Great Balls of Fire
The Anthony Edwards and Val Kilmer of newsletters is flying too close to the sun on everything from HIPPA violations to decor decisions. At this point, what have we got to lose?
Call us zeitgeist whisperers, but when the same tweet is texted to us by six different people in the space of 10 minutes, we know something is up. And something was big-time up this past Saturday, when the very posh, very blond New York socialite/front-row fashion-fixture Lauren Santo Domingo posted the above humdinger (since deleted), seemingly outing Ivanka Trump’s high-school abortion. “Seemingly” because we don’t know for sure if it’s true or not: Lauren (who Maggie worked with back in the day at Vogue) and Ivanka travel in some of the same circles—at least, they did before Javanka got themselves excommunicated from the church of Manhattan society—so it’s possible LSD got this intel firsthand. Or maybe she just took to Twitter to mouth off. Regardless, it really fired up our text chains: Is it OK to post about any woman’s medical history—and especially her abortion—even if that woman is a total hypocrite and traitor to her kind? Among our girlfriends, some felt that as a public figure who used her antichoice position to sway voters, Ivanka was fair game. (Also there was a strong thruline of just: F*** her.) But other friends felt the tweet violated a sacred privacy around abortion—a story that only the woman who had it should be able to tell. But that opened up another age-old question: Why should such an essential part of women’s health care be a secret, shrouded in shame and stigma? Aren’t we past that? If Ivanka had a prophylactic mastectomy ([cough] or got breast implants) and then said she didn’t believe in them and restricted other women from having them, wouldn’t we call her out on it? Still, others protested: Is abortion really just straightforward health care, like heart surgery? Yes, in many cases it’s a lifesaving medical necessity; but in others, there is the element of choice and that’s the point! And where does the privacy question come in with so much at stake?
In the end, most of us agreed: What LSD posted was out of line. Maybe, though, if that gets more women to vote blue in November, it’s time we all got out of line.
Spreadarinas, tell us: What do you think? Does even Evil Ivanka have a right to her privacy? Or at the point of no return, is the use of any and all ammunition justified in name of the cause?
Rachel & Maggie
PS: Allow us to play it straight this week—we’re tired, you’re tired!—and ask you point blank to PLEASE LIKE THIS POST ON SUBSTACK BY SMASHING THE HEART BUTTON.
Let’s kick this party off with something important, weighty, serious, shall we? You’re damn right, we’re talking about Top Gun.
With America in shambles, who can resist Top Gun: Maverick, the feel-good, Tom Cruise-in-action sequel to 1986’s cocky-cockpit classic, tracking…a batch of the world’s best (lookin’) young fighter pilots on a live-or-die mission, competing against not just an intentionally vague enemy but also each other and their own inner demons? Aside from Roxane Gay, very few people! Our 16-year-old boy-kid and his girlfriend and our sixty-something dad’s friends, as a sample, all declared it “maybe the best movie ever.” Our more measured 11-year-old girl-kid stopped short of that superlative, but called it “so, so, so good.” Though I almost would have agreed to see even the universally panned Jurassic World: Dominion if it meant escaping the 100-degree heat while nine months pregnant, my review is that it’s a really fun way to spend a couple of hours! But all I’ve really wanted to talk about since was Jennifer Connelly’s character, Penny Benjamin, the aging Maverick’s love interest: There’s something about this bar-owning, sailboat-adept, perfectly tousled divorcée. Though egregiously underwritten, this manic-pixie single mom of San Diego clearly contains much lived experience beyond her handful of windswept scenes on the back of a motorcycle or the stern of a boat, and she’s an archetype that feels new to the summer blockbuster: The 2022-tailored, ur-aspirational grown-ass romantic counterpart to Maverick’s still-boyish lead. Is Penny the paragon of a casual-cool-independent midlife existence I never knew I wanted?
With her side-parted blowout, Penny laughs in the face of Gen Z’s middle part of choice. (If it ain’t broke…) With one of Southern California’s leading cosmetic dermatologists obviously on her side, she gracefully embraces her well-earned crow’s feet—the only giveaway in an otherwise expensively maintained visage and the perfect complement to a wardrobe of—we’re guessing here—Nili Lotan sweaters, Khaite blouses, Rag & Bone white jeans, and (the rare miss) Golden Goose sneakers. Either Penny made out like a bandit in the divorce or earned so much dough in her early career that she retired and bought the Hard Deck waterfront bar by 50 (either way, we salute you). And while she’s free to have a fling with Mav when he lands in town, he’s plainly not the only one whose breath she’s taking away, if you know what I mean. This is a woman who has men vying to bury themselves in her bony clavicles. Men who could rival even Mav’s grin. Men who are rich. (We just know it.) So do I want to be Penny’s friend despite never being able to borrow her hauntingly slim clothes? Maybe. Do I want to go out for a drink with her to make sure she’s aligned in party affiliation, voting record, and sense of humor? Damn straight. Have I thought more about this character than the film’s screenwriters ever did? Definitely.—Rachel
Private eyes, they’re watching you…they see your every move.
No matter where you stand on the Lauren Santo Domingo tweet that shook the universe (our corner of it, at least), Ivanka Trump’s exposure is rather…poetic, given that the issue of privacy is top of the agenda in our new post-Roe reality. For starters, the legal basis of Roe v. Wade was privacy: the right to live our lives more or less as we see fit, without the government poking its head where it doesn’t belong, as enshrined in the 14th Amendment. With Roe knocked down, now a host of other crucial Supreme Court verdicts based on that same principle (Obergefell; even, maybe, Loving) hang in the balance. But also, in a post-Roe world, the need for online privacy takes on scary new dimensions: The digital evidence of our lives could soon be used against us. Yes, the fall of Roe has intersected with the issue of online data mining—and it’s all about privacy. Now that “a Google search for a reproductive health clinic, online order for abortion pills, location ping at a doctor’s office and text message about considering ending a pregnancy could all become sources of evidence,” the Washington Post published a guide to protecting your privacy online when investigating abortion. Step one: Be careful about telling your own health-care provider, since any information conveyed via text or email can be seized by the police. Oh and: The medications prescribed for miscarriages are often the same ones used in self-managed abortions—let’s hope the police don’t get ’em confused! If that weren’t enraging enough, in Slate, University of Virginia law professor and 2019 MacArthur fellow Danielle Keats Citron paints a picture of a dystopian—yet not unimaginable—police state that made me glad my FitBit has been lying uncharged in the bottom of some bag somewhere for six months (there being so little, uh, fitness for it to track these days). According to Keats Citron, the data collected by our ubiquitous tech—period-tracking apps, online dating profiles, you name it—could also be used to divine who’s seeking an abortion, and weaponized. “Friday’s SCOTUS ruling in Dobbs…augurs a future where no aspect of our intimate life is ours, where even the most private spaces or relationships are ripe for surveillance, where every detail about our bodies, health, and relationships is amassed and sold,” she writes. Her point: In order to protect ourselves, we need to make our digital privacy an enshrined civil right. I applaud the idea. I’m ready to sign that petition. I’ll even march. But In these fractious times, I say, with deep exhaustion: Yeahhhh…Good luck with that.—Maggie
Read “Seeking an abortion? Here’s how to avoid leaving a digital trail.” here.
Read “The End of Roe Means We Need a New Civil Right to Privacy” here.
I’ve spent the past week parallel-processing Elizabeth Weil’s New York cover story—about a 17-year-old boy who made a terrible decision and in return was completely ostracized by his entire community—as well as, you know, the decimation of reproductive rights in this country; the end of separation of church and state in schools; the fact that we now have no right to know whether that dad across the playground is packing heat; the shocking daily revelations from the January 6th hearings; the death of my cat of 15 years, Margie; and the fact that I’m going to birth a human baby any day now (still no name…how about, um, Margie?). Whew. It’s amazing any magazine story could stand out in that kind of deluge, but I’ve thought about Weil’s sensitively told, impressively reported feature every day since it hit newsstands. The boy, whom Weil refers to as Diego, did something truly horrible: He went to a party and shared a nude photo of his girlfriend. Punishment was necessary. Hell, maybe he should be banned from ever holding a seat on the Supreme Court. Diego messed up bad. But did the punishment—being socially shunned, even having to stay home from school for his own physical safety, eventually becoming a shell of his former self—fit the crime?
What I’ve been grappling with most is how dramatically different my reaction to this scenario is today from what it would have been when I was a teen myself. If a friend’s nude had been exposed when I was in high school—and if social conditions were then what they are now, in terms of the Internet, youth activism, and widespread conversation about consent and sexual abuse—I’d have been the ringleader of the protest about sexual abuse and safety on campus, and I would not have led it gently. Emotionally erratic, power-starved, and fiercely loyal to my friends—with both a conscious and subconscious understanding of misogyny—I would have wanted to ruin this kid’s life, and I’d have been proud of my stance. Righteous in it.
Fast-forward twenty years. I’ve had the chance to benefit from friendships with dozens of kind, decent males—my husband included—some of whom surely messed up on different levels in their childhoods; I’ve also had the chance to benefit from grace when I messed up as a girl kid, as have many incredible feminists I know. And I’m the parent of an almost 16-year-old male. He’s a good one. But he’s also human and therefore fallible; and, for better and worse (mostly for better!), like many young men of his generation, he lives in fear of misstepping. My point is that he’s still a CHILD. My heart aches for the girlfriend (also a CHILD!) whose privacy was violated—I’m a woman and also the parent of girls; that part is easy—but I can’t stop thinking about , Diego, too, who is a less familiar character to me, and how differently his life would have turned out had he been shown grace by the teenage mob (who acted beyond the control of their parents and educators). What if he had faced a more fitting punishment, and then was allowed back to a semi-normal existence? I need a good shrink—Orna, can you hear me?—for some Monday-morning quarterbacking here: How should Diego’s original sin—and everyone else’s subsequent shaming—been handled to prevent such damage?—Rachel
Read “Teenage Justice” here.
Am I not progressive-ing fast enough?
We don’t usually double down on two stories in the same magazine issue but this was one of those issues of New York where every story is worth a deep read—and more than one made me feel like an alien life-form, landed on a far-off planet, trying to figure out what language they speak here without stumbling over anybody’s feelings. I guess what I’m saying is: Stories that made me feel slow and old. We’ve praised Brock Colyar, New York’s nightlife-reporting wunderkind before (you’ll recall we gave them a Spreadie last year for being “the next Candace Bushnell”…and then they went and hung out with Candace Bushnell! Meta!). The fandom lives on: This time around, the breathtakingly self-knowing Colyar tackles the state of the pronoun, from the Supreme Court to Silicon Valley, and, on a deeply personal note, what it actually feels like to be a human being who now gets asked by everybody: Which pronouns do you prefer? Colyar was assigned male at birth, sleeps with men, wears slip dresses and lip gloss. The answers to the ever-present questions are:They/them and nonbinary. Colyar is emblematic of the generation that made us negotiate this territory: Self-actualized, on the right side of history, seemingly fearless, and unapologetically impatient. At 24, they are living in a moment where “the entire world, or at least the good-intentioned, progressive part of it that I am fortunate enough to reside in,” has finally “acknowledge[d] something many queer people (and feminists and restless square pegs of many varieties) have long sought: freedom from the bright-line tyranny of gender and its accompanying expectations.” A moment where it’s no longer all that unusual when a “small-town boy downloads Grindr and finds the people he wants to fuck, many of whom want to fuck him, too”—in whatever permutation works for said boy, and in whatever identity is forged. A moment where Donald Trump was elected during their first semester of college at Northwestern: IMAGINE that. The only problem? The pronouns many of us only just learned to use are imperfect—they’re better, sure, but when you’re being asked to choose one day in and day out, they’re also just another label that isn’t a perfect fit.
“Every barista, every first date, every stranger at a party, every best friend of ten years, and (in a sign this had truly gone mainstream) my mother inquired about my pronouns. Do you know what ruins sex? Asking for pronouns directly before, during, or after getting naked; I’ve experienced all three. All of my friends’ moms ask them about my pronouns and then my friends recount the conversations to me … again and again and again. Now that I have my byline in this magazine, I have become Googleable. Type my name in the search bar and “Brock Colyar pronouns” is one of the autofills. I’ve watched people I don’t know discuss my pronouns on Reddit threads and in TikTok comment sections. (Does my algorithm know my pronouns?)”
Why do we ask so often? Colyar has our number: “Because it’s considered the polite thing to do now—an accepted part of our perilous new social-justice social contract—and you don’t want to offend me with your ignorance and you do want to flatter yourself with your deft ally-ness, all the while probably thinking, especially if you’re over 30, Oh goodness, the world is so different now.”
Let me admit here and now: I’m still working on the asking. I dread getting it wrong: I dread that the question itself might offend someone who feels their gender identity and pronouns are abundantly clear. In my liberal northeastern town where arguably most people younger than 25 are far from that bright line, I still find myself trying to skirt all pronouns or gender references, rather than just coming straight out with it: Hey, what should I call you? Now, it’s already become annoying to be asked. I get that—and Colyar illustrates so well why that’s problematic. But I can’t help feel the rug being moved beneath my feet, again, just when I was getting used to its new position.—Maggie
Read “They, Then and Now” here.
If the New Yorker had run a profile of gospel legend Mavis Staples by David Remnick on a different week, I may not have gotten around to it. But this week, sinking into a good profile of a good woman who’s seen and done a helluva lot in her time had me singing hallelujah—and also streaming her new album, Carry Me Home. I’ve since spent too many minutes questioning Remnick’s choice of Staples as his profile subject—as the New Yorker’s editor, dude could profile anyone on the planet; why Staples, why now? I know he’s a music guy—I’ll forever have a soft spot for the Sequoias—but what’s the subtext of this choice as our country and our world falls apart? Gosh I’ve grown cynical; I wonder why. In any case, the result is lovely and fun and even a little dishy: Staples feels comfortable enough with Remnick to talk some smack about rival Aretha Franklin; for that alone I can get on board with the writer-subject pairing. (Not to mention Remnick’s, um, talent for, you know, writing a magazine profile that traces the history of blues and civil rights as well as a musical personality for the better part of the last century! Icing on the cake.)—Rachel
Read “The Gospel According to Mavis Staples” here.
Back during the 2016 World Cup, every woman I knew, gay or straight or neither, was either Team Wambach or Team Rapinoe, and I don’t just mean in the “root, root, root for the home team” sense. Abby Wambach and Megan Rapinoe were heroic. And hot. So in my own personal effort to boost morale, I offer you a doubleheader of sorts: For Team Rapinoe, we give you a convo between your lavender-haired powerhouse and Roxane Gay in Newsweek, which has devoted its latest issue to celebrating the legacy of Title IX. (What? It was a great idea way back before the whipsawing headlines of the last week.) And for Team Wambach (raises two enthusiastic paws!!), Arch Digest opens the door to the domestic bliss the Buff Blond One shares with advice kween Glennon Doyle and their excellently blended family (yep, ole Craig is still right around the corner! Apparently blockbuster book deals and megawatt celebrity have the side benefit of compelling even the man you left for a Soccer Goddess to relocate across the country to live near you and the kiddos? Serious power move.)
Would you indulge one quick side rant about the other leading shelter mag? Oh, you have no choice? That’s what I thought! Welcome, my captive audience to the May ’22 installment of Elle Decor, which according to its cover was “The Family Issue.” Yet it contained page after page of homes as still and gray and moody as the never-touched lobbies of boutique hotels; there were pairings of various wealthy white-hairs, and one cool adult mother-daughter duo; but nowhere was there anything like even the Elle Decor definition of family—no stuff, no expensively managed chaos. Very few humans, no kids at all. Not even a glossy-coated canine. As one whose living space is destroyed on the daily by family—oh, isn’t it lovely!?—I was mystified (read: irritated). As one of relatively few magazines left in print, Elle Decor needs to deliver on its promises a little bit at least?—Maggie
Maggie, Do you think this was a statement on Elle Decor’s part? You know, families do look different these days. We make families; we’re not born into them. PSYCH! This was obviously them just shoehorning stuff into a theme they’d sold to advertisers. Do better, ED friends! I need some inspo on how to arrange the furniture in my “nursery”—by which I mean the single, small-ish bedroom my toddler will soon share with a newborn. Get ready, little ladies!—Rachel
Read “Megan Rapinoe and Roxane Gay On Equal Pay, Trans Bans and Life After Soccer” here.
Read “Glennon Doyle and Abby Wambach Share Their California Home” here.
Shout it out.
Are you starting to feel a little tired of reading about the reality of post-Roe life around the clock? Neither are we! This is the world we live in now, people! Here, four more abortion-related endeavors worth your time and eyeballs.
Brilliant—and also pregnant, hi!—New York Times critic Amanda Hess dials in on the fresh crop of abortion-focused programming, including HBO doc The Janes and the one-woman off-Broadway show called Oh God, a Show About Abortion. Read “When an Abortion Story Is Told as a Caper, Thriller or Farce” here.
We’re so glad New Yorker writer/voice of a (our? some?) generation Jia Tolentino is back from maternity leave to process this moment with/for us; though the result is dark. Read “We’re Not Going Back to the Time Before Roe, We’re Going Somewhere Worse” here.
Media Twitter’s response to this Washington Post story about a Texas teen who wanted an abortion and—spoiler alert—ended up with twins? It should be taught in journalism school. We agree. Read Caroline Kitchener’s piece here.
On Thursday, a Gallup poll showed that public approval for the Supreme Court is at a historic low—25 percent, down from the previous historic low in September, around 38 percent. On the Ezra Klein Show, pod guest Dahlia Lithwick schools Ezra—and all of us—on why 25 percent might actually be high. As Lithwick tells it, the Supreme Court is off the rails, has zero regard for what the public thinks of its rulings, and considers the real-life consequences of them more or less not their problem (!!!). The solution? Nothing less than a renegotiation of our democracy itself. Grab a bottle of something s-t-r-o-n-g to dull the pain and listen here.
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I'm new to your newsletter and found so much of it fascinating--I mean, really--but there's...so MUCH. I felt like I needed a full day just to digest it all! And I don't have a full day! I felt like I needed to comment on each and every item, which is silly, of course, so I won't.
I really just want to comment on the Ivanka outing right now. I detest Ivanka and everything she stands for but I detest even more the middle-school rush to titter about whether or not she has had an abortion. I get all of the reasons for wanting to out her, but none of them are good enough, in my view.
You said it best when you said Roe v Wade was based on privacy. No woman should ever feel she has to explain her reasons to choose abortion, and no woman should be afraid someone will find out if she's not ready to talk about it. Abortion is a life choice fraught with emotion. We need to address that side of it more, if anything. No woman goes into it without feeling gutted at some level, no matter how wanted or necessary it is, but opening up about it should be entirely her choice. Entirely.
I'm going to go back some time today and read some more of your good stuff, but I want to thank you for including Dahlia Lithwick's take on the nasty Supremes. I wish their unpopularity would make a difference, but they have no feelings outside of those their own clan demands. Still, When Dahlia speaks, I listen!
Rachel, yes to your compassion re: the Diego story. Anyone who has parented a boy must have the kind of complex feelings you admit to. Did you say you needed a shrink? You don't need a shrink. xo