Susan Ryan as "Lolita" in Stanley Kubrick's Lolita , 1962
 Tonsure Haircut, Anonymous

Gimme Fiction! For her latest column, KAITLIN PHILLIPS takes us on a pretend journey through the ins and outs of worklife, and all of the crazy creatures that rear their cute little heads – from drunk monk haircuts to desperate stuffed animal keychains.  

I know people think I’m poor because they’re always telling me I should write a book. I never tell anyone to write a book. Whenever I meet someone who has just published a book, there is a high probability that I hate their book and all my friends hate their book. 

It’s important to remind writers – who are obsessed with popularity – that critics lie, people don’t even like good books, publicists make things popular, and money is in television anyway. 

Generally speaking, you have to be careful with compliments, or you’ll be responsible for giving someone the confidence to write a novel. But there I go, part of the problem again, telling unemployed girls they’re “fascinating”. 


I admit the driving principle behind all my decisions for the past ten years was putting myself in rooms with people named Buffy and Bunny. Now that I’ve met all these people I feel unmoored.

With people from LA, you always have to account for the greenhouse atmosphere of growing up in a city where you could go to elementary school with multiple girls named Lolita. They understood the competition from a young age. There’s no room for error. 


All the Lolitas I know are hot. I can’t think of a more interesting anomaly.


Last week I got called in by HR for responding to an e-mail chain, “Looping in your mom.” I would like to clarify that the only thing I regret – about sending an email to eighteen people at a large corporation that said looping in your mom – was not saying “cc’ing your cousin.” 

The only person who thinks I’m funny at work is my office wife, a short gay man named Tony who five years ago was given a razor on acid and gave himself a tonsure. He has a halo of oily brunette hair. Like a medieval monk doing penance for being born poor. It calms me to see his self-inflicted bald spot pop up a few cubicles away. A physical reminder that – while not unfireable per se – neither of us has been fired yet.

I think the idea with the haircut was that he was looking for the right outfit to prostrate himself in front of his ex, who he cheats on. Honestly creative directors do less with more everyday. 

Tony hasn’t figured out how to casually grow the hair out, so now he’s stuck with all the “creative” clients. Experiential sound baths designers who prefer to be called musicians; designers who make chairs you can’t sit on; artists who bake, both the kind that dip baked goods in resin, and the other kind that let live food cultures rot in the gallery.




He always cheers me up with stories about people who got fired from our firm, like the girl intern who once posted install shots from a gallery on the company Instagram and just hashtagged #artworld. Hashtag artworld. To distil something so impure as ill lit photographs of terrible work by a mid-tier artist in a new gallery on a rat infested street in Chinatown? I couldn’t do it. 

The only thing I’ve managed to distil after years of correcting typos and reformatting PDFs and complaining about my intern is dumb people are good at jobs.


If you proceed from the assumption that every worker is disgruntled, that every email is forwarded, that no one likes you when you’re drunk, that you could lose ten pounds, that you’re bad at your job, that you're only one long con away from getting what you want, that you’re only ever as rich as your parents, well then you’d see where I’m coming from and want to kill yourself too.


That I have a friend in her thirties, always with a new, healthier outbreak of acne, who layers keychains of stuffed animals on her purse, a cascade of unwashed, limp and beleaguered stuffed animals, dusted in a thin film of subway grime, which she fingers instead of crushing more Klonopin between her teeth. That she is always getting ahead in life regardless, telling me things like, “I have a rich father, but don’t worry, I hate him”, as if righting a conspiracy. That she wears this purse to the workplace …

 A genius. And she’s just being herself. 

If I had a savings account I would keep my acne too, and I would balloon. I would be as fat as a plus size mannequin in a midtown department store, the kind where you can’t tell if it’s a diversity initiative.


There are a number of ways to be wronged at work, the most common is having to do work you didn’t plan on doing. Not because it’s not in your job description, not because it’s “out of scope”, just because you didn’t feel like doing it. Because you hate working, and you hate yourself.

I feel bad for single people in general but never more frequently than when they perceive themselves to be wronged at work. Talking about how you were wronged at work is like shouting your commute story over loud music. No one cares! I mean my boyfriend cares, about me, that is. Low-key inter-colleague betrayal is only interesting if you know every single bit player – i.e. if you are my boyfriend – down to the office manager who reported you for threatening him on Equal Pay Day for not telling you what all the men in the office make. 

Equal Pay Day is more interesting than you might think or than I thought, before I almost got fired for celebrating it too vigorously: “This date symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year.” It’s March. 

As in, well, I suppose death march comes to mind. 


I have a business idea for a line of stuffed animals called “Elicit pets.” The animals will be any species that gets confiscated at airports – like turtles and tigers – with an accompanying children’s book that has some sort of lesson about unfair immigration policies. Seems like it would be popular under Trump. A lot of metaphors are. 




Even I will admit it’s demoralizing to not be perceived, in literally every context, as an ideas person. Not even at the bar. Or not since I gave up cocaine. 


I go to Lucien and buy time hanging out with the beauty publicist who is always sitting by himself on a barstool. He’s mad because his friends won’t blacklist his enemies. “I don’t have any unlikeable enemies”, he says, miserable. It’s a problem all over New York. You can kick them off all the guests lists though, I say, trying to cheer him up. 

My 21-year-old friend Honor arrives, and I excuse myself, not wanting to over associate with someone who has enemies that I might want to befriend. She’s in town because, like everyone who goes to Bennington, all her friends parents’ have large apartments in Manhattan. Her mother is a makeup artist, but “the not famous B-movie kind”. Honor wants a lollipop lift boob job, because you can still breast feed. “I know many a baby raised on a silicon breast”, she says gravely. She reads about the procedure off her phone. “The lollipop lift involves an incision that is made around the perimeter of the areola and vertically down from the areola to the breast crease. It is also known as a vertical scar keyhole incision procedure.”I have trouble focussing because I can’t stop thinking about a surgeon cutting off my nipple.

Honor says everything gravely, even if it’s in a traditional joke format. (“I’ve been cultivating my autistic friend group because everyone is going to be autistic in the future.”) I compliment her on appearing very high-functioning, but she waves me away. “It’s horse shoe theory”, she says, solemnly, “You know that thing where the alt left and the far right are the same thing, because of podcasts. High functioning and low functioning are now arbitrary distinctions in, like, the marketplace of ideas.” She says it’s more important in 2020 to just focus on your love life, and give up on being good at your job. She hasn’t had a job, but I can’t say I disagree. 

Everyone she has a crush on has been me too’d. “You won’t believe the transatlantic rape pipeline, funnelling rapists back and forth between Sarah Lawrence and Bennington”, she pauses. “Can you believe it?” I believe all the news is left out of the newspaper, I mumble. “Do they rape again?” I ask, “They aren’t … they haven’t tried to …. Hurt you?” 

“No, obviously not, they rebrand as avant-garde. They have no business making moral judgements or inspiring discourse but they’re not, like, retarded. They make zines. They write their apologies and add them in like inserts – an errata sheet, you know? Correcting their errors. Sometimes I offer to copyedit them ...”.

I hope she never has to work. She deserves so much better. 


Every day after work, once I’ve spent hours getting drunk downtown, I like to crawl into bed, close my eyes, and ask my boyfriend to mansplain things to me.


It’s very soothing, after being surrounded by idiots all day, to just revel in non-idiocy. He makes me feel like I’m involved in the world of ideas, even though I only read Twitter and women’s fiction from 1980–1994. Whenever people ask me what he’s like, I just say he radiates job security or he’s a silent earner or he went to Cooper Union. They know what I mean. 

“I’m reading a book on emotion. It argues that diseases for which there’s no scientifically identifiable tissue damage aren’t real,or more precisely, that they aren’t physical. They’re diseases of the psyche. Mental maladies as it were.” He tells me that I feel sick all the time because I eat steak. That I need to focus on balancing my body budget. “Our energetic reserve is maintained by deposits of sleep, food, and relaxation. When overdrawn the body produces an excess of pro-inflammatory cytokines and gets flooded with glucose.”

 I open my eyes to signal annoyance at having to hear words I don’t understand. He capitulates. “If you were a squirrel, right? You’d eat a nut and run up a tree to regulate. But you cry about a disease nobody can put a finger on and become artificially diabetic on account of paralyzing depression.” 

“I know what’s wrong with me. It’s that I hate my job”, I say. 

“Not this again”, he says, petting my hair.


Kaitlin Phillips is a writer and critic and lives in Manhattan . Her column “For Immediate Release” appears every third Wednesday of the month on Spike. Last time, she wrote about “Underearrners Anonymous”.