December 2015

December 2015

The Bed-Rest Hoax: The case against a venerable pregnant treatment

(Harper’s, December 2015)

After just a couple of days on bed rest, the material of your body begins to feel different: softer, heavier, a burden to the bone beneath. The thud of the heart in the chest feels deeper: each beat shifts your frame a little. Even though you haven’t used your back for anything, it aches — and when you twist into a new position the ache swivels along with the muscles, can’t be left behind. You fall asleep throughout the day but can’t sleep through the night, and when you bend a limb at the joint, it’s not the transparent sensation you’re used to — you can feel the muscles tugging, the socket creaking in protest. Your body becomes more present, weaker, and more vulnerable: you are aware of it as though it were an alarm that has not yet gone off but could at any moment.

Selected for Best American Science Writing 2016

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The Raw and the Rawer: Fruitarianism at the Woodstock Fruit Festival

(n+1, Winter 2014)

On the second night of the Woodstock Fruit Festival, long after dinner has been cleared, I stand in the dining hall and wait with other festivalgoers for what is rumored to be a “fuck ton” of durian, a large, spiky tropical fruit famous for smelling like dung. The walls are made of shellacked yellow pine, so bright and fresh-looking that they make you think over and over again of trees getting chopped up, and with the nearness and number of other people’s bodies I am overly warm, almost sweating. Thick bass pummels the air from the rave-style DJ in the corner. Beneath the buzz of long fluorescent bulbs, small children limbo under a piece of string to the sloppy clapping of adults, and somewhere in the hall a drum circle stutters to an entirely different rhythm. It is too bright in here, and too noisy, and everywhere I go there’s the slight whiff of fruit rot, a sweet, sticky smell whose origin is decay.



Event: Miss Senior America Pageant, Atlantic City

(The Believer, April/May 2019)

For three days every October, the ballroom of the Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey fills with women, and sequins. When I arrive, I see sequins worn in more ways than I knew they could be worn, spangling aggressively across gowns and blouses, glinting from the hem of a bolero or from the center of a jacquard flower. There are rhinestones, brooches, tiaras of differing heights and grandeur. There are shoulder-padded jackets that render the women inside them at once petite and bulky. I count a dozen unique takes on formal trousers: with ruffles, with slits, with a sheer layer veiling a more revealing inner trouser. All the blondes look giraffe tall; all the tans are a deep terra-cotta. The makeup is unabashedly full-faced: masks of foundation, bright knots of lipstick, stripes of blush sweeping up the crests of cheekbones. Stiletto or kitten heels wobble in the hotel carpeting. Here, feminine glamour has been taken to its furthest level. But while glamour is usually synonymous with youth, all the women in this luminous, glittering group are aged sixty or older. This is the Ms. Senior America Pageant.