lynn phillips & maggie cutler

two names, one writer

From “The Secret Life of Kitty Lyons, by Maggie Cutler”

Between 1999 and 2000 I published some 40 columns on the hipster sex site,, and in their print publication, Nerve. In the French tradition the columns fused political satire and porn. Their premise was that Kitty Lyons, a work-from-home day trader in her early thirties who shared Henry Kissinger’s conviction that “power is the ultimate aphrodisiac”, would occasionally retire to her couch to masturbate while having sex fantasies about movers and shakers in the news. Although Kitty was a fantasist, her husband, Max, was a documentary filmmaker who, as she put it, “believed in reality.” Nevertheless, she was able, on occasions such as this one, to lure him into her premise. When this piece ran,  Donald Trump had left the Republican Party to explore a Reform Party bid for the White House.

Trumped Up

Original Publication date: Nov. 24, 1999

Last Wednesday, every chakra in Max’s body went chapter 11. His documentary, Homebuilding in the Heartland, was only half in the can when its German funder pulled the plug, and despite the windfall I took with 200 shares of AOL, he slid into a major droop. I tried sympathy, massage; I even sat with him through Ric Burns’ epic Donner Party, but nothing could induce the man I love to lick my wounds instead of his own.

Fantasizing about sex with a billionaire has been known to pull me through a funk; maybe it will perk up my husband, I figure. I book a room at the Plaza Hotel and tell him to meet me at 6:00 the next evening. “You must arrive as Donald Trump,” I command him, “and be prepared to rule the free world.”

Things begin well. In a blonde wig, spikes and enough mascara to tar a roof, I enter the Oak Bar feeling as mischievous as Eloise on hormones. Max arrives wearing the perfect Trump shirt: expensive and repulsive. He’s strutting with his chest puffed out, and he has combed his eyebrows up into frightened caterpillars.

In our tiny room (the best we can afford), I strip slowly, as if my body were a shady bank loan whose details it might be dangerous to fully reveal. Donald-Max lets out a whistle and tries to talk me into doing a Playboy centerfold. “Get you a million bucks American for it,” he wheedles, caressing my hip,” and I’ll only keep one third.” But like Marla, his ex, I’m obliged to decline due to deep religious and spiritual convictions.

My coy refusal (a transparent bid for a favorable pre-nup) accompanied by the sort of sultry pout that assures a man you love him primarily for his liquid assets, makes Max feel all mogul-like. His manhood skyrockets in value, burgeoning instantly from indebted worm to $9.2-billion-dollar Reform Party Contender.

I grab his handle as if he was my lucky slot machine, then go down on him like a pro, without the preliminary licks or sniffs that normally make it fun for me. Now that my husband’s a greedy go-getter worth billions, it gets me hot anyway.

“Fund me now,” he cries, and proceeds to excavate my foundation.

“I’m going to make Mike Tyson Secretary of State,” he pants. “I’ll meet with Arafat at Wrestlemania. Subsidize plastic surgery for the ugly and uninsured. Reporters who don’t like it will get audited.”

No sooner do I begin to congratulate myself on coming up with this clever scheme, when Max enters turn-off territory.

“I want a divorce,” he continues, “so I can bed every good-looking babe on the Elite Modeling Agency roster, except, of course, my daughter, whom I must by law bequeath to another billionaire to marry and dump when she gets old enough to have a brain.”

All of a sudden this fuck is starting to feel like one of those bright ideas that, once begun, drag on for dismal eons — like The Blair Witch Project or the House of Lords. I fake a few moans to hurry him up, ready to settle for what Marla got (about .001%) and bail the hell out.

Maybe Max can tell, because all of a sudden he breaks character completely. The way he calls out for Kitty, his intensity and the need I feel in him make giddy sensations spin through my tits and twat like roulette balls. Casino lights flash in my blood and my clit tingles like a gambler on a roll. By the time Max’s newfound confidence spurts forth, I’m wet enough to . . . to . . . Soak the Rich!

Afterwards, the latest Trump campaign slogan hovering in my post-coital mind, I can practically hear my mother lecturing about how Trump is the only candidate who addresses the problem of income disparity. Thanks, Mom, but I’ve learned more than enough about Trump from sleeping with my husband. For me, The Donald was only truly sexy before his famous Comeback, when he was down, in doubt and in love, when the swell of his desire was pressed against the locked doors of edifices he himself had erected, when he was raining flop sweat and looking up the skirt of fortune, begging her for one more taste. Cocky and on top of his world he gives off all the emotional complexity of a gold brick.

I’m just about to tell Max how much I prefer his own student-loan-afflicted self when he preempts me.

“I’m not Donald Trump anymore,” he declares.

“Good Boy!” I exclaim supportively.

“I’m Steve Forbes!”

I beat him with my wig until he agrees to drop out of the race.

Spalding Gray Interview

Titled “Heaven Can Wait,” From The Downtown Express, column, “The Big Idea by Lynn Phillips” November 7th, 1990

What’s striking about the Soho loft Spalding Gray shares with his sometime director and collaborator is its modesty. There’s nothing on the walls but two exotic masks, as if somebody started a collection but immediately thought better of it. There’s an old, lushly red kilim versus a simply functional kitchen. In the middle, all alone, is a small table, tin-topped. Sitting at it, you’re perfectly suspended between sensuality and monasticism, hominess and disengagement, self-acceptance and penance.

Gray has built a solid culture-circuit career sitting at just such a small table, telling stories about his adventures, insights and worries. And the minute you hear those flat New England “A”s, his past performances come flooding back in all their edgy charm: Point Judith; Sex and Death to the Age

14; Swimming lo Cambodia. His current monologue, Monster in a Box, which opened in previews at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi Newhouse Theater on November 2, is nearly sold out for its November 14 to December 31 run. But what is it about this guy that makes what’s intially a cheesy, self-obsessed routine so expansive, so inclusive, so richly amusing?

Jimmy Swaggart comes up right away: ”It terrifies me to see Jimmy Swaggart on television,” says Gray, “although l watch him all the time. I see the form of what l’m doing in it. I wish I had seen him ask for forgiveness, the way he turned it around and used it us more material.”

Gray is crusty, not a nay-sayer, but a disputer who once compared his creative process to an oyster’s. The very idea of Big Ideas be finds especially irritating, (“Truth,” Gray counters, “is in the details.”) and the most annoying Big Idea be can think of offhand is Heaven. “It’s about putting off pleasure,” he explains, “the idea that ‘What’s really happening hasn’t happened yet.’ That’s a Big Idea I wish I hadn’t been exposed to. I don’t think I’ll ever deprogram myself entirely.”

Gray, who was raised os a Christian Scientist in Barrington, Rhode Island, recalls “my mother asking for the silent prayer, which was like a form of meditation, and my father being completely addicted to rare steak. So we used to bow our heads and pray with rare steak blowing up our noses. It was hard to think anything but carnal thoughts.” Later in life, meditating in a zen monastery, he found “the hardest times were when they were cooking.”


So there it is, in the furniture, in the anecdotes, on TV: a dualistic tug-of-war between the spirit and the flesh, transcendence and banality. It’s a tricky tussle. The carnality of meat is a trap, but repudiating meatiness for the sake of some post-carnal “heaven” is a trap, too. Gray’s main story is about how he tries to thread his way between all the moral contradictions and ambiguities of a modern, media-mediated life. It’s a story of process. “It was never an idea to sit behind a table and tell stories,” Gray insists. “It was an evolution.” And still is.

Gray gravitated towards the arts, he says, in part because he felt like an outsider. “Because I was a Christian Scientist, all my friends would say, ‘So you don’t believe in goin’ to doctahs, right?’ I’d say,

‘That’s right.’ and They’d say, ‘What if this tree fell on you?’ Horror after horror. It felt like all my friends had death wishes for me.”

In 1977, when he was 36, Gray co-founded The Wooster Group at The Performing Garage with  Liz LeCompte. LeCompte, The Group’s director, would ask him to repeat his stories so she could tape them and work them into a text.

Gray, however, felt himself pulling away from the collective mind; he wanted to “take responsibility for everything.” One day, touring with The Wooster Croup in Amsterdam, “Walking alone in Van Gogh Park, I had what was like a revelation that I’d be doing a series of autobiographical sketches. l was elated. I thought it would involve props, costumes, a one man version of The Wooster Group shows I didn’t know I’d just be sitting at a table speaking.”

The table he sits at when he does his act is an important revision of LeCompte’s staging, part of Gray’s dispute with religious Bigness: “Liz worked with a big table; mine is the shrunken version: the card table version of the Last Supper”

After Gray left the Wooster Group, he went to Santa Cruz and began to crash classes at the university. ln a course called, “Philosophy of Emotions,” he befriended the professor, Amlie Rorty.

“We were walking in the redwoods. I’d mistaken my predicament with leaving the The Group with the end of the world. And she said, ‘You know, the last artists in Rome when it was collapsing were the chroniclers.’

“And I said, Of course! That’s it! I will chronicle my life in stages, but not write it down—this is the other epiphany – it would be oral.  The world could end. It could end that night. There would be no product left over. It would be an epitaph.”

The purity of this formal metaphor was soon diluted by the hope of salvation and the smell of steak: “Then I started to get these offers to publish and do a film of my monologues, and of course, I’m like anyone, any man, I’m afraid of death, I yearn for immortality…”  Products were spawned, as Gray, in recent years, has mastered the spin-off. When success as a monologuist won him Hollywood movie roles (The Killing Fields, Beaches), his show-biz misadventures became part of his act. Now he’s writing Spalding Gray’s Book, for Knopf. It’s all about Spalding Gray, person, and “Spalding Gray”, his stage persona. The distractions he experienced while writing the book have become the subject of Monster in a Box.

The phone rings. Somebody wants “Spalding Gray” to do a dress rehearsal. What does a dress rehearsal mean when you play yourself? “It means I put on my plaid shirt,” says Gray.

The difference between the plaid shirt Spalding  Gray removes and the one that makes him “Spalding Gray” is miniscule—but crucial. The Gray without the quotes is torn. He’s studying Buddhism under Robert Thruman, and Life with loftmate Renee Shafransky, who mistrusts all mysticism. “Spalding Gray” in quotes is booked into ’92. He’s a show-biz sage, a Swaggart of ironic self-awareness. Part of his job, now that he’s a product, is to control how he’s used.

“I think in terms of ‘horizontal fame,’ he says. Keep your audience growing without thinning your act. Don’t go for mass “bigness” at the expense of downtown complexity. In recent appearances, he’s also begun to interview audiences, to cross his proscenium, share his spotlight.

Meanwhile Gray the truth-seeker is tempted to swap spotlight for halo: “My Big Idea is, um, probably dangerous.”

He reads from a tiny spiral notebook: “‘To conceive of my inter-connectedness and realize pure, selfless compassion.”‘ Meaning: “that I would feel the same about you as I do about myself — a very exhausting concept. It usually leads to Mother Teresa and working in hospitals.” He pauses. “Or to the insane asylum.”

Luckily for you, Spalding Gray is still dizzy with possibility, and heaven can wait. The awful bigness of Gray’s vision of enlightenment, juxtaposed with the devilish details of his attempts at it, are what makes his self-centered performances so selflessly universal. Stuck between paradise and Burger King,  Gray sums up his current stage of spiritual awareness with a line of urban zen: “It’s all about trying not to litter.”

Why read it?  My editor at The Downtown Express was Jan Hodenfield. Years after Gray’s terrible death in 2004 Jan called to tell me he’d reread this interview and it remained his favorite piece of mine and also his favorite piece on Gray,  In the light of subsequent events, the themes it strums and conflicts it delineates are really haunting.

From Heresies Magazine 1989



By Lynn Phillips

Here in America, you can be anything you want. All you need is a positive attitude and a dash of moxie. But I want to be so many things; I’m having trouble getting started.
On the one hand I yearn to be elegant, really elegant, one of those social paragons with flawless, surgically stretched skin and an orthodontically impeccable smile. I’d wear a Lacroix gown accessorized with jewels as big as meteorites. My shoes would cost a typist six weeks’ wages. My hair would be tipped by a man you’d swear was Botticelli in a former life. At my elbow would stand a tuxed-out older gent, one who’s earned his money the hard way—sucking up to the right people. My amusing escort would steer me bullishly into a drove of Page Sixers at an eat-your-heart-out charity feed thrown on Trump’s lovely yacht, or in the cultural penumbra of an otherwise public museum. There, I’d be envied for my villas and Van Goghs, admired for my unfailing generosity, my discreet charm, and my brilliant lawyers. Outsiders, reading about me in W. would feel comforted to know that any civilization that produced me couldn’t be all bad.


On the other hand, those smug, snitty socialite bores make me want to throw up. How dare the privileged Few flaunt their fortunes before the destitute? Oh to see those doges and their dowagers blown to bits in a great, booming explosion. Wouldn’t that be gratifying?


lmagine: ruby shrapnel and shards of diamond ricocheting off the shantung walls, whizzing through Porcini-shaped clouds of Opium-scented smoke while poached eyeballs spin giddy, bubble• chamber trajectories through a galaxy of waxed legs and imploding centerpieces. Picture severed heads of once vain and mighty men zooming through the air, a hail of comets, flumes of consommé trailing each in its parabolic wake, while roasted wags, untrussed, soaring, rocket through the after-dinner gyre of salad—shredded brocade, pureed pace-makers, blood-red radicchio—clear to the shattered chandeliers and on!


Such a festive conflagration would surely revivify fashion and the Arts, yet I balk at what it might do to the ozone. Besides, I detest violence. It won’t pay the dentist. It won’t melt the heart of a bureaucrat, pull a daddy off crack, or wean the Iower-middle classes from their dependency on Spanish Colonial décor. No, violence breeds nothing but, more violence. So l don’t know what to do.


Even in the middle, muddle rules. Should I renovate a basement in a travesty of Anglophilic taste, hire bodyguards, and cultivate a self-satisfied throng of vapid celebrities? Or, is the life of a demimondaine club-owner too frivolous? Maybe I’d better become an insurance adjuster, making sure that nobody collects unless her injuries are documented! Is this what I want? Or that?


One way or another, questions nag: Should I earn more than I need? Spend more than I earn? Seek fame on talk shows as an achiever, or as a victim? Should I weekend in the Hamptons or gentrify Harlem? Truly mother, or merely reproduce? I can’t even decide if I should draw my sense of community from Ted Koppel or from Snoopy. I’ve too darn many options, and just thinking about them all makes me hungry.


But what to eat? If simple fare, then macro, or Roy Rogers? If complex, Chez Panisse or Tex-Thai? Should I cook, order in, or eat out? Maybe I should run down to the soup kitchen and ladle out some slop for those beggars and moochers who skulk around my neighborhood rubbing our noses in our own heartless hypocrisy. Should I? Are crumbs of mercy filling? Or merely degrading. Both, obviously, but which? Perhaps I should go on a fast.


Most likely I’d have been happier in simpler times when a person had only to ride the great American West, cheating bellicose Indians of their land, shooting gold-crazed Chinamen for their mining claims, or killing cattlemen who’d pay anything to get the railroad routed through their small-minded frontier towns. It was easier once, no doubt, to choose between being a Wobbly organizer and a Pinkerton goon, to husband vain dreams among the polyglot factions of the oppressed, or to bash in their anti-American skulls with one’s truncheon. Easier, but tricky.


Our cultural past is just as hard to figure. Would l have said yes to Walt Whitman’s Transcendental muse, or to Walt Disney’s transcendent mouse? Better yet, starting as a prohibition-era talent agent, maybe l’d have risen hook by crook to head a major studio, beguiling the minds of my generation with dreams of G-men, warriors, and the women who love them. But that’s all moot. One must stay in one’s own time and skin; live in the Present!


No, no more procrastinating! I will triumph over indecision. But how? Should I channel mummies through a house-wife’s larynx? Get in touch with my body or opt for out-of-body bliss? Should I invest my savings in therapy, summon the Furies of childhood, then learn to croon them to sleep with self-absorbed lullabies? Hmmmmm. Jogging might do as well. Or sitting zazen, or lifting weights. Any disciplined routine to get me into the rhythm of decisive action without the distractions of content or consequence.


Perhaps I ought to join an Anonymous Society and entrust my life to a Higher Power? The Higher Power can be anything I wish: Moscow, Mary, Elvis, you name it. At any hour of the day or night, if Elvis wills it, my fellow sufferers—the stymied, the scattered and shirkoholic—may ring me up. And I them. A tight support system—is that the solution?


Deep in my heart I know that prodding and poking at my problem won’t solve it. The only way to defeat lethargy is to do something, anything. Sign a personal check to help science test a new cancer drug, albeit on innocent monkeys and bunnies? Support groups opposed to such cruel practices, thus slowing the metastasis of hope? Maybe I ought to write a note admonishing my congressman to ignore all those munitions lobbies and xenophobic voters who put him in office? No, I’d be more useful sending blankets to the baked plains of Ethiopia, or shipping medical supplies to the armies of Nicaragua to abet that noblest of causes—a small nation’s struggle to choose which superpower to owe. Oh dear.


Perhaps it would be more effective to teach just one teenage mother to read. After a few years of patient work and sacrifice, for which her children (once they’re successful word-processors) will no doubt thank her, she’ll be able to read this. Or something more upbeat, a fashion mag, or supermarket romance. She’ll be able to make her own choices then.

She’ll be as free as I.


I know that sloth is a sin. Still, reviewing all the viable alternatives to it wears me out. l’m sleepy. Time for a nap.

I curl up, and my cat, Purina, jumps up on the futon for a cuddle. What a creature! She is not at all confused. She has no job. She has no social ambitions. No social conscience. She has much to teach me.

Watching her, I can see what I must do. I must find a Higher Power to take care of me, a Higher Power who’ll scratch my back and leave me alone with a full dish on weekends. I will learn to clean myself with my tongue and go to the bathroom in a box of gravel. I’ll hunt mice and catch them; I’ll regale them with tales of tigers, leopards, and the rodents who love them. I’ll bat my little Mickies and Minnies around like hockey pucks, or Pinkerton Men, or Latin refugees. Then I‘ll experiment on them scientifically with my teeth for awhile before presenting my empirical results to The Great One. If I get bored or lonely I’ll crawl into a paper bag and rattle up a childhood trauma or two, then scamper forth reborn. And should the Almighty seek to soothe her conscience by writing a check, I’ll bite the hand that grips the pen, or nibble a leaf of grass to make myself spit up on Her signature. No teenage mothers are going to learn to read while I’m around! I’ll stand on their books and stick my sphincter smack in their faces! In such behavior lies truth, simplicity, and honesty.

But alas, I am no cat. I am only a confused good-for-nothing, fated to flatter and praise the go-getters and never-say-diers, the movers and shakers, the can-do-and-did-ers, those whose lot it is to build, build, build, for better or worse, in sickness and in health upon this earthly paradise a temple of marvels, a monument to the dovetail fit of demand and supply, factory and shopping mall, of tyrant and jester, killer and nurse, and to bequeath their creation with love everlasting to their cherished offspring that they may build and bequeath In turn, hand over fist, mind over matter, Life über alles and a pox on Laggards!

Published in the print version of Heresies Magazine 1989
Issue #24: 12 Years (Anniversary Issue) (Volume 6, Number 4)
Why Read it?
This piece has been omitted from the online archival version. But I like how fresh this piece feels 27 years later.  When it was written, many contemporary forms of human folly and wasted energy—“social media marketing” for example—had not yet been created, but the basic template of folly and waste—an economy of cruelty—was well in place.
I could have used an editor on this one. The endings are too numerous and bludgeon the reader with too much whimsy besides. What keeps me in love with it are its concluding blasts of ferocious ambivalence. 

The DILFIT Fashion Disaster Award Alert…

Back in the spring of 2008, I created the DILFIT Awards for Self-Loathing in Fashion. My list of winners ran in The New York Times’ T Magazine. (“DILFIT,” as you have no doubt guessed, is the acronym for “Do I Look Fat In This?”)

I had hoped to bestow the DILFITS annually, but, lazy worm that I am, I haven’t. I am happy to announce, however, that there is a winner for the 2012 Spring and Summer season.

Rei Kawakubo's cotton ball gown SS2012

Comme des Garcons gown 2012

It is Rei Kawakubo, whose inspired creation—pictured here—so perfectly reflects the “complexity and feminist ambivalence” that Vogue’s Sarah Mower admired in the Japanese designer’s Comme des Garcons collection for Spring.

On days when a woman applies too much eye makeup, and it smears all over her face when she tries to remove it, and rubbing only makes her skin look raw, and she’s knee-deep in used cotton balls and late for work, or a date, and it’s that time of the month, this is surely what she will want to wear to flagrantly and stylishly express her dismay at being herself.

The white boots, which reminded’s Tim Blanks of technician-wear appropriate for a post-tsunami nuclear reactor melt-down, or “equally….sixties couture a-go-go,” will show off every bit of mud a determinedly self-loathing woman drags herself through.

And, yes, you will look fat in it.
If you have a nominee you would like me to consider, I’d love to issue further awards. Please use the contact form and include a link to the image as well as your reasons why the outfit reflects, soothes, illuminates or compliments self-loathing.

Focus v. Awareness

optical illusion

stare at red dot fixedly and blue circle fades

Fixed focus and general awareness don’t play well together. Concentrating on any one thing can cause “attentional blindness,” the inability to notice something obvious.

Stare at the red dot above fixedly and the blue circle will gradually fade from view. Remember: if you focus on your self-loathing your actual loathsomeness will evaporate from your peripheral vision, but if you focus only on the positive you will eventually go blind.

(Image originally obtained here).

Boviscopophobia, the David Foster Wallace Disorder

Go On: Look Like a Cow!

Go On: Look Like a Cow!

In A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, David Foster Wallace peered down on his fellow passengers as they debarked from the luxury cruise ship M.V. Zenith, and recoiled at the sight of them “waddling in expensive sandals into poverty-stricken ports,” a morally and aesthetically repulsive herd.

“For me,” he confessed, boviscopophobia is an even stronger motive than semi-agoraphobia for staying on the ship when we’re in port. “Boviscopophobia,” he explains in a footnote, is “the morbid fear of being seen as bovine.” He feared looking like a cow.

He imagines that not all the tourists are unaware that, to locals, they might resemble fat cattle. Perhaps, he muses, that despite it, they…

…refuse to let their boviscopophobia rule them:they’ve paid good money to have fun and be pampered and record some foreign experiences, and they’ll be goddamned if they’re going to let some self-indulgent twinge of neurotic projection about how their Americanness appears to malnourished locals detract from the 7NC Luxury Cruise they’ve worked and saved for and decided they deserve.

But Wallace is too truth-loving to compartmentalize. He can’t shake “a self-conscious and somewhat condescending concern about how I appear to others that is (this concern) 100% upscale American,” which is to say:

…large, fleshy, red, loud, coarse, condescending, self-absorbed, spoiled, appearance-conscious, ashamed, despairing, and greedy; the world’s only known species of bovine carnivore.*

His may be the purest example of self-loathing conflated with America-bashing we have. You don’t have to be a self-adoring patriot to see why non-self-loathers and the self-loathing-impaired might not want to ratify this sort of vision, might resent it, even.

Liberals get accused of being self-loathing a lot because, well, we often are. And we get accused of hating America because, hey, many smart, articulate liberals—like many radical Christian evangelicals—genuinely do. That is, they can only love America when they imagine it filled with people who agree with them. And it isn’t.

You can try to explain to activists why the odor of this attitude is like weaponized ammonia when it comes to organizing for change in the US, why most of their country-folk would rather eat glass—or at least corndogs—rather than identify with a vortex of self-awareness, self-rejection and moral superiority that seems destined for suicide, but listening, alas, is not the visionary’s strong suit.

What’s great about the OWS upsurge, however, is that it rightly re-assigns ordinary Americans to the ranks of the oppressed and despised—hence (for anti-authoritarian power-haters) the loveable underdog sector of the world. There’s an opportunity here to offset liberal self-and-other revulsion with some genuine fellow feeling. I hope we grab it. Fan as I am of self-loathing as insightful as David Foster Wallace’s, I don’t want his sensibility leading our country into another impotence-infatuated Naderite ditch.

Fellow citizens: Do not be afraid! Look like a cow! Love yourself as you would any other grass-fed, pasture-raised icon of bucolic simplicity. Stuff your face and your shopping bags. Waddle to freedom. Drop your cow pies and make your milk. Watch your Housewives of Atlanta. Remember: We, too, deserve liberty, good governmnt, democracy, and a reasonable amount of equality—no matter how bovine we appear to great writers…or to ourselves.

*for quotes, see .pp 310-311 hardcover ed.

Bad Sex Science

gendered colors

gendered colors

I can’t stand it when people gender the spectrum, though I am mortified by exactly how much I care. For example, read this article from Science Magazine’s blog along with me and see how excessively furious I get over its every little idiocy.

It’s called “Blue and red” and it’s by a professor, at San Diego State University, Dept. of Mechanical Engineering, named Thomas J. Impelluso. He writes:

The color blue is often associated with boys, while red (or pink) is associated with girls.

[Keep your eye on that “often.”]

Neuroscientists Anya Hurlbert and Yazhu Ling demonstrated through a series of tests that women tend to prefer the red end of the spectrum. But is this a cultural phenomenon or is it biological? Chinese researchers demonstrated through another series of tests that this preference extends across cultures.

[Well, two cultures. Because let’s not get all fixated on the British Redcoats, Stalinist Russians, and Catholic cardinals. They obviously wore red, not to express their preference for it, but to attract warm-spectrum-loving girls. ]
Continue reading

A Dorothy Parker Quote for Fall

“There, but for a typographical error, is the story of my life.”

— Dorothy Parker, when her host told her that guests in another room were “ducking for apples.”

dorothy parker

Photo by George Platt Lynes 1943

When I first heard this quote, it took me a minute to add it up; then I laughed out loud. I still do, every time I run across it. If you’re hungry for more, the Dorothy Parker Society Onlinemaintains a laundry list of lively links to all things Parker.

Parker is a great model for self-loathing women in comedy who want to use their air of self-respect to good advantage. Chelsea Handler (My Horizontal Life: A Collection of One-Night Stands) is funny because she has no class at all, but Parker was a class act who got comic mileage out of tossing her dignity into the crowd…like a wedding bouquet.

In SL4B, I used this quote as the heading for a chapter called, “Food for Self-Loathing.”

Top Ten Secret Commandments for Self-Loathers

These commandments are so secret, most self-loathers don’t even know when they’re following them.

1.  Thou shalt not compromise thy principles, ever.
2.  Thou shalt be best at everything, else thou hast failed.
3.  Thou shalt be chill; let nothing get to thee.
4.  Thou shalt eschew banality, nor be ordinary.
5.  Please thee thy crazy parents, be they satiable
    or be they not.
6.  Thou shalt feed the hungry—every living one of them.
7.  Feel at all times happy, for moodiness is an abomination.
8.  Remember: to err is regrettable, to forgive thyself, defeat.
9.  Thou shalt trust thine own judgement, yea, even when thou art nuts.
10.  Thou shalt not self-loathe.

From SL4B; “the Building Blocks of Self-Loathing,” page 29

NY Times Discovers Self-Help Addiction

Alina Tugend, in her November 4th column, Pursuing Self-Improvement, at the Risk of Self-Acceptance, has finally noticed that America’s  self-improvement addiction has a downside. She was aided in part by a book annoyingly entitled, Good Enough Is the New Perfect (Harlequin, 2011), by Hollee Schwartz Temple  and Becky Beaupre Gillespie. The pair, Tugend tells us,

…surveyed about 1,000 mothers in their 30s and 40s nationwide and interviewed about 100 for their book. They found that the women broadly fell into two categories: “never enoughs” and “good enoughs.”

Never-enough women felt they had to be the best at everything and often agreed with the sentiment that “I need to be a superstar even if it kills me.”

As a recipe for self-loathing, that’s hard to beat. One of Tugend’s blog readers, Fritz Ziegler, moreover, noticed the Catch-22 of self-acceptance:

… Acceptance includes accepting that sometimes we act in perfectionistic ways about self-improvement, i.e., accepting that we aren’t accepting enough. This can also be said as: Complaining about not being accepting enough is just another version of perfectionism. It’s all so recursive!

Yes, Fritz; it is. You’re catching on.

more update

Lynn Phillips is currently blogging on addiction (from neuroscience to metaphors) at Psychology Today.

Neke Kit and Goat Carson at the Gershwin Hotel 2011Here’s a piece on the fabulous Carson brothers I did for T Mag blog…I called it “Here’s Looking At You Kids” but they retitled it “Soul Brothers.”

skirting disaster

skirting disaster

You can read “Skirting Disaster,” Phillips’s latest T Magazine (print) piece as a PDF lifted from the NY Times blog.

Rodarte stripesHere is a page of links to several T Magazine pieces, including what in print was originally a double-pager on stripes.

A Lynn Phillips Update

T mag article on paw shoes
You can find my latest T Magazine piece on the Self-Loathing-for-Beginners Site, along with updates on the Brit edition (see next post).

Also, I have been blogging — sometimes rather well — on addiction for Psychology Today. The column is called Dream On…. It needs clicks to survive, so I hope you will visit it and spread the word (as if you have nothing better to do). The words “addicted to” are used as loosely as “irony and ironically” were in the 90’s. We can’t seem to stop describing every compulsion, obsession, predilection and bad habit as a full-blown addiction. Leastways, I can’t. Addiction metaphors are, well, addictive. I intend to explore why.

Going Brit

aurum press ed SL4BAurum Press, Ltd. is bringing out an English edition of Self-Loathing for Beginners, re-entitled I Can Make You Loathe Yourself : The Infallible Step-by Step Programme for Lowering Your Self-esteem. Evidently, there’s a popular series of motivational books that begin with “I Can Make You…” (Rich, Successful, Gullible, etc.), and this new title is a riff on that. The target pub date is October 25th. The text will remain basically the same, with a few updates and cross-cultural adjustments.

Waterstone’s, London’s largest bookstore, plans to push it for Christmas, along with sugarplums, I hope, and a few well-deserved lumps of coal.

Now You Can Self-Loathe in London, Liverpool

aurum press ed SL4BAurum Press, Ltd. is bringing out an English edition of Self-Loathing for Beginners, re-entitled I Can Make You Loathe Yourself: The Infallible Step-by Step Programme for Lowering Your Self-esteem. Evidently, there’s a popular series of motivational books that begin with “I Can Make You…” (Rich, Successful, Gullible, etc.), and this new title is a riff on that. The target pub date is October 25th. The text will remain basically the same, with a few updates and cross-cultural adjustments.

Waterstone’s, London’s largest bookstore, plans to push it for Christmas, along with sugarplums, I hope, and a few well-deserved lumps of coal.


T mag article on paw shoes

The stylish self-loather will want a pair of these hand-crafted shoes for incorrigibly flamboyant sub-human moments. This article appeared on page 100 of T Magazine’s Fall 2009 issue in the ReMix section.  You can click on it to make ita readable size. Bob Bassett and his workshop, the creators of these, do other amazing things with leather, mad masks and dragon bags, all very steampunk and passing strange.

Stumble Into Darwin

darwin-print4web.jpgThis is a big year for Darwin, and his work. Also a big year for over-evolved shoes. Multiple celebrations will offer self-loathers numerous opportunities to fall off our platform pumps, put our feet in our mouths and generally humiliate ourselves in the festivals of academe.

Click thumbnail to see larger version of my T Magazine piece on the subject of Darwinian Shoes, or download the PDF file below.

Darwinian shoes PDF

fall fashion self-loathing

botoxed brains This piece of mine ran Aug 17th in print, and can be found online here. It is unusual for The Times to do humor, let alone about neuroscience, so attempting a project like this was an invitation to a kind of filigree-style self-loathing, wherein the insatiable concerns of psychobiologists for repertorial accuracy (you just can’t convey the complexity of neurocircuitry in ten words and still have room for the graphics) and the delicate feelings of celebrities’ lawyers (note the ample use of words like “seemingly”) twist their tendrils about your waking mind and spin spiderwebs through your dreams.

Is it clear in my article that the brain doesn’t really have clearly-definable “centers” for complex functions like speech? No. Is it clear that diffusion of Botox into the upper reaches of the cranium from a shot in the forehead has (as yet) no support from experimental evidence? Not really. Was I able to suggest that the nicotine receptors that Botox blocks have never specifically been shown to occasion the release of dopamine – a neurotransmitter associated with a very different set of receptors? buy buy

So this article makes me out to be something of an idiot, neurology-wise. And that for me is the fun of it. Because really we don’t need Botox to make us into fools; the simple task of trying to write clearly will do that nicely and far less inexpensively. Alas, it also causes the brow to wrinkle.

ClickHERE to order Self-Loathing for Beginners from Amazon.

More Fall Fashion Self-loathing

As a people becoming world-famous for locking up innocent people, isn’t it time for Americans to start to cuffswear handcuffs as jewelry?

Ever since my alt-ego, Maggie Cutler, co-founded The Shackle Report in an effort to combat (with dark, knowing laughs) the shame of complicity — however involuntary — in her nation’s incarceration policies (carried out under the baleful eye of US media) Cutler had wanted to do a fashion piece on color-coded handcuffs.

The fall in the NY Times Fall Fashion Supplement, “T Magazine,” gave me a chance to do it for her. The piece ran Aug 17th in print, and can be found online here.

The article is jumpy, because a section was chopped out about Clive Stafford Smith, the Gitmo detainee lawyer, who participated in two demonstrations against Hiatt’s factory in Birmingham England to proteest their manufacture of shackles for Gitmo. One demo was in 2005 and the other, celebrating Gitmo’s fifth anniversary, was in ’07. I had hoped to urge fashionable people who took up the handcuff idea to prepare themselves for political challenges by reading up on the issues, starting with Stafford Smith’s latest, The Eight O’Clock Ferry From the Windward Side.
buy buy buy

It goes without saying that handcuffs are a great, and relatively inexpensive way to accessorize self-loathing. Compared to more conventional ornaments, like dunce caps, prep school blazers and giant nose rings, items that suggest that you are actively loathed by others, cuffs declare that you’re not only guilty of something serious, but know it. For other tips on flaunting your self-loathing…

ClickHERE to order Self-Loathing for Beginners from Amazon.

Donald Lipsky Cuts Up

book art by donald lipskyartist Donald Lipsky was inspired to create a version of SL4B that ate its heart out. Unfortunately, it is not for sale. But you can get self-loathing cups and care bears, etc. through Cafe Press, if you like. Click the tab above to navigate to our shop. The cup is especially nice. and will remind you to loathe yourself better and more stylishly with every sip.

Yea for Neigh

The brilliant Website, site is a revelation — an excellent lesson in how to transcend self-loathing while hanging onto it at the same time. First you laugh your ass off. Then, as you click through SJP-horse comparisons, you feel guilty for being so horribly sexist and mean, but, as you keep going, SJP’s horsiness becomes deeply moving, a strange new way to see beauty. Now and then she turns into a horse-goddess — a divinity — though the horse laughs never stop.

Amy takes the cakes

amy winehouseCourtney Love
may want
to be the girl
with the most cake,
but when it comes to
cocktail-style self-loathing
(see Self-Loathing
for Beginners, p. 22)
Amy Winehouse is
the one on a roll
(bad puns go
down well with Brits).
She handled her
recent arrest
(for impersonating
a crack ho)
with crocodile sobs,
then went
scampering about
for the cameras,
celebrating her
flagrant and adorable self-loathing,
as these astounding
photos from the Daily Mail attest.
Thanks to Gawker for
shipping us across the pond
for this treat.

Postscript: Fall 2011. Amy didn’t always convey the romance of degradation when she was in the tabs or botching a concert, but her music was something else. “I’m No Good,” is a great and beautiful anthem to the exquisite intensity of self-detestation in love. For making blues the new black and being “too hard to ignore,” we love her and miss her. —LP.

Arianna Used the Word “Self-loathing Today

Arianna Huffington: The Self-Loathing “Liberal” Media

Newsweek hires Karl Rove. The New York Times hires Bill Kristol. CNN hires Tony Snow. What is it with these media outlets? Have they been so cowed by the Right’s relentless branding of them as “liberal” that they feel compelled to show that they are not by sleeping with the enemy? . . . By embracing these unabashed propagandists, the mainstream media have revealed a self-loathing streak a mile wide.

She ends, speaking on behalf of the radical right, with this paraphrase of Lenin:

“Self-loathing liberals will hand us the microphone with which we will bludgeon them.”

I hope they buy my book.


LP in T Beauty

On April 13th, the fashion supplement to The New York Times (called “T Beauty”) ran a piece of mine on the self-loathing fashion awards. (Click the image at left to see a legible version.) A few of these images benefit from still further enlargement, both visually and mentally, because of the playful way they violate human dignity. Since dignity is one of those things we must often abandon to survive (or even to charm those whose baser affections we seek), it’s worth a self-loather’s time to study these costumes further.

The men’s outfits were particularly delightful for self-loathers this spring because they so wittily elaborated upon what sort of things men might want to loathe themselves for. Specifically, for being either a pussy or a brute. In times of war, it’s tempting to go for one or the other, even if you aren’t a man.

According to numerous sloppy thinkers in government and the academy, when faced with a vague, power-seeking enemy who wants to turn tables on you, you must agree to do terrible things to these enemies in order to protect your friends. Shackles and hoods, orange jumpsuits and women’s panties, all kinds of fashion accoutrements have been deployed in assaults on the dignity of war captives in the hope that once they are dignity-free they will be willing to help us. Both our willing interrogation teams and those of us exposed to images and tales of their exploits, are also frequently dressed down by those who still cling feebly to decency. Thom Browne spring 2008 john galliano spring 08

The Thom Browne fashion plate is a man who refuses to let his manhood bloom, lest it take him into such murky waters. This outfit’s frilly gray roses—at once tender and dead looking—so beautifully express the terror of cowardice we all feel that I think we should all spend a day or two wearing them. Galliano’s gladiator, conversely, is a lord of flies and carnage, a man less likely to sip a martini than to guzzle a goblet of bull’s blood. He has renounced the civilizing principle, refusees community; he has abandoned any trust in refinement, in pencil skirts and purses and bouquets, and so thoroug is his fear of femininity that his mighty hose has turned on him and now pumps him full of his own toxic juices. Galliano sees this warrior as a figure of fun, a grotesque, an object lesson, but also a curious object of desire. That hose may be useless, but it is impressively large, and I imagine that it would be hard to get it out of your mind once it came strutting down the runway at you. But the point is, that these are the outfits we’re all metaphorically wearing these days, and it’s always a joy to see our general discomfort (malaise? revulsion? embarrassment?) so amusingly caricatured.

The Library Journal

April 15th 2008 (It’s about a third down the page)Phillips, Lynn. Self-Loathing for Beginners. Santa Monica. Apr. 2008.

c.216p. ISBN 978-1-59580-029-9. pap. $12.95. HUMOR

Phillips, who has written for publications ranging from the National Lampoon to Newsweek International, here presents-to quote the book’s promotional material-“the essential primer on how best to despise yourself!” This assessment isn’t far off: Phillips has written a gleefully sardonic guide to self-condemnation and disapproval that offers up wisdom in bite-size morsels. Short chapters are broken up with quizzes, “questions from the floor,” tips, and inspiration boxes.

Although the material isn’t groundbreaking-Phillips mentions self-loathing through abuse of food, bad love relationships, or demeaning family dynamics-the deftness with which she ties it all together makes this a delightful read. The sections on meta-self-loathing and spiritual self-loathing add an unexpected bit of flavor as well. Phillips is a self-described media tramp, and, as such, many of her examples will best resonate with those who follow celebrity news. This smart, accessible title-good for sit-down comic reading and with outstanding sound-bite potential-will entertain audiences from precocious high schoolers to retirees. A good choice for all public collections; academic libraries may also wish to consider.

Audrey Snowden, Cleveland P.L.

NYT Contributors’ Page

LP in T Beauty

From “T Beauty” magazine, the New York Times fashion supplement, April 13th, 2008.

If you click this picture it will get BIGGER! But, in case you still can’t read it, here’s the text:

The New York-based writer Lynn Phillips is a self-loather and proud of it. “I have an allergy to people telling me to cheer up,” she says. Phillips, who was once a writer on the cult 70’s television show “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman,” has even written a book called “Self-Loathing for Beginners” (Santa Monica Press) that covers the basics for thoughtful cynics and all those who “respond better to gloomier encouragement.” (Chapter 1 has a section called “Self-Love—Friend or Foe?”) Phillips was kind enough to present the first annual self-loathing awards for this issue (And the Winner Is…” Page 26*); naturally, she turned her weary wit to some of the fashion industry’s worst culprits. She cites a history of people saying good things about dark moods, such as the psychologist William James and the astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (center), whom she calls a master of the genre: “He even relocated humanity in the universe so we realized how pathetic and small we are.”

*NOTE: The article to which this squib refers was actually on p. 28, not p 26.

« Older posts