What's the Opposite of Rumspringa?
The Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen of newsletters has a bad case of Trumpschmerz. Maggie’s chugging hydroxychloroquine; Rachel’s shining light therapy in the you-know-where.
What would make the perfect women’s magazine? Juicy yarns, hot goss, 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.
Happy Freaking New Year, Spreaderellas!
Over the holidays, we tried, we really did, to crack open the Jan/Feb print issue of the Atlantic, with its tomato-soup-red cover bearing no image, just a table of contents listing the mag’s shiniest contributors, all opining on a single theme: “If Trump Wins.” But every time we picked it up, it tumbled from our grasp. Eventually, we did take one for the team—that’s you—picked up The Big Bummer Issue, and read Sophie Gilbert’s “Four More Years of Unchecked Misogyny,” which is exactly the mood-lifter it promises to be: a tight roundup of insults hurled at every woman from Cher to CNN debate moderators; anti-Roe conservative Supreme Court appointees; and the toxic spread of contempt for women that seeped into every nook and cranny of the internet during Trump’s reign of terror. “Any woman who challenges him is ‘a big, fat pig,’ a ‘dog,’ a ‘horse face,’” Gilbert writes. We were going to write deep sigh after that one, but this special kind of exhausted dread is more hideous than even the most Streep-ian sigh could convey. Keeping us from even touching our black-eyed peas because what would even be the point, in “The Year We Stopped Being Able to Pretend About Trump,” Susan Glasser recalls the name she helped coin for this feeling, way back in 2019: Trumpregierungsschlamasselschmerz or, for short, Trumpschmerz: “It means something like ‘Trump-worry,’ but on steroids… ‘the continuous pain or ache of the soul’ that comes from the excessive contemplation of the slow-motion Trump car crash,” Glasser writes. “Well, here we go again.”
Friends, there’s no one we’d rather white-knuckle it through this dark night of the soul with than you.
Rachel & Maggie
P.S. New year, same request: If you like us, please consider punching that heart button up top.
We’re sure you use the same trick to fall asleep at night that we do: mentally listing your historical feminists chronologically, then alphabetically. But if you’re like us, you’ve been missing a key figure somewhere between Angela Davis and Sally Ride: Shere Hite, with whom we’ve become borderline-strangely obsessed after seeing the new documentary The Disappearance of Shere Hite. A post-Kinsey, post-Masters and Johnson sex researcher and author, Hite was late-night-show famous in the eighties; her survey of American women’s sexual experiences and attitudes, The Hite Report, has sold more than 50 million copies since it was first published in 1976. (No, not a typo, and yes, that’s up there with, like, Lolita and Charlotte’s Web.) She was also a glamourpuss: gorgeous—a leggy strawberry blonde—extremely stylish, liked to party. So why, according to our own highly scientific survey consisting of half a book club and a couple other group chats, isn’t she on our generation’s radar? The short answer: something-something-patriarchy-something. For a better answer, we hereby dangle the documentary, made by Nicole Newnham (Crip Camp) and streaming next week. Because Hite bequeathed her entire archive to Radcliffe before she died, the film is made up of eye-popping and sometimes jaw-dropping bits of pop culture from her heyday as well as her own diary entries, read as voiceover by the charmingly/ostentatiously sex positive Dakota Johnson. Shere would be pleased. Watch the trailer here. Read more here.
As the wildly famous coiners of the culture-sweeping 2023 phenomenon Hot Girl Overthinking™, your Spreaditors say to this WSJ article: How rude!
“If overthinking worked, it would allow us to solve more problems in our lives. But research shows the opposite is true. Overthinking is linked to poorer decision-making, greater interpersonal problems and more distress. The point of thinking about our problems is to reduce our problems, not to exacerbate them.”—Neuropsychologist Julia DiGangi, “For Happiness in the New Year, Stop Overdoing Everything.” Read it here.
“Marriage has been drafty lately. Everywhere you turn, the door that couples close behind them when they enter the sanctum of matrimony is being left ajar.”
It’s a thing I’ve pondered: how did polyamory, aka consensual non-monogamy or open marriage or throupling—personally, I’ve always preferred the Three’s Company-era swingers—go from being a strictly hush-hush “alternative lifestyle choice” to the kind of hip arrangement that Shiv Roy requests on the eve of her wedding and Cosmo offers tips to help navigate when visiting the ’rents over the holidays1? In the New Yorker, Jennifer Wilson jumps off of two new books, academic Christopher Gleason’s American Poly and Park Slope mom’s upcoming memoir about her own open marriage, More, covering how the concept spread from 1960s hippies who maligned matrimony as “just another form of private ownership”; to activists of the ’80s and ’90s who reframed the practice as an evolution that safeguarded the family from “the alienation, isolation and economic hardships of the post-nuclear age”; to today—when relationship experts like Dan Savage and Esther Perel TED-preach about ethical non-monogamy as a way to save a marriage2, not implode it. The article skims past factors that, to me at least, seem huge: the mainstreaming of gay culture, and our collective shift in thinking of gender and sexuality as spectrums, not binaries. Luckily Wilson makes up for this lack with deep analysis of White Lotus.—Maggie
Read “How Did Polyamory Become So Popular” here.
Where’s Frankenstein? At the fertility clinic and in the movies.
Ding ding ding—may I present the Golden Syringe Award! For the Point magazine, Julianne McCobin has delivered the most accurate depiction I’ve read of what it feels like to do IVF. “In Vitro” recounts her experience teaching Frankenstein to a high-school class while going through the bizarro drudgery of the long, final step of the infertility gauntlet3. (Though the experience she articulates is pretty universal, after a minute of LinkedIn lookie-looing, I actually think it’s possible that McCobin and I went to the same Virginia fertility clinic?!?!) Comparing Mary Shelley’s work to the online support forums where she (and I) spent countless hours during her infertility “journey,” McCobin writes that “[Frankenstein] cuts to the core of the anxiety of reproduction, grappling with the isolation and terror that can accompany trying to create another human being.”
She does not mention the Frankenstein story du jour, Poor Things, but with Sunday’s Golden Globes bearing down upon us, allow me: In the Yorgos Lanthimos-directed Emma Stone vehicle, a traumatized scientist creates a woman named Bella Baxter who has the brain of a toddler yet finds true freedom by…having a ton of sex. Y’all seen this movie?? I was ready to delight in a bold, brave, feminist comedy that some of my favorite critics—including women—have raved about4. But throughout two and a half hours of the camera ogling Stone’s ready-to-rail bod, I searched for big ideas and came up short. I just wanted to go home to my actual toddlers. I’ll say it: Two thumbs wayyy down. Maggie, Am I a prude who doesn’t get the joke? Or is Hollywood having an Emperor’s New Clothes moment? Don’t forget, I loved Yorgos’s The Favourite!—Rachel
Rachel, I haven’t seen it (um, you told me it was terrible, remember?) but I’ve never heard you pan a movie this hard5, especially not one starring Emma Stone who really is our people, after all. Spreaders: Help us out here! Did you see Poor Things? Is Rachel missing the plot, so to speak?—MB
Read “In Vitro” here.
Dance partners of the week.
For the Cut, Emily Gould rendezvoused with quirky, kinky, heavy-boobed triple threat Rachel Bloom. The creator/star of my beloved Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, a show that examined mental health through musical numbers (canceled in 2019 after four seasons), Bloom is taking on a new mega-subject, grief, through a one-woman Off Broadway show, Death, Let Me Do My Show. Gould has also been radically open about her own mental health struggles (see “All the TV I Watched When I Was Chronically Depressed”); it’s a writer-subject pairing that’s a match made in a heavenly psychiatrist’s office.
While we’re on the subject of transparency about mental health, rarely have we read as detailed and unguarded an account of the day-in, day-out battle with long-term depression—especially from a male star—as Michael Schulman’s December Q&A with Mark Duplass.
Read the Rachel Bloom profile here.
Read the Mark Duplass interview here.
Arithmetic be damned!
Over break, I spent valuable moments of my life doing math/gagging during the 1954 classic White Christmas, which my three-year-old watched daily during her infinite time off: When Bing Crosby played Bob, he was 51; his romantic interest, Betty was played by a 26-year-old Rosemary Clooney. Lock him up, right? And get her to college, or something? (The two went on to collaborate on The Bing Crosby - Rosemary Clooney Show on CBS.) On cue from stage left: Spreadfave Lila Shapiro’s latest New York mag feature, “The Age Gappers,” examined our culture’s collective discomfort around May-December relationships. Shapiro tackles the dynamic from every angle—TikTok; Florence Pugh; Woody Allen; whether it matters that the human brain may not have fully developed by 25, the max age of a Leonardo DiCaprio GF—and lands here: Any distaste for such couplings is a you problem, not a them problem. Or, I guess, a me problem, since I can’t find it within me to bless the union of blue-eyed Betty and Bob.—Rachel
Read it here.
Wait, is the biological clock the reason women are efficient and on-task and, like, totally not relaxed about…life?
“The message I was bombarded with in my 20s was that wandering was for men; destinations were for women. Destinations have expectations written all over them. They’re about timelines. When will I arrive? What will I desire when I get there? But I wanted to go to a place where I didn’t know who or what I would be on the other side. I wanted to go to a place where I wasn’t time bound. What I didn’t understand back then, although I felt its dark tentacles, is that a woman is always on the clock.” —Ruthie Ackerman, “In Praise of the Feminist Act of Wandering,” in Vogue here.
Did you, too, wonder how Travis Kelce made it onto SNL even before Taylor?
NYT Styles introduces us to brothers Andre and Aaron Eanes, the management duo that started setting up Kelce to be “as famous as the Rock” when he was fresh out of college. Read it here.
While we were out…
We’d be remiss if we didn’t remind you to go back, dive in, and appreciate the reportage—and the design genius!—in the New York Times’s “Behind the Scenes at the Dismantling of Roe v. Wade,” by Adam Liptak and Spread idol Jodi Kantor. Read it here.
The Biggest O.
Meanwhile! Ozempic’s hold on the meed-eeh-ya shows no signs of letting up: Spread deity Lisa Miller brought us an extremely sensitive profile of Maggie Ervie, a 15-year-old Missourian and semaglutide devotee (“An American Girlhood in the Ozempic Era,” New York). For New York Times Opinion, preternatural ideator Kate Manne took on diet culture’s latest buzzword: food noise (“What If ‘Food Noise’ Is Just…Hunger?”), and Jennifer Weiner dove into Oprah’s potentially market-moving announcement that she’s a fan of the drugs (“Oprah Proves Diet Culture Spares No One”). Plus, Constance Grady argued that Barbie and Ozempic are two sides to the same body-shaming coin (“The Year of Ozempic Bodies and Barbie Botox,” Vox). And wait! There’s more!
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Fifty-one percent of adults younger than thirty told Pew Research, in 2023, that open marriage was “acceptable,” and twenty per cent of all Americans report experimenting with some form of non-monogamy.
I also strongly disliked Air.—RB