Things I Read That I Love #334: Group Chats, Polycules, Data Free Disney, Iron Claws and Pretty Faces

HELLO and welcome to the 334th installment of Things I Read That I Love, wherein I share with you some of the longer-form journalism/essays I’ve read recently so that you can know more about group chats! This “column” is less queer focused than the rest of the site because when something is queer focused, I put it on the rest of the site. Here is where the other things are.

The title of this feature is inspired by the title of Emily Gould’s tumblr, Things I Ate That I Love.

You Have Such A Pretty Face, by Anastasia Selby for The Unpublishable, September 2023

“Whenever I gained weight, I compensated by focusing on my pretty face, spending thousands of dollars over the  years on face creams, serums, toners, treatments, and products that were too expensive. I bought these instead of starting a retirement account, putting a down payment on a house, or buying a reliable car. I told myself I was living in poverty but I had VIB Rouge status at Sephora. Taking care of my skin was a backup plan. If I could keep up my pretty face, then maybe I would finally be worthy of love, even if I got fat again. Truthfully I never felt thin enough, small enough, or beautiful enough. Nothing was ever enough. It took me a long time to learn why.”

The Fall of the House of Von Erich, by Skip Hollandsworth for D Magazine, February 1988

I cannot stop thinking about The Iron Claw since I saw it (spoilers for the film, based on a true story, incoming!) and of course had to then read 500 things about it. This D Magazine story is crazy because at this point they’d only lost Jackie (the seven-year-old who was electrocuted in a puddle) and David (the one who died while wrestling in Japan) and already it was a tragic tale, because in addition to those deaths, Kevin had been injured in a match and Kerry in a motorcycle accident. You can also read about their imaginary cousin Lance in a December 2023 piece, The Ballad of Lance Von Erich.

Data Free Disney, by Janet Vertesi for Public Books, January 2023

Okay this is WILD!!! This woman has an “extreme approach to data privacy” and took her kids to Disneyland planning to shield them from every corporate attempt to harvest their data, like she painted their faces in a specific pattern to avoid facial recognition and got a burner phone to make the reservation and paid for everything in cash and basically eschewed the whole tech-enabled new Disneyland app system — which meant having to wait in more/longer lines for rides and food — anyhow, you’ll see!

The Birth of my Baby, The Death of My Marriage, by Leslie Jamison for The New Yorker, January 2024

“The idea that we both felt so many of the same painful things didn’t help me believe that the marriage was more possible to save. It became harder and harder to convince myself that our good months in the beginning mattered more than all the friction that followed. It seemed like the good place we were trying to get back to was just a small sliver of what we were.”

Coming of Age at the Dawn of the Internet, by Kyle Chayka for the New Yorker, January 2023

“When I made an account, I was surprised to find that MySpace tethered my shadow self to my physical person. I was no longer just a pseudonym and a cartoon avatar; the site asked for my actual name and a photo of my face; it told me to list my interests for everyone to see. Before, going online had felt like being a solo hiker, exploring unknown territories. Now I felt like I was putting out a billboard for myself on the highway.”

When I Met the Pope, by Patricia Lockwood for the London Review of Books, November 2023

“Before leaving that morning, we stuffed my bag with all sorts of objects, reasoning that if the pope blessed me, anything on my person would be blessed as well. It now has to go through the metal detector, a tense moment. I wonder what security will make of it – a jumble of legs, jaws, little girls, torsos and precious stones, all awaiting the gesture. How far does the principle of a blessing extend? Because there’s a tampon in there that going forward I will hesitate to use.”

The Perfect Webpage, by Mia Sato for The Verge, January 2024

Once more on my favorite topic: how catering to Google has made websites unreadable and terrible!!! It’s weird how they keep changing their algorithm to make results better — to ensure people are landing on websites written by actual people and not content farms — and every change makes leads to our site specifically faring worse, even though we are famously not a content farm! Google directed literally over a million more people every month onto this website in 2014 than they do now, ten years later. So anyhow great algorithm work for everyone over there

The Total Package, by Britt Young for The Baffler, January 2024

The hunt for a perfect silicone penis which is unlike the author’s hunt for a prosthetic arm that will not cost an arm and a leg after insurance.

How Group Chats Rule the World, by Sophie Haigney for The New York Times, January 2024

So much about this rang so incredibly true, especially their descriptions of the dynamics of who ends up in a group chat (and how these eternal chats often begin as one-offs for specific events) — and I was especially intrigued by how group chats have increased in popularity as communicating via social media platforms like facebook have receded. As this article describes, group chats are positive forces for so many reasons but I also wondered about the negative ones; about how group chats also contribute to the ways in which we feel constantly tethered to our mobile devices.

What Does a Polycule Actually Look Like?, by Allison P. Davis for New York Magazine, January 2024

Perhaps you are aware that New York Magazine did a big polyamory issue? Well! This piece digs into the relationships of a very specific polycule.

The Doll Mommies Are Fighting, by Jessica Lucas for Cosmopolitan, June 2023

I saw a TikTok of a lady announcing that she was getting cancelled by “the reborn doll community” and if I wanted to understand her video I should do some googling first and you know what, I did exactly that, and well

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!


Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3227 articles for us.


  1. I had stumbled into that Leslie Jamison essay and wow, very resonant.

    Riese, thoughts on the polyamory issue? I haven’t read it (sorry to be that person) but listening to the most recent episode of You Are Good, Sarah Marshall and Alex Steed referenced it, particularly as it relates to the class issue of who often has time to sustain more serious relationships (eg., in a polycule) – to be clear, they personally advocate for a wide variety of relationship structures – but rather how the state of polyamory today, as represented in the issue, reveals the ways in which the essays (unwittingly?) document the prevalence among Brooklyn and Bay Area affluent creative- or tech-class people because they have the time, money, work flexibility, etc. to make it work. This line from the opening of the Cut piece you linked to almost reads like satire: “His large friend group tends to share interests in things like changing the world and psychedelics, and he mentions how many of them wind up hooking up with each other, hooking up with each other’s partners….”

    • I also feel like there’s a profound underlying misunderstanding of poly relationships, as in this line: “Because you can cheat in a polyamorous arrangement,…” Isn’t the point that it’s not cheating, if you have an arrangement, and communicate about it, and each partner is respecting the boundaries that have been collectively established? I’m not even poly and this kind of titillating rhetoric makes me so annoyed.

      • From the context of the article, I thought it was clear that the writer meant “cheating” in the sense that people in polyamorous relationships can cross boundaries that had been previously defined without communicating it with all partners. Like, the example they gave was two partners had agreed to keep things more casual but it had started to change into something more serious, if that makes sense.

    • Oh yeah it definitely gives the vibe that these types of relationships are most common and accessible to Brooklyn and Bay Area affluent creative- or tech-class people because they have the time, money, work flexibility, etc. to make it work, I think they actually say that specifically by the end of the piece. Maybe those are also the people who feel safest talking about it to journalists or who know New York magazine journalists. What did they say about that on the podcast?

      Mostly what surprised me about reading the issue and other related pieces lately is that because polyamory has been a hot topic and a common practice in queer communities for so long, and often the texts queer ppl reference when considering non monogamy were written by ppl who are cishet, that, I didn’t … realize that right now polyamory is having A Moment for the straights?, I thought it had been like the same level of popular for them for a while?

Contribute to the conversation...

Yay! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated by the guidelines laid out in our comment policy. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation and thanks for stopping by!