UPDATE Below is a transcript of Ana’s essay on Kate Spade:
I was gonna spend a little time in this episode talking about last week’s episode, which got a fair amount of feedback. People had some feelings about just how strongly Kamau Bell and I basically dismissed Starbucks’ attempts to basically do some implicit bias training. I heard every criticism that people made. We were probably a little too cavalier, I should have spent a little more time talking about the research that’s shown basically how useless implicit bias training is, and I also probably should have given some amount of credit to the fact that they’re doing something. But when I was putting together my thoughts about how I wanted to address the criticisms that were made, I heard about Kate Spade’s death. And I’m going to be honest, because that’s what this show is about, I’m very grateful that I heard about it. Because as I was trying to process the criticisms that I heard from you all, which I take very seriously, maybe too seriously, you know I started to get in this downward spiral about all the mistakes that I’ve made with this show, and everything that I want to do better, and how the show could be so much better if I was better, and worked harder and did more. I was in the middle of that loop when I saw the news about Kate Spade. And I remembered very clearly the first Kate Spade bag I bought.
It was 1999. I bought it at her shop on Thompson, in Soho. I was an editorial assistant, I could not actually afford the purse but I bought it anyway, because it was perfect. It was about the size and shape of a lunchbox. It was stiff leather, clean and crisp. And it had two sides, it was divided with a zipper divider in the middle. I remember telling the sales woman that this bag was perfect, because I could keep my work stuff on one side, and my personal stuff on the other side. All these plans for this purse.
It was part of a dream. It was a dream purse, because I wasn’t thinking about my real life, I was thinking about this other, alternate reality where I was the kind of person who had a Kate Spade purse, and I was the kind of person whose life could be divided neatly into work and personal. I had this idea that this purse would square away my life in the same way it squared away my things, that its clean lines would make my life feel more linear, that my messy insides, which are kind of always in danger of overspilling my boundaries I drew, that they would be contained by this aesthetic that she had, this aesthetic that was just completely coordinated. She had yet to go into clothing and housewares and stationary, but between this personal story she had, where you know she was married to Jack Spade, and they had this life that looked straight out of a magazine. And she was a former editorial assistant, like I was. And her store had this amazing lush precision, she embodied all the things I thought I wanted. She had effortless style. She was a human Instagram feed twenty years before we all knew what filters were, before we started applying curating to something beyond museum exhibits.
I got older, as one does, and eventually I stopped buying Kate Spade purses, because I’m actually just not a “Kate Spade” person. It’s not really my style. But I swear to you, like right up until last week, I could still find myself lingering over her stuff, no matter what department of a store it was in. I would kinda think about, oh those sheets that would match the dress that would match the purse that would match the sunglasses that would somehow match me. Like her stuff still held for me the promise of a lifestyle perfection, complete coherence, everything going with everything.
Capitalism kind of depends on that kind of magical thinking, actually, and it’s no wonder that Kate Spade was so success. She had this seamless presentation of this utterly coordinated existence and of course that made her hundreds of millions of dollars, because the system works on our desire for perfection and human beings’ inability to achieve it. The wouldn’t work without Kate Spade radiating frictionless grace and the impossibility of any normal person actually achieving that frictionless grace. Our individual, perpetual failure is actually what fueled her success… or at least, I should say, the success of her brand. It is not supposed to occur to us that there is a real human being at the center of that idealization, and that she might see her herself as a failure too.
I wish, I really do, I wish with all my heart that it hadn’t taken Spade’s death for me to realize that she and I were, in fact, more alike than different. And that, while I may not share her aesthetic, on the outside, I know exactly what hopelessness looks like on the inside. I have been where she was. I am just a lot luckier. My suicide attempt failed, and I found help. I discovered someone underneath the accessories and costumes I’d tried on my whole life and I try to take care of that person I discovered. Today, my mental health depends on seeing through my own attempts to convince myself I’m not enough.
I have trouble believing it sometimes, and that’s why I actually take a lot of joy and do repeatedly remind you all that you are enough. I believe it about you. I believe with all my heart that you are enough and that you are loved. I believe that about you so much faith that it makes it easier to believe the same thing about me. So I want to make you a deal, to make this easier all around: I will believe it about me if you believe it about you.
But know that if you are struggling, you do not have to do this work by yourself. If you are thinking about suicide, you are not alone and there is help. Please, please take time to talk to someone in your life, or get in touch with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or the Crisis Text Line: 741741. I promise you, I swear on the 2000 or so tomorrows that I have seen since I woke up in the ER: It gets better. I got better. And you can get better.
And I will most definitely see you next week. Take care of yourselves.
This week, Rick Wilson (@TheRickWilson) stopped by for his monthly check-in with Ana (@anamariecox). They began their conversation by talking about how to cope with the constant distraction posed by Donald Trump’s Twitter account and stay focused on the real issues. Afterwards, they dove into Rick’s own political evolution, and the issues he’s willing to compromise on to gain allies against Trump leading into the midterms. Ana also asked Rick for an insight into what Republican lawmakers and staffers on Capitol Hill are thinking as they head towards November.
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Arjun Singh Sethi, author of American Hate: Survivors Speak Out, joins Ana on this week’s pod. Over the course of their conversation, Arjun explained why he wrote the book: to center the perspectives of hate survivors, who live with the everyday hate not just of Trump’s America, but that -- shocker -- has always been present in American life.
This week, Ana talked with Sarah Jones, a staff writer for The New Republic who covers social inequality and religion. Ana wanted to have Sarah on the show after learning about her story -- Sarah grew up homeschooled in a Christian fundamentalist family and went to a Christian college before becoming an activist for secular causes and covering religion. That upbringing meant she had a very secluded childhood in a rural area near the Cherokee National Forest, rarely leaving the house to do much other than going to church.
This week, Ana talked with Teresa P Mateus, trauma specialist, professor, and founder of The Mystic Soul Project. Their conversation began with Ana asking Teresa how she became a trauma specialist. She was led to the work through her own experience as a trauma survivor, as many people are.