Who Are Lizzo’s Fave Boys


Last September, I got to see the artist Lizzo perform at the XOXO Festival in Portland, Oregon. It felt like everyone in the festival knew who she was, except for me. And by the end of the night, I understood what they were so excited about. I so understood.

Ever since then, I've wanted to write an essay about Lizzo's song “Boys.” The essay, as I imagined it, would be about the power of punctuation to completely change the meaning of the second verse. The title of my essay was going to be “Who Exactly Are Lizzo’s Fave Boys?”

But I never wrote it. It’s been seven months, and I still haven’t written the damn thing.

As I was wrapping up “The Story Only You Can Write,” which was supposed to be the first of a series of eight-week courses on the subject of writing, I thought the article on Lizzo was going to lead off my next course. The course was going to be about a subject near and dear to my heart: narrative cross-training. It’s a term I cooked up to sum up my philosophy that the best way to learn about a new form of storytelling is by re-exploring the storytelling forms you’re already familiar with. But here’s thing: I’m burned out on teaching. My day job is half teaching and half supporting teachers as an administrator. The last thing I want to do each week, when I finally have time to work on my own projects, is to do even more teaching.

They say that the best ways to build an audience are to educate or to entertain. Too often I’ve fallen back on educating, because it's what’s comfortable, and too often that’s because I haven’t had confidence in my ability to entertain.

But I do entertain people. I just don’t entertain everyone. And now I’m coming to grips with that—with the fact that a small passionate audience who is entertained by my work is way better than an audience who reads my work out of some sort of sense of obligation born of the fact that I’ve educated them. There will inevitably be some crossover—some of my most rabid fans are former students, after all—but I think I've been barking up the wrong tree.

And so, that brings me to this: if you joined my mailing list or started reading this site because of my promise to teach you how to write, this might be the time to bow out. And I won’t be offended if you do. I think I’ll still manage to sneak some teaching moments in, because I don’t think I’ll be able to help it. But going forward, the focus will be on entertaining. It’ll be on my writing and how my writing can impact you, my readers.

I hope you’ll stick around, but I won’t be offended if you don’t. —Clark

P.S. Here’s the gist of the Lizzo thing. First, you’ve gotta read this second verse (as published by Genius.com):

I like big boys, itty bitty boys
Mississippi boys, inner city boys
I like the pretty boys with the bow tie
Get your nails did, let it blow dry
I like a big beard, I like a clean face
I don't discriminate, come and get a taste
From the playboys to the gay boys
Go and slay, boys, you my fave boys

Now, how do you read that last line? Who do you think Lizzo’s fave boys are?

If you read the final two lines as a couplet, it seems to suggest that all boys—from gay boys to playboys—are Lizzo’s favorites. She likes all the boys, all of them.

But, if you read that last line as a parenthetical—“to the gay boys (go and slay, boys; you my fave boys)”—the meaning is entirely different. In that case, the gay boys become Lizzo’s favorite.

It’s an interesting idea, right? Maybe not enough for a whole essay, but I can’t believe I’ve sat on it for this long.