The Crush Letter No 124: We’re All High Maintenance

. 14 min read

I'm Dish and I write a weekly newsletter about life, love, and culture for those 50+.  Because midlife and beyond is so much hotter than they said it would be.  Hell yes, sign me up for the Dish.

Hello Crush,

Happy Saturday, my dear Crushes.

A little foreplay to start with ... we'll be bringing you one of our PrimeCrush Toy Tester Reports next Saturday. Hope you come for it (ba-dum).

But we have a lot for you this week, so let's get rolling. CRUSH Reader Danielle has given us Three Things She's Crushing On for her (and all of of our collective) 20-somethings. I should write a whole essay on just one of the tenets in The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz – Don't Make Assumptions – which is one of the worthy books she recommends. That, and her others, are such strong suggestions. Thank you, Danielle!

And then CRUSH Reader Evelyn – in honor of the London date I wrote about in last Saturday's The Crush Letter – shared a F*ck Song that was new on me, and perfect. Thanks Evelyn! What a beautiful sentiment. And yes, I've definitely fallen in love with a man after "only" talking with him (for hours over dinners, and days). So I get it.

We have a couple of entertaining Dear Dish letters, from Christian and Craig. Thanks, guys! I love your Dear Dishes!

And then I poured my heart out in an essay below prompted (again, oh dear) by that London date. I didn't tell you this when I wrote about it last week, but the date began in a fun and funny way – with my date's drink order calling to mind Sally's "pie a la mode" order in When Harry Met Sally. (Honestly is anything in the relationship world not somehow related to When Harry Met Sally?) In the essay I write about how we're all high maintenance, really, it's just that some of us own it. And it's owning it that makes sustained, emotionally intimate relationships possible - whether they are romances or friendships. In my own little world, with friends, when I call somebody "High Maintenance" what I'm really saying is that that person thinks they're low maintenance, but really they are just as banged up and quirky as the rest of us. (Or "HM," which is short for "High Maintenance Total Lack of Awareness" or "HTLA.") Their lack of self-awareness is what actually makes them "HM" because they don't acknowledge their own limitations in friendship and love.

Anyway, I hope you like it. (Who knows what will ultimately come out of that date, but I've gotten some good material for The Crush Letter from it, am I right?)

In the meantime, who can resist Sally?

PS: One of our most longstanding CRUSH Readers lost his dog this week. Such sorrow! We're all sending our hearts to you and yours, "A!" R.I.P. Sunshine.

If you're new here (welcome!), I'm Dish, the Master of Ceremonies. For more about me and why we're here go here.

In This Letter. +Nice to Meet You. How Are You Crazy? Alain de Botton Considers Beginnings.    We're All High Maintenance. Owning It Opens Up the Possibility for Something Real with Somebody Else. +Dear Dish. One thing: you note that the film THE SECRETARY is by Steven Spielberg, but it's by Steven Shainberg. :)   Three Things I'm Crushing On. from CRUSH Reader Danielle for "our" 20-somethings (& us)   +Songs That Make You Wanna F*ck. from CRUSH Reader Evelyn* this is in honor of Dish's London date! +Social Media I Loved This Week By Dish Stanley     +Our Song of the Week Can't we just talk?

Nice to Meet You. How Are You Crazy? Alain de Botton Considers Beginnings.

We're All High Maintenance. Owning It Opens Up the Possibility for Something Real with Somebody Else.

What is the most generous and honest way to begin a relationship?  Alain de Botton makes a surprisingly humble suggestion.

Connection would be easier if, when we met someone new, we began with “And how are you crazy? Because I am crazy like this.”  Authentic for sure.  Romantic? Not so much.

Or at least that's what I thought before going on the recent date that I described in The Crush Letter No. 123 as "a lingering, glimmering, very London thing." A delight! What I didn't tell you was that early on, at the bar before dinner, right after my date ordered his cocktail  "vodka – do you have Belvedere? – in a cold glass with ice, large cubes please – a shot of club soda, Fever Tree preferably – with a slice of lemon. Thank you." (I'll admit that Sally's pie a la mode order from When Harry Met Sally leapt to mind) my date looked at me and said "I'm high maintenance."

"Not at all," I laughed in response. "Schweppes Canada Dry is for amateurs."

But from the get-go I loved that he owned it. That he's high maintenance. Not just because I'm a caretaker who, ummmm without even trying, noticed every detail of his order (since my own shit invovles thoroughly indulging somebody's tiniest whims and quirky needs). But also, more importantly, because it's honest. Nobody is low maintenance, really. Once you actually get close to anyone (friend or romantic partner) their unique bundle of needs, fears, longings, vulnerabilities, irrational triggers, unexamined wounds, limitations and what-have-you emerge. In picking up anyone in your life for a real relationship, you're really just choosing which items in the smorgasboard of issues you're willing to take on. (And it goes without saying, they're picking up yours.) It's the people who don't think they're high maintenance that are the most impossible – the lack of self-awareness and introspection is a real obstacle to sustained intimacy.

Anyway, fun, funny and light is a warm way to start any conversation, let alone a date. But his "high maintenance" comment turned out to be the world's best ice breaker because a little while after we got seated at our table (he, having consumed his taj mahal of a vodka soda), I asked him, "So how else are you high maintenance?" (I like an open-ended soft lob that lets somebody roam freely in any direction they prefer - humorous, serious, light, deep. Such a great way to learn about somebody.) His response began something like this: "I just lost 30 lbs, so I'm not eating flour, sugar or pasta and not drinking wine. (It's just sugar.) Only vodka. I have to work out every day ... " And then went on to each of us sharing deeper and real things and funny things, too, about the ways we were each a little fucked up. But it was fun and humorous and real and tender and sort of a beautiful thing, being fuck-ups together in a gorgeous art deco atmosphere dressed up in sexy date attire.

And who knows where it goes, if anywhere, with him in particular but the thing about experiencing beautiful things like that with anybody is that it makes you feel good about not just the other person, but about you yourself (and the guts it takes to be out there, open and vulnerable) and the whole human experience. It's affirming and encouraging. It's like eating up a scoop of joy for dessert – the aftertaste lingers.

It also reminded me of one of my very first essays for The Crush Letter, in which I recommended listening to the On Being podcast episode in which Krista Tippett spoke with Alain de Botton. He is the author of Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person, the most read piece in the New York Times in 2016 (a year that saw a presidential election, BREXIT and a refugee crisis). This particular On Being episode was re-released in March 2021 because it was one of their most listened to podcasts ever.

In it, de Botton argues for a more honest, less splashy start to relationships. (He's talking about romantic relationships but this applies to any kind of relationship. Any kind of human interaction, really.) Acknowledging to ourselves, and then sharing with another, our imperfections as friends, lovers, romantic parters, is the right modest mindset for the true hard work of love, says de Botton.

“Love is a painful, poignant, touching attempt by two flawed individuals to try and meet each other's needs in situations of gross uncertainty and ignorance about who they are and who the other person is. . . [But we’ll] do our best.”  Humorous in its seemingly absurd modesty, but de Botton argues (and I've come to agree) that it's a much more generous (and honest) starting point for any relationship. It begins with being humble about our own limitations, open to living with another's limitations and realistic about the limitations of the human condition.  Love is not an enthusiasm.  “It’s a skill. It is something we learn, and make progress with."

So often we blame our lovers when things get rocky, de Bottom says.  What we should be doing is reconsidering our view of love itself.  This is a realization he came to honestly.  He had, he says, genuinely thought problems in love were the result of being with people who are in one way or another defective, a [view] that was fiercely tested when he met someone who was wonderful in every way. He married her.  And then discovered something surprising. There were all sorts of problems. “And I learned that they had to do with the challenges of being a human being trying to relate to another human being in a loving relationship.”  By accepting a more measured understanding of our humanity, we can then get to the hard work of love. Picking up the skills. "Forbearance, generosity, imagination and a million things besides."

Swiping right is easy enough. But we want our love to survive and thrive. And that requires the work of love. For instance, one of the very kindest things we can do with our partners is to be incredibly generous in the way we interpret their (seemingly sulky) behavior, says de Botton.  Can we get an app for that?  ("Is your partner being incommunicative? Before getting annoyed, ask yourself: Did she get a full night sleep? ...") Or an app that reminds us how truly difficult it is for people to change. That reminds us that some of the problem might actually be us. That there is just a lot of mundane shit in life; it’s not our partner’s fault that not every day is exciting and fun. That we will never fully be understood by someone else, really. How to live comfortably with our existential loneliness. Artificial intelligence will allow us to make a lot of advances in predicting, interpreting (and manipulating) human behavior for sure.  But all that work of love?  It is asking a lot of an app.

Better to begin by ordering a stiff drink, taking a deep breath and begin sharing all the ways that we're each high maintenance.

Here’s the On Being podcast.

A place for all of our "Letters to the Editor"

Dear Dish..

"Hi Dish,

Thanks for your tribute to Robbie Robertson. I totally agree: his work gets better with time.

One note: you note that the film THE SECRETARY is by Steven Spielberg,  but it's by Steven Shainberg. :)


Dear Christian:

OH MY GOD, I've been a bad, bad girl. Like Lee {in The Secretary}, I should be spanked. I am going to correct and republish that column on the 5 Things That Turn Me On. Right away, Mr. Pan.

Thank you!


Dear Dish,

You're so welcome!

I love that movie with Spader & Gyllenhaal, too, and actually studied with the screenwriter while an undergrad, so when I saw the director´s name, I went, "Wait a sec....".

-Mr. Pan

CRUSHES: Here's that excerpt again from my 5 Things That Me On:

Watching Secretary, directed by Steven Shainberg. This superbly cast, quirky 2002 arthouse film about the dominant-submissive relationship that develops between a businessman (James Spader) and his assistant (Maggie Gyllenhaal) thrills with its combination of smarts, originality, eroticism and humor.

"Dear Dish:

I can handle the bottom three “Dinner Party Tough Choices,” but the top three wouldn’t get invited.  

I'll pull a Mute along.

Flirty can be fun.

And smart/interesting I'm all about.


CRUSHES: Here's the Tough Choices again.

Three Things I'm Crushing On

In this series, readers like you share recommendations for the things they love the most, right at this moment.

Three Things I'm Crushing On: Submission from CRUSH Reader Danielle

If you have a 20-something in your life (I have three) here are three books you should consider getting them. The first two fall in the category of “principles and ways of thinking to help set them up as productive and happy adults” and the last one is just a really good, timely novel about 20-somethings living very exciting lives in the big, bad world post-college (taking some hard knocks, scoring some wins, falling in love).

1.  The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter And How to Make the Most of Them By Meg Jay ($16.71)

I should start by saying that this is like a bible in my home right now (we have three kids in their twenties). I wish I had read this when I was in mine, and I’m glad that I read it now in order to better understand my kids and their mindset. Jay is a clinical psychologist who shares insight into her conversations with 20-something’s. One point she makes over and over is that this generation is living with a “staggering, unprecedented amount of uncertainty.” Jay covers the areas of work, love, the brain and body and establishes ways to thinking through, making decisions and moving forward in each of these areas. One of my kids in particular can get overwhelmed, has anxiety, and this book has helped keep him steady. Another is soooo ambitious, a world beater, and this book has reminded her of the bigger picture. I can't emphasize how much it matters that some of this information comes from somebody other than me and their father ...

2.  The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom By Don Miguel Ruiz ($7.74)

The four agreements themselves seem pretty obvious (the first being “Be impeccable with your word”), but having them laid out with powerful explanations and contextualization drives home their significance. Particularly, the downsides and implications for you of not adhering to the agreements. It’s a book about empowering yourself by reminding (and re-committing) yourself to a code of conduct that will serve you well as an adult. In our household we all know the four agreements and can refer to them as guideposts (even when we may sometimes fall short, we know what we are aiming for).

3.   Tomorrow, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow By Gabrielle Zevin ($14.71)

It’s fabulous! A novel that follows the lives of three 20-something’s who are game designers just out of college. They go through the whole rollercoaster ride as they find success and confront failure in all the key areas covered by Meg Jay in The Defining Decade, including love (and friendship), work, physical and mental/emotional health. The book covers the importance of love and of play (yes, play!).

Continue reading here

Songs That Make You Wanna F*ck.

An occasional pop-up where PrimeCrush Readers share the songs that make them want to bang. Thanks to Evelyn* for sharing his. Got one?  Send it to me at

Submitted by Crush Reader Evelyn*

Talk By Khalid

What about this song musically does it for you?

The whole idea of just getting close to somebody by talking to them — really talking, as in sharing important things and listening closely is so sexy. Why is this such an astonishing concept? It shouldn’t be, but it is.

Is there a memory you attach to this song?

I have fallen in love with somebody simply through sharing the emotional intimacy of really good, close and vulnerable conversations, yes.

Who/what are you thinking of when you listen to this song?

His name is James. I met him over a decade ago, and before we got started physically (romantically) he learned he was moving across country, so we reversed course into a friendship and each continued our romantic journeys separately. I haven't seen him in a decade, but we're still in touch – both happily married! – and and I still love James and the friendship we built from talking.

Anything else...?

The lyrics to this song: “Can’t we just talk? Talk about where we’re going / Before we get lost / Let me out first / Can’t get what we want without knowing”. This song is a celebration of the slow build-up, and falling in love with the whole human being in front of you.

Social Media I Loved This Week








Song Of The Week

Talk By Khalid

Can't we just talk?

Talk about where we're going?

Before we get lost.

Live at Capital’s Summertime Ball 2019

Dish Stanley XO,

Invisalign Is Having a Midlife+ Moment But Advice Is Anything But Aligned. What You Need to Know*. By Kirstan Barnett
Invisalign feels like Aperol Spritz in the summer of 2021. Remember how all of a sudden everybody was drinking it? Almost everyone I know over 50 is on, done with or about to start Invisalign. Over Thanksgiving my Mother mentioned to me that one of my bottom front teeth was
The Midlife Friend Audit: You Need Good Friends. But Who Is Good? By Dish Stanley
Dish argues that having close friends is a necessity, but determining who staysand who goes requires some conscious consideration. She dishes out her secrets. You need friends. I wrote about how critical they are to our lives and happinessin Six Ways to Find the Friends Who Count and
The Rituals of Comfort. By lady Verity
“Comfort is an expansive word. There is day comfort, night comfort, bed comfort, couch comfort and certainly kitchen comfort and it goes on.”
DEVOUR {things to watch, read, and listen to}
In our monthly DEVOUR column we share all the things we think you should eat up. Let’s try a new thing where we add reader recommendations at the top. What do you think? Let me know at (I don’t get replies to this email.)From

The Crush Letter
The Crush Letter is a weekly newsletter from Dish Stanley curating articles & intelligence on everything love & connection - friendship, romance, self-love, sex. If you’d like to take a look at some of our best stories go to Read Us. Want the Dish?


'Merci'! to Emily in Paris for one of the most riverting women in pop culture "Divorce, Baby, Divorce" by Liza Lentini "Don't Touch My Hat.*" Midlife Men & Loneliness "This is a Tale of Modern Love ..." 2022 2024 Hit List 3 things I'm crushing on 5 Books to Help You Chill TF Out 5 Great Boutique Hotels Around NYC. By Jeanne Bosse 5 things that turn our crush readers on A Book That Could Unf*ck Your Relationship: I Want This To Work By Elizabeth Earnshaw. Reviewed By Angela Kempf. A Circle of Crones. By Elayne Clift A Roman Love Affair. By Lady Verity A Turntable and a Candle: F-ing Classics About Face: Skincare Essentials for Men An Upbeat Playlist for the Divorce-curious And I Wondered ... Do We Really Need A SATC Reboot? And Just Like That... Who Are These People?? By Jeanne Bosse And so this is Another brother gained and lost. By Jeanne Bosse Anything But Dull Ask Dish Bedtime Rituals for Couples. By Lauren D. Weinstein Bisexually Anxious Among the Noodges. Review: shiva Baby Bloody Good Sex Book review Book Review: A Certain Hunger by Chelsea G. Summers Book Review: I'm With The Band by Pamela Des Barres. Reviewed by Evie Arnaude Book Review: Maurice Book Review: Norma Kamali: I Am Invincible Book Review: Swan Dive: The Making of a Rogue Ballerina by Georgina Pazcoguins. Reviewed By Lady Varity Book Review: The Confidence Game: Why We Fall For It Every Time By Maria Konnikova' Book Review: The Lover. By Marguerite Duras. Book Review: The Story of O Book Review: VOX by Nicholson Baker. Reviewed by Christian Pan Building The Perfect Music Collection Calm App Review: “If I Traveled Or Worked In An Office, I Would Rely On This App Heavily”. By Evie Arnaude Christian Pan CRUSH Summer Reading List! From CRUSH Reader Sharon Weinberg, Owner of The Chatham Bookstore Culture/Comments Dear Dish devour DEVOUR {things to do, have & know about} Devour: Reads we think you should devour Dish Gets A Kink Assessment. Dish Stanley Dish Stanley's Rules for Polite Society Doing Nothing With Friends Eating Out. No Reservations Required. By Sugar Lips Effortless, Natural Holiday Makeup. By Lauren D. Weinstein Emily In Paris Extended Encounters. By Lisa Ellex F*ck Songs. Three Best Jazz Albums for a Sexy Night In. By Lisa Ellex Facelifts: The Secret of Aging with Style and Attitude: Mireille Guiliano. Reviewed by Evie Arnaude Five Best Jazz Clubs Around The Country. By Lisa Ellex Foria's Totally Useful Guide to Sexting Four Indie Bookstore That Stayed In My Life Long After I Left Town. By Dish Stanley French Kiss: French Girls Do It Better, Right? friendship Fun in the sun skincare tips get your spy thrill on Girl Crush. By Lady Verity Grief. By Lauren D. Weinstein Healing Through Change. By Lauren D Weinstein Heard It at The Grammys: Dishs Crush on Silk Sonic Hefner. By Bob Guccione, Jr Hide A Love Note In Their Pocket. Hit List Holiday Invites Holiday Perspectives. By Dean Christopher Hook Ups Hot Thots How to Be the Most Charming Person at a Holiday Party. By Evie Arnaude How to find porn thats actually good I am my own family I just turned 60 but I feel 22 I redesigned my closet. I'm Dish, the Master of Ceremonies Im glad my mom died In Good Hands. Kathy: This Is A Love Story About Three Friends La Mia Famiglia by Lisa Ellex Lamentations on the Lost Art of Kissing. By Elisabeth C. Lamotte Leave the husband, bring the cannoli. By A.K.A. Darla Leaving the door open Let's Reconsider, with Adam Grant Love & Mike's "Bad Girl Pasta" Love/Sex/Moon Magick By Lynn Eaton LXIX. By A.K.A. Darla Meeting Across the River Melissa Biggs Bradley's New Book Safari Style Makes Me Want To Go On A Safari midlife MIDLIFE CRISIS: When Reality Strikes, By Dean Christopher Movie Magic. By Amy Ferris My First Solo Trip: Mexico, Part I. By Dawn Larsen My Prostate Journey: A Personal Story Naked & Not afraid by KC Roth Nice to Meet You. How Are You Crazy? Oasis in the Desert. One woman's honest journey through vaginal rejuvenation. OMG Yes. Pamela Anderson: What Her Story Says About Us paris Pillow Tawk (or NOT)? Play well with others. By Dish Stanley Playing Games: A Review of Esther Perel's New Sold Out Card Game. Podcast Review: Dying for Sex. Why You Need to Listen to Molly's Journey. political thrillers PrimeCrush & Chill: Movies Worth a Re-Watch PrimeCrush Bookshop PrimeCrush Cocktail Coaster Giveaway! QUIVER. Sexual Debut Stories. recommedations Red Flags Reports from the edge. By Jane Boon Sexual Frustrations. By Elisabeth C Lamotte Shameless Quick & Easy Mac & Cheese. By Evie Arnaude Sighs & Moans. By Ralph Greco SIP. Best Lines from the Double Dates Podcast Hosted by Marlo Thomas & Phil Donahue Six Ways to Get the Friends Who Count Snapshot Rec: Get Yourself Sexify-ed on Netflix. Snapshot Rec: Read Liza Lentini on the Indigo Girls in SPIN Solo in my Sixties. By Jeanne Bosse Songs That Make You Wanna F*ck. Stanley Tucci Is Paradise Stories to Read Aloud to a Lover. By A.K.A. Darla Tell Me More. By Dish Stanley Thanksgiving The 3 Things You're Really Fighting About The 4 Most Common Skincare Issues for Men (But Were Afraid to Ask). By Lauren D. Weinstein The Crush Letter 44 The Crush Letter 51: DEVOUR The Crush Letter 58 the crush letter 72 the crush letter 73 The Crush Letter 75 the crush letter 77 The Crush Letter Its a tune The Crush Letter No 33 The Crush letter No 36 The Crush Letter No 39 The Crush Letter No 40 The Crush Letter No 41: DEVOUR The Crush Letter No 42 The Crush Letter No 43 The Crush Letter No 45 The Crush Letter No 46: DEVOUR The Crush Letter No 50 The Crush Letter No 53 The Crush Letter No 54 The Crush Letter No 55 The Crush Letter No 56 DEVOUR The Crush Letter No 57 The Crush Letter No 59 The Crush Letter No 60: DEVOUR The Crush Letter No 61 The Crush Letter No 62 the crush letter no 63 The Crush Letter No 64 The Crush Letter No 65: DEVOUR The Crush Letter No 66 The Crush Letter No 67 The Crush Letter No 68 The Crush Letter No 69 The Crush letter No 70 The Crush Letter No 74: DEVOUR The Crush Letter No 78 The Crush Letter No 80 The Crush Letter No 81 The Crush Letter No 82 The Crush Letter No 83: DEVOUR The Crush Letter No 84 The Crush letter No 85 The Crush Letter No 86: The Toy Tester Report The Crush letter No:71 DEVOUR The Crush Letter No. 79 The Crush Letter No. 94 The Crush Letter: Culture / Comment The Dynamics of Friendhip By Lauren D. Weinstein The Friendship Files By AKA Darla The Golden Bachelor The Hole. By Kiva Schuler The Holiday Anti-Checklist By Liza Lentini The Perfect Snowy Saturday. By Jeanne Bosse The Ritual of Comforts. By Lady Verity The Sex Position Report. By Dish Stanley The Solo Series Thee Timeless Travel Books. By Bob Guccione Jr. Things To Let Go Of. By Dish Stanley This must be the place To get all of us, subscribe. Top Ten Jazz Albums To Soothe Your Soul. By Lisa Ellex TOPIX Transitions Treats: A Sex Toy Tester Update Under The Radar Series. By Dish Stanley Valentines day what dead to me taught me about family. Who Are CRUSH Readers Grateful For? Women of a Certain Age Whose Style I Admire You're My Medicine You're Wearing A Turtleneck, Again? Your Big Green Heart. By Liza Lentini Your Love Is King & Queen, GQ Zits a poppin Zoning Out in Comfort. By Dean Christopher