Thanks for being here! Whew, busy week. First off, I heard from so many of you: * "Shubedoo! Have crushed. Fun! Smart!" * "Really terrific, Dish!" * "Keep it up!" * "There are a lot of things you link to that I didn't even know existed!" * "It feels like we're having drinks with a bunch of cool people who don't know each other well, but have good chemistry." * "Ordering The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse right now." Thank you, I loved all that.
And then there were a few along these lines:
Q: "Dish, can you write about [insert below]":
- "How if you were a sexual person when you were younger, you continue to be sexual straight through your 70's (that's as far as I've gotten)."
- "Money. No one talks about it! How does having/not having $ influence relationships?"
- "The power of multi-generational friendships."
- "Men's loneliness and men's friendships."
A: Thank you. Sure! Also, Yo! If you're feeling it, I'd love your submissions! (See here.) And suggested links with commentary. Send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week we're opening with a personal essay about my tight-laced affair with corsets and how I am learning to love being both sexy and smart, which was sparked by the recent social media posts of four millennial tech entrepreneurs. Then we're going to the best social media site (IMHO) for day-to-day tactical relationship advice, and then to the example of an ex-boyfriend who very successfully deployed one. In honor of that ex, the theme song for this issue is "Quickie" by Ryan Montbleau Band. Oh, and we've got some other quickies too.
“I love breasts, hard
Full breasts, guarded
By a button.”
[excerpt] “Breasts,” Charles Simic
Charles Simic writes poetry like Miles Davis composed cool jazz. Sensual top notes beckoning you into a deeply cerebral core. The poem “Breasts” is brilliant because its earthy sensuality obscures the spare elegance and sly imagery that is the stamp of a master. Buttons, after all, are really more of a temptation than a guard. Especially when covering hard, full breasts.
While the penetrability of the boundary between the cerebral and sensual is a timeless and universal subject (who doesn’t have a friend who has dressed as a “sexy librarian” for Halloween?), I got there this week through a decidedly pedestrian route. Twitter, the road much traveled.
Specifically, the feed of millennial tech entrepreneur Amanda Goetz, Founder/CEO of the online cbd startup House of Wise. She published a twitter thread after receiving some cautionary comments in response to shots she had posted of herself (and her very in shape ass) in a thong bikini on her personal instagram feed. On twitter she wrote “I love my body. I love myself. Yet struggle with the “line” of what to show on SM [social media]. . . I know I’m not alone. I talk about this often with other women . . . We are constantly held to double standards ‘be smart and sexy but not too sexy or they won’t think you are smart’ . . .”
I felt Goetz’s struggle acutely. It brought me back to 1983, when I met Simic, the author of “Breasts” (excerpted above). He is a Pulitzer Prize and PEN Translation winner, a MacArthur grant recipient and a past Poet Laureate of the United States. His spare poems are often described by critics as “tightly constructed Chinese puzzle boxes.”
The year I met Simic I was a senior at the University of New Hampshire, where as a Professor Emeritus he is held in the great esteem that a good institution ought to hold a very great intellect. A Serbian immigrant whose family lived through the bombing of Belgrade, his poems touch on themes of connection, displacement, the banality of our inhumanity. I had gotten to one of his well-attended campus readings early enough to nab a front row seat, but was then so awestruck it turned out I could barely look up at him.
Or it was something else I felt, but what exactly I wasn’t sure. The night before, reading his collection “Selected Poems 1963-1983” I had come across his poem “Breasts” for the first time. Up to that moment I knew Simic as the brilliant “literary minimalist” of “terse, imagistic” poems+ whose recognition (and ascendancy) began in the 70’s. And then there was “Breasts.” Instead of the intellect, I encountered a man. A very human man. A man who, not unlike many other ordinary men, loved tits. And said so. (Exquisitely, in his case, I might add.)
I was shook, as they say. I remember thinking a lot of confusing things, but one thing cut through. “He’s allowed?” Allowed to be taken seriously as an intellectual, and also allowed to be so frankly erotic? Clearly, the answer was yes. He was allowed.
And it is the very same reaction I initially had to Amanda’s posts, and to the personal posts of other female tech founders - like Veronica Armstrong, Founder/CEO of Isle de Nature, Yelitsa Jean-Charles, Founder/CEO of Healthy Roots Dolls and Zoe Barry Founder/CEO of Zingeroo - all of whom, like Amanda Goetz of House of Wise, I follow on social media, know, admire and root for. They have each shared pictures or posts (“anyone know where I can get a long line bra strapless bra for a large chest?”) that have made me pause and ask myself, are they "allowed"? To be clear, they are posting on personal (but publicly available) social media accounts, so this is not about how they show up in the boardroom. Allowed to authentically show hot, and be taken seriously too?
I am embarrassed to say that initially I thought no. No, they can’t. A whole slew of patronizing horribles lined up in my mind: they won’t be respected, they won’t get funding, they’ll get the wrong kind of attention, they’ll get blamed for doing something wrong by somebody somewhere.
Thankfully, I thought again. (In no small part because I had just finished Adam Grant’s new book, Think Again. Recommended.)
After reconsidering, I realized I was still dealing with my own painful back story as a playful, fun-loving, hard-working and ambitious young professional woman. I had worked in a conservative corporate finance environment in New York in the 90's and as a result of someone else’s extramarital office affair and mistaken identity, I had been (unfairly) let go of my job despite being told I was a top performer. It got cleared up (it wasn’t me vamping around in the back of a theater with the Department Head). The firm acknowledged that I was a victim in the scandal, but the top Human Resources guy told me that, all the same, they were still not going to rehire me. Why? Because of “how hot you look in a dress. It’s just,” he said with a wave of his right hand “inviting trouble”. This, even though we were *required* to wear dresses and I got mine exclusively from the likes of Brooks Brothers. (Yeah, I know. A baked potato could not look hot in Brooks Brothers.) And even though it was past the recruitment season when most firms hired, and I was in $100,000 of school debt.
Bouncing back professionally was tough (in a recession) and even after I did I felt the sting (and inexplicably, shame) for decades. In what became my favorite coping mechanism (ever), I discovered the extravagance of intricately designed, ornate corsets. And the feeling of being laced tightly into one in the dressing room of what became “my” luxe lingerie store, Agent Provocateur. I started ordering one corset after another — more than 20 — exquisite, delicate, feminine pieces whose punitive, tightly laced form perfectly expressed the conflicting, restrictive world I felt I lived in. I also stockpiled body-skimming Gucci dresses. All the while, at work or anywhere in the world, I was covered. In loose turtlenecks.
This lasted for years. A decade later, after being widowed and while holding a pretty high-powered position in finance (winning is the best revenge, dunderheads!), my online dating profile resembled an ad for the U.S. Supreme Court. Just in case a guy in my industry might happen to see it. My friend Evan (unaware of this part of my history) gently teased me. “Another turtleneck? You’re really stepping out. This one is beige, not navy.”
But that is my story, not theirs. The question of whether women can be both sexy and smart is being answered right now by the likes of Jean-Charles, Goetz and Barry. When I asked Jean-Charles (the Founder/CEO of Healthy Roots Dolls) how she thought about it she replied “OMG. This is so interesting to me because I don’t. It’s probably because I’m my own “boss” . . . I do what I want.” Armstrong (the Founder/CEO of Isle de Nature" says "I don't have the energy to care about anyone who judges me on metrics other than my accomplishments. There's just too much to get done." These women are done with the unhealthy, false dichotomy of “sexy or smart” and the stingy, corseted lives that choice offers them. They have launched companies in order to do business on their own terms. Goetz (the Founder/CEO House of Wise) concluded in her twitter thread “There are no rules any more. We don’t have to live by the [outdated] standards.”
Barry (the Founder/CEO of Zingeroo) punches even harder: “You want me to fly, but maybe in beige and at night so no one can see me? . . . Sit quietly in a plain, dark suit? . . .I no longer want to hear what I’m supposed to be like, act like, talk like. . . I will not be put in a box where you think I should live. . .”
No metaphorical (or literal) turtlenecks for them. Like Simic, they contain multitudes and they’re saying so. In a nod to each one of these fiercely self-defining women, I started looking through my closet tonight. “Where’d I store that Gucci dress?”
Charles Simic's "Breasts" is from his Selected Poems 1963-1983 (George Braziller, Inc. 1985). You can read it in full (and some of his other poems here (scroll down).
+J. Matos Rodriguez (2005) Unmothered Americas: Poetry and Universality (On Charles Simic, Alejandra Pizarnik, and Giannina Braschi). Columbia University Academic Commons.
Like this essay? Forward it to someone. You're Wearing A Turtleneck, Again?
Hide a Love Note In Their Pocket. Complete a task for them that they’ve put off. Play a board game. Hands down the best Social Media site to follow if you are looking for day-in, day-out useful, thoughtful, practical suggestions and ideas on how to improve your relational intelligence, and your relationships, is Elizabeth Earnshaw’s instagram page. Like this one on Things You Could Do Today to Make Someone Feel Really Special. (My Mother used to put love notes in my school lunch bag. ("Hi Honey! Have fun at school today!") It worked for me.) If you want more in-depth advice from Liz, you’ll want to listen to What Makes A Relationship Work?, on which the captivating friends at Virra Life, Katherine Griffiths and Stefania Romeo, interview Liz.
“Are You Lying Down?” And speaking of love notes, LizListens took me back to one of the sexiest things that one of my favorite exes did a few years back now. We were both traveling a lot for work, and he knew that I was regularly parking myself at the Palihouse in Santa Monica. One day I got a fedex with this handwritten note on the envelope “Are You Lying Down?”. When I opened it up I found a short, sexy note that began with, “I hope that you are travelling with Hum” (the name of my favorite vibrator). It went on to describe (intricately) how thrilling he found it when I came, how beautiful I looked to him in those moments and what he’d like to do for me when I was back in town. Come to think of it that situation got sticky, but I miss that rascal from time to time.
Swoon. I love jazz and see it live often in New York and elsewhere, so it was no surprise to me when I came across “Jazzmeia Horn Enters The Jazz-Vocal Pantheon”. Her free-form scat is a modern take on Ella Fitzgerald’s, but Horn owns everything about her vocal style (and person). If you act quick you can grab tickets to her streaming performance tonight (Thursday March 4th at 7:30pm) at Dizzy’s Club at Lincoln Center. A great thing about Dizzy Club’s live streaming performances is the suggested ticket price is a reasonable $10. Here is a clip of Horn in a studio production of Tight.
“It’s Important to Stay Hydrated as well as relaxed, and it’s also important to celebrate your body no matter what age or size.” Chelsea Handler gives us the gift of a breathtaking run down the slopes at Whistler for her 46th birthday.
There's always a slippery slope, enjoy it.
PS: I would love if it you loved The Crush Letter so much that you wanted to share this subscription link with friends. If they become a Founding Subscriber, they'll get a gift box. And then, well, they'll love you even more. (Obviously.) Throw it around, this love thing. That's what it's for. Thank you.
The Crush Letter
The Crush Letter is a weekly newsletter from the Dish curating intelligence & stories on all things 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.