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Too Much Sugar for a Dime
The lime and the coconut of newsletters is side-eyeing #tradwives and trying not to freak about toxins in our unmentionables.
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.
Golly, do we love a litmus test in Spreadland. Here’s one that really separates the wheat from the chaff, or at least those with free time and disposable income from the rest of us exhausted/harried/resentful invisible laborers: As the 8-to-10-week stretch colloquially referred to as “summer vacay” draws to a close, do you feel yours was too short, or too long? Or, wait, how’s this one: Do you find yourself charmed or infuriated by writers whose “Summer Burnout” is the result of running around having just so much fun (that relentless social calendar, so tiring! So pricey!)? You probably guessed that we fall into the too-long-and-also-chronically-infuriated camp, where you can currently find us wallowing Natalie Imbruglia-style: all out of faith, shamed, naked on the floor, pining for post-Labor Day routine. What we wouldn’t do for a nice firm shed-ule, as headmistress types say. But we do see the light at the end of this sunscreen-and-bug-spray-coated tunnel: cooler temps, non-negotiable school hours….and a host of fresh autumnal irritants to whinge about with the best of friends (you). Ahhhhh. Another thing to look forward to: The Spread is turning two! We’ll be celebrating in late September, so start scrounging up your best party hat and stand by for details.
Rachel & Maggie
P.S. We love to love ya baby. If you feel the same, bump that ❤️ up top. It powers us up, and gets us some love from the powers that be at Substack. Should you find yourself with even more to give, nothing says “I love great reads and I cannot lie” like a paid subscription.
P.P.S. Muchas gracias to retail vet and fellow Substacker Sarah Shapiro, who devoted the latest installment of Sarah’s Retail Diary to everyone’s favorite Barbie-pink book (99 percent of experts agree it’s a solid read and a very attractive shelfie!), MB’s The Kingdom of Prep. Our hearts overfloweth.
I have officially become Julianne Moore in Safe. Maybe you should too?
"Right now, you're probably wondering how high your own PFAS levels are," writes Kim Tingley, somewhere near the last third of her lengthy and terr-i-fy-ing New York Times Magazine story on polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also known as “forever chemicals" because no one knows how long it takes them to break down: “it could be hundreds or even thousands of years”—whaaaaaa?? I was already feeling a little, uh, Tingley about the whole thing when I got to the part about how there are more than 12,000 variations of PFAS—“very few of which have been investigated for their potential health effects,” but which have been suspected by the government and manufacturers to contribute to all kinds of bad shit for decades—that can be found in “carpets, furniture, nail polish, shampoo, mascara, nonstick cookware, dental floss, raincoats, fast-food wrappers, pizza boxes…in flamingos in the Caribbean and plovers in South Korea…in alligators…in Antarctic snow.” And yeah, in the bloodstream of every one of us. All of which made me feel a bit silly about the day, just a few months back, when I marched self-righteously into my bedroom, dug the Thinx out of my drawer, and cast them into the trash after learning the “period underwear” had been found to contain forever chemicals. (Remember? The company was ordered to pay a $5M class action settlement over false claims of containing no harmful chemicals.) Well, in a separate Times joint, Wirecutter shipped 44 ladyproducts including tampons, menstrual cups, and period undies to the same lab that found PFAS in Thinx and, wait for it: “Every one of the products we sent for testing indicated at least trace amounts of at least one of the thousands of known (and many more unknown) PFAS.” (Some were not made with PFAS yet still picked them up somewhere along the way, in transit, via packaging, etc.) Translation: There is no way for consumers to choose products without them—though your best bet is a medical-grade silicone menstrual cup—so the only hope is for the government to limit their use. The Biden administration has a PFAS taskforce but, I dunno, does that make anyone feel especially hopeful? The pairing of the two stories left me here: Tingley writes that women have lower levels of PFAS in our systems, perhaps because they exit via our monthly period. So, absorbing more PFAS from our period products? I mean, it’s….ironic…right?—Maggie
Read “‘Forever Chemicals’ Are Everywhere. What Are They Doing to Us?” here.
Read “We Had 44 Period and Incontinence Products Tested for Forever Chemicals” here.
All the King’s Women.
Vanity Fair’s still got it. For the first time since Jennifer Garner showed up on the cover in her ostentatiously appropriate one-piece for her first post-Benterview in 2017—and the first time in Radhika Jones’s run as editor-in-chief—VF delivers exactly the September cover story you wanted, whether you knew it or not: A classic tell-all with Elvis grandspawn Riley Keough. As you likely know, Keough’s had quite a year, with the birth of her first baby, the death of her beyond-famous mother, a ferocious legal battle with her iconic grandma, and the release of Stevie Nick’s favorite television show, Daisy Jones & The Six. She talks to writer Britt Hennemuth about…all of it! She actually answers the questions that may have floated through your brain while, you know, reading People or surfing Entertainment Tonight at your parents’ house—including what it was like to have Michael Jackson as a stepdad, how on earth she had a baby while wrapping Daisy (you guessed this one correctly), and what family dinner is like now that Riley beat Priscilla out to become the Graceland empire’s sole trustee (this is the one instance where you can feel Riley being careful with her answer, which is revealing in its own way).
Priscilla, for her part, is also out doing press, on the eve of what will surely be a banner fall. Sofia Coppola’s dreamy film about Priscilla’s romance and marriage to Elvis comes out this October, and the Hollywood Reporter couldn’t be more thrilled…because Priscilla got a SAG-AFTRA strike waiver since it was shot in Canada, allowing Mrs. Presley and Ms. Coppola to do interviews before the movie premiers at the Venice Film Festival! THR’s story by Rebecca Keegan and companion video sold me hard: A 1960s-set coming-of-age story of the girl chosen by the world’s biggest superstar, directed by a woman whose entire M.O. is to examine the lives of teen girls with lots of groovy visuals? Don’t Beguile me, Sofia. Fool me once…! —Rachel
Read “Riley Keough on Growing Up as Elvis’s Granddaughter, Losing Lisa Marie, and Inheriting Graceland” here.
Read “Priscilla Presley Entrusts Sofia Coppola to Tell Her Story: ‘I Felt She Could Get Me’” here.
Girls! Girls! Girls?
“What kind of insufferable girl are you?” my TikTok algorithm asked me the other day. The options were “femcel,” as in someone who’s pathologically unlovable because she’s a radical feminist; “coquette,” as in, someone who wears bows and listens to Lana Del Rey, or “blogger,” as in me. The original video appears to have been deleted (too insufferable, perhaps), but it stayed with me not because it was particularly insightful or laden with meaning but because it offered yet another “girl” on the internet for me to be, and maybe the only accurate one.—Rebecca Jennings, “‘Girl’ trends and the repackaging of womanhood,” Vox.
The Time Traveler’s Wives.
Elle is an international woman of mystery. Or, at least, it’s French-ish. So, did the magazine need to explain why it invited big-ideas-lady and Substacker nonpareil Anne Helen Petersen to cosplay the social media archetype of #tradwife for a week—despite the fact that Petersen is not a wife nor a mom nor a “test drive” type of writer? Nope! Wait, lemme back this up: What is a #tradwife? An influencer, duh, ranging from the type who devotes herself full-time to “the job of very hot girlfriend to a very rich man” (i.e., laser treatments and, I’m riffing here, blowjobs?) to more “inspirational” organic-butter-churning moms of 11 children (Exhibit A: @call_mejewels), with the through-lines being full-time wife-ing and a willingness, says Petersen, “to wholly depend on the man in your life.” The #tradwife du jour—who also made it into a convoluted New York Post story this week—is a Juilliard-trained ballerina who married into the JetBlue family and now lives on a farm in Utah with her seven kids, and goes by the handle @ballerinafarm. Look, it’s easy to poke fun of such low-hanging internet fruit so I was kinda looking forward to learning what the ever-observant AHP—a juggler supreme, who puts out newsletters and all manner of podcasts, yet never seems to break a sweat—learned from having her life’s many jobs narrowed to just one. But, funny thing: her test-drive of #tradwife life somehow…never got out of the driveway. Rachel, I’m still scratching my head! Luckily AHP also tackled the subject in her Culture Studies newsletter via an interview with the exceedingly smart and insightful Sara Petersen (no relation), author of the book Momfluenced. Have you ever wondered, “How do Michelle Obama, The Help, Ballerina Farm, and the Nap Dress, and Betty Crocker all come together?” Here’s your answer!—Maggie
Maggie, You’re right, the Culture Study interview is as enlightening as the Elle piece was inexplicable. Sara Petersen suggests that the allure of #tradwives and other momfluencers to new mothers comes from a desperate need for “mothering” during a messy chapter filled with uncertainty. This really struck a chord. Though I got lots of support from my own mom when I had my first baby three years ago, I was ravenous for advice from women who’d gone through what I was going through, not thirtysomething years ago but in the recent past, and amid the same noise (the tech, the gear, the parenting gurus) I was navigating. I asked everyone I knew who had given birth and/or parented a very small human for advice—about hormones, SRIs, sleep, colic, and feeding, but also what bottles, diapers, sound machines, and swaddles to buy. Had my own mom-advice network not come into being through sheer force of interrogation, I suppose I might have found the #tradwives appealing. Maybe I should start following a few now—you know, for the mix?—Rachel
Read Anne Helen Petersen’s original Substack screed on Ballerina Farm here.
Check out Sara Petersen’s Substack, “an interrogation of the Ideal American Mother” aptly named In Pursuit of Clean Countertops here.
Read “My So-Called #TradWife Life” in Elle here.
Read “Pretty White Moms in Pretty White Houses” (the Petersen-Petersen interview) here.
The accessory to these crimes? The apps.
Ever find yourself in the mood to read something that will confirm your worst fears about humanity and leave you overflowing with anxiety and despair but also feeling self-righteous about how well-informed you now are? Girls and boys, I’ve got one for you! In Mother Jones’s new cover story, writer Abby Vesoulis takes one for the team, investigating an entire category of egregious crimes committed via online dating platforms—platforms that have no liability for their role in these crimes, which include ASSAULT… AND RAPE…AND MURDER, thanks to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Or what some call tech’s “get-out-of-jail-free card.” (Unlike tech platforms, traditional publishers have always been responsible for the content they put out into the world.) Vesoulis is unflinching in her coverage of this enraging phenomenon, serving up one example after another of victims whose lives have been shattered by vengeful exes and perfect strangers alike using apps like Grindr, which have no legal responsibility for what people post and flagrantly do not verify the identities of their users. She also delves into the backend lobbying efforts of tech giants that keep these cases getting dismissed by the courts, and the thorny vigilante Facebook groups that have as a result popped up in an effort to warn online daters of potentially harmful matches.—Rachel
This is not another item about And Just Like That…
This is a story about an act-or, Sara Ramírez, who plays Che BUT IS NOT ACTUALLY CHE, DAMN YOU. The thespian behind HBO’s ultrawoke eldest millennial thought “long and hard” before taking to Instagram last week to protest a New York mag profile by writer Brock Colyar that we flagged for you in June (back before Rachel cut me off from writing about AJLT…). The Spreaditorial Board takes exception to Ramírez’s Insta complaint for two reasons. One is that Colyar, as New York’s young, game, and genius nightlife correspondent, resides in the Spread Hall of Fame next to a golden placard engraved with the words—you heard it here long before AJLT… even debuted—“the new Candace Bushnell.” The second is that Ramírez’s protestations only prove Colyar’s point: The actor doesn’t—or won’t allow themself—to get what’s cringey about Che, and has chosen to blame the widespread critiques of the character on anti-woke back-asswardness. As Ramírez told Colyar, “Anybody who benefits from patriarchy is going to have a problem with Che Diaz.” Except Colyar, like the actor, is nonbinary. Colyar—maybe unlike the actor?—is also very cool and with-it. I can see how the writer’s sly jabs at the show and at Ramírez’s own relentless earnestness must have stung. But, to all the actors out there who play ridiculous characters who seem a lot like their real selves on TV: What did your publicist tell you to expect? If we can’t get a profile with some bite in New York mag, where can we?
While we’re on the New York mag tip, thank you dear readers for answering our call for a thoughtful unpacking of the Lizzo debacle. You pointed us toward Sam Sanders’s Into It pod episode from early August, “What Is Going On With Lizzo?” and yes: itch, scratched. Though we still think there’s room for a longer investigation. —Maggie
Take this as an opportunity to read Colyar’s very good profile, “Hey, It’s Sara Ramírez,” which is hardly a takedown! It’s here.
Read “Sara Ramirez Issues Scathing Response to Anti–Che Diaz Profile” in Vanity Fair here.
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