The Crush Letter No 134

. 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 morning. I hope that everyone is well, and safe.

On Friendship. I am writing from Stockholm. It is cold and rainy outside, but I am fully ensconced in cafe life, soaking up time with a close girlfriend. I’ve been blessed to enjoy a lot of time with my closest friends this past summer and fall, and have given a lot of thought to friendship and the significant role that my closest friends play in my life. That’s the reason for my piece this week, The Friendship Edit.

One of the key insights I had about friendship I got from Logan Ury’s dating advice book How To Not Die Alone. The book feels primarily aimed at people in their 20’s and 30’s navigating their way through finding their first romantic partner as an adult, but one good key piece of advice seems so obviously applicable to friendship, I thought. I include that in my piece below.

The thing about friends is that it is important to be conscientious about the truly close ones and not only because you only have so much time to divvy up, but also because they can have outsized influence and impact on your well-being. So that’s what my piece is about. I hope it’s useful.

But Our First Piece Today Is On Sex. Quiver is one of my favorite regular CRUSH columns. For it, columnist Lisa Ellex interviews CRUSH Readers (and you could be one if you’d like!) who volunteer to share their sexual debut stories. How it all unrolled, and what it meant to them then, and as their life evolved.

And Evie Arnaude gives us an excellent review of French Women Don’t Get Facelifts: The Secret of Aging with Style and Attitude by Mireille Giuliano. And more.


In This Letter. +QUIVER. Sexual Debut Stories. By Lisa Ellex “Then, just before Christmas, plans changed. Joe received a letter that he was drafted to serve in the Vietnam War.“ +The Friend Edit: You Need Good Friends. But Who Is Good? By Dish Stanley "We all have limited time and energy, and our lives are better allocating it proportionally to those who love us best." +French Women Don’t Get Facelifts: The Secret of Aging with Style and Attitude: Mireille Guiliano. Reviewed by Evie Arnaude "This is a fun book full of potential tips and tricks, and important reminders that getting older is beautiful in and of itself." +Social Media I Loved This Week +Our Song of the Week

QUIVER. Sexual Debut Stories. By Lisa Ellex

A tender and exciting column of true stories looking back at first-time sex.

Who made YOU Quiver? PrimeCrush columnist Lisa Ellex wants to know. Just whisper it in her ear and your “first-time” story could be the inspiration for her next Quiver column. Anonymity a concern? She'll change your name, location, and any other piece of identifying info, just like they do in the witness protection program. Except you don't have to move. So if you want to Quiver with us, contact


My Brooklyn neighborhood of the 1960s and 70s produced a tight-knit group of kids. We were a gang of miniatures who walked to school and church together, did homework together, played street games and, when the street lights came on in the evening, we’d walk each other home.  As romances sprung up during adolescence, we paired off with our crushes. Some of us even paired off for life.  Such was the plan for me and Joe. 

Two years my senior, Joe was handsome, funny, gentle, and kind. From a young age, Joe could fix anything; a talent I witnessed first hand when I took a tumble from my bike one Saturday morning after my bicycle chain had snapped. Sitting on the ground examining a bruised and bloody knee, I felt someone lifting me up from behind. It was Joe.  He dusted me off, picked up my bike, and propped it up with the kickstand. After giving it a serious examination, he walked to his own bicycle and, from a small leather pouch attached to the back of his seat, produced a small tool kit. In less than 15 minutes, Joe repaired my chain and sent me on my way.  After that day, I paid close attention to the 12-year-old Mr. Fix-It and held every boy in the neighborhood to a high standard. Joe was, by far, the front-runner.  

When Joe was a high school sophomore, his woodshop teacher noticed his skills and arranged for him to join the co-op program at a neighborhood trade school. This was a type of internship that enabled high school students to get career training with pay. When my parents decided to renovate our cramped kitchen during the stifling summer before I entered high school, they hired Joe to do the cabinet and carpentry work.  With no air conditioning in the kitchen, Joe would sweat through his tee shirt by 11am.  From the front row seat of our kitchen table, I would suffer the heat and linger over my breakfast while pretending to be doing my summer reading, all the while studying the various muscles of Joe’s back as they rippled and flexed with each swing of the hammer.  When my mother caught on to what I was doing, I was banished to breakfasts on the front stoop for the remainder of the renovation.

By the time school started, Joe and I had become “an item” or, as the old ladies in the neighborhood referred to it, we were “keeping company.” Though I was 14 and Joe was 16,  he courted me as if we were adults. Generous with his earnings and always a gentleman, he would take me out every weekend; movies, roller skating, the beach, restaurants, and our beloved “Jahn’s” ice cream parlor. I was the envy of my freshman class.

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The Friend Edit: You Need Good Friends. But Who Is Good? By Dish Stanley

Having close friends is a necessity, but determining who stays and who goes requires some conscious consideration. Dish shares what has become the most important barometer for her, something she only picked up as a conscious practice recently, and as a result of staying on top of top dating advice.

You need friends. I wrote about how critical they are to our lives and happiness in Six Ways to Find the Friends Who Count and Why You Need Them in Letter No. 7. In that article, I cited Eric Barker and the shocking stats he published from an epidemiologic study of 300,000 people to determine fatality correlations. Based on the study, only two things will make a huge difference in your longevity: the frequency of your social support and how integrated you are within a community.

So, you need friends. But you don’t need to be everybody’s close friend. If the pandemic was good for anything at all, it was the opportunity it created to loosen up some bonds. If you weren‘t in the headspace then, now is the time. Typical transitions at this stage of life - a move, becoming an empty nester, retiring, trauma - can and should cause shifts in your friendship circle.

Mark Manson, author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck wrote about what he calls the five levels of friendship. “Because few stop to think about the quality of their friendships and whether or not they’re surrounded by assholes.” His levels go from “Hey, It’s That Guy” to “We’re Practically Family”. His piece is here.

I tend to think in concentric circles myself, with the innermost circle representing those whose heart I carry with me in my heart (to steal from the great poet e.e. cummings). This is the model my Mother taught me in my teens after a round with Cindy, who was super fun but often proved self-absorbed. My characteristically matter-of-fact Mother suggested “I think you want to keep her in your life, but knock her back a ring or three. She’s so self-involved, she might not even notice.”

We all have limited time and energy, and our lives are better allocating it proportionally to those who love us best. Here are some things to consider as we determine which concentric circle our friends belong in, if any at all.

1. The Biggest Thing: How do you feel when you are with them?

This has become my most important barometer. I picked it up (and repurposed it) from Logan Ury, author of How Not To Die Alone. It’s a dating book, but her approach is equally imperative for friendships. Ury says to stop going on dates with checklists and educational, financial and physical criteria. That’s “evaluative” dating and it’s the wrong mindset (not to mention not at all fun!). Even common interests aren’t relevant, she said.

What is? How do you feel when you‘re with them? Ury offers up a “post date eight” assessment - a series of questions to ask yourself that explore how you felt during the date - things like did you feel “stiff or relaxed?” “high energy or drained?” “curious or bored?” “listened to or talked over?”

These are just as relevant when considering who to keep close as a friend. Here is how I feel when I’m with my closest friends: Goofy. Expansive. Fun. Curious. Interesting. At ease. Also often emotionally intense. Listened to. Like they’ll give me a pass for not being able to complete a sentence before I’ve finished my morning coffee, or not being able to figure out where I placed my keys (again). (Not all of these things all of the time, and every once in a while none of them. But usually some of them.) When I walk into my friend Dina’s kitchen, I can literally feel the tension in my neck imperceptibly release. I know that I can bring every part of me there.

2. Are They Someone Who Shows Up for Their Friends?

Some people get the importance of friends. They organize their lives in a way that prioritizes and honors their important friendships. Others just can’t find a way to regularly fit friends in.

The people who show up for you are the most important. Of course sometimes even the most devoted friends have a conflict, but if it is truly critical, you want to feel like your innermost circle will try to move mountains. The 30’s and 40’s found a lot of us at the crux of the killer combination of careers, heavy-duty child rearing, aging parents and marriage, for instance. Those are tough years for friendships, even for those who value it. One of the gifts of hitting your 50‘s is that some of that eases up and leaves more space to enjoy and nurture friendships.

But let’s be honest, some don’t truly value friendship. Arthur Brooks identified people who value their exceptionalism above everything else his article “‘Success Addicts’ Choose Being Special Over Being Happy. There are some people you can love, admire and enjoy a friendship with but not put in your innermost circle.

You’ve got to play the long game in friendship, and you’ve got to cut others the slack (and understanding) that you’d want them to for you. So on some level you might be asking yourself about a friend, are they in a crunch or do they just not value our friendship? It’s not always immediately evident, but this gets answered in time.

3. Convenience, Shared Interests and Transactional Relationships

Don’t confuse proximity, shared interests, the parents of your child’s best friend, the most fun person you've ever met or a big rolodex with the qualities above. We need helpful neighbors, friends to play golf with, carpools, to have fun, to network — but we also need friends who make us feel good and show up for us. Reflecting on who is what is the mark of this wisdom thing they say we get as we mature. You can't prioritize and "inner circle" (yes I just turned that into a verb) anyone who is not doing the latter regardless of whether they do any or all of the foregoing. I spent my 20's and 30's believing that anyone who I had fun with was a best friend. And then I noticed who showed up for me at (and after) my late husband's death at 41 years old. Fun is not the same as true. (Though sometimes you get lucky.)

Shared interests are a terrific basis from which a deeper friendship can grow. But it is not enough on its own for you to get the kind of soul-fulfilling experience you get (and need) from friends who make you feel seen and beautiful and who show up for you over time. On the other hand, some of the friends you’ve had the longest and shared the most important moments with now have lives and interests that don’t resemble yours. Maybe your life has gone from afternoons at 4H Club meet-ups in the country to late nights at jazz clubs in New York City, while she became a country vet. But if she still shows up and makes you feel seen, find the thing you can do together now. Two-stepping at the local dive. Scrabble. A walk. There is something. Find it.


The important thing I remind myself about doing a friend edit is that by being conscious of who to keep closest, I’m being a friend to myself.

French Women Don’t Get Facelifts: The Secret of Aging with Style and Attitude: Mireille Guiliano. Reviewed by Evie Arnaude

"This is a fun book full of potential tips and tricks, and important reminders that getting older is beautiful in and of itself."

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 a fun book full of potential tips and tricks, and important reminders that getting older is beautiful in and of itself.  

A follow-up to 2004’s French Women Don’t Get Fat and 2006’s French Women for All Seasons (and there have been many more since), this book continues the franchise of tidy tidbits of advice on how to age gracefully. Though “facelifts” is in the title, it’s the subhead that represents the book’s overall sentiment: The Secret of Aging with Style and Attitude. While all regions have their own special something, French women have always possessed “that thing” we’ve wanted to bottle for centuries.

What is, perhaps, distinctly French (aside from Guiliano’s ever-charming very-frank phrasing), is the overall acceptance of aging throughout the centuries in France, a place known for its beauty and style. It was Carrie Fisher who famously said, "Men don't age better than women, they're just allowed to age.” A member of an industry that demands women stay young and beautiful in order to work, most of you reading this right now are possibly members of a community that demands you are young and beautiful, also. (Are you one of the oldest members on your management team, for instance?) The pressures to retain and long and forgotten youth are everywhere, even if we’re not aware of them.

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Social Media I Loved This Week









Song Of The Week

Something You Got by Forest Sun

I just discovered this Forest Sun song through my Spotify mix, and I like it. What do you think?

Dish Stanley XO,

QUIVER. Sexual Debut Stories. By Lisa Ellex
Who made YOU Quiver? PrimeCrush columnist Lisa Ellex wants to know. Just whisper it in her ear and your “first-time” story could be the inspiration for her next Quiver column. Anonymity a concern? She’ll change your name, location, and any other piece of identifying info, just like they do in
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How One Group of Men Does A Good Book Club. And the Books They’ve Liked Best. By Dish Stanley
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If you love me as much as I love you (and I really do love you!), then please help me grow by forwarding this {love} Letter to a friend! And I'd love to have you join us on instagram.

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?


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