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  • Writer's pictureHailo

Free the Cool Kids from the Looking Glass

I had the strangest evening last night. A friend who is a very talented filmmaker invited me to this party that was the birthday party of a well-known writer/director’s assistant.

My immediate question was whether or not my friend would be there. I’m not easily wooed by clout or connections. In the face of very important people, I tend to blush and turn the other way, and I hate googling anyone I’ve met or will meet.

So I went to the party to see my friend and brought one of my own with a couple of others joining later. We get to the door. There is a small line. The group in front of us is led by a copy-paste Patrick Bateman 20-something complaining about the wait (but I think they’d just arrived)

This sets the tone for the evening.

We get to the door. A short man, who looks a little stressed out asks “Who are you here to see?”

“Let me ask,” I say texting my friend. I am not a good liar, so I don’t even try.

But alas, around the corner pops out this man with the 80s-style glasses of a tech founder or serial killer. He has a soft voice.

“Sorry for the wait,” he says, letting us in. We are confused. There is sushi and dim red light and we find our group at a table in the back.

Everyone looks very nervous and I don’t know why.

I feel very unsettled and I don’t know why.

My friend points out a popular musician just standing a couple of feet from the bar. I wouldn’t have known it was him. I like that certain types of art can be divorced from a visage. If you like my writing and have never seen my face, I kind of think that’s delightful. That’s the way it should be.

We get a drink. I get a mocktail (I am two months sober). The bartender kind of giggles and shrugs as he hands it to me, saying that he doesn’t usually make them.

We sit down. Look at one another and then think that we’ll feel better if we go to the backroom where we hear a DJ. On the way up, I nearly fall out of my chair, and of course I’m shaken. But then my little media-drenched brain goes through its files of embarrassed but cool women. Brittany Murphy in Clueless. Esther in The Bell Jar. Not the greatest examples, but I take them anyways. We sit in the back room, watching a tall thin woman use front flash for her Instagram story. I somehow spill mocktail on my bodysuit (which was one of my old ballet warm-ups). Good thing I am wearing black.

Ultimately, we leave because the man with the glasses won’t let our other friends in, and you should never leave your friends outside of a party. He gives me a little sass when I protest, as if there are rules to the curation of people that I don’t understand. Maybe I don’t, I think, as he repeatedly asks this boy to step back.

“Let me in,” the boy says.

“Step back,” the man says.

“Let me back in.”

Something changes.

“You were already inside?” the man asks. And suddenly lets the boy back in, as if he were missing from a scene and needed to return to continue filming.

We leave, going to a nearby bar we always reluctantly end up at.

Later, someone tells me that the man with the glasses is a house name for curating beautiful people. That he would give out little toy babies as drink tickets to people he found especially cute and always dated younger women.

“If he’s at the door, then that’s the place to be,” they said. And yet, I felt as if my body was telling me to leave, through clumsiness and something intangible, the entire time. What does it mean to curated among a group of people through one person’s eye. It reminds me of the trippy, speculative idea that we all exist in one person’s mind. I don’t like this thought experiment. I like having my own thoughts and my own choices.

I don’t like being looped in with others on the basis of something shallow. Partially because I’m not good at shallow. I get bored and antsy and silent. Partially because I’m stubborn and need to feel some sort of agency to have any fun.

I don’t want to be chosen by someone to play a part. I want to write my own and do my own choosing. Who has agency in a dim red room. Do you sacrifice it the moment you approach the door? The moment you wonder whether or not you’ve worn the right thing or if people are watching you? Who has agency? Why are you here? Are you having any fun?

I’m really sick of exclusivity. I think we’ve wrung it out as far as we can and then done it three more times. And as we begin to have Hot Literati events in New York, I’m thinking very deeply about what fun looks like in a way that’s actually edifying and participatory and real.

Maybe I’m thinking too much. I should go to sleep soon, but perhaps the mind is mine and when I drift off you will all cease to exist.

I hope not.

The first tier is a digital book club (video call + recorded discussions) on the reading from each week.

The first meeting is this Tuesday at 8:30pm EST (4/9/24). Week 0 to set a schedule and expectations.

The link will be sent via the chat feature.

The founding tier is the digital book club in addition to an in-person one at the end of the book.

We’ve been doing these on a different platform for a year and a half and it’s a really wonderful community that feels participatory and edifying. And this month we’re reading The Trial by Kafka.

Kafka would definitely have been at that party.

He would have wanted to have gotten picked with a real desperation.


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