The Crush Letter No 15

. 17 min read
Love is love.

Hello Crush,

Happy Saturday! Happy Pride Month!

"It matters not who you love, where you love, why you love, when you love, or how you love. It matters only that you love."

-John Lennon

(Hat tip to Jeanne Foley & Diana Ganz, Founders of @SuitShop)

If you're new here (welcome!), I'm Dish, the Master of Ceremonies. The Crush Letter curates stories and intelligence on everything love & connection – friendship, romance, self-love, sex. For more about me and why we're here go here.

In This Issue  +Dish's new column Hot Thots  +STIR. Whether French Women Do It Better +About Face. A self-care/self-love column for men.  +SIMMER. An extraordinary essay from Bob Guccione, Jr: The son of the founder of Penthouse reflects on his father's rivalry with iconic Playboy Hefner  +Lots to do, listen to & know about in DEVOUR.

Next week I'm on vacation, so your next CRUSH will come Saturday June 19th.

Hot Thots from Dish

Hot Thots. By Dish Stanley.

A new periodic column where Dish blows off steam.

I'll never forget the moment I got it. That love is love. It was the spring of 2009 and I was driving a close friend's daughter to a college tour. A meandering conversation about college fit led her to reveal that she was pansexual. (Something I was certain her mother, with whom she had a complicated relationship, was not aware of.) I hesitated, but when her story came to an end I admitted: "Ummm, honey I don't know what you mean - what pansexual means." She explained it like this:

"I could love anyone, really. I fall in love with the person. Their biological sex or gender identity does not factor in for me."

"Wow." I said. "That's beautiful."

"Yeah," she said. "It really is."

It wasn't that simple for me, to be honest. My first thought was how difficult that would be for her. That the world was not built for quite that much love. Why take the tougher path up the mountain of life, I worried, when she could just as well take a more groomed trail? I considered whether to say:  "If you could love anyone, why not just go the easy route? (eg, heteronormative.) Believe me, there are stumbles, scrapes and switches enough as it is."

I didn't say it, thank god. How fearful and narrow a response that would have been to her exquisite, open-hearted expansiveness. Traveling down that bumpy New England road that day decades ago, the moment after I swallowed my thoughts I looked over at this lovely, loving, highly intelligent and empathetic young woman and thought I'm questioning her? "I could love anyone, really. I fall in love with the person." As between her and the world I knew, how could she be wrong?

She has gone on on to love led by her heart. It has been tough sometimes, yes. But also quite beautiful to see her forging original, loving relationships from scratch without leaning on default systems. At any rate she wouldn't have it any other way.    

Whether the default systems ever worked for anyone other than a subset of our world, or what might replace them, is obviously worthy of close examination and great debate. Perhaps we will have some here.

But for younger generations debating is either beside the point or over. I hear it again and again from friends and family members. When it comes to gender/identity/love/boundaries, younger generations are moving forward like a tsunami. They are loving who they want to love. They are in charge of the conversation – literally, creating and appropriating the language. It is their hike, their pilgrimage, their parade. What we can learn from them about love is infinite, I believe. We need to step out of their way, listen, cheer them on. Maybe try to keep up.

Bring on the drums and let it roll, kids.

French Kiss: French Girls Do It Better, Right?

Wrong. Six myths debunked.

By Lady Verity

Like Botticelli’s Venus, a French woman appears as if she’s sprung forth effortlessly from the doorstep of her slate-roofed abode. Nothing is further from the truth.

Even though they’re among the most particular and high maintenance creatures on the planet, outwardly French women practice nonchalance -- think UK-born Jane Birkin or Charlotte Gainsbourg in oversize sweaters and unbrushed locks. The key to unlocking the mystique of the French woman is summed up in one word: seduction. They’re masters, um, mistresses, at seducing you and everyone else into thinking they do it (and everything) better. Time to debunk six erroneous myths.

Myth: French women are the chicest on the planet

The average French woman has a tiny closet or freestanding inherited bureau that holds her wardrobe. She’ll splurge on one or two costly items every season and wear these pieces to the ground, as in seven days a week, until they disintegrate. The art of French style means: no matchy-matchy ever -- except for undergarments — and is inspired by the aforementioned closet restrictions. Whatever else is at hand—relatively clean and un-ironed—is worn with the expensive pieces. Voila!

Myth: French women have better hair and skin and…

In all fairness, the French do make brilliant skincare products like affordable Embryolisse or pricey Biologique Recherche, so French women spend their money on skincare and would never dream of rinsing their face with tap water. Maybe they do have better skin but that’s because of all the humidity in the air. As for makeup, they wear it strategically and less is more, which makes for an overall fresher skin appearance. When it comes to hair, it’s not better. Variations of bedhead are the look, so many French women braid their hair wet and sleep on it. The next day when they unfurl the braids, their hair appears shag & brag voluminous.

Myth: French women don’t gain weight

They do. All the croissants, baguettes, chocolates, wine and more is the reason they smoke so much and are constantly dieting. And they don’t have better bodies or less cellulite, either. But they’ve mastered the art of only showing the good parts. You’ll never catch a French woman with cellulite thighs wearing butt cheek cut-offs. If breasts are small, a French woman will unbutton down to the top rib (unspoken rule) and wear a long chain that distracts the male gaze and leads his eye down the sternum. If the bosom is large, she will wear a tight-fitting turtleneck (turtlenecks accentuate the breasts) and pretend she didn’t notice the effect.

Myth: French women just have that je ne se quoi

A French woman doesn’t have more innate mystique than her American counterpart. She just doesn’t talk as much. It’s that simple. French women are too savvy to bare body and soul during the dating game. Instead, they prefer slowly sipping a cocktail, tilting their head (as though they have a crick in their neck), and staring off into the distance. As for the cell phone, mais non! It tucks perfectly into that vintage Chanel bag where it lives for the rest of the evening. Nothing is less sexy than a woman pecking away like a deranged woodpecker (no offense to woodpeckers) on her cell phone.

Myth: French women look better naked

Nope. French actress Arielle Dombasle nailed it when she said: “Never walk nude in front of your lover.”

Myth: French women are better in bed

They didn’t invent the French kiss, nor do they have different or more desirable body parts than other women. In fact, French women are the most likely to fake an orgasm during sex according to an international 2015 survey. They appear superior in bed because 1) they fake it, and 2) they don’t give it away. They expect courtship. Nor would they consider horizontal activity after a first date if the dude was only shelling out a few euro for a Starbucks coffee. Hence, Madame Claude, queen of the bordello, was French.

About Face: Skincare Essentials for Men

By Lauren D. Weinstein

About Face” is a self-care series devoted to looking and feeling your best, penned by Lauren Weinstein, a professional makeup artist, licensed cosmetologist and esthetician who is obsessed with all things related to self-care, skincare and beauty.

There’s no better way to put your best face forward than an easy and effective skincare routine. No matter what life throws at you, starting the day honoring your body’s largest organ, your skin, is an act of self-care that nourishes not only your body, but also boosts confidence and fosters your most important relationship: the one you have with yourself.

Today men have so many options suited to their specific needs and wallet. And purchasing items doesn’t have to be confusing or complicated, they can be found online, in a pharmacy or even your regular supermarket. Below I offer an easy-to-find and less-expensive product, as well as my favorite splurge option if you choose to treat yourself.

Understanding how your skin behaves determines the products you need in order to keep your skin healthy. It’s important to know your skin type before you buy anything. Grab a mirror and look at your handsome face. Generally, these are common types:

Normal: Pores are slightly visible, smooth texture with a healthy glow.

Dry: Almost no visible pores, skin may feel tight or itchy after washing.

Oily: Pores have an orange peel texture, may be prone to blackheads on the nose and breakouts on cheeks and chin.

Sensitive: You may have oily, dry or combination skin and sensitivity. You may break out in bumps, rashes and experience redness and itchiness.

Combination: Most men tend to fall in this category. The “T-Zone” (forehead, nose and chin) tend to be oily and other areas may flake and itch, particularly when the weather is dry and cold.

Here’s what to do.

Wash your face.  Your skin is exposed to dirt, bacteria and pollutants. Cleansing your skin twice a day helps to remove build-up of sebum (oil), dead skin cells and impurities allowing the skin to look radiant and healthy. There is no need to break the bank on a cleanser since the ingredients are not absorbed into your skin long enough and are literally washed down the drain. Just pick a cleanser that is appropriate for your skin type. Its better to splurge on a moisturizer that has antiaging benefits (retinols, peptides)

Bargain: Cetaphil Gentle Cleansing Bar 4.5 oz, $3.59

Splurge: Brickell Men’s Purifying Face Wash 8oz. $25.00

Moisturize. Moisturizers restore the skin’s barrier and protect it from future damage. For oily skin, look for these keywords: lightweight, oil free, non-comedogenic. This is where you want to splurge if you are going to pick one thing to go all out on.

Bargain: Bulldog Oil Control Moisturizer 3.3 0z, $9.99

Splurge: The Organic Pharmacy Ultra Light Moisture Gel 2.5oz, $65.00

-For normal/combination skin, try ceramides and peptides that preserve and protect the outer layer of skin and act as building blocks to collagen, elastin and keratin. They keep the skin resilient and strong.

Bargain: Huron Daily Face Lotion 3.4oz, $13.60

Splurge: Aesop in Two Minds Facial Hydrator 2.1oz, $60.00

-For dry skin.

Bargain: Blackwolf Ultra Hydrating Moisturizer,1.7oz $19.00

Splurge: Caldera + Lab, The Good 1.0 oz, $77.00 (with membership)

-For sensitive skin, look for fragrance free, without sulfates and synthetic dyes.

Bargain: Weleda Moisture Cream for Men 1oz, $12.74

Spurge: Dr. Jart CICAPAIR Tiger Grass Cream 1,69oz $49.00

Sunscreen. Sunscreen is non-negotiable, and your friend. Ideally apply every two hours in the sun, which is extremely aging, leaving you with unsightly sun spots, wrinkles, leathery skin and can cause skin cancer—all year round. Textures vary, so find one that feels right for you.

Best to consider for sunscreen is a minimum SPF 30, Broad Spectrum UVA and UVB protection.

Bargain: Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Dry Touch, SPF50. Mineral sunscreen, water resistant and hypoallergenic.  $10.97

Splurge: Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen, SPF40 Lightweight and oil-free, matte finish. Perfect for darker skin tones.  $34.00

Now that you have the basics you can explore and experiment to see what works for you. You might add ancillary products that compliment your routine, such as exfoliators, eye cream, and lip balms. Like following a healthy diet and other good habits, consistency and using the correct products is key in maintaining good skin.

DEVOUR {things to do, have & know about}

Read. GLAAD's Media Reference Guide &  Glossary of Terms. GLAAD is a nonprofit that works in and with media to shape the narrative to promote LGBTQ acceptance. Their media reference guide includes a glossary of terms, among other things, that has helped me find the right words in conversations with loved ones.

Listen. An unreleased Prince song just came out. Born 2 Die has a lush and jazzy instrumental background – and a back story. Read about it in Pitchfork here.

Follow/Watch. Art for Introverts on Instagram. Eccentric in the most fascinating way, Art for Introverts disects both popular and classic art and culture from a scientific/psychological perspective. From the psychology and pervasiveness of scapegoats as demonstrated in the television series House, to why The Office is so spot on, to why we worship Paris, Art for Introvers breaks down popular illustrations of mental models and psychological principles making you much smarter. Sometimes analyzing the apparently unexplainable, it even made sense of the mind-boggling 2006 movie by Darren Aronofsky The Fountain. (An ex chose it. We were both perplexed.)

Be Inspired. Or unnerved. But Emma Thompson has this to say about her panties. I just finished Cruella, and I'm still processing the British actress's underwear revelations. In The Cut here.

Read. GQ's series on mental health for men. Mind Yourself is on why so many men struggle with mental health, how institutions are addressing it and practical ways to address it. It covers a range of issues on sex and relationships, but the latest The Brain-Changing Magic of New Experiences speaks to all of us.

Read. Christian Pan reviews the classic erotic novel Vox on Christian Pan Erotica. Christian Pan Erotica "produces original and bespoke erotic fiction for people who enjoy having sex on the brain, who get aroused by language, and who seek quality fiction to turn them on."  Tucked into their "Dirty Words" tab are also reviews – of Nicholas Baker's classic Vox and Jane Boon's recent Edge Play.

Gateway Porn
Vox By Nicholson Baker 1992 (Random House) I don´t recall reading Nicholson Baker´s novella Vox when it first appeared in the early ´90s. I think it was a few years later, in 1998, during the impeachment of Bill Clinton, that it first appeared on my radar: when Special Prosecutor Ken Starr had subpo…

Read. Background for reading Bob Guccione, Jr's Reflections on Hefner. I found this background, published in Time in 1969, on the difference between Playboy and Penthouse equal parts humorous, informative, quaint and relevant, especially this quote from the founder of Penthouse, Bob Guccione: "Playboy treats women like a child treats a doll. The basic difference between Hefner and me is that I genuinely like women." As a result, the piece continues, nudes in Penthouse are more lifelike. "They have moles and appendicitis scars, and sometimes their breasts even sag a little." Well nobody ends up with appendicitis scars anymore, what with the miracle of microscopic surgery, but the point was greatly appreciated.

In his essay below, Bob Guccione, Jr mentions Gloria Steinem's brilliant expose on working as a playboy bunny. Here she discusses it decades later.

To read Steinem's original essay A Bunny's Tale (published in two parts), you can get Part 1 here and Part 2 here.  In A Bunny Tale Steinem takes on the conditions for women working on Playboy, but not the need for a sexual revolution itself. Of course she argued that women should define the contours of the sexual revolution, broadly speaking, and certainly for themselves. It feels like a powerful harbinger of #metoo and every conversation we've been part of on consent.

Nicolaus Mills argued in 2013 in The Guardian that A Bunny Tale remained relevant 50 years later.

Gloria Steinem’s ‘a bunny’s tale’ – 50 years later
Nicolaus Mills: Steinem’s groundbreaking article exposing the 1960s world of Playboy Bunny clubs is as fresh and relevant as ever

Penthouse vs Playboy. The Tortoise & The Hare.

SIMMER {original essays & opinions to consider}


By Bob Guccione, Jr

Bob Guccione, Jr. is the founder and Editor in Chief of WONDERLUST ( and the son of the founder of Penthouse Magazine. His father and Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy, were great rivals. Here are Bob's reflections on that rivalry and Hefner's place in the publishing Pantheon following Hef's death in 2017.

My father hated Hugh Hefner. Which I always thought was irrational and, by the end of his life, just force of habit, something he no longer felt with any real emotion, a default position for which the source code had long been lost. If it hadn’t been for Hugh Hefner my father might have died the penniless painter and cartoonist and erstwhile drycleaning chain store manager he was in 1964, when he realized that Playboy, an American import, was the biggest selling men’s magazine in England, where we lived at the time, despite making no attempt to Anglicize whatsoever. He thought, well I can do a version of this that would at least have the advantage of being native, and written in English English rather than American English. So in 1965 he started Penthouse, which immediately outsold the invading Playboy, and, once he brought it to America to compete with Hef on his home soil, eventually became one of the most famous and infamous and influential magazines in history.

And Hefner hated my father --- the both of them, for all their undeniable toughness and strength, incredibly thin skinned to each other’s criticisms and provocations. For decades they fought for domination of the men’s market in print in America. At their height, the two titles sold a combined 10 plus million copies a month. Both men bestrode the publishing industry, Titans in a Pantheon that probably only otherwise included Henry Luce, Willam Randolph Hearst, and DeWitt and Lila Bell Wallace, the founders of Reader’s Digest, people who changed the world, opened it up culturally. It is not an exaggeration to say Hefner and my father did that.

Hefner resented that my father was the usurper, and my father resented that, even though Penthouse passed Playboy, he never vanquished Hefner, never replaced him in the American psyche as the Alpha male. My father was always the brasher, cockier, bolder and, I think it is fair to say, more liked by the audience, but always the outsider. Hefner stayed more in bounds, more establishment and to the public the more iconic, in the same way Charlie Brown is more iconic than The Simpsons, or Coca Cola is more essentially Americana than, say, Starbucks.

Ironically, of course, they were both very similar --- good men, deeply intellectual, brilliantly creative and instinctive, evenly matched, pockmarked with flaws and doubts and personal pains, culturally polarizing lapsed Christians, who hoped that the God they disavowed ultimately did exist and really did have a sense of humor.

Now that Hefner has died, his public eulogies have been binary. The ones which I feel he deserves have acknowledged his huge place in history and elucidated the social issues he championed, including his role in the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision which legalized abortion. (He financed many of the earlier, lower court cases that culminated in Roe v. Wade.) He was, like my father, a champion of free speech and he supported and fought for many great liberal causes.

The other kind have been the expected, kick the grave reactions of a handful of hardcore feminists, who have incanted the inured criticisms of his hedonistic lifestyle, and Playboy’s mantra that a hedonistic lifestyle could at least partly be yours too. One such piece, in the Guardian, was titled “Effusive Hugh Hefner tributes ignore Playboy founder’s dark side” --- which dark side is apparently that he had sex a lot. But no sins are revealed, no black secrets unearthed. The article alludes to him forcing himself on a Playboy Bunny, and the suggestion that Playmate Dorothy Stratten’s murder by her husband is somehow his fault. Gloria Steinem is trotted out in absentia, of course, for her brilliant expose of what it was like to be a Playboy Bunny in one of Hef’s clubs, but I’m not even sure she disliked him that much. From this particular article at least, we are only really delivered the writer’s angst that the man had lived in the first place. In a surely unintended irony, the photo shows a handsome, young looking Hefner, in 1972, the prime of his life, at a party with two beautiful, sophisticated looking women, one either side of him, beaming happily.

There is no doubt the idiotic reality TV show he did in the mid 2000s, while in his 80s, The Girls Next Door, did scuff the gloss of his legacy. And subsequent claims that his coterie of almost identical looking blonde girlfriends had to pleasure him selfishly injured his reputation --- even if exaggerated, they made him, and the women, look ridiculous. I felt sorry for him, that, even as an octogenarian, he still felt the obligation to be seen as a stud.

But I liked Hefner! And always respected him as the magazine genius he was. I interviewed him in 1998 for the first issue of my magazine Gear. He greeted me warmly, wearing silk red pajamas, and was gracious and charismatic. I knew a Guccione interviewing a Hefner would gain attention for Gear’s launch, and I think he was simply intrigued to see what I was like, knowing that at the time I was estranged from my dad, as he was estranged from his son David, who was only a month different in age to me.

When I got to the Playboy Mansion in Holmby Hills in LA, I had the same sensation I had crossing the Red Square in Moscow a few years earlier, of being somewhere I was as unlikely to ever see as the surface of the moon. Surrealy, I was greeted by a couple of resident Bunnies --- I don’t know what else to call them --- who came to see me, like I was some exotic creature that had landed, with a broken wing, on their lawn. Each gave me warm, strong hugs, and their silicone breasts prodded my chest.

I said to him that we had both spent a lot of our lives hearing the criticism that the centerfolds in Penthouse and Playboy exploited women, and had defended against that accusation, passionately and sincerely. Was there the possibility we were wrong? “Well, I don’t know this is a question that has a definite, objective answer. Is a picture of a nude woman automatically exploitative? No, of course not, obviously not, but may there be circumstances behind it in which it is? Of course, sure.” he answered.

I asked him what was pornographic in his opinion? “I think, quite honestly, that pornography is a level of sexual explicitness, or imagery, or writing, that you don’t approve of. When you put a line between erotica and pornography, pornography is the bad label. That’s all,” he said.

He told me that he and Gloria Steinem had originally been set up on a date that never happened, which he said she denies, and that the second time they were supposed to meet was at a party she didn’t show up for because she had already begun her undercover sting as a Playboy Bunny in one of the then proliferating Playboy Clubs, and didn’t want to be exposed. He said Lauren Hutton and Debbie Harry were in her same Bunny training class.

Towards the end of the interview I asked him how he wanted to be remembered, and if he had any regrets.

“As someone who has some positive impact on society,” he said, and as far as regrets, “that’s a tricky one. Obviously, there have been some mistakes, and there has been a loss of some people very dear to me, but my life has been so rewarding, and such an adventure, that one has some concern about changing anything. I recognize that I am one of the most fortunate people on the planet, and the best part of it is what nobody else can know, which is how much satisfaction and  love and friendship has been part of my life continuously. You know, I’m a most lucky fella.”

Which, on reflection, was true.

For our song this week, Alice Merton dropped a new single. She's got a pulsing, addictive case of vertigo.

"All I can feel is vertigo."

Sometimes somethings make us feel dizzy, and sometimes dizzy is good. Enjoy your week end, and I'll see you when I'm back from vacation on June 19th.

Dish Stanley XO,

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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