Welcome back, and thank you to the many Crush readers you who sent me feedback on the first issue (and who passed on The Crush Letter to friends)! Here are some of the love notes I received:
Your first newsletter is magnificent. Loved it. . . Great links too! Steven, in a Committed Partnership, "Generation Jones" (look it up, Dish)
Important, fresh, captivating. So fun to read too. Ruth, Looking, Boomer
I loved the tone of voice, as if I was talking with a close girlfriend. The focus on relationships and how to improve relational intelligence is the most important area to cover, for me. Daisy, in a Committed Partnership, Gen X
If you are new, welcome! You may want to hop over to read excerpts from The Crush Letter No. 1 here.
He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother*
"Doing nothing with friends is never really doing nothing, is it?” asked the boy. “No,” said the Mole. Charlie Mackesy’s book The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse is the finest tribute to friendship (and to hope and kindness) I have ever read. And it came at the right time - the outset of this B side heavy metal scifi album that's been playing on repeat for all us. It sold out a lot over the last 18 months, the first time before I could get it for my sister. The story begins with a lonely boy and a mole who likes cake gazing together out into the wild (which is life). In their wanderings they meet a wary fox, which is a complicated relationship for any mole. The fox's wariness comes from being hurt by life. They soon encounter a wise and gentle horse. (“The truth is everyone is winging it,” says the horse.) The very loose story (Mackesy says the book was written to allow y0u to begin on any page) is illustrated touchingly by Mackesy's delicate and emotional drawings. If this all sounds too slight, or irrelevant, it's not. (Or "Well, then God help you honey," as my Grandmother Jesse Louise used to say.)
Over the last year I started opening conversations with "are you feeling more boy, mole, fox or horse today?" to get the quick proxy on what a friend might need most in the moment. Since it was a fair assumption that we all needed something acutely. ("I hate my husband today," said one friend, "Are there any hateful characters in there?") I didn't have anyone to hate, since I spent much of the early pandemic living alone and cut off from friends or family, so I wavered between the boy myself (lost and lonely) and the fox (wary), but my close friend Maddie (who has a wicked sweet tooth and whose favorite bakery shut down) was in a constant state of craving, channelling the mole.
“What do you want to be when you up?” “Kind” said the the boy. The stories in The Boy reminded me of who I want to be and how I want to live. Of how much easier it was to tend to good friends when we were younger and not weighted down by so many pressing responsibilities. When "bandwidth" wasn't a word in all of our vocabularies. The Boy, too, often simply had me believing that I could endure "all this" (waving hands broadly). “One of the greatest freedoms is how to react to things.” There is so much wisdom here, I read it over and over. It brought some serenity to my acute aloneness, encouraged me to reach out (and not to any toxic exes - thank god - but rather to friends I'd love and lost touch with). It also encouraged me to take a leap, put myself out there and pursue a long-shot passion. Writing this Crush Letter to you. "We love you whether you can fly or not," said the boy. Thanks for that, Mackesy. And for being here, Crush readers. If you haven't read it yet, I hope you do.
And there’s this. “What’s the best thing you’ve learnt about storms,” asked the boy. “That they end,” replied the horse. We’re galloping towards that.
Mackesy shares his exquisite drawings on instagram here. Read more about Mackesy in recent articles in Graydon Carter’s AirMail, “A Boy A Mole A Fox and a Horse Walk Into Lockdown” and "Head in the Clouds".
*By the Hollies, 1969, in which a young Elton John played piano. One of my favorite odes to friendship, and being connected to others. Taken from the motto of Boys Town, a nonprofit that cares for children and families. Credit: Rock Cellar Magazine.
Cake Is My Love Language.
In the face of extraordinary demands, I sometimes forget the ordinary, everyday gestures. So I recently re-read Gary Chapman’s best seller from 1992, The 5 Love Languages. The love languages are: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch. One device I’m trying to use that seems particularly useful now is – dare I say it? — to be very efficient. To not sort of "spray and pray" with calls and notes, etc., but to give something closer to precisely what is needed.
Chapman's theory - which has prevailed for 30 years, and is applicable to a wide array of personal and professional relationships - is worth another moment. Simply put, it is that we should give love in the form that our loved ones really want it in order for them to feel really loved (and to closely bond with us). Pretty obvious, really. A couple friends do this intuitively. But it’s not what most of us do. We tend to give love in the form that we need to receive it ourselves. If I praise the mole (from Charles Mackesy's book) for his good looks he may appreciate it, but he's more "yeah, that's nice" and less "yes, so loved by you". I, as a solo woman who has hit fifty and begun to often feel invisible, would love to be told I’m beautiful. That’s what I need. But the mole? His love language is cake.
“We all need a reason to keep going,” said the horse. “What’s yours?” “Cake,” said the mole. You are probably in some relationships where the other side is as explicit and persistent about their needs hierarchy as the mole is with his friends. And there are no doubt some relationships – your romantic partner for instance - where you might consider taking the time to fully hash your respective love languages out. But for other important ones, like new friends who you don’t want to scare off, you could try to consciously observe what they offer. It's the finest clue to what they need. Once you get the “trick” to observing what others offer in this light, you can’t stop. You can figure out your own love language by taking the quiz on Chapman's website here.
Why Can’t Mr. T Butter His Own Corn?
Sometimes we see other’s people’s relationships through our own biased lenses, and don’t see what’s really happening, or the full picture. We get judgey. We are unsettled by the untidy knot of political correctness, gender roles and gestures of love displayed in others’ relationships (perhaps because we are working out the lines in our own lives). (We will have much more on the very rich subject of the seeming inconvenience of some of our erotic fantasies to the way we want to show up in the world.) I was reminded of all this - and my own need to hold my fire while observing others' relationships - by the humorous twist in this instagram short story by sociologist and master story teller from Savannah, Dr. Bertice Berry. “The lesson of Mr. and Mrs. T,” an IGTV video on Instagram by @drberticeberry.
"She has really nice, like downward looking eyes, a cute smile - and doesn't go overboard with it like me . . . if I start talking about her lips, her cheeks and her neck it's going to go down. And it's for over 18, this podcast?" This is Douglass Williams, a James Beard-nominated Chef and owner of MIDA, one of Boston's best restaurants, describing his wife in Eat, Pray, Love, Eat from Love Letters, a podcast that grew out of Meredith Goldstein's advice column in the Boston Globe.
"[I] don't know what happened to you to make that house so loveless. . . that's why Richie grew up so ashamed of himself . . . Cause that's what shame does, Valerie. It makes him think he deserves it." The culminating screed from Jill to Richie's Mom in the final episode of It's A Sin on HBOmax, fairly sums things up. IMHO Manuel Betancourt, writing in Vulture.com recaps and reviews the series best. Honestly I have not yet fully processed the show, it was that much. I lived in the West Village in NYC through the 90's, including in 1994, the year that deaths from aids hit its peak in NYC, by which point almost 50,000 had died. It was a horrible, tragic time and it is a haunting story of indifference, prejudice and heartlessness which It's A Sin captures all too well.
"Side effects may include, but are not limited to: Drooling, lip biting, wet panties, crying, and screaming at the author." I was a sucker for LitHub's annual "This Year's Bad Sex Writing" awards (read "Damp, Wrinkly, Virile here), which were routinely put to a vote at my dinner parties back in the day (oh, the back then days). Alas, LitHub hasn't put one out since 2019. Here to fill the void is The Brag.com with "7 of the funniest erotic fiction blurbs on Amazon to whet your whistles." According to writer Poppy Reid, the real take-away from the afore-mentioned blurb for Fighting Destiny by Amelia Hutchins is "The protagonist has been described as 'absolutely sex-on-a-stick gorgeous' so any plot holes should just be ignored." Bring me my popsicle.
I'd love to hear from you about what you like, what you don't, topics you'd like me to cover, or with links to good things on love & connection. If you "reply" to this email I won't get it (technicalities, friend), so write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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