The Crush Letter No 138

. 16 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,

Thanks for being here, CRUSHes.

Right this moment I am in bed with coffee (and my dog Ricky), hovering - spiritually and physically - somewhere between the Holiday Boat Parade Party at Lisa‘s and Scott‘s and my Christmas cookie decorating party with girlfriends taking place in my kitchen soon. It continues on from there, but I’m feeling ready for all of it after my Anything But Dull Thanksgiving with my nephew Patrick. I hope yours was good too, because the holidays, they’re on us like dog hair on your black velvet pants.

“Whenever I’m broken, Honey, you heal me.“ You know the men who just loooove women? Love being around us, love our feminine energy, love our ying to their yang? The men who brush their daughter’s hair, slow dance with their wives in the kitchen, take their Mother to her doctor’s appointments themselves? Men who respect, adore and appreciate us. Those beautiful, worthy, intrepid men. You can feel it when you’re with them. How they soak you up.

And you can feel it on Chris Stapleton‘s new album Higher. It’s an extended ballad on loving women. He’s been married to Morgane Stapleton, another singer-songwriter, since 2007 but boy-oh-boy, Chris Stapleton is still feeling all the feels.

“If you’ve ever found yourself wondering if the human experience might be about more than just nurturing and then sustaining an intense romantic connection with another person, Stapleton’s here to say that he is sorry, he really is, but that’s what matters. Loving someone, accepting someone’s love, that’s it.” Amanda Petrusich writes in her review of Higher for The New Yorker.

On an album chock-full of plaintive, heart-pumping and touching melodies, he saves the most tender for It Takes A Woman. “It takes a woman to be all I can …”The song‘s softness puts his soulful, sandpaper-edged country tenor to beautiful, powerful use. This is Stapleton’s answer to Eric Clapton’s Wonderful Tonight. Or Joe Cocker’s You Are So Beautiful. Or even, more recently, Amos Lee’s quieter I Am At Ease in the Arms of A Woman. These songs are about romance obviously, yes, but they are also about appreciating all the ways that our love comforts, heals and inspires.

That’s our song this week, CRUSHes, It Takes A Woman by Chris Stapleton. Listen and then pick yourself up off the floor.

And thanks, Chris. The pleasure is all ours.

I’m Dishing. Let’s try something new this week. I‘m going to move my ponderings, commentary, reactions and links from up here to a new spot below called ”Dishing.” That’s short for "here are some useful, interesting or funny things for you, CRUSHes, many of which I have strong opinions on.” What kind of things, you ask? Well, like this thing that model and author Paulina Porzikova posted this week. I have views. They’re below in Dishing.

Got things you think I might dish on? Forward them to or you can just flip it over to my instagram @dishstanley.

Hope this Letter brings you a little break from crunch time.

In This Letter. +Books for Everyone On Your List; The PrimeCrush Bookshop Shop Need a book for somebody? Welcome to the PrimeCrush Bookshop. +And so this is Christmas? By Lisa Ellex Welcome to The Christmas War: the internal conflict between what is expected of us and how we really, deep down, would like to spend those Hallmark holidays. +How to Be the Most Charming Person at a Party. By Evie Arnaude Reminders we all need before shimmying into that holiday shindig. +Dishing. You might want to know about these interesting, useful or otherwise good things. +Social Media I Loved This Week +Our Song of the Week You are the light

Book Suggestions for Holiday Gifts. PS: Get Your Books from The PrimeCrush Bookshop!

Need a book for somebody? We’ve combed through past Letters (and our own bookshelves) to come up with suggestions for everyone on your list.

For Anyone Who Obsessed Over The Official Preppy Handbook, or Tinsley Mortimer’s Recent Wedding

Flight of the Wasp: The Rise, Fall, and Future of America's Original Ruling Class - Gross, Michael

Flight of the Wasp: The Rise, Fall, and Future of America's Original Ruling Class A contemplation of the noble (and less noble) acts of about a dozen families in America’s original ruling class, some of whom even exemplify the WASP values of “humility, responsibility, simple civility.”

For a list of all the books currently on Dish’s nightstand, go here.

For Everybody Addicted to Watching Killing Eve

Big Swiss - Beagin, Jen

Big Swiss By Jen Beagin An offbeat love story involving a transcriber who falls in love with the patient her boss/sex therapist is treating. The novel sparked a bidding war for television rights. Jodie Comer will be taking on the title role for the title character.

For a full list of all of Dish’s recent favorites go here.

For Your Irish Lit Lovers

Small Things Like These - Keegan, Claire

Small Things Like These By Claire Keegan The crisp and devastating story in this slim novella involving one of the famous Magdalene laundries takes place in an Irish village right before Christmas.

For a full list of Dish’s recent favorites go here.

A Novel For Those Into Propulsive Family Dramas

Signal Fires - Shapiro, Dani

Signal Fires By Dani Shapiro A family’s well-guarded, tragic secret plays out through lives and time in a novel about how everyone and everything is connected.

For a full list of Dish’s recent favorites go here.

For Anyone Passionate About Health & Longevity

Outlive: The Science and Art of Longevity - Attia, Peter

Outlive: The Science & Art of Longevity By Peter Attia, MD A friend gave Dish this book, which transformed her summer, her health and her life. And at over a million copies sold, many others as well.

Everything that we recommend on health and well-being will be on our “Health” shelf here.

For Those Interested in Books That Were Loved By A Men’s Book Group

"Our Crowd": The Great Jewish Families of New York - Birmingham, Stephen

Our Crowd by Stephen Birmingham A riveting story of New York’s illustrious Jewish families who immigrated from Europe, started with nothing and turned their family names into institutions, all while being barred from the social elite.

For a fuller list of their favorite books, go here.

A Book to Read With Your Romantic Partner That Says “Hey, let’s have more fun in bed” That Does Not Inadvertently Also Say “Things are currently a little dull in bed.”

101 Kinky Things Even You Can Do - Sloan, Kate

101 Kinky Things Even You Can Do By Kate Sloan. Directly from our loyal PrimeCrush Toy Testers, who read this and reported back: “Great, fun thing to read through with your romantic partner as a prompt to discuss things you may (or may not) want to try - such an easy way to have a conversation about sex. My boyfriend has done everything but is always reluctant to suggest or discuss trying things. Not a talker. But flipping through the book has done more for us in an hour than any other approach over a year.” And “For people (like me) who have not hitherto been risqué, and didn’t know where/how to begin to make suggestions, this offers a vehicle.”

For a fuller list of books we recommend on relationships & sex, go here.

For Anyone in their 20’s

The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter--And How to Make the Most of Them Now (Revised) - Jay, Meg

The Defining Decade by Meg Jay, PhD A CRUSH Reader recommendation: “This book is a bible in my home. If you have a 20-something in your life (I have three), Jay covers the major areas in their lives - work, love, the brain and body - and establishes ways to think through each, how to make decisions and move forward consciously.”

PrimeCrush has launched a Bookshop page! CRUSH Readers can now find all of our book recommendations — whether that‘s for the books our PrimeCrush Toy Testers have recommended (Great Sex Starts at 50 and 101 Kinky Things Even You Can Try, other relationship books, books a successful men’s book club loved the most, books we have suggested you read aloud to a lover, or just great books we have told you from time-to-time you might want to devour — you’ll be able to find all of our recommendations in one place. And, at the same time, purchasing any of the books we recommend “in our Bookshop” helps to defray the costs of The Crush Letter (which is free to subscribers!). Many, many thanks in advance for contributing to our joint little endeavor.

Here is a list of all the ”bookshelves” to browse in the PrimeCrush Bookshop:

And so this is Christmas? By Lisa Ellex

One PrimeCush writer urges us all, this holiday season, to choose peace over all else.

On a sunny afternoon just after Labor Day, I entered a well-known home improvement store to have keys made. I barely made it through the huge automatic doors when I was assaulted with Christmas trees, animated snowmen, talking reindeer, creepy elves, three wise men on camels, Santa Claus figures from around the world, and other garish decorations chirping poorly-recorded Christmas tunes and other indecipherable sounds. School-age children had barely made it through their first week of classes and already moms and dads were being pressured into the commercial spirit of the season.

And so this is Christmas? Yes, once again, the holidays are upon us. This year, Christmas will arrive between her sisters Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, only to be followed up with what I consider to be the most forced and dreaded holiday of all – New Year's Eve. For many, December is a difficult month; thirty-one full days of S.A.D., stressing over cooking and shopping, forced meals with politically misinformed family members (my fear of prison is the only thing that prevents me from hitting my cousin’s husband in the temple with a full tray of boiling hot lasagne), partaking in unwanted travel, deeply missing lost loved ones while attempting to spread good cheer, and for those with mental health issues, enduring the dark and lonely daily struggle.

Welcome to The Christmas War: the internal conflict between what is expected of us and how we really, deep down, would like to spend those Hallmark holidays. Some of us might opt to be alone with a significant other, while others prefer to stay in bed with the covers pulled over our heads, emerging only to eat, drink, and watch old movies. Some desire intimate gatherings, while others will have nothing less than full pageantry. And let’s not forget those selfless souls who choose to spend their time volunteering for the needy or spending the day at an animal shelter. For me, they are the true heroes of the holiday battlefield.

Continue reading here

How to Be the Most Charming Person at a Party. By Evie Arnaude

Want to be someone who’s invited to all the most sought-after soirées? We have the perfect cheat sheet on the basics we all need to remind ourselves of before entering each holiday shindig.

A great guest list is much like a recipe: the perfect balance of spicy and sweet, with the all-import element of surprise. There’s a reason some people are always at the top of everyone’s list. They’re the ones who arrive at understanding the assignment: to share a spark and brighten the entire event. They don’t go through the motions, they enter the room conscious of contributing to other guests’ good time.  Instead of focusing on their own shyness or self-consciousness, they turn it around and ask themselves, how can I make someone else feel more comfortable and less awkward?  How can I show interest?  Make it easier on the host?  Increase the fun?  Their presence effortlessly allows this gathering of people to feel their very best.

Whether you’re throwing or going, we’re offering our thoughts on how to charm the jingle bells off of anyone this holiday season.

Dress to thrill. This is your time to shine. Wear something festive, and don’t be afraid of it being “too much”, you can’t be overdressed. A tulle skirt, bright lipstick, eye glitter: Whatever makes you look and feel great, do that. A red sweater, a tartan tie, bright socks, a festive silk square tucked into a sport coat.  You’re celebrating.  You can never have too much style.

Know your audience. Literally. Make an effort to learn everyone’s names and use them. There’s an immediate intimacy that comes with knowing and using someone’s name. If you’re terrible at remembering names (like I am!) repeat and use their name immediately after they tell you who they are.

Work the room. Look out across the room for somebody standing alone, somebody stuck awkwardly with the same person, anyone entering the room by themselves. Seamlessly spend time with the guests who are open to you. You can use easy observations—dress, the food, cocktails, the art on the wall, the playlist, friends in common—to break the ice.

“Flirt”. Redefined here as something that’s that little “extra” charm--understanding the line between lighthearted fun and a come-on. It could be a slight smile, an extended friendly gaze, a comical introduction, a gentle ribbing. Completely harmless and safely within everyone’s boundaries. It’s the kind of flirting that makes everyone feel good about themselves.

Listen. You know their names… go ahead and ask them about themselves. And list. Really listen. A good listener is so rare, and we need more in our wild world right now. (We can start with holiday parties!) There’s nothing that makes someone feel more seen than being listened to.


Things I thought you might want to know about, and some you probably don’t.

Paulina Porzikova bares it. I was so “meh” at the idea of reading her book No Filter last year, and it turned out to be an original, epic story about coming from nowhere, against all odds, and using your resourcefulness, resilience, intelligence and - yes - gifts to get ahead. Her approach to aging is a relentless refusal to back down from criticism, from taking center stage, from change. Including this.

If The Golden Bachelor (no spoilers here!) is a strong reminder of what our Mothers told us when we got all hot-and-heavy on the get-go in high school (and let’s be honest, beyond). And that is that it takes time to know the important things about someone. That was hammered home by the combination of this Hollywood Reporter investigative piece on Gerry’s previous post-widowed romances, and the season’s finale. In the end, you have to wonder who really won here, and why. (More on that in a future Letter.)

More sobering than romantic, this WSJ article on 7 Secrets to Finding Love After 60 reminds us of the realities that come with falling love again at this stage.

My favorite series is back with Season Three! And so far, two episodes in (obsessively watched), Slow Horses delivers. (On Apple TV+)

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith was published 68 years ago on November 30th. It’s one of my all-time favorite books, which LitHub duly celebrates. (And the film version is one of my all-time favorite films. That happens never.)

I’ve seen Isaac Mizrahi‘s cabaret act, and it’s good. He’ll be back at the Cafe Carlyle February 6-17th, but don’t wait to get your tickets.

Is this something anyone wants to experience, though? J. Lo has announced that she will be dropping a “musical experience” in February, which appears to consist of an album in combination with a film released on prime video. It’s about … ummm … “a vision to weave her songs into an abstract biography reverse engineered from the powerful music.” And, oh dear.

Some critics are calling the new Julianne Moore/Natalie Portman film May December a romance/comedy. And, no. I saw it at Lincoln Center during the New York Film Festival in October and I assure you that neither I, nor the rest of the crowd, laughed, or felt butterflies. It is loosely based on the real-life 1990’s scandal-tragedy where Mary Kay Letourneau, a 34-year old elementary teacher, went to jail for initiating a sexual relationship with her 12-year-old male student. It is well-crafted and hauntingly, exquisitely well-acted. But it is creepy as shit, and definitely not romantic. Or humorous. It just dropped on Netflix, if you can stomach it.

Does anyone else still make playlists for loved ones? I do. If you do, too, these tips from a Tiny Desk producer are the bomb.

Feeling bah-humbug? It might be worth re-listening to this funny, sardonic clip from Santaland Diaries. It was this reading for NPR’s Morning Edition 30 years ago that put humor writer David Sedaris on the map.

This 1965 social experiment shows how teenagers reacted when they met their very attractive teacher. And “oh my god!” I still feel this way when I have a crush on someone.

Got things you think I might dish on? Forward them to or you can just flip it over to my instagram @dishstanley.

Social Media I Loved This Week







Song Of The Week

It Takes A Woman by Chris Stapleton

Listen Here

Dish Stanley XO,

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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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