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(Too) Wet (Too) Hot American Summer
The Salma Hayek’s twin orbs of newsletters is floating down a lazy river of gorgeous essays, mind-changing pods, and Barbie overload.
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.
Dear Hot Girl Subscribers,
In this, the fifth summer of “girls” and “hotness,” we declare The Hot Girl of Summer to be gloriously 56-year-old bikini enthusiast Salma Hayek Pinault. Of the 3.1 million views racked up by this HGS icon with one utterly bananas splishy-splashy IG thirst trap video, at least 1.89 million came from Spread HQ, where we watched it on a loop for hours, okay, days—sometimes while scrolling Hot Girl AppleNews together, eating Hot Girl Nut-Thins, indulging in Hot Girl Overthinking, and producing this Hot Girl Publication. Because as you and TikTok and the New York Times know, nothing hits refresh on an idea that’s been around roughly forever like tacking on the prefix “Hot” and/or “Girl.” So enjoy this Hot Girl Installment, readers!
Or, as Salma would say, “💃🏾🌹🙏🤪👊🏼💋💄👁🗣🧜🏼♀️🤱🏼👗👠💍🕶👑🐶🦊🦄🦉🦆🦋🐝🐙🐬🦑🐳🐕🕊🍀🌞🌜💫🌈🔥❄️🌶🥭🥑🍍🍒🍉🍋🍭🍫🍿🍺🥂🍾🍷⚽️⚽️⚽️🧘🏽♂️🎼✈️⛵️🗽🏝🎆🌠🔮🧿🛀🏼🛍🎉❤️💝⚜️🎦💭🇲🇽🇺🇸🇫🇷🇬🇧🇱🇧🐎🌵🐞🐯⛲️🎬🌊🌎.”
Rachel & Maggie
P.S. Hankering for a Hot Girl Listen? Download our debut interview with the one and only Joanna Coles in collaboration with the esteemed podcast Print Is Dead. (Long Live Print!)
The pain was excruciating. Were they overreacting? Extra-sensitive? Or was something else going on?
The latest season of the Serial Productions/New York Times podcast, The Retrievals, has the makings of a perfect women’s magazine feature: A crime story wherein both offender and victim are female, that’s also—or chiefly—an investigation of a big idea about how the world perceives and treats women. And so far, two episodes in, it totally delivers. The Retrievals, sensitively helmed by This American Life producer extraordinaire and author of binge-eating memoir Empty, Susan Burton, tells the real-life tale of twelve women who underwent the routine fertility surgery of egg retrieval (a procedure that, incidentally, both of your Spreaditors have experienced firsthand) at the prestigious Yale Fertility Center….without pain medication. Unknowingly. A nurse had been swapping out the fentanyl supply with saline. Each victim brings a different set of harrowing details to the story. One underwent the procedure cold turkey eight separate times. And there may have been hundreds of victims in total. The tick-tock of the events is jaw-dropping and the fallout devastating, but the series goes further, using these women’s experiences to delve into our culture’s bizarro and shameful relationship with women’s pain. The next episode drops tomorrow.—Rachel
Experts estimate that as many as 1.7 percent of people are born with intersex traits—about the same number of people who are born with red hair.
Did you know that? I didn’t. Indeed, I’m a little embarrassed about just how little I knew about the designation of intersex—what it even means, how common it is, what doctors have traditionally resorted to to “treat” it, and the sheer number of physical and chromosomal variations it encompasses. Then along came Terry Gross’s recent interview with activist Alicia Roth Weigel, one of the subjects of Julie Cohen’s new documentary, Every Body. Weigel’s account of being born with the external equipment of a female and the internal equipment of a male, and of essentially having gender assignment surgery as an infant—when her parents were told her internal testes needed to be removed, due to a (wildly exaggerated) risk of cancer—made me stop everything I was doing, sit down, and really listen hard. Weigel argues movingly that the genital mutilation procedures most of us believe only happen in other cultures are in fact happening today, in hospitals all over America, and often at an age before children can understand or agree to what’s being done to their bodies. In Weigel’s case, surgery caused not only long term confusion and disillusionment but also left her hormone deficient, leading to osteoporosis at age 32. And. With conservatives fighting hard to keep hormone therapy out of the hands of trans people, some intersex people are also struggling to get the drugs they need…often to counteract the results of surgeries they wish had never happened.—Maggie
Listen to Fresh Air here.
Read a New York Times interview with Cohen about Every Body here.
Three weeks ago this Sunday night, at home in Charlottesville, I lay awake until 4 A.M., compulsively checking my weather app for the latest update about Simpson County, Mississippi. Our big kids were down there at camp—“my” camp, where I spent summers through college and which continues to be my own personal mosquito-ridden nirvana—and this was the first night of their second week there. The previous week, extreme thunderstorms had resulted in trees stabbing holes into multiple cabin roofs and winds ripping off the front steps of at least one of them. That night, there was a tornado warning—“tornadic” activity had been confirmed—in the area. “Maybe climate change means we can’t do camp anymore,” my husband said, in all seriousness. I welled up with sadness and squinted in rage. The storm ended; everyone was fine. But I couldn’t get over my husband’s nasty (read: all-too-possible) projection. Enter this week’s episode of Radio Atlantic—now hosted by the warm and brilliant Hanna Rosin—literally titled “Sorry, Honey, It’s Too Hot for Camp” and spotlighting climate writer Emma Pattee, who’s also a mom to young children living in the cuckoo climate that is the Pacific Northwest. The show digs into the incomplete science surrounding children’s health and their exposure to unprecedented temperatures, and also parenting in the age of climate grief. It’s heavy duty but also, at times, shockingly optimistic.—Rachel
Listen or read it here.
Dead Ringers, this ain’t
We often cite Jean Garnett’s 2022 Paris Review essay about opening up her marriage as the ur-Spread story, in that it’s exactly the sort of fearless examination of women’s interior lives—beautifully wrought, full of surprises—that we’re always truffle-hunting for over here. So when I spotted “Giving Away My Twin” in the New Yorker, I may have emitted an actual hoot of delight. A book editor at Little, Brown by day, Garnett writes about opening up another profoundly intimate relationship—this time, the one she shares with her identical twin sister, Callie, as she literally and figuratively prepares to “give away” Callie on her wedding day. (If it tells you anything about their degree of synchronicity, the sisters are both writers and book editors and they have a shared IG account. So, like, close.) Like most everyone, I suppose, I’m fascinated and bewildered by twins: My own twin uncles were born opposing forces—one artistic, one pragmatic; one free-spirited, one buttoned-up. It was as if you took one person and sorted his traits into two total opposites. But my twin nieces (who are fraternal and, by the way, deeply awesome) fit together so well, they’re enrolled in the same college major and sharing a dorm room; since the womb, they’ve had a kind of closeness I’ll never share with another human. Garnett weaves in theory and history and literature and psychological studies of the twin phenomenon, as well as scenes from her (yes, still) open marriage, artfully contrasting the relative porosities of the two main pairings in her life. The result is another evocative, weird, poetic read that leaves me craving Vol Three.—Maggie
Read “Giving Away My Twin” here.
Watch out, Esther Perel is coming to steal your flannel nightgown.
Chalk it up to the buying power revealed by the menopause industrial complex, or, ya know, be optimistic and call it societal progress—but there’s been a noticeable uptick lately in high-profile media investing in the stories of women of a certain age…at the Cut, at least. First they hired Spread pal and Substacker extraordinaire Val Monroe, formerly of Oprah mag, now of everybody’s favorite beauty Substack, HNTFUYF, to be a beauty columnist. Now they’re hitching their wagon to 64-year-old Belgian psychotherapist and reigning sexpert Esther Perel, whose podcast Where Should We Begin? will now be a New York mag production, with an offshoot advice column. We like this broadening of perspectives so much, we will pardon the fact that the Cut’s new eight-part praise package, “Everything Guide to the Esther Perel Universe,” is an elaborate advertorial for the star of their own stable—a bit like if the New York Times produced a big package celebrating the unparalleled genius of Tressie McMillan Cottom (which, yes please).—Maggie
Read the package here.
A supposedly funny thing I ended up doing again.
As someone who is neither a David Foster Wallace Guy nor one of those proud David Foster Wallace Haters (who has the time!), I expected Lauren Oyler’s Harper’s cover story about going on a Goop cruise, in which she both sends up and tops Wallace’s 1995 Harper’s cover story about going on a cruise, to be the only 8,000-plus-word DFW-related essay that could possibly make me stay up late, take a dozen-plus screenshots of the prose seemingly at random, and occasionally snort with laughter in the year 2023. But nope! Saint Patricia Lockwood took a crack at the man/myth/work in the London Review of Books, leaving me cackling (her alt-history lede conjuring a DFW-penned doorstopper about permed, giant-bulged Irish Riverdancer Michael Flatley—“we hear all his thoughts as Death clogs his failing body through space and time”—hooked me instantly) and also with a better understanding of all the passion around ole Dave than I ever have had before. “Why we believed we were reading him for moral instruction in the first place I have no idea,” Lockwood writes, “but it did prefigure the primary way we construct morality now: to be paying attention. To everything. That means you.”—Rachel
Read “Where be your jibes now?” (we audibly snickered—again!—when we got to the part of the essay from whence this headline came) here.
Can you keep it up for Barbie for nine…more…days?
As of yesterday, more than 20,000 people had booked tix for a July 21 opening weekend double-feature, in hopes of seeing Barbie, a movie about a pink-lovin’ plastic doll joining the real world, on the same day as Oppenheimer, a three-hour epic about the development and dropping of the first atomic bomb. Make of this what you will. We’re wondering: How tight is Oppenheimer’s product tie-in game? Because Barb has the kind of $100 million budget and the globally recognized Toys“R”Us protagonist that can induce movie fatigue weeks before a film is even released. See: The new Barbie-themed X-Box console, Progressive insurance ad, Barbie dream car (well, obvi), Ruggable collection, Target and Gap clothing lines, Pinkberry collab, Hot Wheels edition, and, yes, the Boston boat cruise (you read that right). Then there’s Margot Robbie’s tour of the Barbie Dreamhouse in Arch Digest (I tried to hate it but the attention to detail OMFGeeee); not to be confused with the New York Times’s crafty(!!) analysis of how said Dreamhouse has evolved over the past 60-odd years to reflect everything from the arc of feminism to something called “fern bars” (’70s bars decorated with cozy lady stuff to make them more female friendly?), white flight and desegregation, McMansionism, and the work-from-home Covid era (girl has a home office…and a slide!). Right when we thought we couldn’t digest one more crumb of promotional pink, we spotted this bite from GQ: Ten years ago, the dark ’n’ twisty Diablo Cody had a Barbie treatment in the works with Amy Schumer set to star…which maybe sounds more like our kinda Barbie after all. Hiyeee, Mattel, too late for a rethink?—Maggie
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Yes, OG Waves/Double X fans can rejoice! After a stint running New York’s podcast unit, former Slate voice and Invisibilia host Hanna Rosin back on the mic, this time for another of her many alma maters, the Atlantic. As constant Atlantic consumers (they publish too much!) and Rosin stans, we’re thrilled Radio Atlantic is finally becoming a thing (and that it will release new episodes at a digestible clip of one per week).