The Crush Letter No 108

. 17 min read

I'm Dish and I write a weekly newsletter about life, love, and culture for those 40+.  Because midlife and beyond is so much cooler than they said it would be.  Hell yes, sign me up for the Dish.


Hello Crush,

I love Lisa Ellex's Extended Encounters series for The Crush Letter, and not only because she is able to infuse humor and tenderness into her features on couples who have gone the distance. It's because, whatever their backgrounds and bio's are, I learn something about how love lasts. This week's story about Sal and Ken is a treasure.

We are starting something new this week, and I want to hear what you think about it. The Crush Letter publishes a monthly(ish) DEVOUR issue devoted to what we think you should do, see, listen to (etc.). But I needed (I felt) a spot to share more immediate, less in-depth reactions to things. Hence this new thing this week that I'm calling Culture / Comments. It will evolve - hell, I may even come up with a more clever title - as you tell me whether you like it, or what you might want more (or less) of. Usually you'll find it at the end of The Crush Letter, but I am leading with it this week to make sure you don't miss it.

Enjoy!


In This Letter.    + Culture / Comments By Dish Stanley This is a new thing! A place to share loose thoughts and stray reflections on what's happening.   +Extended Encounters. “Sal and Ken” By Lisa Ellex    +Sexual Healing: Say It, Love. By Liza Lentini    +What to Call Your Long-term Partner in Midlife That’s Cool & Sophisticated But Doesn’t Sound Weird or Forced. By Dish Stanley Why can’t we come up with something?    +Social Media I Loved This Week. By Dish Stanley   +Our Song of the Week You can’t start a fire / Worryin’ about your little world falling apart


Culture / Comments By Dish Stanley

A place to share loose thoughts & stray ramblings on what's happening. Stay tuned as it evolves. It's a new thing!

Shiv’s Look. It’s a mess. I was with a couple of cool+stylish friends this week at the bar at Michael's Genuine in Miami (okay, they were cool+stylish – one was rocking a fitted, fabulous leather dress over a simple white tee and the other a cool, new European brand I need to get the name of – and I was tagging along). But anyway, we were talking about the whole quiet luxury trend that Succession has accelerated. Except, we agreed, "quiet luxury" is not Shiv’s look. “If only it were,” sighed one of them (the one in the cool, new European brand I am going to get you the name of). We couldn’t come up with exactly what Shiv's look has been this season. Except, we agreed, it's a mess. Everyone else on Succession has a decided look, we decided. And their look is a thoughtful construction that magnifies and extends their character's identitly. Not Shiv. Her look says neither quiet elegance (Naomi Pierce), understated power move (Kendall Roy), awkwardly striving (Tom), so clearly powerful I don’t have to try (Nan Pierce), nor I am trying so hard to be respected that I hired a personal stylist, but not a very good one (Gerri). Shiv's look says "mess." Which was most aptly characterized by the wimpy, semi-high ponytail she wore with the black gold padlock Tom Ford suit to her half-brother's wedding.

The patheti pony was in - dare I say it - schizophrenic conflict with the outfit. It was not sexy, natural "bedhead" nor sophisticated, pulled-together glam, nor clean, modern minimalism. It was just a thin, limp, mess. Why bother wearing Tom Ford if you're just going to throw your hair into a sloppy pony? Shiv’s clothes are ill-fitting, unflattering and — most egregiously — out-of-step with her character to date, which is cunning, calculating, bold, ambitious and yet vulnerable. Is that foreshadowing, or just a rare miss in this series by Costume Designer Michelle Matland? Which leaves us to wonder, is Shiv's pony a clue to where Shiv goes, after a very dark episode where we see her usual poise devolve?

Pretty Baby on Hulu Is A Must Watch. Okay, this isn’t our monthly DEVOUR Letter (where Lisa Ellex and I tell you in more depth what to watch, read, hear, see and do) so I am only going to briefly flag this for you. The two part Hulu series on Brooke Shields is not only an eye-opening look at her insane, frightening life as a child star (how is she even still alive, let alone able to appear normal(ish)?), but also a way to understand ourselves - to process the arc of the culture we grew up in, the standards we were held to. Because Brooke Shields was everywhere in our lives as we went from childhood to adulthood - introducing us to not only the glamor of thick eyebrows and a pair of skintight jeans, but also to our own sensuality - and she became our dreams, our fears, our idol. (PS Our next monthly DEVOUR column will be The Crush Letter on April 29th.)

Also, Drew Barrymore does what only another woman who grew up in the Hollywood glare could do, and in the most Drew Barrymore way, in this interview with Brooke Shields on the Drew Barrymore Show. It’s raw, if you’re into that. (I am.)

Everything But The Girl is releasing Fuse, its first album in 24 years, on April 21st but the single Nothing Left to Lose is out now. It’s made me hyped about the album. If you’re into them you may want to read this Pitchfork article too.

I loved John McEnroe’s bad boy antics on the tennis courts. I mean, tennis was too well-groomed for me back then anyway. I love him as an opinionated commentator in the tennis booth. But what excites me right now about John McEnroe is his current run on the pickleball circuit. (I'm just learning to play pickleball.)

Oh boy, I’ve been on a reading spree. I will likely share lengthier thoughts on some of these books in an upcoming CRUSH Letter, but here are some quick reactions to what’s been on my nightstand over the last few weeks. Big Swiss by Jen Beagin is a book you’ll be hearing a lot about (from me and no doubt others, if it has escaped your attention so far). I pre-ordered it and had it sent to me on a girls’ trip to Miraval in Tuscon after reading about the bidding war over it, along with the fact that it is coming out on screen starring Jodie Comer in what is certainly the most perfect get by the casting director. Every bit worth the hype. A lot more to be said, but it is all of the following and more: a very offbeat love story / an anti-trauma screed / dark comedy / highly original and maybe sometimes even too clever, but exceptionally well-written. Capote’s Women by Laurence Leamer is much more interesting than I thought it would be - an eye-opening nonfiction exhortation on Truman Capote’s real-life swans (headline: they’re all f*cked up) - and his cold-blooded betrayal of them. Coming out on screen too, by the way. Siracusa by Delia Ephron is a psychological thriller about two couples with lots of relationship issues on vacation in Sicily (sound familiar? The writers for White Lotus surely read this novel). Good for those of you who love Patricia Highsmith, White Lotus, Couples Therapy or you want to take a trippy adventure to Italy. In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss by Amy Bloom is an enthralling, unflinching, well-researched memoir about Bloom’s relationship with her late husband from meeting-to his Alzheimer’s-through his planned assisted suicide. I am ALL ABOUT the general theme of how love and loss are irrevocably intertwined, which is why I read it and this is an exquisitely written, widely relevant incantation on that theme. Pineapple Street by Jenny Jackson revolves around a WASPy family in Brooklyn Heights and how they do and do not (but mostly do not) travel outside their very small bubble of tennis, cocktail parties, trusts/prenups, private school and old money (read: quiet luxury) taste. They are a generationally wealthy family and the novel’s drama involves the next gen’s dating and marriages outside the bubble, as well as their reconciling their wealth and privilege with their wokeness. I read it because I lived in Brooklyn Heights in my twenties (but not their world of Brooklyn Heights). It is a highly readable dissection of a small, insular world. Honestly, I could not get through The Revolutionary: Sam Adams by Stacey Schiff. And I really, really tried. And I love biographies and histories. Particularly about our country’s founding and its founding fathers. And I love Boston and its history, where so much of the action took place. It’s written in a dense style with a lot of (great? I’m not sure) detail and getting great reviews, so you may want to try it anyway.

Next on my nightstand: The Creative Act: A Way of Being by Rick Rubin; Old Babes in the Wood by Margaret Atwood; The Midnight Library by Matt Haig; Trust by Henan Diaz; Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver.

Got something that should be on my radar? Any thoughts or comments on what I’ve read or should read? Or any other takes on the above? Culture / Comments is a new thing and will surely evolve over time so I’d love to hear what you think! Write me at Dish@PrimeCrush.com.

Extended Encounters. By Lisa Ellex

"Sal and Ken"

Our author's one-night stand lasted three-decades-long  – but we want to hear YOURS. In her column Extended Encounters, Lisa Ellex talks to couples who have been together for upwards of thirty years. If you and your partner are among the fortunate few whose relationship has been witness to seven presidential elections, 19 wars, a global pandemic, and Keith Richards falling out of a coconut tree then Lisa would love to hear from you lisaellex@gmail.com

Sal, a civil engineer, and Ken, a hairstylist, have been together 28 years, married for 10. Their unconventional meeting has led to a life that is the perfect design of work, play, and community service.

The gift of gab is just one of many gifts possessed by Sal, who represents one half of the couple I am meeting with today. Lively and sometimes brash, Sal speaks with rapid-fire delivery and initiates our conversation. “Since I was born first, I’ll start.  Age before beauty, right?  First things first.  If you plan on writing about our ‘May-December Romance,’ let me set the record straight. It’s a ‘Gay December Romance.’ See, we met on a bitter cold December afternoon in the middle of the blizzard of 1995 when I popped into a gay bookstore to (indicating with finger quotes) ‘warm up’ after spending the afternoon Christmas shopping for my wife and kids.  Little did I know I’d meet Kenichi, the love of my life, that day.”

I interrupt Sal. “Kenichi?”  

Ken answers. “That’s my given name. My Japanese mother chose it. Kids in school made fun of my name so I always went by “Ken.”  Sal is the only one who calls me “Kenichi.”

Sal adds, “And your parents.  Your parents call you by your proper name. It’s a beautiful name.  It means “wise one.”  And that he is.  Kenichi never speaks without thinking. He’s the opposite of me, in every way.  I just say what’s on my mind.  Take it or leave it. Or as Doris Day sang in the movie of the same name (singing), “Love Me Or Leave Me.”

Kinichi laughs, “Don’t tempt me.”

Sal continues. “I was born in 1947 to working class parents. My father owned and operated a machine parts business in New Jersey. My mother did the books. By the time I was 12, I realized I was equally attracted to both boys and girls. I did my best to squelch my same-sex attractions because in that time and place, same-sex dating was completely unacceptable. The day I became sexually active with women was the day I became promiscuous. I loved sex and I couldn’t get enough of it so I assumed I would never marry. I knew someday, somehow, I would have the freedom to explore my attraction to men but until that day came, I slept with an army of women. When I got to college I began dating Barbara, a stunning blonde who lived in my neighborhood. Barbara was super smart which made her all the more attractive to me. I was mad about her. When she asked that we see each other exclusively, I agreed. During Christmas break in freshman year, Barbara told me she was pregnant. My parents insisted we marry, and I was perfectly willing, but I knew I could never be faithful. So, there we were, two college freshmen in 1967 setting up house in the basement apartment of Barbara’s family home.  Barbara finished out the year, hiding her belly, and that summer our daughter arrived. Come the fall, we both returned to school while Barbara’s mother cared for our daughter and I worked weekends in my father’s business. I was twenty-years old and providing for my young wife and new baby.”

Ken pops in, “And I wasn’t even born yet!”

Sal continues, “Barbara and I graduated in 1970.  I got a job with an engineering firm and worked my way up the ranks and by 1972 we bought our first home.

Ken places his hand on Sal’s forearm, “And I still wasn’t born!”

Sal takes Ken’s hand, cooing, “Honey, you were worth the wait!” Sal turns back to me. “Life was good but I found myself desiring other women again. And the urge for other men was getting stronger. As I mentioned, Barbara was a smart lady.  She was also incredibly intuitive. I was really fortunate to have a partner that understood my desires. And I understood hers. Afterall, we were basically two kids thrown together out of duty and mutual respect. But times were changing. The world was changing. We talked about alternate lifestyles and came to an agreement to look the other way if we could conduct our extra-marital activities with discretion. A year later, our second daughter came along.

Kenichi interjects. “And so did I!”

Sal laughs. “Isn’t that wild? My second daughter and my future husband were born just weeks apart!”

Ken places his hand on his husband’s forearm again. “I’m a Brooklyn boy, but my parents met in the Peace Corps while both were training in Hawaii. My mother was from Japan, my father a Black Baptist minister, also born in Brooklyn. They are a living example of what it means to be of service, and they instilled me with that ethic. Sadly,  their union – and their life – was not an easy one. Mom was accepted into Dad’s church, but out in the rest of the world they suffered racism and xenophobia. Needless to say, so did I.”

Sal becomes quiet and more serious now. “I think we are just now coming to a place in the world where being ‘different’ – whether it be in the way you look, act, think, or conduct your life – is beginning to be understood. But we’re just scratching the surface.”

Ken continues. “Feeling that my parents’ lives were difficult enough, I didn’t dare come out to them until I was 25-years-old. With their struggles of a biracial marriage and raising a biracial son, the last thing I wanted to do was throw ‘gay’ into the mix.”

Sal adds, “I disagreed, and constantly encouraged Kenichi to talk to his parents, feeling that no one could better understand ‘being different’ than his parents.”

Ken concurs, “He was right.”

Sal smiles. “Thank you, darling.”  Ken returns the smile and loops his arm through Sal’s as Sal continues. “One thing we did agree on: when the day came for me to meet his parents, we wouldn’t breathe a word about the bookstore. Unlike me, Kenichi never went there to cruise.”

Ken confirms, “I was too shy and afraid to cruise. And I didn’t go to gay bars for fear of being seen coming out of one. My father’s congregation was enormous. People came to his church from all the boroughs and so there were few places I could go that people didn’t recognize me.  While visiting colleges during my senior year of high school, I happened to find this bookstore. I decided to check it out and from that day on it became the place where I did my gay socializing. I’d chit chat with other gay boys, see what they’re wearing, hear what music they’re listening to.  Yes, I’d even buy some magazines but as far as the naughty things that went on there, I didn’t participate.”

Sal teases, “You were such a good boy.”

Ken says, “I was saving myself for the right man.”

Sal teases, “And you hit the jackpot, didn’t you?”  Sal gets serious. “My cruising ended right there in that dingy little store the moment I laid eyes on Kenichi.  Cliché as it sounds, when I saw Kenichi, I knew I was seeing my future. We chatted – yes, we talked – for two hours in that store!  And with the snow coming down it was really quite romantic.”

Ken adds, “We exchanged numbers. Sal called me in the morning. We would meet a few times a week at a diner and spend hours just talking and talking. When the spring came, we’d go for long walks in the park. We became true friends. A good deal of our time together was spent with Sal offering career counseling. When we met, I had just started cosmetology school and I wasn’t sure I made the right decision. Though I did love beauty, I basically enrolled as a way to connect with the gay community.”

Continue reading here

Sexual Healing. By Liza Lentini

Say It, Love.

Unlocking our throat chakra might be the key to our heart’s desires (and it’s so easy to do).

Something that’s often lost when we talk about speaking is the true meaning of self-expression: how we communicate with others and how we communicate with ourselves. If your throat chakra is off in any way, it can make your communication off, too.

As with most of everything, it starts with you.

If it’s true that how we treat others is a reflection of how we feel about ourselves, what are the conversations you’re having with yourself? Do you tell yourself you’re beautiful? Do you honor your body as it ages, thanking it for all its hard work through the years? Do you look in the mirror and smile at yourself, your most beloved old friend?

If we were honest, most of us don’t do this. We tell ourselves stories about losing weight, make appointments to hide our aging, scorn ourselves for not doing more or being better.

It almost seems ridiculous to discuss the conversations we have with others until our conversations we have with ourselves are consistently loving.

Let’s assume you’re someone who’s had a full life or ups and downs and well-earned warrior status. But you don't speak very nicely to yourself. And then you get into a relationship with someone else. Sometimes they can help us to change things around. But we all know how this goes, right? Something goes wrong and we can’t express ourselves. Or, perhaps, if our inner voice isn’t a nice one, it gives us poor self-esteem. We say things we don’t mean. We people-please. We’re shy or anxious. And this applies to any relationship we hope to have, whether it’s work, home, intimate or otherwise.

Another way throat chakra imbalance shows itself is if someone just says things without thinking. This person isn’t bold or confident, they’re clumsy and can cause serious damage. I think we can all agree we’ve met a few people like this.

Continue reading here

What to Call Your Long-term Partner in Midlife That’s Cool & Sophisticated But Doesn’t Sound Weird or Forced. By Dish Stanley

Nothing. There is nothing! Why can’t we come up with something? Here are Dish's thoughts on what we resort to ...

Things We Resort to Calling Our Long-Term Partners in Midlife Because We Have Nothing Better

“Very Significant Other” (Feels forced. A little too imperative?)

“V.S.O.” (Too sterile. Are we really okay, as adults, using an acronym for this incredibly important person in our life?)

“Lifemate” or “Soulmate” (I feel like this is a creation of the fact that “mate” is derived from roommate, and then it got paired with “Life” and “Soul” to elevate it, right? Bottom line? It's both reductive and corny.)

“Lover” (My personal favorite actually, but everyone tells me it’s icckkkk.)

“My fiancé” (When used even though you never plan to marry as a way to convey the committed nature of the bond, it is {sigh} an accommodation to our obsessively couples-focused culture, and though it is understandable given our limited options I don't like it because it is a capitulation and not entirely accurate. I understand it though.}

Do you have a suggestion on a term that long-term committed couples can use to signify their commitment? Write to me. Please! Dish@PrimeCrush.com.

Social Media I Loved This Week. By Dish Stanley

@dianeweinberger This CRUSH Reader was in the pit at Bruce Springsteen's show in Brooklyn, and what a pic!

“Nothing mends a broken heart like cheese." - @norasingley

@nwdogproject

@newyorkercartoons

Song of the Week

Dancing In The Dark By Bruce Springsteen

As we all know by now, Bruce is currently on tour. I saw the Barclay's Center show in Brooklyn last week and it was a religious experience. I have been to probably 20 Springsteen shows through the years, starting way back in the 80's. Seeing him and the E Street Band now, in my 50's, I was particularly struck by how newly relevant some of the themes from his oldest songs are to me as a full-fledged adult. I chuckled when he sang "even if we're just dancin' in the dark." I am sure that when I first heard him sing that phrase in my twenties - to the extent I thought of myself getting older at all, which I probably didn't - I would have assumed that at some point I would no longer be "dancing in the dark." The laugh's on me, as Bruce says. I guess it's going to be a lifelong feeling.

Here's a live version from his current tour.

February 2023 Live Performance in Austin, TX. Listen Here
French Women Don’t Get Facelifts: The Secret of Aging with Style and Attitude: Mireille Guiliano. Reviewed by Evie Arnaude
Before we discuss Mireille Guiliano’s 2013 French Women Don’t Get Facelifts, we have to agree that this, like many books of its kind, is not meant to be a blanket statement about beauty, or create a regional hierarchy, or even a condemnation about plastic surgery. This is fun
Extended Encounters: A Series on Long-term Love. By Lisa Ellex
Columnist Lisa Ellex launches a new series on long-term relationships by looking inward at her own need for connection…
Your Big Green Heart. By Liza Lentini
It’s so easy to offer yourself much-needed comfort when you need it. Here’s how.
TOPIX - A Series: Exile in Normalville
TOPIX is our way of getting opinionated, courageous conversations started on what living and loving really looks like in midlife now.
Men of a Certain Age Whose Style Could Keep You Up at Night. By Dish Stanley
Here are some of the splendid men of style and substance I follow on social media who I think you’ll be better of spending some time with, too. @chuckpollard60 Chuck Pollard starts almost all of his reels with an a happy-feeling “Hey everybody, hope you’re all well!” He then moves

Don't forget to let me know what you think of Culture / Comments (any title suggestions?). What's on your radar? I'm at Dish@PrimeCrush.com.

And please, please, please forward The Crush Letter to all your friends! I'd love you for it.

Dish Stanley XO,
Dish


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