Dancing on the Ceiling
The Jennifer Beals and Paula Abdul of newsletters is high-kickin' for abortion rights in our Swarovski-studded briefs.
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.
Good evening, Virginia! And Ohio! And Kentucky! And hello to all the rest of you gorgeous, voting people of Spread Nation!
We woke up this morning with a sense of relief that we have not felt in a long, long time. In Rachel’s state of Virginia, we held the Senate and flipped the House of Delegates1! (In Maggie’s state of Massachusetts, well…it’s Massachusetts.) We’re so happy for steadfastauthor , who finally has a reason to celebrate (read her deservedly unhumble response), and of course for the millions of women who will now hold on to their rights. While we have no Spread correspondents physically in Kentucky, we have had friends texting to float the question: Should Biden just let Andy Beshear slide over into his spot at the top of the ticket in 2024? Thoughts, feelings?
Let’s enjoy a win while we have one, shall we?
Rachel & Maggie
P.S. #nonaestheticmoms unite!
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Everybody needs a bosom for a pillow. Or do they?
Not long ago, I stepped out of the shower, glanced in the mirror, and ba-zoooom, it hit me: How long have I been walking around with my grandmother’s boobs? In the Atlantic, novelist and columnist Xochitl Gonzalez (who, like me, is 46 and who, you’ll recall, delightfully revealed the truth about the wedding industrial complex earlier this year) reports on a similar a-ha moment: “My once-fabulous tits had transmogrified into a bosom.” (My grandmother’s preferred term, for the record.) Despite opting out of the Doña lifestyle—Gonzalez doesn’t have kids—she had acquired “the Doña Body.” But unlike her blue-collar elders, she’s hitting middle age with the resources and the technology to attempt intervention. Gonzalez folds issues of class and heritage; our pervasive fear of aging, irrelevance, and “invisibility”; the “prejuvenation” movement (paging!); and the overarching question, what are we really chasing here? into an essay about the breast reduction surgery that does, indeed, leave her feeling “rejuvenated,” if not exactly youthful.—Maggie
Read “Me and My Bosom” here.
All about that Trace.
“I haven’t got what it takes to be a successful artist in America. I haven’t got those kind of balls, and I don’t want them. They’re too macho, they’re too big, they’re too baggy. They drag on the floor when you walk, right? My balls are up here on my chest, close to my heart.”
In a tender, funny—I’ll say it!—revelatory conversation with art critic Jerry Saltz, British artist Tracey Emin2, who hasn’t shown in an American museum show since a squabble in 1995 and whom I now admit to previously totally misunderstanding, goes deep on making art after surviving cancer. She also talks about The Mother, her gigantic sculpture of a female figure “like everyone’s mum”—you might call it the mega-Doña—installed in Oslo, and what she does with her millions.—Rachel
Read the interview in Vulture here.
Now screening: wives tales.
Last weekend, my husband and I made a big investment: a night at the movies3. We’d heard we should see Anatomy of a Fall, a whodunit that won the top prize at Cannes, and it had just landed at our local Alamo Drafthouse. Y’all: This movie turned out to be the most potent 2.5-hour narrative investigation of marriage I’ve ever consumed. The film, which is half in French and half in English, is a domestic thriller, a courtroom procedural, a master study of gender roles, an examination of trauma, and a showcase for my new favorite actress, Sandra Hüller. With crazy depth and a thread of humor, Hüller plays Sandra Voyter, a famous German novelist who’s put on trial for murdering her husband after he dies très ambiguously. (The actress also appears untouched by dermatological intervention; watching her 45-year-old face up close in almost every scene of the film is a revelation in itself.) Since we stumbled out of the theater, we haven’t stopped talking about this one. And I need everyone—I’m lookin'g at you, Robert4!—to see it for further processing. Maggie, How’s your marriage hangin’?—Rachel
RB, I like movies, too! In fact I also saw one about a marriage—featuring a child bride!—this weekend! After last week’s veritable rave in the New York Times, I trotted into Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla breezily certain I was about to have my socks blown off, only to walk out two hours later, socks very much intact. Maybe I’m harping too much on age this week but…it possible I’ve aged out of the Coppola oeuvre (nevermind that the director herself is 52)? It bugged me that she wraps the story at the exact moment when its protagonist—in this telling, groomed for her much-older mate at 14, then mostly held captive in Graceland—actually develops some agency and walks (calmly) out.—Maggie
Maggie, The important thing is, we both made it to the movies! Pretty…pretty good.—RB
Remember when she was cosplaying “criminal justice lawyer”?
Kim Kardashian, fresh off being panned for her attempt at acting, last week buried that news as only she can5. Her $4 billion brand, Skims, the “official underwear outfitter6” of orgs (the NBA; WNBA; US Olympic team) we never knew needed an “official underwear outfitter,” ranks between Louis Vuitton and Fendi on an industry ranking of hottest brands. Its true genius, writes Vanessa Friedman in the New York Times, may be capitalizing on the slouch-ification of WFH-era American dressing: maternity-friendly, flexibly sized skintight dresses that look like you’re actually dressed yet feel like the leggings you switched to when you gave up on hard pants. I confess, this woman is hard to resist. Last week, Kim gave us the “ultimate nipple bra” with see-and-be-seen erect nips built in. Effing ridiculous, right? Except not only was Kim’s global-warming-themed IG launch fairly hilarious (“no matter how hot earth gets, you’ll always look cold!”) but in a poignant twist that we’d love to be able to fact check, Glamour reports the UNB is potentially perfect for the trans community and being joyfully embraced by breast cancer survivors. Kim, ya got us again!—Maggie
Read “Today Shapewear, Tomorrow the World” here.
The Spread’s 16-year-old great-grandma.
In the New Yorker, Anna Holmes, who was the founding editor of Jezebel in 2007, attempts to work through the six-month-old bone she has to pick with Ben Smith: In an opinion piece for the New York Times back in May, Smith pointed a finger at Jezebel for unleashing the “uncontrolled anger” that today overwhelms social media and our overall existence. Holmes probably has more smart stuff to say about women and rage (a subject we’re interested in!) but here I found her so fixated on Smith, she gets in her own way. Nevertheless, the piece is a great reminder of how revolutionary Jezebel really was. When Holmes writes, “I imagined [the site] as one with a lot of personality, with humor, with edge. I wanted it to combine wit, smarts, and anger, providing women—many of whom had been taught to believe that ‘feminism’ was a bad word or one to be avoided—with a model of critical thinking around gender and race which felt accessible and entertaining,” readers, she’s talking about me. I was just months out of college when the site launched; it’s entirely possible that Jezebel was more formative to my nascent worldview than all four years in university. “I see Jezebel not as the beginning of the end of the digital-media era but as a moment—a spark—within an ongoing discussion about gender politics,” she writes. Not to go all Oprah on you but here’s “what I know for sure”: Jezebel ran so the Spread could casually saunter around once a week.—Rachel
Read “Jezebel and the Question of Women’s Anger” here.
Anne, were your ears burning?
Several weeks ago we referenced Anne Lamott as the OG whose take on “mom rage”—decades before the current crew got there—still reads as so reasonable, so correctly observed, so real. Ever since I imbibed Lamott after the birth of my first child (this makes me a cliché, but so be it), I trust her to provide Operating Instructions on life in general. Her new Washington Post op-ed is a little warm and fuzzy for my usual tastes, sure, but maybe that’s a good thing—a necessary counterbalance to the aforementioned midlife angst captured by Xochitl Gonzalez. Lamott says that, at 70, she’s managed to release some of that clench. That phrase really got me, which tells you how royally clenched I feel most of the time. “The perfectionism that had run me ragged and has kept me scared and wired my whole life has abated…the yammer in my head is quieter, the endless questioning: What am I supposed to be doing? Is this the right thing?” Let the Lamott-ness of it all wash over you.—Maggie
Read “It’s good to remember: We are all on borrowed time” here.
Wesley must have brought her flowers.
While Maggie continues to chip away at Barbra Streisand’s 970-page doorstopper, I spent my more limited Babs bandwidth (Babswidth? Am I a Penelope Cruz-level genius?) by joining Ms. Streisand and the always-spectacular Wesley Morris for McConnell’s Brazilian Coffee ice cream at her home in Malibu. Thanks to the out-of-this-world subject-author pairing, the piece is breezy, poignant, and at 3,000 words, a lot of bang for your reading buck.—Rachel
Read “Barbra Steisand Is Ready to Tell All. Pull Up a Seat.” here.
If you’re easily queasy, skip ahead. Now!
Wincing periodically. Grimacing throughout. I read Judith Newman’s feature on the rise and fall of Ohio’s Dr. Katharine Roxanne Grawe through my fingers, as if watching a slasher movie. Its headline, “Body Horror,” sums up the feeling. As Newman tells it, “Dr. Roxy” was a super-successful plastic surgeon on TikTok—meaning, yes, she performed and narrated surgeries on TikTok—with a million social media followers. She was a cool-mom type who seemed to always put her patients at ease. Except for those times when she left them with a bowel perforation…or a bowel puncture…or breast implants that were supposed to have been removed. After angry patients found each other online and circled the wagons, the Ohio Medical Board found that Grawe, 44, “deviated from the standard of care” because she was distracted by the camera, and stripped her of her license. In this story, though, the devil is in the gory details.—Rachel
Read it in The Cut here.
“In the world of feelings, there are winners and losers, and somebody has to be the judge.”
Ever since we missed out on the 30-second window to buy tickets to the Amy Poehler/Tina Fey Restless Leg Tour before it sold out—gah!—we’ve been jonesing for a dose of the OGs, the best of the besties, our true spirit animals…so I’m shocked that I was late to Say More with Dr? Sheila (note to copyeditor Allison: the punctuation is intentional). In Amy Poehler’s improv podcast, she plays “world-class therapist and life coach” Dr? Sheila. Come for the mmmm listening sounds, stay for the unqualified advice doled out to our closest friends, i.e.,Tina, Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch, Abbi & Ilana, and more.—Maggie
“She sounds like she’s reading Faulkner. And it’s not Faulkner.”
Thank you, Spread reader Jean, for responding to our call: What’s it like listening to Michelle Williams read Britney Spears? Further news on the The Woman in Me beat: This week Jacob Bernstein did a little digging and found that friend-of-Spread author Ada Calhoun penned the earliest draft—a task that saw her holed up with Brit Brit in Maui. Friends, is it us, or is this bit of intel just a hop, skip, and a jump to a screenplay: In a world….where a New York writer travels to [insert turquoise-water locale] with a legendary yet unstable blond pop star and said pop star’s personal trainer fiancé, hijinks ensue, skepticism on both sides is gradually supplanted by empathy, and ultimately, of course, a best seller…that then becomes a movie. Hacks meets May December meets White Lotus? See you there!
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What’s another, classier way to say, “Suck. It. Glenn. Youngkin.”?
Factor in the babysitter and one drink apiece, and a movie outing suddenly adds up to be roughly the price of two tickets to a decently hot Broadway show or one pair of very good jeans. We’re unlikely to do it again until FY2025.
Robert is Rachel’s couples therapist, obvi.
Wait for the book. Psychotherapist and devoted K-Kronicler’s upcoming DeKonstructing the Kardashians promises to examine K and Ko. as an emblem of late-stage capitalism in the era of social media!
Agenda item #1: Who should be the official underwear outfitter of the Spread? a) Hanes b) Jockey c) Poise