The Crush Letter No 137

. 19 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,

Thank you for your notes, CRUSHES, on last week’s Thanksgiving story. Writing about cooking side-by-side with my Mother resonated with so many of you. ”There are so many love languages really,” one reader wrote. “Recognizing some of them takes maturity, Dish. Don’t beat yourself up.” (Thanks Jenn!)

Another CRUSH Reader (Frank) wrote: “You’re skipping a big, fattening, bland meal full of dull conversation (because nobody can say anything funny anymore) with extended family, including those you can barely countenance (after last year’s tragically dull, if not offensive, conversation) after traveling through miserable weather? You really think you can get away with that shit and remain a respectable member of society?”

Well Frank, I think we did. Hope your sister-in-law took her meds this year, though!

My sort of low-key Thanksgiving was just what I needed this year. My nephew Patrick and I had an idyllic (if unconventional) day, including Thanksgiving without turkey. I say “sort of” low-key because, when it comes to meals, my family doesn’t really do low-key, even when we are a sub-set of only two people, a reality that was driven home when Patrick headed out to the market at 10am because it occurred to him that he should concoct a special drink for our cocktail hour (“It’s Thanksgiving!”). We didn’t have the right herbs, he muttered, rummaging through the refrigerator. (We had fresh mint, rosemary, thyme, cilantro and sage.) I write about our fabulous day below in Anything But Dull.

One CRUSH Reader did not have anything resembling a low-key Thanksgiving. That’s @miketrap. He’s the CRUSH Reader who contributed his classic recipe Mike’s Bad Girl Pasta waaay back in April 2021) to The CRUSH Letter No 8. Here is what he had going on for Thanksgiving (NB: I’m lovin’ the edge in his caption.):

And, I noted from his feed, that here’s how his turkey turned out (gorgeous!):

That’s spatchcocked, rubbed in a compound butter. Respect, @miketrap. Respect. Hope you had some Thanksgiving elves, buddy. What are you serving for Christmas? We’re ready.

But did you know what to wear? Needless to say, since my nephew Patrick and I had no guests for Thanksgiving, we had no need to stress over our wardrobe. But the insta-sensation Hayden Cohen (@hayderz), who hails from Boston (as do a lot of funny people, it turns out — Boston driving requires that — Denis Leary, Amy Poehler, Conan O’Brien, Bill Burr, Steve Carell, Jennifer Coolidge) did this send-up of influencer culture that still has me laughing, What Influencers Wear to Thanksgiving (as if anyone needs to know this). In case you just can’t, it closes with this: “I know a lot of you are like, can you give a rundown on what Thanksgiving actually is because a lot of you don’t understand it and it‘s basically, it has to do with the Mayflower and it’s when all the turkeys were freed … so I think it’s super important to support the turkeys and the Mayflower …”

Watch here.

Here’s an insta phenomenon offering something useful. (I mean, if you are hosting.) @sharonsaysso offers five ways to avoid getting roped into conversations you don’t want to have at holiday gatherings. If you don’t know about her, she’s Sharon McMahon, a former government teacher from the Midwest who “is on a mission to combat political misinformation by sharing non-partisan facts about the US government,  democracy and history“ (according to her site). She hosts a book club and lectures to over one million followers, including me.

Here she is, off her normal political/history script, giving advice on “how not to ruin people’s holidays by getting into giant arguments about things people are highly unlikely to change their mind on in the moment.” Good larger point, Sharon. (I mean, why engage at all on controversial topics at these things?) Her tips are slyly effective. (She offers three in this reel, and two more ”bonus suggestions” in her caption underneath.)

(Oh, and I don’t know why she does this but she often puts her make-up on live during reels and lectures. I find it off-putting (as if, what? we’re on such an intimate level I should be invited into her bathroom), but her die-hard fans love how “real” it (and she) is. The make-up routine you see here is quintessential @sharonsaysso. (But the advice is good, trust me …)

Watch here

And, on another note. I have a close friend who sent me this loaded comic:

I’m feeling refreshed (and jolly, even) after my offbeat Thanksgiving but it‘s a reminder that so many are not feeling merry as the holiday approaches. I wanted to share something about the most helpful ways that friends reached out to me over that one really fucking awful holiday season (now over 10 years ago) after my late husband died (a month earlier, in October). I wrote Somebody You Love Needs to Hear from You because ever since getting through that one really fucking awful holiday season, every year when December hits I do a mental scan through my friends and acquaintances to think about who might be finding this holiday season difficult (if not really fucking awful) — starting with who has had a break-up, lost a loved one or a job, is apart from family — and going on from there.

It’s like the lines from the song first recorded by Louis Armstrong (so poignantly) in 1967 What A Wonderful World.

I see friends shaking hands

Saying, “How do you do?”

They’re really saying

“I love you”

Just reaching out with a simple hello and “I’m thinking of you” is saying I care about you. For somebody going through a tough time, showing up (somehow) to remind them that they are surrounded by love can help them believe they’re going to get through it. At least in my my very lived and real experience, it did for me.

Also - What A Wonderful World is, not coincidentally, our Song of the Week.

And, one last thing to be grateful for as you hurdle into further holiday gatherings. That your family is not the Berzatto family, so you’re most likely not going to have to sit through a version of their harrowing Christmas dinner from Season 2 of The Bear (which is meticulously dissected, technically and stylistically, by Thomas Flight here).

The absolutely perfect Jamie Lee Curtis, snapped from the show.

Rejoice, for that alone! Also because we have much more for you in this Letter. Enjoy!



In This Letter. +Anything But Dull. A Perfectly Patrick Thanksgiving By Dish Stanley We discussed the menu at length two weeks before Thanksgiving, over dinner in New York. “It’ll be so low-key,” we agreed. +Three Things I’m Crushing On. From CRUSH Reader “Peter” I’m writing from NYC, where I live in a very small apartment and by necessity am always searching for well-designed, no-fuss solutions to everyday life. +Somebody Needs to Hear from You. By Dish Stanley +Social Media I Loved This Week +Our Song of the Week They’re really saying ‘I love you’


Anything But Dull. A Perfectly Patrick Thanksgiving By Dish Stanley

Every family has its own love language, and some involve a lot of time in the kitchen.

My nephew Patrick and I hosted a Thanksgiving consisting of just the two of us and my dog, Ricky, which was just what I needed this year for a number of reasons (including the ones I wrote about last week in I’m Not Going Home for Thanksgiving. What Are Your Doing? ).

We discussed the menu at length two weeks before Thanksgiving, over dinner in New York. “It’ll be so low-key,” we agreed. “And let’s not have turkey,” Patrick said, matter-of-factly. “Turkey is “dull.”

In my family, with foul (or any other species) “dull“ is the kiss of death. Sending me out into the world after college (I was headed to New York City), having graduated with “meh” grades from my state university, my Mother (who is never over-prescriptive) had only one admonition for me. “I don’t care what you become, honey,“ she said. “Just don’t become dull. I can’t bear dull.” As if, after four years of under-achieving academically (eight if you include high school) in the wilds of rural New England, the City That Never Sleeps was going to turn me dull.

So Patrick and I ditched the turkey on account of its dullness, but we did incorporate the best part of my Mother’s Thanksgiving menu. Her pumpkin pie. She obligingly weighed in with sage advice from afar when I called her, early on in the day, at odds over a tricky crust moment. “Honey,“ she said, scrutinizing my crust via face time “I think you may need to add some flour. It should be moist like a sponge, not wet like a leaking diaper.”

Patrick and I had agreed that our Thanksgiving wold be “low-key,” but I had my doubts. When it comes to meals, my family doesn’t really do low-key. We grew up having a seated dinner, with the whole she-bang — fully set table, cloth napkins, and some sort of centerpiece, etc. — practically every night. The meal didn’t start until everyone was seated, even if that meant waiting an awkwardly long period of time for somebody to finally exit the bathroom. We then said grace aloud together. Nobody got up from the table until everybody was finished, and that included ignoring phone calls or knocks on the door. (Although if somebody was too slow, my brother might ”help” the food to disappear off the culprit’s plate into the mouths of one of the panting dogs tucked under the table.)

This idea that sitting down with loved ones over a meal, paying undivided (if not often snarky) attention to each other is a sacred ritual that has been strongly embraced by my siblings and me, and their children. The first time I joined my just-then divorced brother at his new home for dinner with his kids five years ago, I walked through the door to see his fifteen year-old son rounding the table, putting proper napkins down. “Nice!” I said to him. “Oh, this is every night now,” said my brother. “Thank god,” I thought. We’re back on solid ground after years of chaos (at the table and beyond) with his ex-wife. “Everything is beautiful, and everything’s going to be fine,” I said, hugging him.

On Thanksgiving day this year, the non low-keyness began in the morning. “I don’t think we should have the house cocktail,” Patrick said. (Yes, I have a house cocktail, The Jupiter Spritz, which he concocted during COVID.) “It’s Thanksgiving! I’m going to the market for some fresh herbs and a blood-red orange.”

Not to be outdone, while he was out I decided that the cous cous we had planned (my one other addition to the meal, besides my Mother’s pumpkin pie) would now not do. Instead, I flipped through Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem cookbook and settled on the recipe for Basmati & Wild Rice with Chickpeas, Currants & Herbs. I texted Patrick “Can you pick up currants and a fine sea salt please?” He replied, “We have sea salt.” “But,” I said “it’s medium grain. The recipe calls for fine grain.”

No Ottolenghi recipe is ever simple, I don’t care what some of you have to say about his Simple cookbook. (Patrick and I learned that firsthand because we cooked through that one during Covid.) At 4:00 on Thanksgiving, when I had one pot, one sautée pan and two saucepans on the stove going simultaneously (for a rice dish, CRUSHes!) Patrick started laughing. “It’s the fucking Pomeranian of rices!” he exclaimed. (For you non-dog-conversant readers, that is the very most high maintenance breed of dogs.)

Anyway, things snowballed from there. His “easy” Moroccan chicken dish went into the oven a hour late and then either took much longer than the recipe called for to roast, or my thermometer wasn’t working (we couldn’t tell).

And then the custard wasn’t thickening on my Mother’s pumpkin pie. Patrick and I were opening the oven door and shimmying the dish every few minutes, with no obvious progress. ”I think you need to call Nanny,” he nudged.

“Honey,” she said (she always calls me that) “are you sure you added all the ingredients? It should jiggle like jell-0, as they say in the South. It‘s wiggling like a wave.” In fact, I had left out the eggs. “That’ll do it!” she said, before devising a rescue mission for the custard so absurd I am going to skip through the steps to avoid exasperation.

I think our lack of concentration was not so much owing to Patrick’s special Thanksgiving cocktail (which we named a Holly Paloma), but to the fact that we were singing (loudly, and badly) to his holiday playlist playing on my Sonos system in the background, and dancing with my dog Ricky, who was feeling left out.

We were also, even at five hours in, doing an awful lot of talking.

At one point Patrick said “Did I ever tell you about my two sorority roommates in college?”

“The one whose Father was an NRA lobbyist?“ (He went to college in Virginia, where that can happen.) “Or the vixen?” I asked.

“Yeah, so I guess I did tell you. The vixen, you’ll remember, was having a fetishy sexual thing with my other roommate’s long-term boyfriend. She got caught in flagrante delicto. Really cruel. And, by the way, I think they did it on my bed at one point. So gross.”

“Anyway. The vixen is living in Texas now, and based on her social media feed she seems to have a new boyfriend. Hopefully he is not already sleeping with her best friend! But the point is, her boyfriend looks like a Perfect Ken. We’re all certain he has some serious, non-obvious defect, or he wouldn’t stay with her. She’s so mean. We’re currently taking a poll on whether he’s (a) socially inept, (b) a convicted felon or (c) has a micro dick.”

“Let me see his picture,“ I said. “Pull up his Instagram.” (He did.) Scanning the feed, I announced “Definitely (c).” (Inexcusably and inappropriately, I’ll admit. But also, I didn‘t care.)

That one was followed by many more amusing anecdotes from Patrick throughout the afternoon, all of which began with “Did I ever tell you … “

For instance, “Did I ever tell you about the two couples I sat in between at the pool at the Hotel Healdsburg when we were there a few summers ago? The one from San Francisco and the other from Alabama?”

”Ummm, no. It is sounding like something I’d remember …”

But, more importantly, much later on he got to, “Did I ever tell you about my ex, who lives in the East Village?”

“Nope, you did not.”

“I just saw him for dinner,” he said.

“What about him? How come you never said anything?”

“It was more of a situation-ship than a relationship,” he said.

“Oh. That doesn’t sound great. What do you mean?”

And he went further, into places I’m not going to go here, but the question I have for those of you who don’t cook is, how do you really know anything about your family? I don’t get it because all the good stuff, the interesting stuff, the meaningful stuff, the stuff that anyone really needs to talk about, only comes out in the kitchen in my family, and only after hours (maybe days) of working side-by-side.

Anyway, everything we made for our Thanksgiving dinner turned out (eventually) to be delicious. Except my Mother’s pumpkin pie, which turned out to be just okay, once it thickened. “But it was an impressive rescue!” Patrick said, encouragingly, “Like the Miracle on the Hudson of pie rescues!”

In the end, our Thanksgiving wasn’t that low-key. Or perfect. But it was very, very good.

And it was never, not for a moment, dull.

Three Things I'm Crushing On: “Peter”

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

Hi, I’m writing from NYC, where I live in a very small apartment and by necessity am always searching for well-designed, no-fuss solutions to everyday life. Offered at a fair price. There’s nothing like nailing it when it comes to what you use daily. I wanted to share some things I use religiously in case it is useful to you (or the men in your life).


A Henson Razor. I was forced to use a regular store bought shaver recently and I can only say “Yeah, no.” If you haven’t heard of Hanson’s razors, let me try to persuade you to give them a try now. First off, they are precision-made from an aerospace company and give a closer, better shave that lasts longer. Secondly, they feel substantial and well-balanced in your hands. And finally, all-in they’re cheaper than alternatives. The razor itself lasts forever (I’ve had my steel blue Hanson’s for years), and the blades only cost like $10 for 100.

Quip Water Flosser. Simply the easiest, most effective, most convenient way to floss your teeth. You can angle the tip to get everything everywhere. I do a lot of dating, and a clean mouth is everything. Plus, I travel a lot and take my quip flosser with me everywhere - it is battery run, so no cords or chargers. There are other good water flossers out there, but they are a lot larger. I don’t want a honkin’ large piece of dental equipment on my bathroom counter, or in my luggage. I’ve been traveling (and living) with mine for years. It’s tested, tried and true.

HexMill Pepper Grinder.  This was a gift from an ex, a really good one. (Gift, that is.) I cook something almost daily, and this extremely well-engineered pepper mill is the best I’ve used. Plus, it’s handsome and feels substantial in your hands. Well done, ex. This is the only solid, steady, drama-free thing you’ve ever done for me.

For previous “3 Things” submissions continue reading here. You got some things you’re crushing on? (You must!) Hit this link and share.

Somebody Needs to Hear from You. How to Reach Out. By Dish Stanley

The holidays are tough for a lot of people. There are an infinite number of reasons for this: loss, divorce, loneliness, separation from loved ones, feeling crushed by holiday demands on top of everything else. For a few years, for me, as somebody who ended up a childless widow in my early 40’s, it was an annual sledgehammer of a reminder that my life had not turned out as I had assumed it would — me, serving Christmas dinner to a table seated with an adoring husband, well-behaved children, family and friends. (I’m over it by now.) For a lot of people it’s just all the forced cheer.

About this time of year I do a quick scan through my friends and acquaintances and consider who in the last year has lost somebody or something (a job? health? their peace of mind?), is going through a break-up or etc., etc., etc. I call or write something simple like “Hey, I was just thinking of you because { … }“.

A couple of ”pro tips” on reaching out, if I may, based on my own experience on the receiving end of these during a couple of years that were tough:

Avoid referring to whatever it is that is the particular reason you‘re reaching out to them. I try to mention something that I have in common with them, “Hey Mona Lisa and Mad Hatters just came up in my playlist. I’ve been thinking of you.“ But really, “I’ve been thinking of you and wanted to say hi,” is enough.

Why? Nobody needs to be reminded of their struggles. Trust me on this. If their response suggests they might be open to it, you could then say “How are you doing?” That way you are letting them take the lead on talking about their loss/pain/struggle (if they want). Maybe they’d actually prefer to have a diversion from their struggles and hear what fun thing you’re up to, or discuss a show, a book, current events.

Avoid saying anything resembling “This must be a tough time for you.“ They may, in that moment, have just gotten back from a perfectly wonderful dinner with a good friend, or be enjoying a peaceful moment immersed in a book, with their dog in their lap. That is a moment of comfort or peace they need to stay in. You also don’t want to run the risk of unintentionally insinuating that they should be in constant sorrow. I am by nature a happy person who loves to have fun (and is also quite resilient), so even in my darkest periods I still laughed, and was able to immerse myself in others’ company, lives and happiness. I resented the suggestion or expectation that my sadness should be ever-present and all-consuming.

In addition, when somebody else brought up how tough things must be for me it often had the unintended effect of making me work hard to reassure and comfort them. “No really, I’m doing okay. I’m able to read again … I went to dinner last night … [here I’m reaching for proof points demonstrating that I’m getting by].”

Don’t say “This, too, shall pass.” Or “things will get better.” Or “grief is jus the proof of having truly loved.” It is as annoying af to be told any of this when you are in pain. It does not improve your state of being, and it feels like you’re being told to move on, or your being admonished, or lectured to.

Most importantly, reach out. I so appreciated friends and acquaintances making the effort to reach out. Even if they did it in an awkward, clunky way it made me feel surrounded by love; it was their love that reassured me that ”this, too, shall pass.” I believed I would figure out how to put my life back together again because I was surrounded by people who cared about me. So the most important thing I have to say on this subject is reach out. If you can remember the couple of suggestions I make above, that would be good, too.

And, Adam Grant also has some good advice:

Musician Nick Cave‘s Reminder on the Power of Small Actions.

This edited passage comes to from Nick Cave, of the band Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, by way of James Clear’s excellent weekly newsletter 3-2-1. Related to the piece Somebody Needs to Hear from You, it’s a reminder of how little gestures (whether for good, or otherwise) aren’t really little at all.

"The everyday human gesture is always a heartbeat away from the miraculous. 

Remember that ultimately we make things happen through our actions, way beyond our understanding or intention; that our seemingly small ordinary human acts have untold consequences; that what we do in this world means something; that we are not nothing; and that our most quotidian human actions by their nature burst the seams of our intent and spill meaningfully and radically through time and space, changing everything. 

Our deeds, no matter how insignificant they may feel, are replete with meaning, and of vast consequence, and that they constantly impact upon the unfolding story of the world, whether we know it or not." 

Source: The Red Hand Files, Issue #216 (lightly edited for clarity)

Social Media I Loved This Week

@retro_newyork


@french__toasts


@thinkingmindspage


@kbenroth44

Song Of The Week

What A Wonderful World by Eva Cassidy

I see friends shaking hands

Saying, “How do you do?”

They’re really saying

“I love you”

Louis Armstrong’s version is the first and most famous, but I saw Eva Cassidy sing What A Wonderful World while in my third year of law school in 1993 and she was incandescent.

Listen to the live performance here

Dish Stanley XO,
Dish

I’m Not Going Home for Thanksgiving This Year. What Are You Doing? By Dish Stanley
Things are going to be different for Thanksgiving for my family this year, and probably from here on in. I’m working on being okay with that. Last year my Mother and I spent the three days before Thanksgiving preparing for our family‘s annual gathering at my parents‘ home.
Why We’re Tuning In & Who We Love (Or Really, Really Don’t) On The Golden Bachelor. By Dish Stanley
There are well over 11 million of us worldwide watching The Golden Bachelor, which was the biggest debut in the bachelor franchise. When I asked a few friends recently if they were tuning in I got this: “O B S E S S E D.” Repeatedly. Then I turned to
Holiday Invites: Say “Yes” to “No”.
You know that “thing” you didn’t want to go to? One PrimeCrush writer gives you permission to stay happily at home.
How to Be the Most Charming Person at a Holiday Party. By Evie Arnaude
Want to be someone who’s invited to all the most sought-after soirées? We have the perfect cheat sheet for you.

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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