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Hell Hath No Fury
The Blake’s bustle and Anna’s tiara of newsletters… Oh hell, who are we kidding. It’s a dark day, but at least we're in it together.
Beloved Spread Nation,
After our text chains started blowing up at 8:45 p.m. last night with news that the Supreme Court verdict on the future of Roe v. Wade had leaked—and that the future does not look bright—we both lay awake for hours, scrolling for news updates, shellshocked by a piece of information that, for months now, we’ve been telling ourselves to expect. Turns out we’re optimists, or maybe fools, because still, somehow, it knocked the wind out of both of us. This morning, we seriously considered reducing today’s Spread to a one-line lament: We’d just announce a day of mourning for women’s rights and health care in this country—about to take their biggest hit in 50 years—and leave the usual Spread-y nattering about Kim Kardashian’s Met Gala dress for another day. But we also realized that it felt genuinely essential to us both that we process this news (and all the other news) together with you. In the nine months we’ve been making the Spread, it has become a big part of our lives and our thought processes. We hope it feeds you, too, providing you with information you need but also making you feel embraced, understood, a little less alone—just as the knowledge that you’re all out there reading it does for us, too.
So let’s do this. First, a little bit of wild speculation on The Leak. Yes, yes, we know that what really matters is the outcome of the Supreme Court decision, and how it will impact the lives and health of millions of red-state American women and lead to a mass exodus of blue-state women (anybody got a cell number for Justin Trudeau?). Tempers have already flared today about the amount of attention being paid to the leak, versus to the substance of the opinion. But come on, people: A) even though we were in denial, we did sort of know what this decision was going to be, right? And B) the leak itself is fascinating: Because a leak of an entire draft of a Supreme Court majority opinion has literally never happened before in history, but also because the leak is the work of a particular someone, an ally, an advocate—dare we say a hero?—who was so pissed off and devastated by this verdict that they went to great lengths and grave personal risk to share the information now, i.e., six weeks in advance of the anticipated release of the Court’s decision, and with just enough time to foment an uprising of political will and fundraising among tapped-out Dems. If indeed this was some mastermind’s ploy to get us storming the streets in protest in advance of the midterms, we say: Well played.
So who did it? Predictably, DC Twitter went bananas last night. Our Washington spies tell us the scuttlebutt among former SCOTUS clerks and their ilk is that this was likely the work of a young and, many believe, female law clerk—someone very fired up, yet inexperienced enough to not fully grasp the risk this could be for her personal future and/or her career. Yes, our screenplay is already writing itself!
And to whom did this (imagined! unsubstantiated!) clerk leak the document? A Politico insider advised us to start our investigation by examining the bylines in the Politico story that delivered the scoop: One of the two reporters (listed first), Josh Gerstein, is widely respected veteran—really smart but not generally known for scoops, we hear. The second, Alexander Ward, is an established foreign policy geek who writes a daily national security e-newsletter for Politico. Which one went to college with, or has a girlfriend’s sister’s cousin who serves as a SCOTUS clerk, hmmm? Shove over, Ginny Thomas, this is the Spread’s new SCOTUS obsession, and we’ll get you an update as soon as we have it.
Looking for answers to the “Now what???” of it all? Today we wrote an easily digestible explainer on the Roe news—complete with a Spread-style reading list of essential background reads and a whom-to-follow list of Twitter accounts—for our friends over at Babe, the content arm of maternity brand Hatch. Why this partnership? We’ve both been pregnant at times, and Rachel is currently (very) great with child. Pregnancy brings out a special kind of hot-fire pro-choice in us both: Only we can decide when we want to take on this endlessly life-changing condition.
Fight the power,
Rachel & Maggie
PS: At T-minus 10 weeks, the Atlantic suggests we keep SpreadBaby’s name simple and go with RachelMaggie. Your thoughts?
PPS: Please remember to like this post! And to share the Spread with your favorite text chains, email chains, and ball-and-chains!
Our hopes were higher than Sterling Cooper Draper Price’s 23rd floor.
Retrieveth thee red-hooded cloaks from the annals of your costume closet (what…you don’t have a costume closet?!). The New Yorker had no idea how great a peg it would have for this week’s Elisabeth Moss profile. Yet, with humble thanks to Commander Alito and his merry band of right-wing justices, here we are. The profile of the Emmy-winning Handmaid’s Tale star, who also starred in era-defining shows The West Wing and Mad Men (not to mention a surprising list of movies—can you unsee her turn in Us?), attempts to capture the ish of the most central prestige-TV actress of our time. You’d think Michael Schulman, he who broke our corner of the internet with his landmark Jeremy Strong profile this fall, would be just the writer to accomplish this, right? But Schulman left us with more questions than answers. The piece sets up Moss as a walking dichotomy—a sunny, sweet gal who chooses only the darkest roles imaginable to portray in her professional life...and who—dun-dun-dunnnn—is an engaged member of the Church of Scientology. Moss for her part refuses to go deep on her affiliation with the church (which reminded me of this solid profile of Moss from 2014 New York by Willa Paskin, who grew up with Moss and still couldn’t get her to go on the record about the cult of Miscavige) and while Schulman conducts a surface-level investigation of the church around her, it doesn’t add up to much more than a standard-level portrait of a highly recognizable yet truly unknowable actor. A director who worked with Moss notes that there was “an ocean of Lizzie” that no one really knows and sadly, after this story, that remains true. Though that wasn’t the only burning question I was left with: Schulman depicts Moss applying the lip balm in almost every scene. Pray, what is this balm?! A women’s magazine would never have left out this critical detail.—Rachel
Read “How Elisabeth Moss Became the Dark Lady of the Small Screen” here.
(Not) just another Manic Monday.
Remember a simpler time, when Anna Wintour had the lock on the First Monday in May, and woe betide anyone who attempted to steal her thunder? Oh, the exquisite (possibly symbolic?) whiplash we experienced last night, settling down on the couch in our chicest stretchy pants to critique the Beautiful People as they ascended the steps of the annual Met Gala, only to simultaneously receive, like a bolt of lightning to the cerebral cortex, news of the SCOTUS brief. How do you metabolize Kim Kardashian in Marilyn Monroe’s actual “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” dress, borrowed from Ripley’s, alongside the haunting notion of Amy Coney Barrett stans dancing in the streets at the idea of their mission accomplished? How do you process Lizzo playing a $55,000 flute with four-inch nails on a red carpet in NYC while, an hour or two later, demonstrators gather outside the Supreme Court in DC, hoisting signs that read, “Pro Life, my ASS!” Things felt pretty existential for a second there. What even is a Met Gala? And…clothes? What are clothes? In the maelstrom I felt something like a pang of empathy for Wintour, who has been fighting so hard to maintain the relevance of the Met—even allowing “tastemakers” from the great unwashed internet past the gates, and letting Katy Perry wear a hamburger—and who last night saw her Big Night overshadowed by rain (red carpet photos from inside the tent: bummer); by the sotto voce chatter around Amy Odell’s new semi-authorized bio, Anna (which may not be getting rave reviews, but does get some mileage out of that one time Anna asked the art department to photoshop a baby’s chub). And now this, the covert mission of a (imagined! unsubstantiated!) SCOTUS law clerk…who is clearly, given the timing, no fan of fashion! Rachel, what’s your over-under on the Met? Winners? Losers? I was happy to see that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez snapped back to reality and sat this one out, and would like to take this opportunity to remind everyone of my crush on Atlantic columnist Helen Lewis, who last year wrote The Best Met Gala Critique in History.—Maggie
Maggie, Listen to you—paragon of empathy, feeling bad for Anna Wintour! This is interesting stuff, though I have little to add. Before I was knocked upside the head by the Roe news, I’d begun scribbling notes about last night’s looks. My winners, it seems, were Kaia Gerber, Jodie Turner-Smith and Joshua Jackson, and Hamish Bowles’s gilded Little Caesars-style crown—though I seem to have blacked out at that point as my log abruptly stops around 8:30. Oh, I also have SJP written down with “Z’s” all around those initials. (What could that mean?) And can make out a note that while I adore Altuzarra, I thought Hillary Clinton’s gown, which was embroidered with the names of women she admires, seemed to be gilding the lily past the point of the theme. But it’s been a long 24 hours and I’ve since changed my mind. Girl power, etc.—Rachel
A piping-hot, cheese-on, hands-off stepparenting style.
When I learned from the Atlantic that there is a wildly popular style of stepparenting called “nachoing,” I felt…hungry. But the concept behind Stephanie H. Murray’s story left my intellectual gut and my actual gut growling. The term nachoing comes from the phrase “nacho kids”—as in, not-your-kids but with extra cheeze: the stepparent takes no parental responsibility, leaving all the emotional and physical labor to the biological parent. My two big kids (technically my stepkids) started calling me their “parent” long before I legally hitched my wagon to their dad—and of their own volition. In between repeat showings of Damn Yankees (they have great taste in movie musicals…wonder where they get it!) and taking care of their 103 degree temps and helping them perfect their audition song for a community theater production of Annie (our then-eight-year-old redhead was robbed of the lead! But she did give the sassy supporting-orphan role of Pepper a never-before-seen je ne sais quoi!), it just sort of happened. I became their parent. But my big kids do have a real, loving biological mother, so we use “stepmom” as opposed to the more-amorphous “parent” when needed—it’s clear to society what that means and is a helluva lot more legit-sounding than “daddy’s wife.” Back to the Atlantic: I can kind of understand how it might be a useful approach, if the biological parent remarries after the kids are older (say, high-school aged) when an additional parent might feel unnatural and/or superfluous. But beyond all the emotional stuff—which is huge: my relationships with my big kids are the most surprising and rewarding of any I’ve ever had, and I know it’s hard to believe, but I love them and spend as much mental bandwidth on them as I do my soon-to-be-two biological children—I’m also hung up on the logistics. If you’ve vowed not to parent or take responsibility for or nag your stepchildren, how on earth can you both exist under the same roof—your roof—harmoniously? I’ll run a scenario: Stepson Johnny, 14, stays up all hours yelling at Fortnite while eating all the dairy-free pistachio Van Leeuwen that you’ve been saving (he’s not even lactose sensitive!), and because he’s nacho problem, you’re supposed to, what, congratulate him on these accomplishments the next morning? Or nag his biological parent to do the nagging? I can’t imagine the pressure and division it would cause within the adults’ relationship either, with only one parent acting as the enforcer. Or maybe this just reveals me to be a control freak? If so, I’m an inordinately lucky control freak.—Rachel
Rachel, What kind of stepdad do we think Harry Styles will be? Sorry, did someone say divorce? No? As the child of divorced parents, I was wayyyy triggered last week when Styles’s director/ladyfriend, Olivia Wilde, was served papers pertaining to her kids’ custody while onstage at CinemaCon, giving a speech about her new movie (starring…Harry Styles). I have since devoured every piece of intel I can find on who decides how and when someone gets “served,” and despite the apparent fact that Wilde’s ex, Jason Sudeikis, had no idea it would go down that way, I’m still mad at him for hiring the lawyer who hired the process server. The only thing that matters in these negotiations is the kids. Humiliating their mother by delivering custody papers in front of the whole world? Ted Lasso is dead to me. RB, your step-relationship is pretty magical. Being more than a “nacho” is largely dependent on having the buy-in of both the biological parent and the kids. I can see how if a “step” is faced by resistance on either of those fronts, “nachoing” might be a route to self-preservation. I can’t wait for your blockbuster how-to on your all-in approach—shall we call it The Whole Enchilada? Harry Styles could blurb it for you.—Maggie
Read “The Stepparent’s Dilemma” here.
Art daddy knows best.
In this month’s Vogue, the prolific Ada Calhoun puts her spin on the story of the art monster (read Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation if you haven’t already! It’s short!). Calhoun’s essay compares her own path as a writer and a mother (and and and) to that of her father, who even in the face of a cancer diagnosis prioritizes his own writing above his family. It’s an excerpt of her new book, Also a Poet, which wrestles with her relationship with her father while finishing his biography of Frank O’Hara, who both she and her father have long been obsessed with. The Vogue excerpt is largely about how no matter what Calhoun did growing up, her father never found her interesting; the story is lovely if mild—and definitely sent me down an interior rabbit hole about my own parents, who I sometimes think find me too interesting—but whet my appetite for the full memoir, out June 14. Calhoun, whom I don’t know personally but still somehow consider an ur-Spread woman, can be fearless (I’ll never forget the Modern Love she wrote a decade ago about the sexual mechanics of her blurrily monogomous marriage), and if the chatter about her book is true, we’ll get some of that boldness in the full-length version…where she’s free of Vogue’s watchful eye?—Rachel
Read the excerpt via Apple News here.
Take it from Tina.
Royal watchers got a fresh batch ’o clickbait last week courtesy of Tina Brown, the legendary Vanity Fair editor and ’90s media powerhouse turned reigning Buckingham Palace expert, who’s been making the rounds promoting her latest book on the royals, The Palace Papers. I could listen to Tina opine all day long, but I sat up especially straight at moment 37:39 of her interview with Kara Swisher on Sway—not because of what she was saying about Harry and Meghan but because of what she was saying about the Spread! Hear me out. Here’s Tina (edited somewhat for length) on the “end of days” of the magazine industry: “I’m sad about it, because there is a real craft and an art form to great magazines. I certainly loved putting them out. But I don’t really read them now, except for the New Yorker, which I still adore. There’s very good work being done in many of them, but I don’t buy magazines at the train station—and I was a magazine junkie…I miss assigning great stories from great writers, and the thing I most regret is that writers are so marginalized, and minimized. There are so many great talents scraping around being consultants and teachers, they don’t have a way to make a living at what they’re best at. That to me is one of the great sadnesses.” She notes that the only way to survive is to “be a sort of news impresario and figure out other ways to tell stories.” Tina, thank you! (wipes tear from eye) for articulating the Spread’s raison d’être as only you can: Rachel and I started this newsletter specifically because we saw the magazines we’ve always loved starting to dwindle, but also saw “women’s stories” popping up across a vast mediaverse of print, pod, newspaper, digital. It may be true that nobody’s buying mags anymore, but it’s also true that great stories are coming from all corners. We wanted to save readers the scrolling and searching, and round up exactly what they needed. And now, with Tina Brown on board as our official pitchwoman, we are two empresarios ready for global domination. In the immortal words of McFadden & Whitehead, “Ain’t no stoppin’ us now / we’re on the move! / Ain’t no stoppin’ us now / we’ve got the groove!”—Maggie
Listen to Tina Brown on Harry and Meghan’s “scorched earth” exit here.
Get rich…in knowledge!
This week, there’s a windfall of excellent and very Spready stories, more than one already-long newsletter’s worth. For those of you who can find another few hours…
An entire feature on the Levi’s exec who, in our estimation, got too big for her britches and couldn’t stop tweeting (Bloomberg BusinessWeek)
A home tour with the aspirational couple who built separate, side-by-side apartments of their differing dreams (Curbed)
An investigation of whether long-term relationships now read as cool (BuzzFeed)
Speaking of singles: Did the Covid breakup boom precipitate a one-bedroom apartment shortage?! (Curbed)
Slam your body down and wind it all around: The Spice Girls’ brand of feminism endures (New York Times)
Natalie Portman, soccer star? (Fast Company)
Calling Robin Leach! Sometimes you just want to tag along with a multimillion-dollar wedding-planner (Bloomberg BusinessWeek)
Parents, read at your own risk: The college-admissions horror show has—for some—gotten even more horrible (Town & Country)
We’ve long wondered about the divet in Emily Ratakowski’s torso, where other people have those pesky internal organs, and now we’ve learned it’s turned into a plastic-surgery trend (AirMail)