I was in the first semester of my last year of college when I began listening obsessively to Robyn, the self-titled dance album by Robyn Miriam Carlsson, best known for her 1997 hits "Show Me Love" and "Do You Know (What It Takes)."
The album arrived at the precise moment I needed it. As I faced graduation from college, adult life felt to me that clothes that didn't fit because I was made wrong for them. When I got a job in Washington, I initially felt more lost than found. My first great romance ground to an inevitable, and inevitably humiliating, end. I had very few friends in the city. I remember one day when I sat on the floor of one of the bathroom stalls in our office trying to regularize my breathing so I could go back to my desk and seem normal. And worst, I was young and unworldly enough to miss that I was going through a rite of passage, rather than a unique and unprecedented catastrophe.
Robyn became my guide to living in that sorrow and fear--and to moving beyond it. In the first video for "Be Mine!" a song about the impossibility of the title plea, a heartbroken Robyn embraced awkwardness and ugliness. "I'm just pretty some of the time" she said, declaring herself knowable in "Who's That Girl?" She sighed over a guy she knew wasn't good for much in "Bum Like You," and smacked down one who was beyond the pale in "Handle Me."
And "With Every Heartbeat," released later, updated Tina Turner's "Don't Turn Around" for a new generation. Turner may have not wanted her former lover to look back on her agony, insisting, "I'm going to be strong / I'm going to be fine." But Robyn was the one who walked away, declaring "I don't look back / Though I'm dying with every step I take," acknowledging that things are only "just a little, little bit better." She's not okay, and that's alright. Her songs were a guide to living alone with defiance and honesty, a willingness to acknowledge pain, and a refusal to lose herself in it, or anything else.
Given how intensely I feel about Robyn, and Robyn, I guess it's a little strange that I felt so ambivalent about seeing her in concert. I know the risks of loving an ideal from afar. But when she and Kelis, also in the process of reinventing herself as a dance star, announced that they'd be co-headlining the evocatively-named All Hearts Tour, I couldn't resist. I bought tickets for Monday's show at the 9:30 Club in Washington. What I didn't predict was that it would be so hard to share her with anyone else.
I don't go to shows that often. I'm short, which can negate the impact of going to see your idol if the crowd turns out to be tall. And I get nervous in crowds. My sense that Robyn was a sympathetic spirit only increased when she released the video for "Dancing On My Own" off her latest album, Body Talk, Pt. 1, a good illustration of how disconcerting clubs can be. But I've still never been in a crowd like this one. Instead of easing back between sets, the audience packed closer to the stage, a mass of sweat, confetti, nerves and impatience. One guy, who had committed the cardinal sin of thinking that if you leave a prime spot close to the stage you're entitled to reclaim it, shoved past me so hard I thought my glasses might be broken.
And that same guy, the one who I shot mental and ineffective daggers at during the set change? Once Robyn came on stage, he danced along next to me, his hand over his heart for most of the next hour and a half. We threw our hands up in the same bouquet, reaching for the same light when Robyn roared into the final chorus of "Dancing On My Own." We all jumped up and down, screaming "Don't fucking tell me what to do!" with the tiny, hyper, hyper-efficient woman who was dancing so hard she was losing clothes and earrings onstage. We gave ourselves over to joy for the night to heed her instructions to "cry when you get older." And we let her lift us up from heartbreak with a slowed-down encore rendition of "Show Me Love," the song that made her famous the first time around. By the end of the night, I'd kind of forgiven the guy. We were both there because we love the same woman.
In a song off the upcoming Body Talk, Pt. 2, "Hang With Me," Robyn warms up a little, though she warns her listener not to "fall recklessly, headlessly in love with me." It's a caution that comes five years too late. All of us who come to her shows are goners. But no matter how private and incandescent, no matter how pushy our love for her is, for one night, at least, exulting "I can't believe it!" into the mic, she loved us all back.
With Donald Trump its presumptive nominee after his win in the Indiana primary, the GOP will never be the same.
NEW YORK—Where were you the night Donald Trump killed the Republican Party as we knew it? Trump was right where he belonged: in the gilt-draped skyscraper with his name on it, Trump Tower in Manhattan, basking in the glory of his final, definitive victory.
“I have to tell you, I’ve competed all my life,” Trump said, his golden face somber, his gravity-defying pouf of hair seeming to hover above his brow. “All my life I’ve been in different competitions—in sports, or in business, or now, for 10 months, in politics. I have met some of the most incredible competitors that I’ve ever competed against right here in the Republican Party.”
The combined might of the Republican Party’s best and brightest—16 of them at the outset—proved, in the end, helpless against Trump’s unorthodox, muscular appeal to the party’s voting base. With his sweeping, 16-point victory in Tuesday’s Indiana primary, and the surrender of his major remaining rival, Ted Cruz, Trump was pronounced the presumptive nominee by the chair of the Republican National Committee. The primary was over—but for the GOP, the reckoning was only beginning.
Rampant drug use in Austin, Indiana—coupled with unemployment and poor living conditions—brought on a public-health crisis that some are calling a “syndemic.”
Jessica and Darren McIntosh were too busy to see me when I arrived at their house one Sunday morning. When I returned later, I learned what they’d been busy with: arguing with a family member, also an addict, about a single pill of prescription painkiller she’d lost, and injecting meth to get by in its absence. Jessica, 30, and Darren, 24, were children when they started using drugs. Darren smoked his first joint when he was 12 and quickly moved on to snorting pills. “By the time I was 13, I was a full-blown pill addict, and I have been ever since,” he said. By age 14, he’d quit school. When I asked where his caregivers were when he started using drugs, he laughed. “They’re the ones that was giving them to me,” he alleged. “They’re pill addicts, too.”
A new study suggests teens who vow to be sexually abstinent until marriage—and then break that vow—are more likely to wind up pregnant than those who never took the pledge to begin with.
Teen birth and pregnancy rates have been in a free fall, and there are a few commonly held explanations why. One is that more teens are using the morning-after pill and long-acting reversible contraceptives, or LARCs. The economy might have played a role, since the decline in teen births accelerated during the the recession. Finally, only 44 percent of unmarried teen girls now say they’ve had sex, down from 51 percent in 1988.
Teens are having less sex, and that’s good news for pregnancy-and STD-prevention. But paradoxically, while it’s good for teens not to have sex, new research suggests it might be bad for them to promise not to.
As of 2002, about one in eight teens, or 12 percent, pledged to be sexually abstinent until marriage. Some studies have found that taking virginity pledges does indeed lead teens to delay sex and have fewer overall sex partners. But since just 3 percent of Americans wait until marriage to have sex, the majority of these “pledge takers” become “pledge breakers,” as Anthony Paik, a sociologist at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst, explains in his new study, which was published in the Journal of Marriage and Family.
Does the presumptive Republican nominee see African Americans and Hispanics as part of the American “we”?
Celebrating his big win in Indiana—and his elevation to presumptive nominee of the Republican Party—Tuesday night, Donald Trump spoke at Trump Tower in New York City, where he delivered a promise to heal the deep fractures in his party.
“We want to bring unity to the Republican Party,” he said. “We have to bring unity. It's so much easier if we have it.”
That will be a tall order. But as a general-election candidate, Trump will need to win over more than just Republicans. In his inimitable way, he pledged to bring together the rest of the nation as well.
“We're going to bring back our jobs, and we're going to save our jobs, and people are going to have great jobs again, and this country, which is very, very divided in so many different ways, is going to become one beautiful loving country, and we're going to love each other, we're going to cherish each other and take care of each other, and we're going to have great economic development and we're not going to let other countries take it away from us, because that's what's been happening for far too many years and we're not going to do it anymore,” he said. (That’s a single sentence, if you’re keeping track at home.)
Nearly half of Americans would have trouble finding $400 to pay for an emergency. I’m one of them.
Since 2013,the Federal Reserve Board has conducted a survey to “monitor the financial and economic status of American consumers.” Most of the data in the latest survey, frankly, are less than earth-shattering: 49 percent of part-time workers would prefer to work more hours at their current wage; 29 percent of Americans expect to earn a higher income in the coming year; 43 percent of homeowners who have owned their home for at least a year believe its value has increased. But the answer to one question was astonishing. The Fed asked respondents how they would pay for a $400 emergency. The answer: 47 percent of respondents said that either they would cover the expense by borrowing or selling something, or they would not be able to come up with the $400 at all. Four hundred dollars! Who knew?
A person’s age plays a role in when they think United States was at its peak—and Baby Boomers have a particularly dim view of the present.
Of all the themes powering Donald Trump's rhetoric, nostalgia is the strongest. Make America great again. We used to win. We're going to bring jobs back.
Republicans love a good bout of rocking-chair reminiscing. Others have noted the party's preoccupation with the word "restore," citing, among other things, Marco Rubio's newest book (American Dreams: Restoring Economic Opportunity for Everyone), Mitt Romney's super PAC ("Restoring Our Future"), and Glenn Beck's 2010 rally on the National Mall ("Restoring Honor"). When a party's central tenets include a strict interpretation of the Constitution and a commitment to traditional values, it can't avoid an existential yearning for days gone by. Trump has merely put a more populist spin on a longstanding impulse.
It’s a paradox: Shouldn’t the most accomplished be well equipped to make choices that maximize life satisfaction?
There are three things, once one’s basic needs are satisfied, that academic literature points to as the ingredients for happiness: having meaningful social relationships, being good at whatever it is one spends one’s days doing, and having the freedom to make life decisions independently.
But research into happiness has also yielded something a little less obvious: Being better educated, richer, or more accomplished doesn’t do much to predict whether someone will be happy. In fact, it might mean someone is less likely to be satisfied with life.
That second finding is the puzzle that Raj Raghunathan, a professor of marketing at The University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Business, tries to make sense of in his recent book, If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy?Raghunathan’s writing does fall under the category of self-help (with all of the pep talks and progress worksheets that that entails), but his commitment to scientific research serves as ballast for the genre’s more glib tendencies.
Historical precedents augur against Donald Trump—but perhaps the old rules no longer apply.
Historical context is a great asset. But is history always an accurate guide? Does past performance always give us the best predictor of future outcomes?
This election season provides a fascinating frame to see if the polarization in politics, from Washington to the states to the public, is no different than what we have seen in the past; if the angry populism evident especially on the right but also to some degree on the left, is no different from the populism that has emerged following every economic setback; if the surge for an insurgent, non-establishment candidate that has always petered out well before the primary process is over will follow the same arc; if the Republican Party will once again flirt with outside-the-box candidates before settling on an establishment figure; if the fact that every major-party convention since 1952 has been over before a ballot is cast will hold true again. Or, perhaps, if this time might be different.
The Democratic U.S. presidential candidate secured a win over Hillary Clinton when he desperately needed it.
Updated at 10:30 p.m. Eastern on May 3, 2016
Bernie Sanders just got the victory he desperately needed. The Democratic presidential candidate won in the Indiana Democratic primary on Tuesday, which will give him to the momentum he needs to stay in the race and fight on.
The victory does not not fundamentally change the trajectory of the Democratic race, in which Hillary Clinton holds a commanding lead in the all-important delegate count. But it offers some much-needed enthusiasm to the Sanders campaign at a crucial moment. After a string of defeats in Northeastern primary states last month, Sanders attempted to reframe the terms of the race, suggesting that even if he does not win the White House, he might still claim victory if he can leave a progressive stamp on the Democratic party platform.
Both Views and Lemonade complicate the idea of conquering adversity—in very different ways.
The transformation of sour fruit into a delicious drink has symbolized the struggle that is existence at least since a 1915 obituary for the dwarf actor Marshall P. Wilder read, “He picked up the lemons that Fate had sent him and started a lemon-ade stand.” The subsequent popularity of the lemons → lemonade metaphor might owe to the fact that its underlying narrative is, more or less, the only story anyone ever wants to tell. What is the American Dream if not a story of sweetening one’s condition? What about the Christian vision of salvation? What about Hamilton?
The narrative dominates pop music so much that Sia, the singer and songwriter charged with demystifying the present-day hits machine, once jargonized it as “victim to victory.” Pop stars peddle this idea by their very existence—no one is born selling platinum albums—but also, almost inevitably, through their songs: When little else is relatable about a millionaire celebrity, they can still scour their life for evidence of struggle. Successful efforts to do so usually mean making the trope feel new using seemingly authentic details or stylistic innovation or both. In the biggest releases of the season, both Beyoncé and Drake have once again re-engaged with culture’s favorite fairytale—Beyoncé to imbue it with more meaning, and Drake to make it smaller.