Unto Thee, O Erykah! The Year I Found Badu


Before I found Badu, I’d been listening to hairy weirdos twiddling their amps for a decade, and I’d had enough. I got into spangled ladies filling stadiums with dancey-pain. I’d landed at Alicia Keys via Whitney –> Mariah –> Beyoncé and then stalled out, repeating Alicia Keys’s excellent Unplugged for weeks (minus the Adam Levine intrusion, which is like a child’s piano recital). But something was missing, I knew. Religious people might say I was “searching.”

And I was. For different needs, I called upon a hundred different saints. Annie Lennox, Saint of Transformation. Linda Perhacs, Saint of Winter Melancholy and Lentil-Eating. Florence, Saint of Howling Ambition. Beyoncé, Saint of Stomping While Smiling. The Raincoats, Saints of Whispered Rage. But we don’t always know what we need, and so I kept searching for the one woman who could tell me all things.

I should note here that I knew of Erykah Badu, of course—I heard her in the background pretty regularly, because my boyfriend loves her. Too doo-be-doo for me, I shrugged. I thought he was trying to trick me into jazz.


A lot of my extended family is Born-Again Christian, by which I mean they are evangelical and can identify the single moment in time that they were saved, when they suddenly believed. I don’t know their unique stories—it seems wrong for me to ask when I’m not truly open to it, I guess—but I have noticed that others’ such moments of revelation frequently coincide with narrow escape from a car accident. My moment, too, was in the car.

The album was Mama’s Gun. We were at a Shell station off I-75 just north of Cincinnati a few days after Thanksgiving, and I was sitting in the car while the gas pumped. My boyfriend had gone inside for coffee and a pee. I was alone with her, the thin warble meowing from the glovebox.

My eyes are green


The Gaze That Stands Between You and Everything Real: An Interview with Artist Alex McQuilkin

Alex McQuilkin is the New York-based artist responsible for “Unbreak My Heart,” which uses the Toni Braxton weeper as a way to talk about magic and witches, Salomé, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, images of heartbreak, and gender performance. Her earlier work includes “Joan of Arc,” in which she films herself as a mirror image to the Falconetti film; “Romeo and Juliet (I Wanna Be Claire Danes),” in which she reenacts the death scene of the Baz Luhrmann film playing both parts; and “Fucked,” her cannonball into the art conversation in 1999. READ MORE

Manly Me

When I was twenty I sought out a full-time internship at my favorite men’s magazine. READ MORE

What a (Good) Girl Wants

I have been sucked into this talent show called The Voice by my young cousin. Initially I resisted it, literally leaning away from the screen. So much Carson Daly. Endless Katy Perry covers. And I really hate tragedy packaging, despite my own side hustle teaching young college applicants exactly how to package their “tragedies” to epiphanic effect. So in that first show, when all these beautiful slickies wept to the cameras that they wanted to win The Voice because they were born prematurely, or they had been in a hostage situation like a decade ago, I was not having it. You want to be famous, you mongering fakers! Next! READ MORE

The Best Time I Found Bits of Hair on a Shelf

When I was a freshman in college, my family decided to move. We all liked the old house, but my little brother’s neighborhood friends had all begun to behave badly — lying, stealing, and brandishing knives. These boys were eight years old. So my parents bought a house across town, where the lawns were bigger and the neighbor children had babysitters. READ MORE