I believe you, I totally believe you

Lee Lozano. 1970, Ballpoint on paper. 9 × 11”. Photo by Barbora Gerny. Courtesy of Hauser & Wirth. © The Estate of Lee Lozano.

go to a dinner for an Upper East Side gallery. “I’m not clever, I’m creative,” says a woman in a red felt pantsuit. She squints, and I wonder if she’s squinting at me like, This woman is in polyester mix. She has orange lipstick all over her teeth and a very rich and famous father, which I like, because it’s very artistic.

“Don’t get me wrong, I like to fuck,” she says, when I ask her about her love life. “I believe you,” I say. “I totally believe you.” I keep repeating it in my head, even after we stop talking, sending positive, cross-generational vibes to her. I believe you. I believe you. I imagine her aura swallowing my good wishes like a water-soluble vitamin that converts food into energy. Like biotin for the soul. I imagine her aura growing healthy little nails, like a 12-week-old fetus. Like all uninsured people in the gig economy, I have a really good imagination.

In line for champagne, an artist tells me to shut up about astrology, her patron is coming over. She thanks the patron for her patronage. “It was life-changing,” the artist says. Red blotches begin creeping higher and higher up her neck. “It was absolutely a talent-based decision,” says the patron, patting the artist on the shoulder. Everyone was being honest, I wasn’t judging them at all.

I ask what sort of feathers are in the patron’s headband. “That’s such a good question,” she says. “I hear you’re talented for a 26-year-old.” I ask from whom she’s heard but everyone looks up, like they’re looking for the bird that just shit on them.

“This word gossip comes up a lot lately,” says the patron, after a long pause. “Gossip,” the artist says, nodding, “I’ve heard that word.” A blotch crests her chin. It’s all very brave. That’s what my friend Sam says whenever anything happens at a party. “Well, everyone is acting very brave tonight.”

I started saying “This is all very American” whenever I went to a house party, but people kept disagreeing with me, so I had to stop.

know a waitress who, pregnant at 26, got to marry into the Calder family. For her 27th birthday, her husband hired an entertainer for each floor of their four-story brownstone, which was being renovated to accommodate the baby. A young Asian woman sewed herself into the hallway, like a spider. It took a long time. She kept having to untangle her hair.

They rented a shaman for the living room. It was very smoky, because everyone was smoking cigarettes and the shaman was burning a bunch of stuff. Paper, branches, sage. There was construction tape everywhere. A woman post-holed through the floorboards in stilettos and had to be carried out. She kept throwing her head back dramatically and tucking it back in when she came to a new doorway. She really rose to the occasion.

The shaman was conducting a ceremony by waving his hands back and forth, pressuring random guests to hold hands. By the time I figured out what it was for, I’d married a banker-turned-art-dealer by jumping over a dirty stick with yellow ribbons on it. A week later he tried to have sex with me in his bathtub. It was very hard to get out of the bathtub, it was so big, and the jets were running. I flipped over the side like a seal, spilling water all over the floor and bruising my knees.

“That was weird,” he said, and stayed in the tub.

I stole all the European cigarettes from his fridge and ran for blocks in heels through SoHo at 7 AM. I sat on the stoop of SoulCycle with the girls who had paid $34 an hour to work out. It was so bright, my heels didn’t even hurt, I was saving so much money.

The guy from the Calder family who married a pregnant 26-year-old waitress has a son from his first marriage who records odd sounds all over New York, just like the narrator’s husband in Dept. of Speculation. He went on a date with a friend of mine, and as they walked around Chinatown he pointed out the sounds he could record. Like: “I could record the men hanging up those pigs.” He’d just graduated from Bard.

My friend asked if I could introduce her to the boy’s father instead. His name is Sandy. We imagined all the texts she could send him:

“Beaches are sexy.”

“I want you to put sand in my hair.”

That’s all we came up with besides “I love your family’s real estate” before we stopped being friends.

stop having sex with a 52-year-old French photographer because he keeps cropping my head out of his photographs. I wasn’t sure this was the case until a restaurateur I used to sleep with went to the French photographer’s opening in Paris and texted me a photo. “Is that the lower half of your body? HOT!”

When I confront the French photographer he says that it isn’t his fault, he feels bad about it, and that it isn’t my fault either, and assures me that I looked fine IRL, better than fine even, he didn’t crop out my head in real life. Like, with his mind.

I say, “I believe you,” but make him use a condom so he knows I don’t believe him.

get fired again, this time ostensibly for tweeting things that made my boss feel unsafe.

I tweeted, “my boss cant spell LOL.”

My boyfriend thinks it’s hilarious that I thought a woman who works at a tech start-up didn’t check Twitter. “You’re hilarious,” he says, and pats me in a nonsexual way.

go to an art opening in Chelsea. “Who did you come here with?” asks an art dealer, looking over my shoulder. He once held me all night, only to wake me up by dripping seltzer on my forehead and asking if I was too hungover to go home. Like a prison guard in Benghazi. Which I know he hasn’t heard of, because I said, “What are you, a prison guard in Benghazi?” and he said, “What?”

The dealer says he’s come up with a “radical idea about the intersection of the Nineties rave scene and right-wing politics.” I think his radical idea is that there is a connection between the Nineties rave scene and right-wing politics. I tell him my friend wrote his thesis on that in France six years ago, which isn’t even a lie.

The dealer starts talking to a gallery assistant who likes to box. The dealer says he quit his own MMA career. That’s what he says, “My MMA career.” The dealer is very short. He weighs less than me. “I told my trainer, ‘Listen, bro, I can’t do this, you’re breaking my hands, I practically run an art gallery, I can’t do this, you don’t understand, I have to be able to point at things.’” The gallery assistant says he totally understands.

The dealer asks if it’s true my boyfriend lives in Williamsburg and doesn’t drink and if he’s, like, really savage. “He lives on the Upper East Side,” I say. “He’s very gentle. He volunteers with animals.”

“I can’t see you with someone gentle,” he says. He walks off, leaving me with his gallery assistant. The gallery assistant asks if I live in Brooklyn. Yes, I say. After a pause, I ask, “So. Do you live in Brooklyn?” He looks relieved. “Yes,” he says slowly. “Yes. I live in Brooklyn, too.”

I point to a performance artist I know across the room. “I know that performance artist,” I say. I walk off, leaving the gallery assistant by himself.

“Do you have a James Franco story? I have such good James Franco stories,” says the performance artist, and turns to a group of gays. It turns out we all have a James Franco story about how James Franco fucked one of our friends. They’re pretty good stories, actually. I can’t decide if this makes James Franco a really good celebrity or a really bad one.

I watch the hot younger people pose for pictures with a freelance art critic. “People are really talented,” I say, looking at a teen pose for photos. She’s wearing nothing but wide-net fishnets pulled up to her armpits. “What do you mean?” asks the art critic. I point, but he doesn’t follow my finger.

“I haven’t been out in seven months,” I say.

“I don’t go out anymore either,” he says.

He says he was painting his living room white, and his bedroom white, and maybe his kitchen white, when the Greek model he’s sleeping with posted an Instagram Story from this party. The critic was in Greece last month and met the model at a Greek party.

“He’s here since I was there, and now he lives here,” the critic explains. Why is the model at the opening, I want to know; how does he know the artist? “He doesn’t,” the critic says, and asks if I do. I shrug.

“The model sounds like a scammer,” I say.

“He is a scammer,” says the critic, grinning. When we find the model, he’s dancing wildly by himself. Writers love scammers. They’re so creative, and lower-middle-class. “He’s sober,” says the critic, sipping his drink, and nodding to the model. “That’s why he has to dance like that.”

“My boyfriend is sober too!” I say, and the critic looks at me like, Your boyfriend is sober? So I look at him and make it clear with my eyeballs that everyone thinks he’s a social climber and a fink, but he just asks me if I need an Uber home.

Ha, I say. Ha. Ha.

In college, I worked at a magazine where all the editors were male except for the managing editor.

Whenever the men replied-all to an email chain with a joke, she just wrote back: “Ha. Ha. Ha.”

With periods after each ha.

That was really a revelation to me.

go to a wedding the first weekend in May 2016. The couple writes their own vows. The groom explains how they met at SoulCycle, how hot the bride was that day, and just how truly rare it is to look good after that much exercise. “I just knew we were going to win!” he says at the end, triumphantly crumpling his speech and tossing it into the air. Everyone claps. The father of the bride beams, and pumps his fist in the air, mouthing “W-I-N.” I love Americans. I really do.

You can always walk up to an American and say, “Ah, now this is a cross section of the American public.” As a joke.

move to Los Angeles for the summer because the daughter of a movie star calls to say she’s bored. “I’m bored too!” I say. I can’t find another job because people think I’m always quitting my jobs. And I want to celebrate my birthday by changing my life forever, once and for all. I print out Helen DeWitt’s packing list from the London Review of Books article about evading her male stalker.

Be sane

Be sane

Be sane


In Venice, I set up an office in Billy Al Bengston’s old studio per the handwritten instructions: TAKE THE ROOM W/ THE MOST LIGHT FOR WRITING, ILL BE IN LA ON SUNDAY. The sink in the main house is painted with a pattern of peacock feathers and there’s a Frida Kahlo light-switch cover. I drink all the wine in the cellar before my friend flies into town. It’s just me and two housekeepers, four groundskeepers, and her mother’s best friend, who texts me from the next room whenever she’s leaving for yoga. Whenever I run into her, making coffee in the kitchen or by the pool, she’s stretching with a pained look on her face, her reading glasses twisted on Croakies around her neck.

I read an astrology book I find in a glass bookcase. I take notes on Geminis:

A day of accountability, is dawning.


Refusal to recognize limitations... in their social role.

I go to dinner with a fashion writer at the Chateau. “I’m living my dream,” she says. What’s your dream, I ask. “To write all day and live alone,” she says. In New York we call that a nightmare, I say, laughing. “Don’t you have a day job in New York,” she says.

A month passes like this, maybe two and a half. Then one night I come home and my rich friend says she’s sorry, eventually she’ll forgive me, but I have to leave, and throws a plane ticket at me. She could have given me a paper cut. It’s hard to find a patron in America, especially one your own age.

At the airport, where I’m thirteen hours early for my flight to New York, I listen to a podcast about Shirley Goldfarb, the American painter. She is famous for being painted by David Hockney. According to the podcast, she loved purple bikinis and Paris. Shirley spent all her time in cafés writing in her diary instead of painting.

She wrote “a mantra” in her diary: “Win lose. Lose win. Win, lose.”

My brother used to say I wasn’t allowed to say whatever I wanted and call it a joke, but I think he’s wrong. I literally do it all the time. “It was a joke,” I email to anyone who isn’t talking to me. “I was joking. It was a joke.”

My rich friend invites one of our mutual friends to stay for the rest of the summer instead of me, so I unfollow her on Instagram. I tell everyone she’s a snake, but no one else will unfollow her. I question their solidarity.

I wonder if my day of accountability has dawned. I explain all this to my boyfriend, noting that perhaps I feel cleaner now that I’ve been held so accountable by my friends. That I’m becoming a new person, like a 26-year-old hermit crab with a sparkly new shell that attracts other, cooler hermit crabs. He reminds me that my Artforum editor said I need to be “especially careful with metaphors, given my personality.” He says I feel clean because he installed a top-of-the-line water filter in the shower.

He loves electronics and small home improvements, and I love him. I buy him a fern because I’m homeless and he’s letting me live with him “for now.”

“This is a love fern,” I say. “Like in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.” He just says, “That’s not a fern actually. I think it’s a pine tree.”

go to a panel on melancholy at the Rubin Museum and text my friend at Artforum to ask if I can report it so I can expense the $18 for the ticket.

Wayne Koestenbaum says, “My analyst told me that melancholics will usually be more level-headed than ordinary people in a disastrous situation, partly because they can say: ‘What did I tell you?’”

Wayne Koestenbaum says, “Depression is a directional word. To depress means to beit’s simplythere’s noI suppose it’s anti-sublime, if sublime is to be pushed up, depressed pushed down. But melancholy, even in Englishme-lan-chol-y. It’s four syllables. M. It’s murmuring. It soundsit’s in the sound familyas an English word it’s in the sound family of Romantic and post-Romantic poetry. Murmuring. Keats. ‘The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.’ Mmmmmm. All thatmelancholicI alsoI think it intends to assertmelancholy is to assert a certain stature. Like Voltaire [?] saying, you know, because I am wounded I can speak. So I was kind of wonderingI don’t know if either of you two have thoughtsis melancholyif we were just to think of verbal art or even visual art. Picasso. Is abundance and fecundity not a characteristic of melancholy? Artists. Writers. Isyou know, like, Beckett is melancholy but not in the ongoingness. In the halting. Picasso is not melancholy even though he is brutally interested in his own wounds. Because he justthe instinct to make just keeps going. I don’t know.”

I stop listening. I feel super sad. My friend at Artforum kills the piece but pays me anyway. Two hundred fifty dollars is like a windfall, which everyone knows is the feeling of standing on the edge of the Titanic about to fall as the wind hits your face. And then you die!

I text a bunch of people asking if they want a free drink and spend all the money in one night with my German friend who looks like Klaus Kinski. That’s what he said when we met, in a dark parking lot in Los Angeles, “I look like Klaus Kinski, you should google it if you don’t know who that is.” I googled it.

meet a curator at Lucien for a glass of Beaujolais. She fingers the Hermès scarf around her neck with a wistful smile. She says she wishes she could give it to me. She says her first Hermès scarf totally changed her life.

I go home and google “How to tie an Hermès scarf for idiots.” I practice with a felt winter scarf from A.P.C., carefully memorizing six different ways to strangle someone, like a woman, with an Hermès scarf.

I text the curator a picture of an artist and “WHO IS HE?” It’s a trick that works about 30 percent of the time. She writes back immediately. “He told my friend he liked the dirt under her fingernails. And then he wanted anal I think. But I might be making the anal part up.” I take a screenshot and send it to the artist. He texts back: “LOL LOL LOL.”

go to Karma, the bookstore on 2nd Streetnot the dark tumor casting its shadow on my frontal lobeto buy myself a birthday present. I find a book by the artist Lee Lozano. Handwritten in all caps is the sentence, “Win First Don’t Last, Win Last Don’t Care.”

Ha. I think to myself. Ha. Ha. Ha.

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