re not allowed to say exists anymore, so we’ll just call her “independent.” I suspect he’s forced to wander.

Still, it’s the parallels that shake us. They’re both hurting, they both can’t be trusted, they’re both wandering, and finally, they’re both concerned with the same issue of “home.” They sound alike in their moping. They just relate to “home” too differently for any resolution. It doesn’t make any sense why longing should keep us apart, but then again, the idea that feelings alone could keep people together for years when even promises are weak, well.

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