We’re Living in a Post-Filter World
The Richie Cunningham and Potsie Weber of newsletters is following new rules, seducing old plants, and shedding new-old neuroses.
Sometimes we have our deepest thoughts on the couch, watching The Bachelor. Last night, observing Brooklyn, Jess, Greer, Christina Mandrell™, and Charity vye for the quite tall Zach Shallcross1’s affections at the mansion, on the field, and in the sky, we were struck by their onscreen transformations. In previous seasons, contestants rose predawn to spackle, flat-iron, and deep bronze themselves into shape before a single camera was turned on. This season, they start the day looking like they really just woke up this way: not a speck of makeup in sight. Indeed, the differences between their a.m. faces and the ones that appear later, on their “dates,” is so, uh, day and night that we almost had to re-learn their faces: Oh wait, that’s Christina Mandrell™! It’s as if an era of competitive nakedness has dawned. Now that anyone can use a filter, and we’ve all been hypnotized by videos of J.Lo drawing on her own face, the jig is up: We all know “perfect” is smoke and mirrors, and we’re no longer allowed to judge women for being “fake”...since apparently everything is fake. So the name of the game becomes: Who can be the most undone, the most vulnerable (Bachelor fans, drink!), the most real? Who’s brave enough to really reveal their true selves, in all their messy glory? We were gobsmacked last week when lovely Selena Gomez showed the Hollywood sisterhood what an unretouched, unposed, un-made-up photo actually looks like. Hint: It doesn’t look like a skincare ad. It looks like the nice girl who lived down the hall from you in college. Of course nobody does “transparent” like our beloved Julia Fox. When we heard she’d posted a self-guided tour of her abode on TikTok, we clicked fast, bracing for wild art, over-the-top upholstery. Latex, perhaps? Surely there would be at least one adults-only swing on the premises. Well, Fox’s NYC apartment makes the average college dorm room look like Martha Stewart’s Bedford manse: unmade bed in the living room; kid toys jockeying for space among piles upon piles upon racks of clothes; and a bathroom so unruly, the mother in us began searching for a “consequence” to bandy about. This is how she chooses to live, she tells us: “It’s really not that deep. I want my son to be in touch with the fuckin’ real world. Because I grew up in the real world, believe it or not.” Gulp. Ever on the cutting edge, your Spreaditors walk around all day without makeup—yes, “revealing” our true selves for every family member, UPS delivery person, and supermarket clerk to see. But revealing the mess (which according to Kathryn Jezer-Morton is a budding trend)? That hit us where we live.
Keepin’ it real-ish,
Rachel & Maggie
Horny for flora?
In the new issue of VQR, Meghan Flaherty writes 6,000 words about moving to rural Scotland, her ancestral homeland. Still with me? No? Your eyes are glazing over at the prospect of an earnest essay about Living Off the Land and becoming One With Nature? Well, as Cher’s Loretta Castorini told Nicolas Cage’s Ronny Cammareri in Moonstruck, Snap out of it! Flaherty spins an essay that’s at once highbrow, hilarious, and moving, its centerpiece a meditation on the concept of the “ecosexual”—for the uninitiated: the belief that humans shall indulge in sexual relationships with Mother Nature, yes really—and what I’ll, for lack of a better word, call the movement’s influencers, including one who refers to herself as “The Brené Brown of Pussy.” (Have I got your attention yet?) Flaherty is all-in on her new life of wreath-assembling and pie-making and garden-tending, but with a whole lot of side-eye. Her goals: “To learn the names of all the flowers in my own garden, and learn to care for them (which requires, first and foremost, Googling how not to kill them). To look up at the stars and feel small.” Her path to arriving there is worth printing out this piece—accompanied by an illo by Winnie Truong that would make excellent wallpaper—to devour as seductive bedtime reading.—Rachel
Read “On Not Becoming an Ecosexual”here.
Maybe don’t tell everyone you feel like an impostor after all?
Rachel, did I detect a slight underlying jab when you texted me Leslie Jamison2’s very big story on impostor syndrome, “Why Everyone Feels Like They’re Faking It”? As regular readers know, with my book a month away from pub day, I’ve been whinging to anyone who’ll listen about my ongoing crises of self-doubt—and, yes, even in my own head, the refrain is wearing thin. (In an interview yesterday, I heard myself abjectly thanking my interviewer—a seasoned journo—for actually reading the book. I mean, what did I think, she wasn’t going to? [slapping sound] Jesus, MB, put on your big-girl pants.) In the New Yorker, Jamison is given sufficient space to unspool on what she has called a “biography of an idea”—an idea that, yes, originally was specific to women. She meets the pair of female therapists/professors who originated the theory back in the ’70s, when they noticed high-achieving female students at Oberlin shared “‘an internal experience of intellectual phoniness,’ and lived in perpetual fear that ‘some significant person will discover that they are indeed intellectual impostors.’” But Jamison also rounds around to a pair of modern-day activists who believe it’s time we put impostor syndrome out to pasture: the theory (not a “syndrome” at all) was initially based on a limited subset of privileged white women. It “implies that women are suffering from a crisis of self-confidence and fails to recognize the real obstacles facing professional women, especially women of color—essentially, that it reframes systemic inequality as an individual pathology.” Here is a neat trick: Jamison illuminates the definition of “impostor syndrome” in a way that made me sure I suffer from it (!!), then reframes it as one more artifact of “second-wave feminism receiving necessary correctives from the third wave”—making me equally sure I should stop throwing the term around. So, RB…mission accomplished?—Maggie
Read it here.
Somebody get Julia Fox a copy of this magazine, stat.
New York’s new etiquette guide—which you likely bumped into on the internet over the past week—is as delicious as it is useful. My favorite parts are the first-person sidebars highlighting pointers from prominent party people like Amy Sedaris and fashiony chef Laila Gohar.Ivanka Trump foeLauren Santo Domingo takes the cake. Many of LSD’s rules had me nodding in violent agreement (“Be up-to-date with The White Lotus. As in, don’t put your hands over your ears and scream ‘No spoilers!’”), others had me frantically taking mental notes (“Tell your guests what time you plan to sit down for dinner at a dinner party. Example: ‘The party starts at 7:30, we’re sitting at eight.’”) But one mandate made me gasp: Never ask your guests to take off their shoes. Y’all. In approximately 10 days, I am hosting a dance party at my house…a shoeless dance party! So shoeless, in fact, I specified on the invitation that guests should bring their best sock game, because I too cannot abide a surprise ask to doff my footwear. Does this make me a hayseed of a host? Sister Santo Domingo, patron saint of party protocol, heeeeeeelp!—Rachel
Welcome, Ms. and Ms. Fug!
Pioneering fashion bloggers and freewheeling Spread forbears Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan—a.k.a. the Fug Girls—have finally joined us here on Substack. It’s about time! Sign up for their newsletter, Drinks With Broads, here.
We’ll never stop Frosting Ourselves.
Anyone else surprised—though not totally displeased—that How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, which turned 20 yesterday, has survived to become a…classic? We love this movie for many reasons: the Carly Simon of it. The Kleenex-in-the-armpits of it. The that yellow dress of it. But most of all, for introducing us to National Treasure Kathryn Hahn, whose neuroticism and awkwardness is just so…Spread-y. Take this tidbit from a delightful oral history of the film on Vanity Fair, which we suggest as a little midday bonbon for your brains:
Kathryn Hahn (Actor/Michelle): “I remember Kate was so fucking normal for a person that grew up in fame. I was so moved by what family meant to her and how dearly her parents instilled that in her. She, Annie Parisse (Jeannie), and I became fast friends and made a lot of dumb trouble, smoking, hanging out, and just laughing all the fricking time. We, one late Friday night, were inspired to drive to Kate’s family’s lake house for the weekend. Kate asked me to put my bathing suit on and I came down and she said, ‘Honey put on your suit,’ and I said, ‘This is my suit.’ I don’t think she had seen a tankini before.”
Read “You’re So Vain” here.
Pamela Anderson’s dual Netflix doc and memoir are truly the gift that keep on giving. Before their release, we reveled in Jessica Bennett’s profile of Anderson, but since then, no fewer than three of our favorite writers have weighed in on our beloved bombshell. Each one is worth a read: Jessica Pressler, who profiled Anderson for Elle back in our day, reviewed the memoir for the New York Times, while Roxane Gay and Sophie Gilbert examined Anderson’s singular cultural domain in New York and the Atlantic, respectively.
Read “Pamela Anderson Tells All, Again” by Pressler here.
Read “This Is Pamela, Finally” by Gay here.
Read “What Is It About Pamela Anderson?” by Gilbert here.
Spread it like Fleischmann’s (the margarine—get it?).
“You can stay in New York and climb, climb, climb and never get where you need to go and give yourself a nervous breakdown, or you can move to the suburbs and be like, Who the fuck are these pod people? Neither seems great. Is the secret to it all that we have to just choose a lane and embrace it?”
Far be it from Rachel and me to say, We told you so. (Ok, fine, the phrase is basically our tagline.) We knew Fleishman Is in Trouble was going to touch a nerve among a core Spread demo—thirty- and forty-something working mamas—and, boy, are we enjoying its slow burn. Here we are, some six weeks after FX aired the show’s finale; three weeks after the New York Times’s Ross Douthat praised the show’s dark view of meritocracy; and a week or so after the Washington Post addressed the “$400K problem” (pity the urban rich, who feel so poor!). The most lasting talking points about a show that is nominally about life after divorce are about the type of life that underpins that divorce: wealth, class, access. Moolah—and what we consider “enough” of it. In the Cut, Caitlin Moscatello notes that among the real Rachels and Libbys of New York, “watching Fleishman was like holding up a mirror to the life they bought into years ago, when they came here to pursue their big dreams, and finally seeing the reality of what that looks like now.” Among the Rachels, the show has surfaced (yet again) the never-rich-enough dissatisfaction that plagues even successful New Yorkers—people with country houses, feeling sorry for themselves because they don’t have a NetJets membership like their even-richer neighbors. Among the Libbys, who gave up city life, the show has made them question what they’ve really given up. To us, Moscatello’s piece is a real Rorschach test; the most interesting thing about it may be, What does it bring up for you? Among my friends, some city folk identify hard with the “poor little rich girl” mentality depicted—and seek a way out of that mentality. Some suburbanites rose to the defense of their ilk (though they might have been trying to convince themselves?). I somehow found myself railing against the twin assumptions—not mentioned in the story but, I guess, implied?—that escaping New York is a fix that automatically makes life both cheap and chill. (Nope.) Rachel, what did it bring up for you?—Maggie
How much time you got, Maggie? Not a lot? OK, how’s this: All the talk about the super rich keeps reminding me of this interview with the Daily Show’s new host—though her deal is not yet inked; join us in manifesting!—Chelsea Handler, in which she says she realized she was taking the weight loss wonder drug Ozempic sorta kinda by accident: Her “anti-aging doctor just hands it out to anybody.” (All the doc said to her was, “Oh if you ever want to drop five pounds, this is good.” Presto, she’s injecting it into her belly.) To recap: Chelsea Handler has on her team a doctor—presumably just one of many doctors—dedicated to keeping her forever young. Like that dude on the $2M per year youth plan we read about in Businessweek. The rich, they live in a different world. A world I desperately want to live in and am desperately relieved not to live in. How’s that for a decisive answer?—Rachel
Last week in this newsletter, we did a lot of thinking and writing about the art and business of thinking and writing and editing. And I haven’t been able to stop! If you’re into this stuff, I highly recommend the new Print Is Dead (Long Live Print!) podcast interview with legendary editor Adam Moss, who I worked for in my twenties at New York. Moss, who created the Cut, Vulture, the Strategist, et al. in addition to leading every magazine-maker’s favorite magazine, talks about the book he’s “making” (it’s called Editing—for real), his newfound love of painting, the magazine projects he didn’t get off the ground in his heyday, and the creative process in general. After the episode, I wanted (needed!) more insider-baseball magazine nostalgia! So I began listening to the audio edition of Vanity Fair editor Dana Brown’s 2021 memoir, Dilettante, which Brown himself reads. It’s as indulgent and insightful as you might expect, and I can’t get enough.—Rachel
Listen to the episode here.
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If you can’t say something nice…
Leslie Jamison on the subject of impostor syndrome? Huh, that gave me pause—the writer first got famous for an essay about being an impostor of sorts: she wrote about earning her living, early in her literary career, by faking sickness. That idea kernel that led to her best-selling essay collection, The Empathy Exams, and earned her a reputation as “a kind of emo Janet Malcolm — a journalist-polymath [known for] incorporated reporting, literary criticism, psychology, and raw self-disclosure,” wrote Ruth Shalit (also an impostor of sorts, while we’re on the subject!) in Vulture.