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Operation World Domination?
The Thumper and Flower of newsletters is Slacking our spouse and eyeing Mr. Swift. But with a smile on our face!
Um, where do you live? No, not spiritually, we mean literally. Don’t worry, we’re not going to show up on your doorstep in the middle of the night. (Not unless you want us to, in which case, ping us for our iCal!) According to Substack’s handy-dandy audience-mapping tool, the Spread is read across 49 states—with North Dakota as the glaring exception, gah!—and 58 countries. Shout out to Nigeria, Uganda, and South Korea! But in a handful of those states, our numbers don’t exactly warrant bragging rights. Which is where you, Spreadfam, come in: Know an Alaskan with a madcap sense of humor and a nose for news? Please share us with them! How about a Montanan, South Dakotan, or Wyominite with a passion for great writing and an interest in the lives of women? An email address for a West Virginian with a penchant for high-information newsletters that come but once a week? Help your sisters out! As we cha-cha slide into the summer and toward our two-year (!) anniversary this September, we need your help growing, both our subscriber numbers—paid and free…though preferably paid: a lot of work goes into this here labor of love!—and as icing on the cake, our geographical footprint. We thank you for considering our plea.
Tu casa es nostra casa?
Rachel & Maggie
PS: While we were preparing for the end of Succession and thinking a lot about the Lisa Loeb line “dying since the day they were born” (since the moment we fell in love-hate with the Monsters Roy in 2018, we’ve been bracing for the series’ end—we knew it would hurt and guess what, it hurts!), fellow Substacker Laura Neilson included the Spread in her roundup of “10 Substacks for People Who Love (and Miss) Magazines.” Neilson described our august publication as “‘The Week’ for Women,” which…sure! Thank you, Laura! She also cheerfully described our introductions as “unhinged,” which…well…huh…it’s harder than it looks to be this exuberantly deranged! We’ll take it as a compliment.
“‘Slack never lies’ is what we always say.”
Marriage shouldn’t be “hard work,” and thinking of it as such—Ben Affleck-ing it, you might say—will only leave you “resentful, exhausted, and miserly with [your] affection.” Or at least that’s what Nina Lee Coomes argued back in March in the Atlantic. It was a nice idea, sigh. Jo Piazza’s recent story in Bustle, “The HR-ification Of Marriage,” presents the opposite case, that marriage should be more like the office (lowercase): Slack channels between mates; weekly “administrative agenda meetings”; lots of circling back and putting a pin in whatever. Believers see a feminist argument: When the woman isn’t left holding the bag on family admin, a “more equitable, a more fair, and more palatable union” ensues. (If you’re wondering, yes, this is another spin on the businesslike approach to domestic division of labor that Eve Rodsky made a splash with in her book Fair Game a few years back.) In recent years, friends have mentioned shared grocery apps; mutual iPhone “notes” on subjects like babysitter contacts or kid diversions; white boards used to map out marital decision-making. My own partner, however, is more of a free-range bird. He’s not a Slack kind of guy. My thinking: Would our married-with-kids “lifestyle”—and I use that term loosely—really benefit from a fun corporate twist thrust upon him by his Type-A wife? Except. When I went on a recent girls’ trip to Miami, we downloaded the app Settle Up. It helped us evenly split three days’ worth of erratic, not-tiny expenses between six people, without even a hint of tension, which struck me as pretty dang magical. It made me wonder: Are there apps that can do that for, say, booking summer camp? Chasing down that guy who promised to clean out part of our yard three months ago? Planning the holiday travel that always costs three times as much because we pull the trigger too late?
Spreaders, tell us: What workplace strategies and/or technologies are you using to make home life more copacetic? No, really. Tell. Us.—Maggie
Read “The HR-ification of Marriage” here.
Princess Casey and her white knight.
It’s a bummer that the stakes (democracy) are so high for the 2024 presidential election. Because gah I wish I could indulge in some guilt-free love of Casey DeSantis as a relatively harmless, totally over-the-top political caricature—a Disney villain cut from the same cloth as Ursula, after the diva octopus has stolen Ariel’s voice and transformed into a land mammal with all the feminine wiles for snaring totally straight, billowing-bloused Prince Eric. In Casey’s case, of course, the assignment is instead to snare the American people, all in the service of her husband, Ron, actual presidential candidate/Trump combatant. Though as a pair of recent stories suggest, Casey considers herself the lead actor in the DeSantis political partnership—and to some degree, she’s right. In Politico, a delicious if shaggy—but thoroughly sourced!—profile paints Casey as the most influential political spouse on a presidential campaign maybe ever. (Michael Kruse goes to great pains not to sound sexist in his depiction of the overstepping wife, but can’t control his sources from doing so—points for trying!) A former Jacksonville TV journalist, a breast cancer survivor, and a mother of three, Casey knows all of her angles and is an excellent saleswoman for the DeSantis machine; the profile also argues that she is powerful to the point of detrimental to the overall goal of the presidency—Casey, who has no actual campaign experience, acts as Ron’s consigliere and freezes out anyone else who might squeeze her influence. And then there are the clothes: As Vanessa Friedman writes in the New York Times (and as Kruse mentions in his piece), Casey D. has already begun carefully crafting a visual narrative to telegraph that she is American royalty, the queen of a new Camelot. Casey chooses gowns ripped from the Jackie O. archive in color and silhouette; it’s not subtle—in fact, she’s adopted white gloves as her signature accessory. But then again, she is First Lady of Florida!—Rachel
Read “The Casey DeSantis Problem” here.
Read “The Strategic Fashioning of Casey DeSantis” here.
The immorality of it will smack you in the face. Let it.
I could write reams about the specific kind of heartbreak that is captured in “The Short Life of Baby Milo” in the Washington Post, but nothing would compare to the profound emotional journey—from sorrow over the loss of an infant, to deep, burning rage against politicians who force women to carry and birth fetuses that have no real chance of survival—that comes from actually reading it. Please do journalists Frances Stead Sellers, Thomas Simonetti, and Maggie Penman that courtesy. Their story drives home the full picture of how abortion bans even in cases of fetal abnormality impact an entire family—including the toddler who had to watch his mother’s belly expand with a sibling everybody knew would only ever be an “angel.” To say nothing of the parents left to pay off medical bills for a birth, and a funeral, that never had to happen. How’s that expense fit in your budget, Mr. and Mrs. DeSantis?—Maggie
Read “The Short Life of Baby Milo” here.
Look what you made me do.
I will not be attending the Eras tour. Nothing against Taylor Swift, who’s certainly a good pop star: Unlike almost all of my friends, I just don’t care enough about her to travel to, like, East Rutherford, New Jersey, to attend one of her concerts. Also, I realized at age 35 that I don’t actually like concerts. (It’s been really freeing. I recommend everyone have a hard think about whether they actually enjoy attending concerts before laying out $200+ on your next ticket.) So here’s a twist: I’m really into Taylor Swift’s new boyfriend! Or at the very least, I had a blast reading Jia Tolentino’s profile of him in this week’s New Yorker, the music issue! Matty Healy, 34-year-old leader of a popular band called the 1975, is the perfect mile-a-minute, politically stressed, pop culture-obsessed rock star for this “post-woke,” indie-sleaze redux moment. I liked the profile so much I even listened to a couple of 1975 songs on Spotify and thought they were…fine! (Send Tolentino a royalties check.) Elsewhere in the music issue: You know how every once in a while there’s a little piece about how rich people can hire famous musicians for their kids’ bar mitzvahs and family reunions by paying them a bunch of money? It’s usually published by, like, Insider or Vaulter or similar and it’s a fun concept but the reporting leaves you Angelica Schuyler-level unsatisfied? Well, the New Yorker, being all New Yorker-y, unleashed reporter Evan Osnos on the subject and it is one very full meal—with Flo Rida as the entreé.—Rachel
Read “Who Is Matty Healy?” here.
Read “How to Hire a Pop Star for Your Private Party” here.
Hungry? Why wait?
For Bon Appetit, Spread goddess Carmen Maria Machado takes a bite into TV’s cannibalism trend. Read it here.
What can we say about our folks when they’re still here to read it? (Hi mom, hi dad.)
One thing that struck me about Minka Kelly’s book is that she waited till after her mother passed away to write it: She couldn’t expose those truths while her mother was still alive. In the New York Times Opinion section, Elise Loehnen writes about growing up with a mother (alive and well, thank you) who did not make it secret that she had never really wanted to have kids. This did not mean she didn’t do mothering well. On the contrary, “she ran our existence like air traffic control, and she made all that labor invisible. She was good at it, but it was just not who she wanted to be,” Loehnen writes. She also emanated “low-grade frustration and resentment, paired with unwavering, tight-lipped competence.” This is hardly a big, fat revelation in the world of parenting essays. Still, it’s a painful enough truth that you have to wonder how that phone call with mom went. But Loehnen’s point is that as much as that knowledge stung, the fact that her mother was not especially ashamed of her maternal ambivalence (surely one of women’s most deeply held secrets from our own spawn) was in its way a service to her daughter—it meant she didn’t grow up wondering about the source of a mother’s mysterious, less pinpointable dissatisfaction. And grew up driven to achieve the kind of success her mother never did (also a burden, of course). And eventually felt free enough to unburden herself in the esteemed pages of the Grey Lady. The lies we tell ourselves and our children to cover up what we really think and feel are among the not-so-pretty truths that Loehnen unearths in her new book, On Our Best Behavior: The Seven Deadly Sins and the Price Women Pay to Be Good. I’m only a few chapters in, so I’ll save my full thoughts for a later issue, but I’m struck by how just the list of “sins”—pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth—sends a reflexive shiver, like the childhood feeling of being found out or getting in trouble, down the spine. Or maybe that’s just me and YOU pure, untroubled souls don’t feel triggered at all by those words…?
While we’re on the subject: Loehnen’s megawatt book launch process has been a masterclass in the making of a hit tome. Fellow and would-be authors, should we make Elise teach us how she did it? Yes? Tell her so here, on her Substack, Pulling the Thread, which, I mean, not to shame you or anything but you really should have signed up for already…?—Maggie
Read “The Lies Mothers Tell Themselves and Their Children” here.
We’ve been waiting for this one for two years…
The New Yorker released a major story about novelist Alice Sebold and her alleged rapist—a story we’ve been hoping would be handled by a sensitive and subtle writer since the man was exonerated in 2021. Lucky for all of us, Rachel Aviv’s at the helm.
Read it here.
You know what they say: Hope springs eternal.
A few weeks ago, Maggie and I questioned how emotionally realistic Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. ever could have been. The sheer thrill of getting one’s period! It’s never quite rung true with us early bloomers. As if gift-wrapped in Spread-stamped paper, a Point article published last week and written by Rita Koganzan grabbed this question and went to towwwwwwn (which according to the book would technically be the fictional Farbrook, New Jersey). Koganzan uses the current Blumeaissance to get into the history of YA fiction, which didn’t really exist before Judy unleashed her inner adolescent on the page, and to make the point that Maggie and I had been searching for: No, Blume’s emotional worlds weren’t totally truthful—they were wishful thinking, a way of showing the next generations how to be. “If only girls could grow up in the informed and understanding world pioneered by Margaret,” Koganzan writes, “then perhaps they would not succumb to the oppressions of suburban housewifery from which Blume was fleeing with her writing.” The kicker, though, as Koganzan sees it is that the result is also a generation of women suffering from arrested development—never able to move past the adolescent stage in full: “What should they do with their liberation? Blume never bothered much with that question. Maybe ‘eternal love, romance, fun. The Big Apple.’ Or, as one recent headline about Blume suggests, they could simply ‘never stop coming of age.’”—Rachel
Read “The Age of Adolescence” here.
Shoulda woulda coulda.
Sliding Doors, a podcast where creatives talk about the most pivotal moments of their lives, is shifting course in honor of its namesake rom-com’s 25th anniversary: This season is all about how the Gwyneth Paltrow-led movie was made, and how such a little movie could have such a big cultural impact. Listen here.
Telling them “it’s what’s inside that counts” isn’t gonna cut it.
I will never forget the shame—there’s that word again—I felt when I made some derogatory, throwaway comment about my weight in front of close friends and their then-elementary-school-aged daughter. It was the husband who shushed me, with a meaningful look at his child. I felt as if I’d just spooned arsenic onto her Cheerios. That one-second shush radically changed the way I think about body talk and kids; my own sons have no idea that I am hung up on my weight. Or so I thought: The other day, the older one told me to “give the keto a rest” and have a cupcake. Waaaat? I thought. “But I never….” In the Atlantic, Elise Hu, who has been getting a lot of traction lately with her book, Flawless: Lessons in Looks and Culture from the K-Beauty Capital, writes about her own attempt to deprogram her daughters after they lived for four years in unapologetically lookist Seoul, where the saying oemo jisang juui translates into “looks are supreme.” The strategies she digs up, you’ve heard before: “Compliment young people for their curiosity or imagination, not their looks. Help them understand the social-media photo filters and AI effects they encounter online. Show them art and other media with a diversity of bodies.” But the number one piece of advice she gets is a gut-punch. “Care less about your own appearance.” Note that she didn’t say talk about it less. She said care less. To grossly understate, I find this easier said than done. But I did appreciate Hu’s adherence to “body neutrality”—a concept we discussed in our last issue—and to sensualism, which focuses on how the body feels vs. how it looks. When she goes shopping with her daughters, she asks them how the clothes feel on their bodies. Can they move in them, do the clothes function for their daily activities? Which, it occurs to me, is largely what I think about when I buy clothes for my sons. And almost never what I think about when I buy them for me.—Maggie
Read “How I’m Talking to My Daughters About Beauty” here.
Like Achilles before us…
The next time someone accuses you of sulking, you can tell them you just have impeccable communication skills. Read “The Joy of Sulk” in Aeon here.
New here? Welcome, welcome! Please be sure to sign up, spread the word, and if you really like us, maybe consider becoming a paid subscriber. Please also tell us what you think of our first-ever attempt at audio (listen here if you missed it). And if you’re still feeling hungry, fuel up with some of the Spread’s best-loved posts:
Good luck, Elise! My mom is still mad at me for saying (and repeating) "clitoris" in these esteemed pages. Hi Mom! Also: Clitoris! —RB
Among my favorite parts of Julia Louis Dreyfus’s new pod, Wiser Than Me, on which she interviews women aged 70+, is that she references going to therapy with her own mother: Julia was 60, her mom was in her eighties. Never too late to sort through your sh*t! I highly recommend the Jane Fonda episode. And the Fran Leibowitz, especially when the gruff, ashtray-voiced Leibowitz—Dreyfus seems a little afraid of her, who wouldn’t be?—talks about her incredibly close friendship with Toni Morrison, which included decades’ worth of epic daily phone calls. Leibowitz has famously never married. But that kind of fidelity and abiding connection outdoes most marriages I know. Listen here.—MB