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.
Our lives of late can only be described as whirlwinds. Two weeks ago, New York mag dropped its annual yesteryear issue, this year focusing on the most fabulous It Girls of the past century, and things have been nonstop ever since. It’s just such an honor, you know? And a lot to live up to! The fact that we fired our publicist because the magazine used a photo of us from a bad angle (like, the photographer must have been kneeling down…) has not helped the mayhem, but um, it happened on her watch—so like Joy Palmer from Waystar Studios, she clearly had to go! Excuse us for just a sec, would you?
Aaaaaand exhale. Breathe in through the nose. Out through the mouth. You have to look through the rain to see the rainbow….Positive thoughts, positive life….Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose…Shoot for the moon and you’ll land closer to the moon…Live, laugh, love…Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift, that’s why we call it today…Keep calm and carry your trauma…Everything happens for a reason!
Let’s get back to It! What a privilege to be honored among so many glittering peers from heydays both past (Bianca Jagger, Cornelia Guest, and our dearest Dianne Brill, whom we’ve always called “Cousin It”—lovingly of course!—due to our non-resemblance) and kinda-sorta-but-not-really-gah-we’re-old “present” (Jaime King, Chloë Sevigny, the Sykeses, the Ronsons, and the Kennedys—we’re talking about Cory and her ilk, we’re not tasteless). To demonstrate our appreciation, we’ve spent the last fortnight “eating” at the Beatrice, “using the ladies room” at Bungalow 8, and boogying at Moomba.
And then, whew, there was last night’s little gala. We can’t figure out why on earth that grouchy Tina Fey would ever call it a “jerk parade.” Such a convivial setting, that Metropolitan Museum of Art. Such sweet people, those Kardashians (though we had been assured that the lesser ones were Not Invited—no word yet on how their pink Post-it Notes made it to our table assignment, our publicist is looking into it but, oh wait…). What can we say, when Jared Leto doffed the head of his blue-cream tortie Birman look
To recap, the past 15 days have been so fun! (Our foreheads are pounding.) We should just keep doing it all the time! (Our temples are being stabbed with ice picks.) It’s great to be back with the old gang! (We’re changing our phone numbers.) We are revitalized! (En route to derm.) And so grateful! (Can someone cut us out of this dress?)
Sweeties! Will we see you this weekend at Chas’s Coronation? We hear Hare-Bare has a plus-two.
Rachel & Maggie
P.S. Wanna go steady? Please respond by bumpin’ that little heart button up top. Or, you know, upgrading to a paid subscription. Love ya! Mean it!
We don’t talk about Junot. (No, no, no.)
If you’d asked me, before I got into my bedtime reading last night, what the deal was with Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Junot Díaz, my response would have been…inconclusive, likely involving a lot of upspeak: It was a #MeToo thing? Maybe multiple? Creepy stuff…worse? He was brought to justice, maybe? That fogginess, it turns out, squares up just right with an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education (yes, I literally scratched my chin throughout the 8,000-words) by Díaz’s former boss at the Boston Review, Deborah Chasman. A recap: Díaz was accused of misconduct in 2018; allegedly, he had forcibly kissed one young woman, pulled another into his lap, and yelled at and degraded others in public. At the time, Chasman and her co-editor, Joshua Cohen, were faced with whether or not to can Díaz, the publication’s fiction editor. Unable to find any proof that the allegations were true, they kept him. Then all hell broke loose—or, you know, looser—with other staffers quitting in protest. Because Díaz was never given an actual trial—more of a “trial-by-Twitter” or one in “the court of public opinion,” if you prefer that cliché—here we are in 2023: The writer’s reputation has been gravely damaged and I’m not the only one using upspeak about what actually happened. Chasman has spent the past five years reflecting and reporting out that question—and even so, isn’t sure if anything inappropriate transpired. The article is a tick-tock of that reporting but also a meditation on activism, power, race, justice, and the real purpose of #MeToo.—Rachel
Read “My MeToo Moment” here (paywalled).
Who wants homework?!
Over at Paramount Plus, Alex Forrest is sharpening knives and boiling a biiiiig pot of water. Or at least we hope they left that stuff in for the reboot! The new take on Fatal Attraction is a limited series starring Lizzy Caplan in the iconic Glenn Close role. It’s at the top of our queue for the week (remember queues?); join us! Plus: On Vanity Fair’s Little Gold Men podcast, Caplan spoke about putting a feminist spin on the character—and just generally being a TV queen. For extra credit, listen here.
We’re squaring up for a real dialogue about fashion.
At 21, I moved to London to pursue a graduate degree in a discipline that inevitably makes “real” American J-school grads snicker: fashion journalism. But in the year 2000, in the UK, a handful of newspaper stars were highly visible as the reigning voices on style, culture, and “women’s stuff,” each with a photo beside their byline; everybody in town knew who they were, and no matter your social or political leanings, you read them all. Musical chairs have since shifted, but back then Lisa Armstrong held court at the Times of London, where she gave me my first byline: six inches of copy documenting the Sex and the City-induced comeback of the “bum bag” (fanny pack has a whole different meaning in the Queen’s English). Laura Craik was at the Evening Standard; Hilary Alexander (RIP) at the Daily Telegraph; and Hadley Freemanat the Guardian. Honorable mention to Suzy Menkes of the International Herald Tribune—not quite part of that coven but a grande dame of the mix. Collectively, they made writing about and thinking about fashion feel, if not like a noble pursuit, then certainly like a relevant and entertaining and worthy enough one. This all came back to me in recent weeks as a few key appointments were announced: The undeniably talented Rachel Tashjian, whom we have celebrated early and often here, has leapt from Harper’s Bazaar to the Washington Post. And the newsletter Puck is loudly sounding the gong on its new hire, Lauren Sherman (lately of Business of Fashion), as “the fashion voice of her generation.” (As Kendall Roy might say, “Big shoes. Big shoes.”) Nevertheless, put these two in the ring with the New York Times’s formidable Vanessa Friedman and we might have a competitive, scoop-y, semi-high-stakes fashion convo in our future. Anyone interested in a Spread roundtable?—Maggie
Is Dead Ringers the most radical show on television… ever?
The new Amazon limited series is a horror-thriller-comedy-sci-fi-love story of birth, life, death, rage, sex, money, technology, revenge, aging, family, and the role of genetics—or to put it more succinctly, it’s a limited series about women’s health care. Based on David Cronenberg’s 1988 Jeremy Irons-led movie (itself based on the mysterious lives and deaths of two real-life gynecologists—I highly recommend New York Magazine’s 1975 cover story on those guys as an initial toe-dip), it stars Rachel Weisz at her most delicious/radiant as identical OB/GYNs who work together in New York City and are raising money to open birthing-center nirvana. Elliot Mantle is a woman of appetites (and the Spread’s new poster woman) and Beverly Mantle is a study in quieter competence; they’re both down for some pretty, um, unorthodox shit. It’s extremely wild, unflinching, unpredictable, and bloody— which your Spreaditors have on good authority are not coincidentally all words one might use to describe childbirth. (I’m nine months postpartum with my final baby; Maggie is a fresh five years postpartum with hers.) The vibe is Succession meets Parasite meets The Favourite. I’m not the only woman for whom this show brings up A LOT of thoughts/feelings/ideas: For the New York Times Magazine, Alexandra Kleeman gives us a now-classic-at-least-to-me profile of Weisz that’s as visceral as the show itself—the lead alone contains some of the most honest depictions of childbirth the paper of record has ever seen (somebody fetch the smelling salts for Gray Lady, please). In a twin profile (har), Spread-beloved Sophie Gilbert officially introduces the world to showrunner Alice Birch, the playwright and TV-writing It Girl responsible for the Normal People adaptation, Succession episodes, and pretty much everything else we’re really into. Birch, describing her son’s birth: “It feels like he came, I didn’t have him; when he arrived there was so much about all of it that I couldn’t believe we don’t talk about all the time. ALL THE TIME. Because it’s violent. It’s exhausting, and painful, and punishing.” (Capitalization mine.) Finally, wash it all down with a Vulture extravaganza: the always-winning Rachel Handler investigates Weisz’s meteoric rise to gay icon status. Elliot Mantle in particular would eat it up.—Rachel
Read “The Strange Death of the Twin Gynecologists” here.
Read “Rachel Weisz and the Glorious Horrors of Pregnancy” here.
Read “The Most Quietly Radical Writer on Television” here.
Read “The Rachel Weisz Gay Index” here.
In Slate, Dahlia Lithwick argues that E. Jean Carroll, Stormy Daniels, and Amanda Zurawski (who testified before Texas Senators last week about almost dying because her doctors wouldn’t give her an abortion), are redefining the role of “victim” in “The Full Life of a Woman.” Read here.
“If you live your whole entire life in 19th-century tabloids or 21st-century Hallmark movies, you can truly fail to understand that for most women, most of the time, sexual harassment, sexual assault, internet death threats, pay discrimination, the absence of a meaningful child and health care network, pregnancy, pregnancy loss, and pregnancy complications are daily facts of life. All those things truly complicate and confound our daily lives, and still we manage to go to our jobs, and buy our yogurt, and call our moms. We’re actually, very few of us, huddled on a velvet couch palely waiting for some legislator to rescue us, or for some ethics board to deem us sufficiently wan and pale to warrant emergency lifesaving medical care.”
Will Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret be the wedge—er, can opener?—that finally cracks open an intergenerational conversation about a “secret” that happens to female bodies literally every month for the bulk of our lives?
I was almost nervous to go to the movies on Sunday. How could any re-creation of a widely memorized-by-heart classic ever live up to the hype? But as far as I could tell, the movie version of Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret is next to perfect. Still, watching Margaret and her friends sit in their bedrooms openly discussing what is (and isn’t) happening down below, I was struck anew: In real life, I never heard girls compare notes on their development; I don’t remember any friend ever confessing that she wanted to get her period, or grow breasts, or any of it. Indeed, the only place I’ve ever seen this conversation take place is…in the pages of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. When I read it, I figured these conversations were happening, just not with me. Which could I have true: I was that awkward early developer who “gets it” before any of the other girls have even learned what “it” is—so maybe not the kid that late bloomers would confess such a thing to? Anyway, I learned about periods and pads in one deeply humiliating afternoon at Girl Scouts; from that moment on, I remember the truths about my adolescence being a profound, queasy-making secret. Judy Blume’s book portrayed a kind of candidness among women and girls that, from where I sat, was pure fantasy. But sitting in that theater, I realized how little I still know: When did my mom get her period? Did she long for it to arrive, or did it come before she was ready? Could she talk to her mother about it, or her friends? I walked out dying to TALK! And praying that it will spark a wave of these conversations between friends, mothers, daughters, everybody. Rachel, did you have these conversations, or are they just a nice-sounding fiction?—Maggie
Maggie, I too got my first pads at a verrrrry special Girl Scout troop meeting; so mortifying I can still feel my thighs sticking to the fiberglass chair! Growing up in 1990s Mississippi, no one talked about periods or admitted to having one until seventh grade when everyone sorta looked around and realized everyone else was also concealing a tampon in the waistband of their gym shorts on the way to the bathroom. Are You There God? It’s Me Margaretand period-talk bans, I wonder if that school still lets its sixth-grade girls get their paws on AYTG?IMM. I desperately hope so. Any readers with knowledge of the Jackson Academy elementary school reading curriculum, please get in touch!—Rachel
Book of the Week!
We launched this column a few months ago…and then forgot about it. (Sorry—lots going on around here!) But we’re so pumped up about Claire Dederer’s new book, Monster: A Fan’s Dilemma, we’re revvin’ the engine again. Though not exactly a memoir, the book expands on the ideas she began investigating in her 2017 Paris Review personal essay, “What Do We Do With the Art of Monstrous Men?” We’re really looking forward to Claire teaching us how to feel and what to do. Buy it 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:
Speaking of Moomba boogies, what to our wondering ears should appear but It supreme Candace Bushnell, appearing on the banally-named but exceedingly good Sex and the City fashion pod Every Outfit. In a rip-roaring chat we didn’t know we needed, Candie gives a real glimpse of It Girl life (“everyone in New York knew me”), Ron Galotti, but also on deciding never to have kids, etc. Worth it, promise. Listen here.
In junior high school, the two leading men in Rachel’s life were Jordan Catalano and her cat, Beeper. At this magic only-at-the-Met moment, she could feel Beeper purring down from the Rainbow Bridge.
Hadley Freeman's new book about her struggle with anorexia, Good Girls: A Story and Study of Anorexia, was recently written up by Pamela Paul at the New York Times and examined in this excellent review by bestie-of-Spread Sarah Haight.
Lithwick, cont.: “Carroll sat before a jury that already understands why women don’t report sexual assault the day it occurs, and told Donald Trump’s lawyer, ‘You can’t beat up on me for not screaming. One of the reasons [some women] don’t come forward is they are asked why they didn’t scream. Some women scream; some women don’t. It keeps women silent.’ Indeed, she said, she now fully understands why women don’t report sexual abuse—because they won’t be believed (which is, paradoxically, what Trump’s lawyer kept saying: that she wasn’t believable). But this jury got to hear from a three-dimensional Carroll, who happily went into a changing room at Bergdorf’s with a guy because she was a journalist and he was a story. Her testimony was deeply hilarious and complicated and highbrow and ambitious and not at all designed for anyone’s fainting couch. ‘I was ashamed. I thought it was my fault,’ she testified. ‘It was high comedy, it was funny, and then to have it turn …’ Welcome to the life of a woman.”
Rachel and Maggie, loving this spread! Ty will be joining the convo soon. The Rachel Weist pieces are exceptional ty
To read an article where two authors are having a conversation together. It's definitely very interesting.