Enter the Free Bird
The Ashlyn Harris and Sophia Bush—go ahead, type those names into your Lycos—of newsletters is splashing around in our hot-tub time machine, not listening to hip-hop.
What would make the perfect women’s magazine? Juicy yarns, hot goss, 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.
Divorce: It’s trending and, according to our research, it’s a great way to drive paid subscriptions! Though the Cut recently noted that the age of “conscious uncoupling1” is over—we have entered a season of the let-it-all-hang-out breakup, apparently—Brooklynite goddessbecoming a full-freight paid subscriber before she could even pause to mentally congratulate Goddard on her salesmanship. Well played, Jo! Meanwhile, when Rachel’s New York mag subscription glitched out in the middle of formerly wedding-tastic Molly Rosen (formerly Molly Rosen Guy)’s Cut essay on her own divorce (“Happily Ever Divorced” still tops the site’s most-read list), your Spreaditor was pushed to do the unthinkable: She jumped on the phone with the mag’s actual customer service department2. What other stories could make us take action that quickly?
These findings whipped our next Spreaditorial meeting into a frenzy. Were such soul-baring dispatches the key to success for all magazine editors-turned-[deep breath…] bloggers? In the name of entrepreneurship, should we, too, throw caution to the wind with, uh, some of that steamy-sexy-swing-y stuff? Guess you’ll have to pony up to find out.
Red red wine, you make us feel so fine,
Rachel & Maggie
P.S. Forgive the name-dropping, but my friend Maggie—ever heard of her?—wrote a big story for New York Times Styles! About J. Crew! Read it here!—Rachel
The sister who stood by him.
New Yorker writer Jennifer Gonnerman first reached out to Kristin Kinkel for an interview 11 years ago, after the Sandy Hook shootings. But it wasn’t until this year—on the eve of the 25th anniversary of the day her brother, Kip Kinkel, shot both of their parents dead, then opened fire on his Oregon high school; firing 51 rounds, killing two and wounding two dozen others—that Kristin agreed to be interviewed. Now 42 and a divorced mom of two, Kristin is, for many of us reading, a relatable peer. She’s also the sister of one of the nation’s first mass school shooters, whose attack preceded Columbine by 10 months. Gonnerman’s story is by turns baffling (Kristin never seems to have experienced anger at Kip); heartbreaking (his diagnosis of schizophrenia, and subsequent stabilization under the appropriate meds, makes it clear that with proper treatment this might never have happened); and eye opening (what Kip Kinkel tells Gonnerman about being raised as a boy in the gun-loving culture of their rural town surprised even Kristin herself: “I cannot believe what different childhoods we had.”). It’s conflicting, too: This happened when Kip was 15 and terribly ill. But does that mean that, as his sister believes, he should now walk free?—Maggie
Read “What Happens to a School Shooter’s Sister” here.
What if age isn’t just a number?
“In my 30s, I believed in the promise of medical science’s overcoming many age-old biological hurdles, including the unforgiving female reproductive window,” Grace Glassman writes in Slate. “The stark reality is that aging is a hard stop that can’t be undone, only pressed against.” If you are reading this newsletter from a coworking space or a Jiffy Lube waiting area, I strongly recommend that you relocate to a more private place, preferably one with boxes of Kleenex at the ready, and fully dig into her piece, “The Train Wrecked in Slow Motion.” In it, Glassman—herself an ER doctor—recounts the near-death experience of giving birth to her third baby, at 453. It’s a sledgehammer of an essay—at once a tick-tock of a medical catastrophe of the highest stakes and a haunting consideration of the trade-offs we make to have children on our own terms and timeline.—Rachel
Read it here.
“I wept because she had existed for me solely as a product and an accessory to Combs’s male genius.”
When news broke about the lawsuit brought by R&B singer Cassie against her former partner and boss Puff Daddy—a case that was settled within 24 hours—we hoped someone would help us process this one. Yep, I’m still over here wearing my Xochitl Gonzalez Fan Club button: The Atlantic columnist contextualizes this bombshell within her own experience as a woman whose worldview, politics, and sense of self were shaped by hip-hop, who realized years ago that her favorite tunes had long been “whispering into my headphones that I, as a woman, was worthless—that women were interchangeable accessories, extras in songs and videos, not to be trusted, certainly not to be believed.” This line, in particular, surfaced scenes from my own former existence: “All the girlfriends I used to hit the clubs with now look back and wonder…. What judgments did we cast upon other women because…we’d been conditioned to be indifferent to one another?” Oof.—Maggie
Read “What Did Hip-Hop Do to Women’s Minds?” here.
From ’s essay “My Jewish Mom Anxiety Just Keeps Growing,” part of New York’s cover package about the effects of the Israel-Hamas war:
“To call attention to the very real, palpable rise in antisemitism can feel almost like it’s minimizing the suffering happening across the world—as if standing up for the protection of Jews in the Diaspora is in some way in conflict with arguing for the safety of Palestinian children. It is not. It is necessary. And when only Jewish voices are crying out for our own protection, the echo is haunting.”
Read it here.
Question: Is the New York Times normalizing off-label use of Ozempic-type drugs (real and fake)?
Yesterday, stuck in the comments section of the latest New York Times story on semaglutides, I was struck by a) how little empathy there really is—among article-commenting types who are, as we know, a special breed—for, as more than one commenter put it, the “vain women” who seek medical solutions to their weight, and b) an echoed complaint: Many readers accuse the paper of basically offering free advertising for Big Pharma by continuing to cover Ozempic, Mounjaro, et al. as the weight loss miracle they very much can be—this time, for women dealing with menopausal weight gain—while only briefly mentioning the drug shortage that has real health repercussions for people with diabetes who rely on these drugs, and also very blithely noting that people who are ineligible for a prescription are paying $1,000 a month out of pocket for it. (Seriously, are these stories written by the same people who whine, in the Real Estate section, how will this couple with only $1.5 million ever afford a home!?). Rachel accuses me of pearl-clutching on this one—wouldn’t be the first time—but I do wonder whether editors bear some responsibility in giving these drugs unlimited airtime, and making them sound about as routine as popping Tylenol, when we know that people who can’t get a prescription or pay $1,000 a month are turning to the unvetted, potentially dangerous forms available from compounding pharmacies?—Maggie
Read “A New Match For Menopausal Weight Gain: Ozempic” here.
Look, we tried not to double down on New Yorker stories again. But…Rachel Aviv on Joyce Carol Oates? What’s a Spreaditor to do?
There are times when you just have to sit back and be glad there are Rachel Avivs out there to tackle impossible writing tasks, and this is one of them. Let’s start here, shall we? At 85 and still writing till 1 a.m. most nights, Joyce Carol Oates “has written sixty-three novels, forty-seven collections of short stories, and numerous plays, librettos, children’s novels, and books of poetry…” for a combined output of more than 100 works.4 Aviv presumably read a bunch of these; she also got access to Oates’s old journals, the better to attempt a psychological profile of a woman who insists she doesn’t really have a personality (she’s spent a lot of those 100 works looking for it); insists that even her dearest friends don’t really know her; questions the authenticity of her own responses to Aviv’s queries; and admits she held even her own husbands at bay from her inner self. And who abruptly stands up and wafts off from their first sit-down interview, “so quickly and weightlessly she seemed to be gliding.” Anybody who has marveled at Oates’s curious (and sometimes problematic) Twitter feed: The answers you seek are here. Or maybe they aren’t anywhere at all…—Maggie
Read “Joyce Carol Oates’s Relentless, Prolific Search for a Self” here.
Now screening: Ripped from the headlines.
This weekend, please take a little time for yourself—and for me, if I’m being honest—to watch May December. Director Todd Haynes’s twist on the Mary Kay Letourneau saga of the late 1990s stars Julianne Moore as the Letourneau figure, Natalie Portman as an actress preparing to play her in a movie, and one of the kids from Riverdale. If that sounds like a lot, it is: By turns a tragedy, a comedy, and perhaps the first time Natalie Portman seems to actually be having a l’il fun making movies. I saw the film early, at the Virginia Film Festival back in October, and while I have thoroughly enjoyed lording that over Maggie, turning this movie over in my own little head without the company of Spread Nation is getting lonely. Luckily, no babysitter is required to catch up: May December will be streaming on Netflix starting Friday.—Rachel
The more things change, the more...
Vogue would like us to add a new item to our ongoing list of self-improvement tasks: Chew better. According to a recent article, “The recommended amount of chewing for optimal digestion and oral health is 30 to 50 times per bite, depending on the type and texture of the food.” Paging!
“Familiarity can overpower distaste.”
The New York Times Magazine’s Caity Weaver is out with a big profile of one of the world’s highest paid actresses: Stephanie Courtney. Not ringing any bells? She’s the lady who plays Flo—the commercial avatar for Progressive Insurance who, like a member of your actual family, is kind of irritating but also warm and dependable. A former Groundlings contemporary of Kristen Wiig, Courtney is paid an estimated $10 million annually for the long-running gig. Wrapped in Weaver’s signature set pieces from her time with Courtney (there’s a funny if lengthy bit about caviar and the Times code of conduct, for instance) and some satisfying armchair psychoanalysis (Steph’s creative ambitions aren’t exactly fulfilled by her role as the face of an insurance company) the profile is above all a fascinating look into the inner workings of big advertising. Just a spoonful of sugar…—Rachel
Read it here.
Can we get back to the days of donut-blowjobs, please?
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Speaking of G-Money, have you heard her latest coinage? When her son, Moses, leaves for college, she says she will be “free birding.” Empty nesting is for plebes.
P.S.A.: Sadly, the phone people can only help with the print portion of one’s subscription bundle, forcing our R.B. to resort to Apple News.
It stings no many how many times ya read it: “Among developed nations, the U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate. The MMR for women 40 and over is almost eight times what it is for women under 25.”
By age 33, Joyce Carol Oats had published five novels, four of which were nominated for the National Book Award. Dang, girl.