FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: DARK TIMES. THEY'VE NEVER BEEN AS DARK AS NOW
In her new column, Kaitlin gives us a few anecdotes about hot dog eating, boys who overvalue Continental Philosophy, and what happens when your friends start to hate you. What more could you ask for?
“I have a phrase you will love, which is Knausgaard’s”, said my friend, a writer herself. “Dark times. They’ve never been as dark as now.” We laugh. “I think about it all the time. Like when one of my earrings goes missing. Or I try to call an Uber, but my phone dies.” I want to cry it’s so funny.
Doesn’t it make all of his lionization and premature canonization worth it? Dark times. They’ve never been as dark as now.
Now that’s writing! That’s why we get up in the morning! THIS IS WHY WE WRITE!!
Later, once we’ve had a bottle of wine, she said, “I have another phrase for you. I’ll never forget it, because it’s about Princess Diana.” I wait while she lights a cigarette, which looks particularly nice against her peroxide hair.
"Men don’t like neurotic women. Five words.” She blows out the smoke.
“It’s the five words for me”, I said, laughing. “Me too”, she said.
There’s this PhD student who is really good looking that supposedly has had sex with everyone but me. When I ask everyone whether or not he would have sex with me, they just go, “He has sex with everyone” or “He’s the community bicycle” or “He’s like the fucking E-ZPass, you enter downtown.”
But when I ask him to get a drink, he writes back, “No.”
“Well, that didn’t go as planned!” I tell my friend, showing her the texts. She said she can make me feel better, she just needs another drink. We wait for the waitress, a few minutes pass, I post a hot photo of her. And then she leans in and says, “Okay, I’ll tell you.” Years ago, she was dancing with him at some warehouse party, and suddenly started to entertain the thought of going home together. They’ve known each other for years, it was on the table. And then he leaned over and shouted over the music, “WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT ADORNO?”
“I feel better already”, I said. “I just knew you would”, she said.
At Lucien, I tell this story to an unlucky in love digital staff writer. “Oh my god”, she said, grabbing my wrist, “I know a guy like this too … Like he’s literally sitting other there, right there. By the window?” She pointed directly to the party reporter at table six, who I have known my entire adult life in New York. “We matched on Raya during quarantine and you will never guess what his cold open was.” I put my drink down, because I know I’m about to spill it and choke.
“Have you read the plays of SAM SHEPARD? With Sam Shepard in caps lock.” She didn’t write back to his overture. “What I love about that”, I said, “Is the best possible scenario is they’ve seen one play by Sam Shepard.”
The art gallerist sitting with us, who lives in his mother’s chic rent controlled apartment from the 70s, said, "I would have gone with DO YOU FUCK WITH HEIDEGGER? And refused to break caps lock the entire chat, actually the whole time we knew each other. Like if we met at a bar, I’d just lock eyes and scream at her for hours.”
I put up my hands when we’re fighting, sort of vaguely in front of my face. “Ah”, my boyfriend says, “Is that a boundary I see, after all these years.”
My friend, a novelist, notices on Instagram, where she is blocked, that her rival got a dog that looks exactly like her. My friend that is. “She’s clearly obsessed with me. She wants to put me on a leash.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about what friends are for, and what they’re for is reading your rival’s book, starting a group chat about it with all the millennial book critics, sending the worst passages, and dedicating hours of your work life to making fun of it online.
My point is, just listening does not make you a good friend.
A friend of all my friends – who, until recently, was my friend – told everyone in our friend group she didn’t want to be friends with me anymore. She might have told me, and yet.
What had happened was (and to be honest I’m just telling you what my friends told me had happened, because despite the fact that I was there, I didn’t know anything was happening) was that my hands were full, I was eating a hot dog, and mustard was leaking, and I thought it would end up on my new suede purse, which cost $3,000, and, allegedly I said, "Hold my hot dog.”
I remember handing her the hot dog. I remember, before I handed her the hot dog, making what I would call a joke about her relationship with a famous woman. The joke was, and I can see now how this is not in a traditional joke format, because it isn’t funny, but what I said was,
“How would you describe your role in the relationship? Are you a pet? A partner? The houseplant? A cat? All valid identities, for the record.”
I had noticed she got mad, because to alleviate her anger, I told her I was a sociopath. Then two weeks later, everyone told me I’d told her I was a sociopath, and also I rudely handed her a hotdog. That part of the story I actually really liked, which is why I’m telling it to you.
An artist I know went over to the house of an older collector. She wanted him to see her collection. “You’ll love this”, she said, every time they approached a new work.
Then they took the elevator, and she showed him the roof. “You’ll love the pool”, she said. They looked at the pool for a while. “You can go in”, she said. “Don’t mind if I do”, he said. Apparently this surprised her. One thing you’ll learn right away about the art world is all the people in it love to be surprised.
He didn’t just jump in either, he gave her her money’s worth, and swam for a long ass time. She took a seat and watched. The sun set. Eventually she said, “I’m going to get you a towel.” She went downstairs.
“You’ll love this towel”, she said when she returned. “It’s Raymond Pettibon.”
The debate over the state of the media, in my friend group, begins and ends with the male editors at the New York Times who are known for favouring contrarian girls and/or using their “power” to turn random dudes who went to Harvard into “reporters” and, in the worst cases, “war reporters” and “foreign correspondents.”
If you don’t believe that the debate ends there then you have greatly underestimated how much more interesting gossip is to us. It’s not like it’s divorced from ethics. For instance: Did Nancy Jo Sales lie in her pieces? Stretch the truth? Take it too far? We've asked ourselves those questions. We’ve read the blogs, written in the aughts by disgruntled competitors, about her sketchy sourcing. And yet, she is – as she tells people herself – the only person to have had a relationship with both Harold Bloom and Ghostface Killah, so she gets a pass. And isn’t that what we’re all talking about on media twitter? Who gets a pass? Who doesn’t get a pass?
If it isn’t about that, then it’s definitely about when writers tweet, “THIS is how you do it”, because it is somehow NEVER how me and my friends want it done.
What’s the opposite of a carry? A fumble.
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 a new condition called “Masks Off, Personalities On”.