Real Friends #3: The Artist Keeper-Upper


“Dreamlover”, Mariah Carey, Columbia, 1993

by Elias Tezapsidis and Anthony Strain

This is the third in a monthly series of conversations between two writers attempting to also be friends! Hilariously, this sort of exchange is the sort of thing they derided seeing online a few years ago, but oh well, 2018!


Andy Cohen turned 50. Except on Instagram he said “allegedly I’m 50 today”. In addition to age being something that can be merely alleged, I enjoy the idea of forgetting your own birthday, or not knowing or pretending to not know your true age. If age is how we sort people and estimate their value, the ability to age ambiguously can be a tool, if not a weapon. The need to prolong yourself is always a commercial problem. Neoliberalism is just the world’s oldest beauty trend: looking good on the production line for as long as possible. Boiled that far down, it starts to be less about how old you really are and more about how old you can get away with. Andy Cohen probably has less existential despair about turning 50 because he has jacked calves and 2 million followers. Or does that mean he has more?


Lol, Andy. We once smiled at each other at the Adidas store on Broadway in NY, and then I tweeted him and he asked me why I didn’t say “Hi.” He is incredible, isn’t he? Still, I have a hard time considering him a very representative sample of our society at large. Also, he is not someone I think I would like to be friends with: it seems that all his friends are stemming from blue-blood lineage or are more established than him. Yes, I fear I will never be important enough for him. I will always be the person responding to {WHAT DOES HE ALWAYS SAY WHEN RESPONDING TO PHONE CALLS ON WWHL: ‘CALLER WHAT YOUR NAME IS AND WHERE YOU CALLING FROM’ HE SAYS IT RLY FAST I CAN NEVER UNDERSTAND}. Also, I think the expectations of looking great are generally fairly gendered, and if not, they are at least a tad outside the heteronormative canon when it comes to men?

Still, I love the idea that we are chasing a productivity high that is ageist. Though, until I near-ed being a new decade, I was most certainly a huge believer in those phlegmatic views. I thought everything would make so much more sense in my life already, and I am learning that perhaps I told myself lies about what limitations I need to pose on myself in regard to landmarks that ageist constraints set. I think—know, rather—that in our conversation I am always the neolib, but I cannot deny that there is a thing that pops up in my head when I look at someone and they look impeccable despite not being in the 2nd or 3rd decade of their life. But this does not account for tricks and things people perform in the name of maintenance. Still, no matter how much younger one looks, the reality remains the same, in terms of their health. Though their perceived reality as they restructured it through their looks is different? You will still die, you will just look the age you are meant to be when that occurs.


Part of aging well or at least better is listening to your body, except your body lies like everything else*. Ideally you can adjust your age to fit the room, but obviously not everyone can get away with that. If it’s a trope that everyone looks within a 5 year radius of their true age, you could use the inelasticity of that as fitspo––working to look 6 years younger, or 7 years younger. But after 30, you’d need to be running a bunch of cons at once to fool all of the people all of the time. Living in Los Angeles, it’s tempting to have a few different ages you deploy like aliases, or disguises. I can do this because I still have a wack twink body and because I haven’t succeeded yet. Success is great, but it also makes you older, right? In the sense that it usually corrects or flattens your lifestyle toward a kind of bourgeois centrality, or normality.


*I very much disagree with this, which, of course, I also love. I feel that part of aging well is denying to listen to your body? DENIAL, as a stratagem. I remember when we first met, I immediately assumed you were my age, which I am guessing is what younger people do? I was so shocked that we extend beyond the inelasticity of those prestated timeframes, because there was nothing new or fresh you were unaware of, at the time. Actually, I was the older-acting one, reading what younger people consider more dull, mundane or canonical. I am intrigued by your idea that success makes you older, and I think it is astute in the sense that once you become a household name, you can no longer have an enigmatic age. Example: the Mariah Carey attempt to cheat us off one year. ONE YEAR! Who cares, haha. She still tried, though. In a public sense, you have a more limited right to privacy once you are a success, for sure.


All writers, or even all artists really, struggle toward a dialectic of aging, I think. The reason so much of the midcentury canon is excruciating to read (for me anyway) is because those writers never learned how to age. Roth was the best of the lot because almost everything he touched turned senescent. By way of an R.I.P., those books are filled with getting old––seeing it coming and deflecting it, or taking its little blows and defeats with either advancing terror or increased dignity. Another of my favorite old men, Al Pacino, also has sort of a classically tortured relationship with age I think. You get the sense from some of his interviews that he almost doesn’t feel like a full success. Roth too. Such entertaining hubris.

Remember when you still lived in the East Village and I came to visit? In the year 2014 which we always joke about being the last good year. There was a stack of London Review of Books in the corner. You asked me what the point of my Tumblr was and I said something like “um I’m just trying to do Anthony the magazine” and you were like “ok that makes sense”. You always claim to hate visual culture, but you do profess love for things like Harper’s and other old-media relics (one of the ways you perform as older than me). Dis was one of the first aesthetics we bonded over, remarkable in this context as a rare transcendence of your dislike of sleek verticality and my dislike of clique-driven art politics. Dis, PC Music and VFiles: trinity of 2014 values. I still love all three unequivocally, by the way.


I do recall, yes. We had fried chicken on Ave C, and things felt right. It was also our first real life interaction, which was vital in establishing we were true friends, in the full sense of the word. While we have debated this (with others) extensively, our perception of intimacy is not limited to spending time with people, because, well, we have never lived near each other. When I am not on an opposite coast, I am in another country, and you have been a devoted LA-head for a while. DIS was my absolute favorite thing, for so long. I was fully obsessed with it, and I can say that I still consider it to be one of the most genius artistic cliques in recent memory. Its intellectual quiescence was really inspirational. There is the obvious VFiles crossover, but outside of fashion, some of the philosophical notions, and even Natasha’s Stagg picayune advice column was tonally ahead of its time, and definitely aware of it.