The Eaglet Has Landed
The Gidget and Moondoggie of newsletters is back with a big announcement, a mini-missive, and the new rules of breaking up
So much has happened in the two long weeks since we last spoke! First and foremost the happy, healthy arrival of Miss Valentine, our—okay, fine, technically Rachel’s—hotly anticipated Spreadbaby, the 9th wonder of the world, who is already celebrating her 12th day on Planet Earth (mazel, V!) by cluster-feeding like a champ. Both mother and child are doing beautifully, which means we can now address the big questions, like: Any recs on must-watch maternity leave TV, or philosophies on what makes for ideal maternity leave viewing? Maggie is usually no fan of the network sitcom, but she recommends Parks & Rec to every new parent: It comes in short, manageable episodes; can be enjoyed with little brain power and, like, a 14-percent attention span; and is powered by Leslie Knope’s world-beating optimism—just what the doctor ordered when you haven’t slept in 36 hours and are facing down your eighteenth diaper of the afternoon. What would/did you choose, Spread fam? Let’s hear it.1
What you see below is mostly written by Maggie, with the odd celebrity cameo (i.e., footnote) by Rachel—yes, Mama’s comin’ in hot, even though Maggie told her to stay in bed! May this mini-newsletter nourish you like a brewer’s yeast-and-flax-seed lactation cookie, and get your intellectual juices flowing, too. We’ll be back with another set of bites before you know it.
Nom nom nom,
Maggie & Rachel
This past June, I went to see Chelsea Handler’s standup act2 and fell in love…with Jo Koy, the comic Handler dated for about a year—often proclaiming her love for him via lavish Instagram declaration, and even inviting him onstage at a handful of her shows. At the one I went to, her public adoration felt both upliftingly genuine and also like a high-wire act without a harness: Perched in the nosebleeds, I felt a little terrified for her, a powerful woman with a complicated romantic past, laying it all on the line for some guy, in front of an audience. Long after the night ended, my reaction to their spectacle kept me thinking. Why was I so unnerved by the sight of someone being wildly, vulnerably in love? I got my therapy session last weekend, when Handler went on Glennon Doyle’s podcast one day after publicly announcing their breakup. Handler has not merely flipped the script on celebrity breakups, she has ripped it up and fed it to one of her indeterminately-aged dogs: Instead of the boilerplate “we appreciate your respect for our privacy in this difficult time blah blah” her announcement was a full-throated love letter to Koy, and to love itself, and—cheeseball as the Doyle contribution to these conversations so often is, in my opinion—to the hard-fought love she has found for herself. As someone who, like Handler (but, OK, not quite like her) hides quite a lot behind a wisecracking persona, I was genuinely moved by the work the comedian has done to open herself up. It makes a gal wonder about the magic the Hollywood-star-level price-no-object psychotherapists out there might possess.—Maggie
Listen to “We Can Do Hard Things with Glennon Doyle” here.
She sees both sides.
By now you’ve probably come across Jia Tolentino’s New Yorker story, “Is Abortion Sacred?,” which has made the rounds of Twitter and Apple News—but it’s long, everybody’s busy, we get it. If you haven’t taken the time to really read it, take this late-breaking reminder: Do that now. Among all the recent stories about abortion—the legal ramifications, the rhetoric, the future of feminism—this one covers a lot of ground and feels like what will be a foundational piece, one you will want to know, and reference. It comes at the issue of abortion from a perspective it seems safe to assume is not that of your average Ivy-educated New Yorker writer: That of someone who was once deeply Christian, raised in Texas to believe that abortion was the ultimate sin. Tolentino is now the mom of a toddler, and weaves her own pregnancy narrative around a history of religious views on abortion (reminding us that pro-life absolutism is a recent theological development). Importantly, she does so with a deep conviction that abortion should be a woman’s right, but also real empathy for the views of the other side; views that she once shared. Much of what Tolentino writes echoes what Rachel has often said in this newsletter: She’d never been quite as militant about the necessity of abortion as she was during her own pregnancies—when she became painfully aware of what this was doing to her life and her body, by her choice.—MB
Read it here.
Run, Anne Helen, run!
When my much-sportier-than-me friend Sarah popped Anne Helen Petersen’s latest Culture Study post into the group chat, I recoiled: “The Quiet Glory of Aging into Athleticism” did not sound like something I could relate to (though—progress!—I did just manage to delete the self-deprecating joke I was about to insert here about what state I am aging into! Self respect, it’s a journey, right Chelsea?). Growing up, Petersen never considered herself athletic; here she writes about a decades-long process of un-sticking herself from a notion of exercise that is “purely utilitarian and utterly joyless”—checking a box in the name of “body regimentation”—to evolve into the kind of person who runs 27.7 miles to complete some fresh hell called a Ragnar relay. For fun! And, OK, I’d love to say I can relate to that, but no dice. But I’m sure lots of you will. Sarah, the story recommender, has accomplished exactly what Petersen writes about here: She loves her long runs, is sad when she can’t do them, and like Petersen, only began to self-identify as an athlete in her forties. So maybe there is hope for me yet? —MB
Read it here.
Cuckoo for Keke
With Jordan Peele’s Nope number one at the box office, star Keke Palmer is everywhere—in a way that I’m finding weirdly enjoyable. If, like me, you’re late to the party on Palmer, I suggest starting with her Wired magazine Autocomplete Interview—highlighted this week on fellow Substacker Hunter Harris’ newsletter, in which Palmer’s lightening wit and sheer charisma will make you wonder why the rest of us are all operating at half speed, and want to know everything you can about this superhuman creature. Then progress to Niela Orr’s insightful profile in the New York Times Magazine, titled, “The Gag is: Keke Palmer is a Movie Star.” The headline is pulling double duty here: A) Palmer is queen of the meme, often leading into her best comedic bits with “the gag is…”. Also, she’s been a working actor (and singer and voice-over-er and writer and…the list goes on) since she was a kid3. Now, with Nope, a blockbuster by a respected auteur, she’s got a shot at mainstream stardom. Orr’s story places Palmer in the long trajectory of Black actors and filmmakers, has the most inventive story lede I’ve read in awhile, and nails Palmer’s appeal: “Palmer, who likens dialogue to music, infuses her lines with rhythm and verve and the delicacy required of a great jazz scatter riffing on—and stylistically ripping up—the American songbook.” The actress isn’t the only one having a big moment: Back in January, when Orr was on a major streak—with a lengthy Kanye meditation in the Baffler, and one on bell hooks in Paris Review—we tried to figure out her next move. Turns out she’s joining the Times Mag as a story editor (who, we hope, will write the occasional feature!) in August.—MB
We will not insult your intelligence by recommending FX’s The Bear.
Just like we’re not going to tell you that “Barbiecore” is a thing—we know, we know: You know. But if you’re wondering why a show with no sex is the sexiest show of the summer, may we put on your plate this tasty morsel of an essay by Sarah York for Bon Appetit. Title: “Everyone’s Horny for the ‘Sexually Competent Dirtbag Line Cook.’” York writes, “What if Pete Davidson drank even less water? That’s what Sexually Competent Dirtbag Line Cook looks like.” The five-minute read will add infinite enjoyment to the second most stressful show you’ll watch this summer. Find it here but if even that click is too exhausting for you, allow me to serve up a bit that will ring true to every former and/or current single woman: “If you’ve ever waited in vain for a text back from a man with no bed frame in his apartment, you’re already pretty familiar with this type. Imagine no-bed-frame man, but he only drinks from plastic quart containers and cooks a spaghetti carbonara that will make you write in your journal for the first time since high school. Has he showered today? No. Are you going to be the one to change him and make him want to settle down? Also no!” Ah, summer love.—MB
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No knocks to Leslie Knope and the gang, but in a maternity leave stupor, I prefer to be transported further than 2010s Pawnee, Indiana. During my previous postpartum period, my favorite cluster-feed binges were Damon Lindelof’s heavy-duty The Watchmen (HBO) set in an alternate reality of modern-day Tulsa and (far) beyond, and Halt & Catch Fire (AMC), the four-season drama tracking the dawn of the personal computer age (1983-1995) in Texas and San Francisco, which may beat even Mad Men for the title of best workplace drama…in my heart. This parental-leave go-round my husband, newborn, and I have already watched HBO’s Winning Time, about the L.A. Lakers in the early ’80s, and though it is mediocre at best (and garbage-y at worst), it still scored with me: a period-set workplace drama with shiny stars and great costumes is kind of my sweet spot. (If you find yourself craving more like I did, I recommend HBO’s documentary about the real-life rivalry between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals and highly recommend the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar documentary, Minority of One, which you can find on the Home Box Office network as well.) Also, it’s settled: Baby Valentine is destined to be a power forward.—Rachel
Footnote to the footnote: Thank you Rachel, for rearing your head during maternity leave to expose my Parks & Rec-loving self as the total Basic B she truly is. Clearly you, of all people, do not need crowd-sourced TV listings in this delicate time.—Maggie
Maggie, How is this the first I’m learning of this big night out? Since when are you such a comedy show-goer? I mean, I knew you saw Tig Notaro in May, but Chelsea, too? If you saw Amy Schumer without me, too, just tell me right now—seriously, out with it! I promise my postpartum hormones and I will take it real chill.—RB