The Crush Letter No 161: Your Favorite CRUSH Reads

. 15 min read

The Crush Letter brings love to your inbox Saturdays. To make you, your love life and your weekend more compelling. For Grown ups. Hell yes, sign me up.

Hello Crush,

Happy Memorial Day week end, CRUSHes. Thanks so much for being here. To celebrate the long week end I’m sharing some of your favorite reads from the year so far.

I’m starting with a short note about my week which involves, of course, a dog. Stella.

Coming up over the next month (or two) we’ve got more stories on friendship and long-term love, favorite summer clothing brands for women and men, a report on the sex toys that some of your fellow CRUSH Readers are testing for you right now, more in our BITE series on summer cooking, recommended summer reads and, of course, more personal stories on friendship and dating from me.

Lots to look forward to! Enjoy the long week end!

It’s Good to Nail At Least One ‘Friendship Move.” Mine Is the Unobtrusive Food Drop.

Also, Loving Dogs Is an Act of Bravery

As many long-time CRUSH Readers know, I love to cook and do it almost daily for myself. But I really love to cook for friends. I very often double the recipe of certain dishes that I know are favorites of my friends, and then swing by when running errands yo drop it off on their porches. As I’m driving off, I shoot them a head’s up text that it’s there. Through trial-and-error, I feel like I’ve nailed this as a friendship move—I’m usually dropping off something I’ve made for them before and know they love, and I wait until after it’s been dropped to let them know, since I don’t want to interrupt them, demand an in-person hello, avoid the dreaded unannounced “drop-by.”

There are some variations: if they travel a lot, I’ll check to make sure they’re in town; if it’s really hot and the item could spoil I‘ll check on timing, etc. But it’s my preference NOT to check. In addition to not wanting to impose on them, I’m usually dropping off as I’m running to something.

A key, I’ve learned, with pulling off this gift is to make sure that the recipient understands that they do not have to reciprocate, that in fact I do not want them to reciprocate. I want them to understand that they don’t owe me anything at all (not a like kind gift, not another kind of gift, not their time and attention, etc.). Otherwise it’s not a gift; it’s a burden, or a request. And, to a fault, I am not a person who likes to ask for things or impose on people—if I thought my gift was creating an obligation for them I’d want to croak. I sent a close friend going through a wretched divorce a small treat recently and a week later she sent me a candle. I was actually despondent at the thought that my small gesture ended up creating work for her, given all that she had on her plate. “Well, that was a fail on my part,“ I thought. “Ugh.“

There are a couple of ways I’ve learned to pull this off on the food drop-off, though. I point out that I was already making it for myself, so what’s a little more? Another thing is that I like to test recipes, so I need testers—meaning, they’re actually doing me a favor. Also, I try to emphasize that it brings me pleasure (because it’s true, it really does), so it’s really for me. I live by myself and I grew up as a middle child, so it’s still a bit weird for me, living alone. The food drop-off makes me feel as if I’m part of web. I explain this. (By the way, I do it with books too. “I just finished this, and I think you’d like it.”) I don’t always get all this entirely right, of course. But sometimes I do.

My close girlfriend Mary’s 17-year-old darling terrier Stella was nearing the end of her life this week. I’ve been in regular touch with Mary and it’s been touch-and-go for days. I was making a Sunday night pasta dinner with another friend (it’s either pasta or roasted chicken for me on Sundays), so I made extra meat sauce for her and her husband, David. A pasta sauce is such a comfort food I thought (and they eat meat). When I was in her neighborhood yesterday, I dropped it off. Just before I pulled out I sent this text: “I left some homemade meat sauce and flowers from my yard on your stoop. Prayers for Stella.”

Mary responded this morning:

Stella went last night, and your dinner sustained us afterward when we could do nothing but open a bottle of wine, boil a pot of water for penne and cry. Thank you.

I’m so very glad that my simple dish brought them some ease and comfort. Giving like that makes me feel good. It’s like that saying about rescuing dogs: “Who really saved who?”

And it reminds me that it’s the simple gestures—the day-in, day-out reliability of your friendship and love—that makes people feel safe with you as a friend, feel connected to a larger web. I didn’t do this kind of thing as often as I would have liked when I was working a high-stress job in finance. It’s been a joy to have the bandwidth to be able to be this kind of friend now.

It also reminds me that receiving another’s gift is a gift in and of itself. Receiving it in the spirit in which it was given, with the understanding that the gift does not impose anything on you. Accepting a gift closes the circle, it’s an affirmation that we are in this web of friendship together. I’ve had to learn to be gracious at receiving myself. I had to learn to respond with a simple thank you about how the gift hit the spot in some perfect way, and not to reflexively scout for some way to reciprocate. I still sometimes fail at this, but the unexpected gift I’ve gotten through giving is that it has taught me a lot about receiving graciously.

And, of course, this particular gift of meat sauce for Mary and David also reminds me of what an act of bravery loving dogs is. Given how short their lives are. Or loving anyone, really. Given that love is so irretrievably bound up in potential loss or hurt or confusion (whether dog, friend or lover). Yet, we embark on this act of bravery every day, all the time. Deep down, even when we’re in pain, as my friends Mary and David are over the loss of their beloved Stella, we know it’s worth it.

I was recently talking to my friend Henry—the one who lost his dog and best friend in quick succession—to check in on how he’s doing. He goes to this wonderful small town in North Carolina for the summer. His home there is being renovated for the second summer in a row, so he is renting. “It was so easy to find a nice rental,” he said. “I guess I hadn’t realized how restrictive it is to try to rent with a dog, but last year my options were limited because of Hogan.”

“So you found something nice, within walking distance of town?” I asked.

“Yes,“ he responded. ”The lease said no pets allowed.”

“Oh,” I said, disappointed, because I was hoping that he would want to get another dog before too long.

“But I insisted they add a clause permitting me to live there with one dog, provided it was a breed that didn’t shed and was hypoallergenic,” he said. “I’ve been perusing the Furry Friends website in case they get one in that I wouldn’t be allergic to. In case I spot one that I think I could fall in love with.”

In This Letter. +Extended Encounters: A Series on Long-Term Love. By Lisa Ellex : Lucy and Tony. “So I’m standing there listening to her carry on about the rule of how I should have been one car length away for every 10 miles of the speed limit.  As I’m looking at her I’m thinking, ‘This woman is adorable.’” +Leaving the Door Open, Hoping That You’re Coming Through. By Dish Stanley Just keep walking through the open doors, Dish. Love will be there eventually, on the other side.” +My Friend Henry Lost His Dog. Will He Ever Love Again? By Dish Stanley In other words, you can’t be fooled by a man’s cool temperament where his dog is concerned. +The Friendship Files. By A.K.A. Darla. I Wanna Hold Your Hand +Ask Dish: Answers to Your Stray Questions A hairy situation. +Fun-In-The-Sun Skincare Tips. By Lauren D. Weinstein Try these simple and affordable suggestions that are suitable for all genders, skin types and tones--especially, if you don’t want to look like a piece of over-cooked grilled skirt steak.

Extended Encounters: A Series on Long-Term Love. By Lisa Ellex

"Lucy and Tony"

When a squirrel abruptly brought Lucy (a hair salon owner) and Tony (a retired lineman) together, everyone thought they were nuts (pun intended).  After 37 years and some very dark days, the couple still feel the same excitement for each other as they did on that fateful day their worlds (literally) collided.

Lucy and Tony did not meet in the typical way of most couples of their generation. There was no drunken meeting in a singles’ bar, no sweaty dance at a disco, no flirty encounter beside the workplace water cooler, and no awkward blind date. Their introduction was the result of a rush hour car accident that was caused by a squirrel.

Lucy, a youthful and energetic woman in her 60s, is eager to start the story:  “I’m driving my brand new 1986 Toyota Celica home from the dealership and I’m not even five minutes from home when this squirrel comes out of nowhere.  So I slow down to let him pass and – wham! – I get hit hard from behind.”

Continue reading here

Leaving the Door Open, Hoping That You’re Coming Through. By Dish Stanley

In this story, Dish ponders a man she craved but didn’t sleep with and devises a strategy, with a little help from her friends, on a bolder approach.

”I'ma leave the door open, girl

Hoping that you feel the way I feel 

and that you want me like I want you tonight, baby.” 

From Leave the Door Open by Anderson .Paak, Bruno Mars and Silk Sonic

I have a good friend, Lisa, who tells me repeatedly about my dating life “Just keep walking through the open doors, Dish. Love will be there eventually, on the other side.” 

She is not, of course, talking literally about bedroom doors, as in the sexy, smooth Silk Sonic song I quote above. She grew up as a SoCal dream girl, often talking in metaphors. Keep your heart open, stay positive, loving and peaceful. Believe in abundant love.

Equally important is the inverse, which I have discovered (with no help from Lisa) over the decade I have spent dating after being widowed in my forties — to walk past the doors of those who are toxic, not fully available, not focused on their physical or emotional health. I should consider those doors closed.

Continue reading here

The Friendship Files. By A.K.A. Darla.

I Wanna Hold Your Hand

We’ve all received that phone call.  A friend on the other end asks, “Can you do me a favor?”  In a fraction of a second, you anticipate a list of possible requests such as:

  1. Can you give me a ride to the airport?
  2. Can you watch my dog while I go out of town? 

And the dreaded…

  1. Can you lend me some money?

It was not at all unusual for Lorraine to ask a favor. Friends and partners in crime since we were five-years-old, we’ve called upon each other countless times. But as the saying goes, “timing is everything” and at the time of Lorraine’s call I happened to be knee-deep in my own life crisis: a disastrous real estate purchase – coupled with the breakup with the very person with whom I purchased the property –  had me physically, emotionally, and financially drained. So, as I waited to hear Lorraine’s request, I held my breath.

“I could really use some hand-holding.”  Whew! That was easy. I quietly exhaled and answered, “Sure.”  Then, Lorraine elaborated.  “There’s something on my mammogram.  Would you come with me to the oncologist?”

Continue reading here

My Friend Henry Lost His Dog. Will He Ever Love Again? By Dish Stanley

My friend Henry’s dog Hogan died.

It happened last week, the day after I returned from New Zealand. When I left, Henry had told me that Hogan wasn’t doing well so I sent him a text the day I got back.

”Hi, how’s Hogan? (I’m back from NZ.)” I wrote.

”Hogan passed away,” Henry responded. “It was his time.”

“I’m so sorry! When? You took such good care of him.“ I replied.

“Yesterday,” wrote Henry. (He’s taciturn. More on that later.)

“Oh gosh. Can I take you out to dinner tomorrow or Sunday?”

“Sure. Dinner Sunday.”

But let’s back up. Let me tell you about Henry and Hogan.

Henry and I are platonic friends but I originally met him last April through the online dating app Bumble. He is first rate. I mean absolutely first rate. He has all the character qualities you’d want in a romantic partner (or friend) (integrity, kindness, self-awareness, a good sense of humor - I could go on) and all the other traits that characteristically draw a long line of potential female romantic partners (he’s tall, wealthy and swears he’s a great cook). (I’m sorry to be so blunt but there’s no point to this whole exercise if I’m not going to be honest.)

Continue reading here

Ask Dish: Answers to Your Stray Questions

From the sublime to the ridiculous, I get a lot of random questions. I answer some of them here. Got a stray question? Submit it using this link.

"Dear Dish:

I noticed over drinks with a close girlfriend “Janet” that she has started to grow an ever-so-slight mustache. She is blonde, and so you can only see it when the lighting is coming from a certain angle (sideways). I would bet she just can’t see it because she would be looking at herself in the mirror straight on. She cares a lot about her appearance. The thing is, she has two very close sisters who live nearby so I keep assuming that she must know because that is precisely what sisters do, right? Tell you the things nobody else wants to, or has the guts to, and that you definitely don’t want to hear but need to know. Please advise.

And thanks so much for The CRUSH Letter! My husband and I are excited about spending some time this winter watching the erotic films in the new column from Christian Pan on steamy classic films.

Thanks, Dish!

It’s a Hairy Situation"

Dear Hairy Sitch:

I just posed this question by text to five separate close girlfriends, asking them: “Would you want me to tell you?” Here’s what they said: “Absolutely!” “Definitely, without hesitation.” “Fuck yes.” (Two of them.) And then one (the most assertive among us, it should be acknowledged) said: “IF YOU DIDN’T I WOULD FUCKING FRIEND FIRE YOU.”

So, yeah, totally awkward. But you’ve got to step up. When it comes to women and mustaches, is there such a thing as “ever-so-slight?” I think not. You must assume that Janet’s sisters haven’t been sitting at a bar with her in just the right lateral lighting.

I think the question is how to tell her. I would have amazon send you whatever you use to address your own facial hair. (I use a combination of this peach fuzz facial hair remover and this tweezer.) Then, the next time you see her (and I’d make a point of seeing her soon because, hello! Holiday parties) after she (and you) have finished a drink, start with “This is awkward, Janet, but since I would want you to tell me if I were in your shoes, I have to tell you something.” And then I would say, “You may not realize this because it is only noticeable in certain lighting and at certain angles, but you have some facial hair.” And then I would say, “A friend had recommended these products to me a couple of years ago, so I got them for you because I love you. But of course I love you regardless, so if it is not a big deal for you let’s pretend this never happened.”

A few summers ago on Nantucket I was meeting up with three girlfriends to kick off the season. After the first round of Paloma’s one of the women grabbed the very items I linked to above from her bag and gave each of us a set. “Ladies,” she said, “I got to the island a little earlier than everyone else so I need to tell you that Sally (she did the waxing and electrolysis at the salon we all used) did not come back this summer. They haven’t gotten a replacement yet, and so I am taking matters into my own hands. As long as I was getting these for myself, I figured you’d all need them too. I mean, we are at that age.”

What none of us ever figured out was whether she had actually spotted some upper lip hair on one of us and just determined that this was the best way to handle the situation, or what. I will say is this, though. We all ran home to our best-lit mirror, her gifts in hand, and took a very, very close look.

Whether you are a sister by blood or by choice, this is what you signed up for. But time is of the essence here.

And thank you for being a subscriber! I am very excited about watching the erotic films in Christian Pan’s column PrimeCrush & Chill: Steamy Classics Worth an Re-watch, too! We will be unrolling that column, as well as his column on classic erotic books starting in January. Oh how I love these types of winter sports!

If you want to read more of "Ask Dish" go here

Fun-In-The-Sun Skincare Tips. By Lauren D. Weinstein

Simple and affordable suggestions for all genders and skin types, for any time of the year.

Summertime and the living is easy--but not necessarily on your skin and hair. Whether you reside in a steamy part of the country (Miami) or in arid climate (Albuquerque), both your skin and tresses are ultimately taking a beating during the sunny weather. The season may only be a few months in duration but the damaging effects of too much sun exposure from roof top sunbathing (affectionately, called “tar beach” in Brooklyn) or floating aimlessly in an overly chlorinated pool, while sipping, ok, guzzling, too many minty mojitos can furtively wreak havoc.

It’s important to remember: sun exposure and its long-term effects are a year-long crusade. Try these simple and affordable suggestions that are suitable for all genders, skin types and tones--especially, if you don’t want to look like a piece of over-cooked grilled skirt steak, even after summer is over:

Be Sun Savvy! You’ve heard this a gazillion times--shield yourself from the sun daily. As soon as you step out of the shower/bath and while your skin is still damp, apply body lotion that both hydrates and protects with SPF.

TRY: Unsun Hydrating Full Coverage Mineral Body Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30. $32.00, or Aveeno Protect and Hydrate Sunscreen, SPF 60. $8.99, Target.

TIP: Whatever the plan is for the day, religiously reapply every two hours. Don’t forget the vulnerable tops of feet, hands and shoulders.

Continue reading here

I guess Summer is, like, almost here? {Gulp.} Is anybody ready?

Dish Stanley XO,

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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