Hoo boy, Dames Nation. It’s a bummer of a week out there. To deal with the rampant grimness in our national discourse, we’re elevating our newest ~*GUEST DAMES HONOR ROLL*~ announcement to be our opening segment.
The Guest Dame so honored this week? Our beloved friend Christina Tucker, one half of the Unfriendly Black Hotties and two-time guest editor (in February of ‘16 and September of ‘17), who made her debut on Pop Culture Happy Hour this week!! The episode concerns BOOKS, exclusively, and features (1) many recommendations in which you will all revel, (2) two perennial Dames Favorites of NPR-- Petra Mayer and Barrie Hardymon (whose fine work may be appearing here sometime soon!), and (3) a perfect explanation for what historical romance and Taylor Swift have in common.
There is an onerous amount of bullshit in the world lately, from Serena getting mistreated at the U.S. Open to abusers like John Hockenberry and Jian Gomeshi being welcomed back to prestigious publications to pontificate on how hard their lives have been since their abuse of women became public (no links here—deliberately), to the horrifying sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh that were revealed this morning. This bullshit about…our entire patriarchal, misogynistic culture that’s so endemic and pervasive that it can be difficult to see and name, but then once you do, you see it absolutely everywhere? We had to dig hard to keep from being swamped in it— thank god we had this bit of pure joy to pull us through. Hopefully it functions the same way for all of you <3
Next Week: Your Dames Strategize!
We will seize any opportunity to re-share John Crist’s hilarious video “Lady Who Has a Bible Verse for Everything” and we are NOT ashamed about it. But also: this fits.
That is, we’re going to share with you some consumer products we love, in the style of NY Magazine’s smart shopping vertical, The Strategist, particularly the column where they speak to celebrities about “what they can’t live without.” Only, of course, WE YOUR DAMES will be the celebrities thus sharing our essentials! This issue will be available to paid subscribers only, and if you aren’t one already, we’d love to invite you to join us! If you already subscribe and want to do a mitzvah for a fellow reader, you can buy a gift subscription for a pal— or send this link to a friend you wish would buy one for you :)
You won’t want to miss this #hot #content.
Dame Sophie’s Cultural Magpie Buffet
Let’s get judgin’!
We’re living through such a golden age of celebrity profiles! You know it’s special when there are so many well-executed profiles out in one week that Paul McCartney’s revelation in GQ that he & John Lennon...well, they enjoyed a Hard Day’s Night or two together is not even that big of a deal (indeed, future friend of this newsletter Rob Sheffield informed me -- ok, the entirety of Twitter -- that this is a story they told many times themselves throughout the 70s!). I can’t stop thinking about this trio of pieces in the NY Times that form a sort of tapestry narrative: Joyce Maynard’s scorching stiletto of an essay (which I’m considering as a self-profile) re-announces her as a significant writer in her own right; professional Nice Girl Sally Field pushes beyond saying “oh, never mind” about the way men in her family and in Hollywood treated her over the years; and most touchingly to me, Caity Weaver’s profile of Maya Rudolph. By now, it’s a cliché to say that often, the funniest people are using their skills to process a terrible hurt and to protect themselves against new emotional body blows. This piece goes to some of those expected places, even as it reveals how challenging it can be for Rudolph to use her elastic face and voice as a form of armor, even as she draws on emotionally porous 40 year-old experiences as a motherless child to inform her work now.
Gosh, women are confounding and have to be put in their places. Like, all the time, or who knows what would happen! Especially mothers, amirite? Women are out here growing new humans in their uteruses, and some of them have the gall to attempt to continue to participate fully in society! At work! Pursuing hobbies! Having private thoughts unrelated to childcare! Can you believe??? This week, I can’t stop thinking about Sady Doyle’s piece on how labels like “soccer mom” simultaneously deify and minimize mothers both as a group and as individuals. This isn’t a new observation, but my blood, it boils, on reading crisp passages like this:
We pour contempt on women for being too committed to their roles as mothers, but we don’t seem to think they should be able to fill any other roles.Mothers are steadily edged out of the public sphere — through workplace discrimination, through a lack of affordable daycare options, through shame — even as we condemn them for not doing something more serious with their lives.
Somewhat tempering my fury are Sarah Blackwood’s review of Lydia Kiesling’s new novel The Golden State, about a mother taking her two year-old on a road trip through California, and Daniel Ortberg’s latest issue of The Shatner Chatner, an increasingly giddy ad for a fictional Two-Mom Energy Drink. This is a thing of pure joy and hilarity and I can’t say enough good things about it.
Sometimes, of course, there is a small measure of justice meted out in this world. Ronan Farrow -- who I’m convinced never sleeps at all -- publishes a one-two punch of well-sourced pieces in the New Yorker about former CBS President Les Moonves, and the second one costs Moonves his golden parachute. Then Linda Bloodworth Thomason writes about how Moonves so loathed her -- a woman who was raking in ratings, cash, and critical raves for his network with shows like Designing Women and Evening Shade -- that he torpedoed all of her pitches for future shows, effectively ending her career just as it entered its most fruitful and profitable period. She’ll never be able to make that money back, but today I read that a reboot of Designing Women is coming to TV screens everywhere. It all just goes to show, you do not cross a Sugarbaker woman.
You know how much we love recommendations and contextualization, so imagine my delight upon reading that Vox has a new section called The Goods (featuring the writers and editorial team who previously ran Racked, may it rest in blessed memory), all about explaining our consumer culture and our places in it to us. In just the first week of The Goods, I have thrilled to this piece on how Pedialyte pivoted to being a go-to hangover cure (pro-tip, it’s also good for staving off heat exhaustion, so I keep a pack of Pedialyte pops in my freezer), how & why skincare companies pivoted from anti-aging to promoting a radiant glow (which: nice try, but we know it’s really just another term for anti-aging), and how authors we love choose to dress their fictional characters (surprise, with great care & specificity!). The Goods is gonna be a Very Important Source of material for this here newsletter, I can tell.
Dame Margaret’s Complementary Link Potluck
Sunrise, Sunset-- swiftly go the days.
As excited as we are about The Goods (and the excellent material it’s already sharing), we are sincerely sad about the closing of Racked-- even though its writers and editorial team will continue to produce wonderful work. Luckily, Racked anticipated our woe and has created a guide to the best of their essays, humor writing, features, and more. Of immediate interest to this Dame was their Best of Histories list, from which I read, in quick succession:
The Trashy, Expensive, Contradictory Reputation of Leopard Print (which did nothing to assuage my gnawing hunger for this A+ Dress for Teens from Target, also available in plus!)
How Red Lipstick Went From Illegal to Everywhere (because since when can I resist ANYTHING to do with red lipstick?)
And Actually, Flappers Didn't Wear Fringed Dresses (because I’m a slaaaaaaaaaaaaaave 4 fiber manufacturing history and how Hollywood influences our idea of the past!)
And that’s just THREE of the many, many tabs I opened. Follow my lead-- click and click and join me in hoping that Racked can RIP in peace. In addition, I have been delighting in the following stories:
I know my personal brand is shaping up the way I’d like, because when noted Shirley Temple Enthusiast and star player of the Philadelphia 76ers Joel Embiid sat down with The Player’s Tribune to tell the story of how he learned to shoot three pointers by watching old white dudes on YouTube, at least six people tweeted about it, and thank god they did. It’s full of even more delightful facts about Joel and strengthened my devotion to him a thousand fold.
Like many people who listened to just-off-the-beaten-track Canadian indie music in the mid-aughts, Feist’s “Let It Die” got a lot of play in my college dorm room-- particularly the charming song “Mushaboom”, which summons a vision of winter darling enough to make even the most cynical New Englander starry-eyed about snow. But I’d never considered how influential it was in terms of its sound, or really thought much about where it came from-- until I read “The Hidden World Of Feist's 'Let It Die’”, written to commemorate the special mint green pressing of said album that record subscription service Vinyl Me Please is offering this month. It was through that piece that I learned an earlier version of “Mushaboom” existed, and a really interesting one at that. Whether you regard the record with the same nostalgic reverence I do, or are encountering it for the first time though these links, I think you’ll find the piece interesting.
Much as I found Vanity Fair’s oral history of the TV show Frasier engrossing and delightful, even though it’s been easily 20 years since I sat down to watch an episode of that show on purpose. I was especially glad to read that Moose, who portrayed the show’s surprisingly witty pup Eddie, was about as well-behaved as my own (late, much lamented) Jack Russell Terrier, Henry:
And in anecdotes of universal interest sharpened by local ties, I think this video of Ayanna Pressley, likely to become Massachusetts’s first ever black congresswoman, learning that she’d won her primary just last week, is moving even if she hasn’t been crushing it as your city councilwoman-at-large for years now. And it’s an important reminder of the changes going on in statehouses and city council chambers everywhere, as women step up to fight back against the misogyny it can feel like we’re all drowning in. So, get to know Ayanna, and take a look around you for the people in your local races who’ll make you feel the way she makes me feel.
And finally, remember the bees that swarmed that hot dog stand in Times Square last week? (If not: some bees swarmed a hot dog stand in Times Square last week and Twitter was agog over it). WELL, The New York Times sent reporter Kwame Opam into the field to try and figure out where they came from, and the results both include rival beekeepers and a lot of interesting information about apiaries, bees, and beekeeping culture in New York City.
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