Gallantry on the Subway and Other Stories
Feels like a hustle around these parts - NYC - and also, summer is here, which means it’s sticky, which makes me remember a story of gallantry. I was 16 years old and working the summer on the floor of the American Stock Exchange, inside one of the cages, taking and giving orders to traders. Yes it was a zoo, also fun. Getting to work in the morning was not, riding the R train to Wall Street at 8:20am, people smashed into the cars and the shower you took 20 minutes ago proving itself utterly inefficacious. I was mashed against a pole one morning, my clothes sticking to me, when I felt a hand creeping up my thigh; was it a mistake? When I felt the fingers fully under my skirt I knew it was not, but pressed together as we were I could not figure out whose hand it was. I must have had some panic in my eyes because the tall rather WASPy looking man standing directly across from me locked his eyes with mine and then started eeling his way through the people and around the pole, until his body was wedged between me and whomever’s hand it was. I never did know who it was, only that, as I got off at Cortlandt St., I thanked the man, to which he said without speaking, “Here to help.”
On the latest episode of Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em (which turned two months old this week!) my pod partner Sarah Hepola and I talk about people who do not extend such courtesies. A clip from the show notes:
Our main course is a discussion of the controversial New York magazine cover story, “Canceled at 17,” about a 17-year-old who shared a nude photo of his girlfriend and then watched his world fall apart. Elizabeth Weil’s article is a “primal scream” about teenagers who are not OK, but Twitter has been in “primal scream” mode over why that story isn’t OK either. Nancy and Sarah beg to disagree. Can anything save us from our bloodlust for suffering? Nancy gets feisty on a cultural addiction to seeing people taken down.
“They are trying to fill themselves up with the destruction of others,” she says.
Full episode listening here.
There’s been a plethora of stories in the past few weeks addressing various trans issues, a topic I usually do not spend much time investigating or commenting on. But we will be touching on the topic on the next Smoke ‘Em podcast, mostly because the new stories seem to be of a different stripe, more ready to complicate the stories despite the crazy pushback writers notoriously get when writing about trans issues with nuance. My favorite, despite and because of its willingness to address medical horrors, is Kat Rosenfield’s “Biden’s Cowardly War in Conversion Therapy.” (A bit of a feint, that title [NB: writers do not often choose the headlines for their pieces], perhaps because medically transitioning is such a hot potato that pushing it over to Biden seemed to offer a little cover.) We haven’t heard much about these horrors because hot potato, as well as because the medications and surgeries are still in many ways in their infancy and people are as yet willing to look past some of the harder truths. If you have the stomach for it, follow some of the links Kat includes in her piece, one of which is below. I think we are in for many lawsuits like the one TullipR is pressing, and that Kat would publish this piece now, is both crucial and commendable.
Ethan Strauss published “Why the Lia Thomas Movement Failed” (may be paywalled), noting:
I always suspected that Lia Thomas was a cultural Waterloo for wokeness. It’s too big and unscientific an ask of people. In this way, I have my own assumptions about the future, though I also understand it to be a contested property: Reality eventually wins. Maybe not immediately. Hell, maybe not even in our lifetime. But eventually, over time, it announces its presence against vigorous suppression efforts
I also wound up watching the documentary What is a Woman? despite my sense that its creator Matt Walsh (whose hate mail sometimes accidentally winds up with dear Matt Welch!) is a professional provocateur who likes to wield his message on the tip of a spear. Surprises for me: Walsh can be funny, and the film is well produced and nice to look at. There is also some useful information, though Walsh does tip his hand too many times, and half-kills the good will he’s engendered with that pickle denouement.
Another interesting piece was “They, Then and Now: Asking for pronouns has become a social standard. Who is it serving?” by Brock Colyar, which I started reading and thought, too long/not interested. Then two people sent it to me, so I went back and am glad I did, as it put the pronoun issue in a different and evolving light, as it did for the author.
My favorite new Substack follow is Chris Andrade’s Walking the World, which is exactly what is sounds like: Andrade packs a small backpack and walks across various countries, meeting people on the fly. He’s currently in Hanoi, and his dispatches and photos are, for me, both like being there, and also provokes the question, why don’t I do that? Maybe I will…
While I’ve been writing this, on the Amtrak traveling north along the Hudson, the news that SCOTUS overturned Roe v. Wade just dropped. “Maybe a good day to stay off the socials,” a friend just texted. Maybe so.
With love and pie and hope for peace in the streets this weekend xx