Above It All
The Joan Rivers and Kathy Griffin of newsletters interrupts your Golden Globes party to quibble with Abby’s wife, languish in the Cotswolds, and *manifest* like the dickens.
What would make the perfect women’s magazine? Juicy yarns, big ideas, deeply personal examinations of women’s lives—and none of the advertiser obligations. Welcome to the Spread, where every week two editors read, listen, and watch it all, and deliver only the best to your inbox.
As loyal readers well know by now, your Spreaditors have a lot in common: We both have Southern roots; a shared, lifelong obsession with magazines; young children underfoot; and mixed feelings about having left the world of New York media to live in small, artsy college towns that are supposedly “great for raising children.” We both have hair-raising stories about surviving early puberty. We both have hot moms (seriously, Dea Dea and Bon Bon are smokin’). We both loathe working out our bodies, but love working out our issues—of which we have many!—in therapy. Last week, without comparing notes, we both Became Women, i.e.: purchased menstrual cups. And we are both the type of person who will tell thousands of strangers—not that you’re strangers to us, dear readers—about any of the above, and more. Let’s discuss! But the thing that first made us fall in love, swear to the Goddess Almighty, was a shared stature. We’re tall. And not the kind of tall that gets described in high school yearbooks as “willowy.” Not Elizabeth Debicki tall. Not Uma Thurman tall. We are substantial; we take up space. We are not saplings, we’re sequoias. We are both a full 5’10”. Which means, according to the New York Times, that we are also equally ill-suited to the end times. “There’s never been a better time to be short,” proclaimed Mara Altman in an op-ed that—sorry, Mara—we are about to take WILDLY out of context, because that’s another thing we both love to do! Writes Altman (allow us to save you the Google: She’s 5’0”): “On average, short people live longer and have a lower incidence of cancer. One theory suggests this is the case because with fewer cells there is less likelihood that one goes wrong.” Short people conserve resources; a researcher known as the Godfather of Shrink Think calculated that if we could just make all Americans 10 percent shorter, it would save 87 million tons of food per year, trillions of gallons of water, quadrillions of B.T.U.s of energy, and millions of tons of trash. “I don’t want tall people to feel bad about themselves,” said Mr. Shrink Think, “but the time is right to be short.”
Proving yet again, one more thing your Spreaditors have in common: Truly impeccable timing.
Rachel & Maggie
P.S. Were we really in Japan last week? Heck, no. But we love each and every one of you who believe us capable of spontaneous acts of globetrotting. Since you have such faith in us, would you mind expressing it by pressing that little heart button up top?
We Can Do Hard Things…including scrutinizing Saint Glennon.
In general, I think we can all agree that Oprah-annointed super-guru Glennon Doyle is a force for good. Yes, I find her itty bitty baby voice a little nails-on-chalkboard, but I believe in her “we can do hard things” mission. More than anything, I figure if she’s good enough for my hall pass, Abby Wambach, she’s good enough for me. (Hi Abby! Over here! Yes, it’s me, Maggie, standing at that 100-yard distance your lawyer “recommended”!) But last week, when Glennon posted a video of herself on her daily sunrise walk on the beach—stay with me here, folks—looking into the camera, talking about a new diagnosis she’d just received, I remembered why I can never be fully on board the Glennon Doyle Untamed Express. In her little video, Glennon did not reveal the nature of her diagnosis. For the full reveal, she said, we’d have to listen to her podcast. This being GD, you all know what she was talking about by now: Glennon, who has been open about her struggle with bulimia, was flabbergasted when a doctor recently informed her that she is in fact anorexic. It’s not the revelation that icked me, but rather the “tease” of that video: Milking a diagnosis as a promo for her show. Readers, tell me, does this bug you? I understand that it will be helpful for her bajillion followers to see that these diagnoses are interrelated, and that the struggle with either/both can be lifelong. Maybe, in light of that greater good, she deserves a pardon for this feat of emotional salesmanship? Or maybe it is manipulative and a wee bit…gross?
While we’re on the subject of eating disorders: Over at the Cut, Megan Zhang reports on a 16-year-old who spent a week at a psilocybin retreat in Mexico at her mother’s urging in the hope that magic mushrooms would help reset her brain, and release her from the grip of anorexia—a disease that, as of now, has no proven treatment. It’s fascinating: “She sensed the psychedelic cajoling her to loosen her grip, then saw visions in her mind’s eye of tight knots loosening. ‘I could see it kind of rewiring up there,’ Anderson recalls. ‘Kind of letting go of being scared to, like, be me.’”—Maggie.
Read “Could Psilocybin Mushrooms Treat Eating Disorders?” here.
Zillow for Waugheads.
Do you enjoy classic English novels? Real-estate intrigue? Daily Mail gos? Well then, plodge on out to the Cotswolds via the New Yorker. There you’ll find a satisfying and delightful Talk Of The Town by Parker Henry about Evelyn Waugh’s former home, now inhabited by a couple of highly social renters (one of whom is a Brideshead Revisited superfan)…who just won’t leave. It’s the most fun I’ve had in 700 words all week.—Rachel
Read “For Sale: Evelyn Waugh’s Manor House, 8BR/24 Acres/1 Waugh-Obsessed Tenant” here.
Racing toward womanhood.
Yesterday Emily Oster’s ultra-useful ParentData newsletter detoured from her usual crunch-the-numbers-to-de-esculate-anxiety niche to something we in the mag biz call “books coverage.” Oster, whose Instagram followers will know her as a serious runner, interviewed Lauren Fleshman, author of Good for a Girl: A Woman Running in a Man’s World, and Molly Huddle, coauthor of How She Did It, about sports and puberty. They cover a lot of ground: the lack of support for adolescent girls adjusting to doing athletic endeavors in a rapidly changing body (Fleshman mentions the enraging myth that puberty “is the one injury a girl can’t come back from”); the parallels between puberty and the postpartum period (talk about hitting me where I live!). Listen, I am not a runner. But there’s still a ton of wisdom and science in here that resonated with me, as a parent of three girls but also just as someone who’s spent her life in a female body. Last night I found myself stealing directly from the Q&A as I pontificated to our track-inclined, basketball-playing 12-year-old about how all the women’s records in history have been broken by women, which means that they came out the other side of puberty stronger and faster and better than ever. To paraphrase Nike cofounder Bill Bowerman, if you have a body, you’re an athlete (oh Bill, how you flatter me!). And by that definition, if you’re a female athlete—or even someone who loves a female athlete—this conversation is worth a read. Or a listen; the audio is available, too.
While we’re talking sports and feats of athleticism, I’d be remiss not to mention Bicycling’s recent portrait of Moriah Wilson, the cycling superstar who was murdered last year. The start of the profile reads as if this might be a true-crime yarn. It’s not. It’s a thoughtful, thoroughly reported profile of Wilson, the person and the athlete, and of the family grieving her death. If you too were held rapt by the New Yorker’s more pulled-back piece on Wilson’s death in the world of gravel racing last November, the Bicycling feature is a heartfelt addendum. Gah I’d have loved to hear Wilson weigh in on puberty as a world-class athlete.—Rachel
Read “Puberty, Postpartum, and Adaptation” here.
Read “The Truth and Tragedy of Moriah Wilson” here.
Smith on Tár.
Since I saw Tár 54 days ago, I’ve listened to every Tár-related podcast and read every review of Todd Field’s film I could get my hands on. (I’ve also devised a new uniform of button-up shirts and this one gray quilted sweatshirt that looks vaguely like Lydia Tár’s slouchy sweater, to approximate my own WFH version of monster-conductor style. It’s the little things, right?) And then, this week, the motherlode arrived: Zadie Smith tackled Tár in the New York Review of Books, and the result is as rich and funny and wise as one could hope. Smith, ever the Gen Xer, analyzes Tár through a generational lens, playing first with the idea of the Cultural Luminary (interesting, given that few cultural figures loom more luminous than Smith herself) and then digging into the concept of the midlife crisis—as experienced by Gen X, the cohort who “like to speak rapturously of emotion in the aesthetic sense [but] prefer to scorn emotions personally (by way of claiming to not really have any) and also to trample over other peoples’,” and as observed with searing clarity by the millennials. The essay is a beefy, brilliant delight that I think is best enjoyed in hard copy, before bed, with a glass of Albariño. But what do I know? I’m a millennial.—Rachel
Read “The Instrumentalist” here.
Because they’re worth it!
Maybe you’ve heard that a certain minor, inconsequential memoir with a completely original cover was released today? We have been diagnosed with Harry & Megan chronic fatigue syndrome, and barely had the energy to devour this list of “11 Takeaways From Prince Harry’s Memoir, ‘Spare.’” But we do thrill to the notion of Harry playing Chris McMillan to his ladywife’s Jen Aniston, the Serge Normant to her Julia Roberts, the Jen Atkin to her Kim Kardashian…you see where we’re going here.
Let there be laughter.
The Spread generally aims to resist the chuckle-fucker trap. Which, in the case of a newsletter like ours, would typically mean sharing whatever Daily Shout or McSweeneys list is making the rounds among our friends at the moment. But this week we’re making an exception for Simon Rich’s “Punishment,” a comic riff of biblical proportions! (Har.) Spread devotee Caroline texted it to Maggie, who texted it to me, and then I texted it to all of my parent-friend groups, including (riskily!) my most devout Presbyterian amigas, one of whose response says it all: “It’s really, really well done. I’ll forgive the blasphemy and heresy in favor of humor, poignancy, and the way I feel as a mother now.” —Rachel
Rachel, Speak for yourself. I love a good chuckle-fucker and I cannot lie.—MB
Where has all my money gone?
Last week, something magical happened. My husband and I got the usual email from our son’s preschool director urging us to register now for next fall—a missive that typically floods my bloodstream with cortisol, as I envision all of our dollars barely pausing to wave goodbye as they fly swiftly out of our bank account. But this time, just as my adrenals went into overdrive, I remembered…public school! He’s starting kindergarten next fall, ending the tyranny of eight years (combined with his brother) of solid childcare payments. At the Spread, we sometimes suspect Kathryn Jezer-Morton writes Brooding, her parenting column at the Cut, specifically for us, and then shares it with other people just to be nice. This week, it was like she was whispering in my ear. Jezer-Morton argues persuasively that if there is a glimmer of hope that we are finally getting closer to a system of affordable childcare, it’s because wealthy women—who historically did not wave this particular flag, since it didn’t affect them—are taking up the cause, and reframing it in stylish new language: Childcare is becoming a story about wellness. “Wellness, unlike a general fight for collective rights, is something easy to think about in terms of individual needs. Wellness, unlike a mass of angry protesters with demands that are confusing and sometimes contradictory, is appealing. It’s shoppable.” As worrisome as this is—making an issue that could not be more universal all about the individual self—she’s on board. “If there’s any narrative that might be able to get the job done, it’s this one.” Rachel, do not fear, I screenshot and highlighted this line: “I sometimes wonder if part of why there’s basically no cheap day care is that parents are too busy to fight for it while they need it most, and as soon as their kids age out of the problem, they carry on with their lives, relieved they made it.” Yes, I will soon be done paying for childcare [she said smugly, to her friend whose infant is in her second week of day care] but I pledge to fight for those I am leaving behind in the trenches.—Maggie
Read “What If We Made Affordable Child Care About Wellness?” here.
Show me the ladder!
Because it’s January, much ink has been devoted to New Year’s resolutions being out of vogue and the more enlightened idea of manifesting intentions being in. In general, my eyes hurt from being rolled so early and often. But there’s one so-hot-right-now intention that I am thrilled to join the masses in manifesting: prioritizing connection and relationships. In the Atlantic, Xochitl Gonzalez makes “The New Case for Social Climbing” in an essay that had me both nodding and grinning throughout (she is a very fun writer; after reading, I subscribed to her Brooklyn, Everywhere newsletter). “The first step of social climbing,” Gonzalez writes, “is not about seeing what people can do for you, but rather seeing people. You get into the room not to use people, but to know people.” Her argument is, at its core, a rebrand of the term social climbing as a broader version of networking—one that isn’t purely job-related but instead could potentially improve your “lot in life” with its human-to-human ROI. Gonzalez’s advice dovetails beautifully with a conversation with Lori Leibovich, editor of the New York Times’ Well section, on last week’s episode of Everything is Fine. Asked what her job has taught her about what’s truly required for her (or anyone) to be a happy and healthy person (and what’s total bologna) Leibovich’s top answer was regular human connection, especially recurring activities spent with other people that one could look forward to and count on. When the episode was over, I promptly began manifesting: A weekly standing walk with a friend? Booked. A series of interviews with babysitters who might make weekend socializing possible? Scheduled. A winter dance party for the bleak days of February? DJ deposit paid. And a trip to New York to celebrate Maggie’s book launch in March with some of our nearest and dearest?! Flights purchased, hotel room reserved. So many reasons to love wellness!—Rachel
Rachel, since you mention my book…and social climbing…and “connections” all in the same paragraph, I will take that as tacit permission to do what you’ve been forbidding—because, as you rightly point out, writers do it too often—and winge about self-promotion. At this very moment I am vigorously deploying every ounce of social and professional capital I have, shaking the tree of my contacts new and old in the hopes that, to switch arboreal metaphors, this book does not become the tree that fell in the forest. Er, died on the vine? (C’mon there must be another tree-y thing we can add here!) I am operating wayyyy outside of my comfort zone, emailing people, “pinging,” DMing, and all-round hula-hooping to politely request a thing I’ve historically been deeply ambivalent about getting: Attention. And, wait for it: What I’m learning is that “networking”—or what Gonzalez would rather we call “social climbing”—which for most of my life I would have sawed off an arm to avoid, which I thought was at best needy and at worst fake, feels…not so bad. After the initial Band-Aide was ripped off, it actually has felt good—and warm, and real—to reach out to people I know who are in positions of power, and let them know what I’m looking for. Indeed, my feelings on this have evolved to the point that I am now able to post the image below and its cloying caption with minimal agita! See? Progress!—Maggie
Read “The New Case for Social Climbing” here.
Listen to “Wellness for Slackers,” with Lori Leibovich here (or wherever you listen to podcasts).
How does the saying go? There’s a squirrel for every Allison Williams profile?
The new kinda-sorta scream queen is starring in M3GAN, that scary-doll movie you’ve probably bumped into on the internet; she also executive produced it. And she’s promoting it absolutely everywhere, which we find weirdly old-fashioned and comforting. So which should you read? If you like a traditional cover story, we recommend the Town & Country cover story—it’s T&C’s “family issue,” hi Brian—written by Mattie Kahn! If you like your celebrity profiles super-meta, head over to Wired with Jordan Crucchiola! If you prefer a zippy, reference-packed romp, Vulture’s Rachel Handler has the chat for you! And if you actually see the movie, well, please keep the details to yourself.
Sit in on a Spread editorial meeting.
Maggie: Did you see this quote from Gwyneth?
“It was great — I mean talk about doing cocaine and not getting caught!” Paltrow said with a laugh [to James Corden]. “Like, you could just be at a bar and be, like, having fun, dance on a table, you could — no camera phones — especially in New York, interestingly enough, there were no paparazzi. You could stumble out of a bar and go home with some rando and no one would know.”
Rachel: Ugh I hate how fun she is.
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OMG I made The Spread!!!! 😭 *Year made* Also I totally watched Glass Onion with my mom over Christmas. AND loved how you handled the Glennon story. You two are QUEENS.
Oh god this was such a fun one and so much to read! xo