Clean Like John Mayer
This week, the Miranda and "somewhere between a Carrie and a Miranda" of newsletters tackles paid leave, superwomen, and hideous men.
In our next life, we’re coming back as a Taylor Swift revenge fantasy. It’s not enough that she spins every three-month romance into a hit song that will never go away. Now she’s methodically reopening each platinum-plated can of whoop-ass, one by one, as she rerecords her oeuvre of breakup songs. OK, so Jake Gyllenhaal dumped her via text. No bueno, Jake! But this week he found himself under fire because a woman he dated for 90 days 11 years ago rereleased an album from her back catalogue (plus a new short film that is, in all the ways, clearly about him). Can it be mere coincidence that fellow T-Swift ex John Mayer—who also lasted three months with the singer a decade-plus ago—thought this was a good week to come clean? No, literally: He’s talking about his…laundry. As in a new sandalwood-and-spice detergent released in collaboration with the bougiest of soap brands The Laundress. According to Vanity Fair, this is a perfectly organic arrangement: Mayer has a real thing for hand-washing his own $300 vintage tees on tour. “‘I’ve also found that I get extra love from housekeeping’—little towels underneath toiletries, cords neatly wrapped—‘when they see that Mr. Rich Guy in the presidential suite’ is washing his own clothes.” Taylor, get out your Mead notebook: These lyrics will be textual napalm (get it?).
No, your body is a wonderland,
Rachel & Maggie
Hear ye, hear ye!
The Oscars, the Emmys, the Grammys, the Tonys, the Razzies, and the ASMEs (let’s be honest, “the Ellies” never really caught on) are getting a strange new bedfellow: The first-annual Spread Awards, aka the Spreadies, will be announced on December 22, celebrating the cream of the 2021 women’s-story crop. But we need you, dear reader, to pull it off: Please peruse this nomination form pronto and share your picks by noon on Thursday, December 16. Between you and the Spread, we’ll keep this industry afloat one way or another!!
And just like that…the early aughts are back.
Britney’s free to sip champagne again. Jessica Simpson has a strange cultural clout (and new ownership of her billion-dollar brand name). Paris is in lurve. The low-rise mini is back. And Sarah Jessica Parker’s on the cover of Vogue! Curious: Which of these made you groan loudest? You knew it was coming: Sex and the City comeback madness is upon us, and this time around it’s...a force for good? The new HBO Max series—hotly anticipated by Gen Z, apparently—glamorizes the sex lives of the 50-plus set. We’ll drink to that. Now Paulina Porizkova, a woman whose 56-year-old bod brings a tear to the much younger eye, is praising SJP1 for not making her “feel like a freak” for embracing a few gray hairs. Regular folk are Airbnb’ing Carrie’s bachelorette pad! And Candace Bushnell, the OG, is asserting her primacy in a one-woman play, Is There Still Sex in the City? (Sample line: “Do I have a shoe obsession like Carrie Bradshaw? No. Carrie Bradshaw has a shoe obsession because of me.”) I was on the fence about it all until I hit this passage in the Vogue story (written, in a nice bit of assigning jiujitsu, by New Yorker writer/Twitter delight Naomi Fry), in which Parker poses for cameras on the corner of 23rd and 8th in a floppy hat, beaded Prada dress, and mismatched holographic pumps:
“Very quickly, a crowd of pedestrians—mostly women, mostly in their 20s and 30s—begins to gather, and iPhones are whipped out to document the scene. ‘OMG stop, Zoe isn’t going to believe this,’ one woman whispers to herself as she records a video. ‘Sarah Jessica, you’re so beautiful, girl!!’ a young man screams. ‘I’m dying!’ a Gen Z’er says to her friend. There is something particularly moving, particularly nature-is-healing, New York–is–back–baby, about seeing Parker in her element, strutting down an NYC street like Elvis in Memphis, her hair flowing, swinging a lime-green sequined Fendi bag, as if no time has passed since the memorable SATC episode of 20 years ago, in which Carrie gets mugged for both her Manolos and her purple Baguette.”
Alright fine. You had me at Elvis. As a girl who peaked not far from 23rd and 8th sometime around 2007, I’m in. But I draw the line at any waistband south of the belly button.—Maggie
Getting graphic about paid leave.
Exactly—checks calendar—one year ago on the dot, I was four weeks postpartum with my first baby. She was healthy and precious and a champion sleeper, and I was an absolute wreck: Debilitating anxiety, raging mastitis, and cruel, still-heavy bleeding—I had it all. And if it wasn’t for my extreme privilege, I would have already had to return to work; many women, for shame, have no leave at all. I thought about this hourly throughout my recovery, which lasted another few weeks. I was rrrrripshit, and I still am, though I now am on some great anxiety meds that help me point my anger in the right direction: Toward Joe Manchin.
In a recent New York Times screed, comedy writer Bess Kalb—who is a great follow on Twitter and also put out a funny and wise book this year—beautifully lays out her own postpartum crisis against the backdrop of the parental-leave policy changes that hang in the Build Back Better balance. The piece packs a lot of punch with a light touch, and is essential reading for everyone, but especially for people who merely haven’t given paid leave a ton of thought. I know a few family members who’ll be stumbling upon a copy on their seat at Thanksgiving dinner next week.—Rachel
Read “Without Parental Leave I Might be Dead” here.
Buy Kalb’s book, Nobody Will Tell You This But Me at the Spread’s Bookshop here.
Off with their heads! No, seriously: Off. With. Their. Heads.
Hoorah for Spread friend/spiritual advisor/eternal lady-crush E. Jean Carroll, who this week showed heroic strength in the face of adversity—yet again. For years now, E. Jean and ex-Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos have slogged away on their respective defamation suits against Donald Trump, who denied their claims of sexual assault with his usual slithery gusto. But this week, news broke that while Zervos still stands by her accusation, she’s dropping her suit (with no payout, she is free to tell her story: Stay tuned for the six—seven?—figure book deal). Which means E. Jean is now exactly what she once called Zervos, “the Lone Warrioress.” The night the news broke, our hero fired off a newsletter: Not only will she stand her ground, she is doubling down: “As soon as the Adult Survivors Act passes in New York,” she declared, “I will ALSO sue Trump for rape.” We can’t imagine the kind of threats and expenses E. Jean has suffered to keep up this fight—“woe is me” just ain’t her style—but her indomitable spirit never fails to amaze.
Speaking of hideous men, might as well get this one out of the way while we’re at it. In a lengthy article, Rolling Stone’s Kory Grow and Jason Newman unearth a trove of horrific details about Marilyn Manson, who stands accused by more than a dozen women of psychological and/or sexual abuse. Apparently the singer’s private life exceeded even his stagey horror movie shtick—including a soundproofed glass cell used for psychologically torturing victims, known among his posse as the “Bad Girls Room.” But perhaps most shocking is this reminder of how long it took the world to question...Marilyn Manson. Long after Evan Rachel Wood testified to Congress about her experience of domestic abuse, and speculation mounted online that Manson was her alleged abuser, “the traditional media remained largely silent. Virtually no major outlets prior to 2020 directly referenced or alluded to the accusations against him in their profiles, interviews, or album reviews.” Those outlets, of course, include Rolling Stone. Because, what, this guy was America’s Sweetheart? The article’s title says it all: “Marilyn Manson: A Monster Hiding in Plain Sight.”—Maggie
Buy E.Jean Carroll’s book, What Do We Need Men For?: A Modest Proposal at the Spread’s Bookshop here.
Read “Marilyn Manson: A Monster Hiding in Plain Sight” here.
Reporting for duty.
In this month’s Elle, writer Molly Langmuir tackles sexual assault in the military—and the seismic policy change that, if passed, could help correct the utterly flawed chain-of-command reporting system—through the tragic story of Natasha Aposhian, a 21-year-old airman who was shot and killed by her boyfriend. I can’t remember the last time a traditional women’s title tackled such a heavy-duty issue, and Langmuir paints an excellent portrait of Aposhian, the person, “an unusual mix of goofy and preternaturally self-possessed,” by interviewing her family and friends—and her murderer’s as well—while situating Aposhian’s heartbreaking case in a larger policy context by speaking with military personnel and politicians. Hat’s off.—Rachel
Read “The Billion Dollar Question” here.
Those do-it-all types.
Here’s what happens when I think about Stacey Abrams: I immediately picture her famous gap-toothed grin atop the many-limbed body of Hindu goddess Durga. With one arm she’s writing a best-selling crime thriller. With one she’s giving a TED Talk (what? These are goddess arms). One is launching a start-up in something called “fintech.” One is grasping a baby bottle from that sippy cup company she once cofounded. One is knocking on doors to register Georgia voters. One’s speechifying at a $200-a-head dinner. One is...wait...did I do anything other than empty the dishwasher today? And then I get very tired. What I’m saying is: What more can one human do? And: How much of our hopes can we hang on one (super)woman? And: If this is all leading up to some big crescendo—what’s the end game? Abrams isn’t spilling the beans, but Newsweek writer Steve Friess does his darndest to theorize this week.—Maggie
Hey Maggie, Speaking of overachieving women, I have long marveled at Sunny Hostin, the cohost of The View for five years whose name you probably don’t know. Sunny is sort of the anti Durga. Where we stand in awe all the things that Ms. Abrams is doing, what Sunny gives us is the centering stillness that holds the show together while its more extreme cohosts and guests run off in all sorts of directions. This week, the Cut gave Hostin—a lawyer who (Durga alert!) recently became a successful novelist and now has to write a trilogy!—the full profile treatment. It’s a pleasure to see The View equivalent of the nice girl get her due from newly buzzy2 writer Evan Ross Katz.—Rachel
Read “Can Stacey Abrams Save the Democrats—Again?” here.
Read “Sunny Hostin Is More Than Just Co-host of The View” here.
The abortion wars hit home.
The Pink House—Mississippi’s last abortion clinic, whose proper name is Jackson Women’s Health Organization—has gotten a lot of press over the years. But this week’s Time cover is perhaps its biggest star turn. As a Jackson, Mississippi, native who grew up mere blocks from the Pink House, I have vivid childhood memories of what in the article the staff calls “abortion tourists” protesting with nasty signs out front. The Pink House was how I first bumped up against the idea of abortion in my youth—well, that and Penny from Dirty Dancing, naturally. Time put the Pink House and its director Shannon Brewer on its main stage, with a story by Abigail Abrams, because stakes are impossibly high: Two weeks from now the U.S. Supreme Court will hear Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health—a challenge to a Mississippi law that would ban nearly all abortions after 15 weeks and would have tremendous implications for Roe v. Wade. We’re holding our breath for Pennys everywhere.—Rachel
Props, Allure: We love that in your December cover story on model-turned-actor Barbie Ferreira—a star of the scariest show on TV (for parents, at least), HBO’s sex-and-drug-fueled Euphoria, now headed into season two—the writer Dianna Mazzone touches upon Ferreira’s larger-than-we’re-used-to-in-our-cover-girls body, but so lightly that her size comes across as NBD: a quiet rebellion in and of itself.
The Short Stack, aka, wait…there’s more!
Andy Garfield is still soul-searching, this time by channeling Jonathan Larson. (Brianna Kovan, Bustle) // Latria Graham on fly-fishing with her mother. (Garden & Gun) // Rachel Syme gets boozy with Gerri. (New Yorker) // The last haven for magazine freaks. (Kate Dwyer, New York Times & New York Times3) // The new It Bag is a Prada…restaurant. (Elena Clavarino, Air Mail) // Depop CEO Maria Raga explains what Depop is. (Fast Company) // “Would Maid Be a Hit if Alex Were Black?” (Allegra Frank, Slate) // On Huma Abedin, a woman of color, waiting on the very white Hillary Clinton. (Rafia Zakaria, Baffler) // We know this friend, we’ve been this friend. (Lauren Bans, New Yorker)
Maggie, It’s clear you love SJP. Haven’t you written like three cover stories on her in your lifetime? She seems to have chaaaaaaarmed your tutu off!
What’s the deal with this double whammy?