The Crush Letter No 38: The Divorce Issue

. 18 min read

I'm Dish and I write a weekly newsletter about friendship, love and sex in midlife. Because honestly I'm hotter than ever, and so are you.  Unless you believe the media hype that we're wise, warm and invisible.  That's not hot.  Hell yes, sign me up for the Dish.

Hello Crush,

The six years her fans have spent wandering the desert since her last album are over.  Adele's new album '30' has landed.  When Adele sings, people listen.  And discuss and as we've all heard, it's her "divorce album."   So for this week's issue, dearest CRUSH Readers, we're going all in on divorce.  (Why fight the hype?)  Or rather, on endings, and the beginnings they leave room for.  

We have so many stories from Crush contributors this week.  Really good ones.  Straight up stories, stories embedded into reviews of books and movies on divorce, stories turned into how-to's on divorce.  Stories from you, stories for you (and maybe for that friend who is contemplating an ending or beginning).  But the story that all these stories really tell us is that life is full of heartbreak and hope, sadness and humor, endings and beginnings.  It's the nature of life.

There's so much to bite into this week, let's begin.

If you're new here (welcome!), I'm Dish, the Master of Ceremonies. For more about me and why we're here go here.

In This Letter.  +"Divorce, Baby, Divorce."  By Liza Lentini The Features Editor of SPIN Magazine gives us the first (and best) word on Adele's new album.  Naked and Not Afraid. By KC Roth  A PrimeCrush Reader who did the whole yoga+spirituality circuit sets herself (and us, thank you) free.  +Double Feature from Ida Clare: Divorce the Feng Shui Way & Bloody Good Sex. A regular PrimeCrush Contributor gets through her divorce, then into her first sexual situation.  Messy.  +PrimeCrush & Chill: Movie’s Worth a Re-watch. By Daisey Foster.  An Unmarried Woman starring Jill Clayburgh heals all over again.  +But You Seemed So Happy: A Marriage, in Pieces and Bits by Kimberly Harrington. Reviewed by Bob Guccione Jr.  A regular PrimeCrush contributor considers some divorce expertise in light of his own entertainingly enviable own experience with divorce, twice.   +Book Review: Heartburn by Nora Ephron. Review by Evie Arnaude.  Saw the movie?  Why you should read the book.  +F*ck Divorce: A Science-Based Guide to Piecing Yourself Back Together after Your Life Implodes. By Erica Slotter, PhD and Patrick Markey, PhD. Reviewed by Belia Terpin  This self-help book admits the ugliest pieces, and guides you toward gluing yourself back together.  +An Optimist’s Roadmap for the Divorce-curious. Snapshot Rec: F*** It. Get A Divorce By Steve Kane.  Reviewed by Dish Stanley.  Not everyone can write an upbeat book on how and why to divorce.  But Steve Kane succeeded in doing just that.  +Our Song of the Week.  Take It Easy On Me

“Divorce, Baby, Divorce”.  By Liza Lentini

What is it about Adele that we love so much? Just about everything.

“Divorce, baby, divorce,” is how Adele described her long-awaited new album, 30 (out November 19), via her very first Instagram Live. It’s been six long years and, with her teaser single “Easy on Me” as a prelude, it’s clear she’s ready and willing to pull the living shit out of our heartstrings yet again.

Most of us met Adele with her first chart-topper “Chasing Pavements” in February 2009—and were goners from the start. She announced herself as a powerhouse vocalist, with soul-searing songwriting and something else—that illusive and genuine magic—that makes someone a superstar. Like so many artists, she was presented and thus discovered and devoured by listeners, being one of the few artists to fill a deep, deep inner void. Finally, someone understood. That person was Adele.

With previous albums 19, 21, and 25, she’s shared musical poems, with love, memorably, in its most transformative and most heartbreaking state. “First Love” from 19, captures that conflicting turmoil of passion, wanting more and understanding, perhaps for the first time, that people change and relationships end. “Someone Like You”, off of 21, could potentially be a continuation of this love story, or another which left a tiny, burning ember still very much alive, one that leaves one of them always wonderin —and hoping. And “Hello”, from 25, may very well be the final chapter. Because the singer is from the “other side” some say she’s died, but I like to think it’s a metaphorical death, moving onto a new physical and emotional place because there’s no going back to “when we were younger and free”.

This time around, 30 marks her age when she married her husband Simon Konecki in 2018. Now 33, and having finalized their divorce in March, this album proves to be possibly her most soul-baring yet. When she announced the album in October via social media, she told us: “I was certainly nowhere near where I’d hoped to be when I first started it nearly three years ago… And yet there I was knowingly – willingly even, throwing myself into a maze of absolute mess and inner turmoil!” Fans flipped, tissues in hand, ready to work things through with her, empathic soldiers at the ready.

So, then, what is it about Adele?

As Features Editor at SPIN, I write, read and talk about music all day long. I receive literally hundreds of pitches and releases every week about musicians—all of them beaming with talent. Some will choose to stay in an industry sadly known for eating fine souls for breakfast. Some, rarely, will achieve ultimate and lasting stardom. It’s often unknown, truly, how these fates are precisely allotted.

In Adele’s case, though, we do know. Though 30 marks a period of extreme heartbreak, the traditionally very private singer has chosen to reveal a bit more of herself publicly, just enough to continue to qualify as undoubtedly human. She was in her early twenties when she became a star, and though it would seem she’s grown up with us, we’ve actually grown up with her, watchful eyes modeling her graceful approach to fame with a genuine realness and a double dose of reality. When her album 25 won six Grammy Awards in 2017, she actually claimed Beyoncé’s Lemonade should have won instead: "I felt like it was her time to win. My view is, kind of, what the f--k does she have to do to win Album of the Year?" Humility and integrity at the helm, she was born for this.

That said, if we know anything, it’s that she doesn’t take herself too seriously. And what’s more enticing than seeing a real-live unicorn step out of their private lair to make us laugh (see SNL for reference). She’s smart, funny, quick-witted, her rich cockney accent keeping her down-to-earth with the rest of us mere mortals. For someone who early on established herself as a non-attention seeker, it’s thrilling to watch her step seamlessly between worlds.

More than anything, Adele—via her music reminds us that through our vulnerability, we can find our deepest strength. Her first singles are as stunning and timeless today as they were back then, this is the stuff stars are made of. No matter where she goes or how she does it, she’s taking us along for the ride.

Liza Lentini is an award-winner writer and editor. She is currently the Features Editor at SPIN.

The Crush Letter
The Crush Letter is a newsletter curated by Dish Stanley on everything friendship, love & sex for those of us over 40. Want the Dish?

Naked and Not Afraid.  By KC Roth

One writer bares all for a relatable tale of regaining one’s self and sexuality, reinstating the all-important lesson that endings bring brave new beginnings.

“What do you mean you can’t come skinny dipping with us?”

I went to more spiritual retreats, yoga retreats, meditation retreats, and self-improvement seminars in my 30’s than any one woman could digest. I’m sure I gave very reasonable explanations for this at the time…but let’s call it what it was: I was running away from my life every chance I got.

This particular “festival” was in Cancun and, naturally, the attendees were all “AMAZING people up to BIG THINGS.”

I found myself on the beach with a not-quite-famous sex educator and she was rallying the crowd to strip down and jump in. I was a no…make that a hell no.

When this glorious creature of oozing sensuality asked me why not, my answer seemed obvious…

“I can’t. I am a mother.”

Continue reading here

Divorce the Feng Shui Way &  Bloody Good Sex

Two Divorce Stories By PrimeCrush Contributor Ida Clare

Divorce the Feng Shui Way.  By Ida Clare

Writer Ida Clare shares her story of how feng shui and an unshakeable sense of humor got her through a really ugly divorce.

I got divorced a long time ago. And it was messsssssssy. I got married way too young (I am from the rural South, it’s what you do). He was/is a narcissistic, alcoholic, cheating, domestic abuser…aaaaaand his family was/is a very prominent political family in a southern, very red, state…so court (along with property, cars, and my son) was bought and paid for. For any of you that have survived a narcissistic, alcoholic, cheating, domestic abuser, you know that they drive you literally (I’m using this word correctly) crazy…you are looney tunes in the throes of it all.

Disclaimer 1: Though this is a VERY serious issue, you have to have a sense of humor about it, not only after the fact but right in the midst of it. Humor is my blanket and my weapon. Hear me out. Disclaimer 2: For those that are currently in this situation, GET OUT! GET HELP! I love you. It gets so much better.

On with the story…

Continue reading here


Bloody Good Sex. By Ida Clare

Writer Ida Clare's first sexual encounter post-divorce was, well, messy at best. Here’s her story.

I have always felt that I rode the line between the generation that avowed a woman should get married, have children, defer to her husband; and the generation of “make your own life”, which can include the aforementioned things, but only if you want them. Thus, I got married young and so I didn’t get a chance to experiment sexually as a young woman (or travel or have a home by myself…). I stayed married for 15 long years. Sex in the marriage was boring…but how would I have known? I really had no previous experiences.

My very first sexual encounter post-divorce was with an older man who I had dated three times prior to this story. During the heavy-petting portion of the evening, in my head, I was weighing my options about how many dates should pass until “doing it”. The old generation voice warned: “Don’t be a bad/whore/get-the-milk-for-free girl or no one will EVER want you.” But then the new equal/assertive/independent/I-am-woman hear-me-roar voice countered: “If I’m horny (and after a long marriage of mostly bad sex, of course, I was), I can damn well do what and who I want!” So…we move into the bedroom. Turns out, this guy was well-versed in the oral arts. THAT was fabulous because my ex-husband haaaated that. I thought, “Thank you, Universe! This was a long time coming! Oh, and I was “coming” several times.

Continue reading here

PrimeCrush & Chill: Movie’s Worth a Re-watch.  By Daisey Foster

“PrimeCrush & Chill” is a series where we re-review and recommend movies we think are perfect for a sexy night in.

An Unmarried Woman (1978)

Movie Title: An Unmarried Woman

Starring: Jill Clayburgh, Alan Bates, Paul Mazursky

Released: Match 5, 1978

Basic Plot: “Happily” married art-gallery worker Erica is sideswiped when her stockbroker husband Martin (Michael Murphy) leaves her for a younger woman. As the devastation wears off, Erica begins reevaluating her own needs and rediscovering herself in a way that can only come from being newly single. As a new relationship forms with an English artist (Alan Bates), she’s careful to be sure she preserves her newfound joyful self.

Why Re-watch: It’s impossible for me to review this movie without mentioning how it got me, personally, through my own divorce. My situation was the opposite of Erica’s—short-lived marriage, no children—but the shock of something ending, followed by a period of rediscovery, isn’t situational or generational, and will likely stand the test of time. For anyone who’s been through it, the space before the rebirth of oneself post-relationship, though different for everyone, is muddled at best and terrifying at its worst. Jill Clayburgh, inarguably one of the best actors of her generation, captures all of this in its layered messiness and wonder. Considered her “breakout role”, An Unmarried Woman earned Clayburgh the Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Actress and a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress. The best part is, you don’t need a crisis to revisit or be inspired by this movie’s brilliance. It’s sure to move and inspire you, no matter where you are in life.

Book Review:  But You Seemed So Happy: A Marriage, in Pieces and Bits by Kimberly Harrington.  Reviewed by Bob Guccione Jr.

My men friends hate me for this, but I’ve had two of the most peaceful, agreeable, and amicable divorces in the history of, well, mankind. When my first marriage ended, my wife and I agreed on a $10,000 settlement, because, as she succinctly, and fairly, stated, “I came into this marriage with 10,000 dollars and I want to leave it with 10,000 dollars.” When we finally got around to legally executing a divorce, after --- this is true --- for two years thinking our mutual friend, a lawyer, was the other’s attorney for this, the lawyer she found asked me for $100,000. I called my (still) wife and said, well, I suppose this is the way it goes, when things get down to the brass tacks, and she cut me off and said: “He asked for what? Give me ten minutes,” hung up, called back and said, “I fired him and got a new lawyer who will settle this for $10,000.” My second wife and I agreed to the terms of our divorce in ninety seconds. And that included Hello, how are you, how’s your mum?
I’m proud of that. Of course, looking back, it has occurred to me that being married to me could have been so incalculably miserable that they would have agreed to a packet of crisps to be rid of me.

But You Seemed So Happy by Kimberly Harrington is a fun book of essays detailing the dissolution of a marriage, the (apparently not hard) decision to divorce --- although, if ever there was a justifiable use of the otherwise execrable phrase “conscious uncoupling,” this would seem to be it --- and then their continuing to live together, “for the kids.” (Don’t tell me therapy doesn’t have a future! It’s a completely sustainable industry! We dutifully and invariably sow the seeds for the next generation of clients.)

Harrington writes that there were “no affairs” and “no nervous breakdowns.” What an anti-climax! Where’s the juice, Woman! Instead, there was just a steady deterioration of passion for each other, and interest in evolving together. She simply discovers --- and, one wants to say, this should not be considered one of the great scientific revelations of all time --- that, two decades later, she is “not the same person she was at 27.”

What she has written is a memoir of a car crash at such very slow speeds that there’s barely any damage and both drivers sort of wanly smile at each other and ask if the other is okay. “We all hear the dramatic stories of divorce, but we don’t hear much about boring divorces. Or perfectly okay divorces,” Harrington writes by way of explanation, or maybe an apology. The pandemic is invoked, because, oh God, it has to be, because it’s not enough for modern writers to perpetually navel-gaze, they have to become entranced by the lint they find there. The pandemic is apparently the tint all images of current life must be viewed in, which is just ridiculous, and narcissistic. If being together under the same roof more than usual deflated your marriage, your marriage sucked anyway. And people have to get over the fact that our modern, mostly empty lives of self-absorption were inconvenienced for two years by our having to try to not die.

This is, tellingly, a book Harper Perennial didn’t feel merited the investment of publishing in hardback or charging nearly thirty dollars for. No, this is a trade paperback at a reasonable $16.99 --- what’s that instead of, two Starbuck coffees and a crap muffin? But then this is really more a self-help book, a guide for those looking at their marriage in the mirror and being honest that it has leaked all its liquid.

But You Seemed So Happy is not literature, engaging though it is and, for a certain audience, doubtless speaking to their hearts. This is Divorce For Dummies, which I’m pretty sure already exists, by the way, just saying, if you need it.

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Book Review: Heartburn by Nora Ephron. Review by Evie Arnaude.

How wonderful would it be if this review began with the disclaimer that Heartburn’s themes of infidelity and betrayal were outdated. Sadly, nearly four decades since its 1983 publication, Nora Ephron’s book is a relatable and gut-wrenching work of “fiction”, based on her real-life, short-lived marriage to Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein, famous first for teaming up with Bob Woodward on Watergate, and second for being the fictionalized cheater Mark Forman in Heartburn.

If you’ve seen the film and you love it, reading the book is truly a new experience. Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson undoubtedly offer two of the most underrated performances of their careers, and with Meryl, at the forefront they tell a poignant story. But the book belongs to Nora’s Rachel Samstat, a New York food critic, who in her seventh months of pregnancy, learns that her husband has taken a lover. And this is how it starts.

What follows is the story of how one successful, intelligent, and extremely witty woman finds herself in love with and consistently longing to believe in the man she loves so much, not only because that was Ephron’s real life, but because it is real life. And there’s no point in analysis: It happens. Ephron is simply too damn talented not to make the book, in spite of all its surrounding sadness, a joyful ride inside her desperate and curious psyche. When things get a little too tense, food-writer Rachel offers the reader a delicious recipe for distraction. (Or maybe it is she who needs the distraction?) Either way, devastating storyline and semi-autobiographical elements aside, there is so much hope from the get-go that Ephron creates a smooth and seamless tale, and she makes us laugh through tears, as is her trademark.

Book Review:  F*ck Divorce: A Science-Based Guide to Piecing Yourself Back Together after Your Life Implodes.  By Erica Slotter, PhD and Patrick Markey, PhD.  Reviewed by Belia Terpin

Why This Book

There are a bazillion books on divorce, but this one comes from a place that’s equal parts personal and professional expertise. In her intro, author Erica Slotter admits that when she’d received her divorce decree, two things came to mind, “One: thank God it’s over. Two: What the fuck do I do now?” As a research psychologist devoted to defining the special sauce that makes relationships last or fail, Slotter understands and embraces the laughing-through-tears irony that makes this book uniquely personal, including the succulent tidbit that her also-newly divorced colleague and fellow comisserator eventually becomes her future husband. Oh, yeah, and they wrote this book together.

The book is about gluing yourself back together when your post-divorce self resembles shattered shards on a sandy beach. Who are you? And how do you get on with things? Slotter and Markey know it’s messy, but approach it with humor and stark realism, noting they’ll also help you “try to avoid serving jail time for murdering your twat-waffle ex-spouse.” They welcome you to the world of being divorced with sturdy, open, understanding arms, though not at all sugar-coating the process: “It’s good, bad, ridiculous, and sometimes your blind date smells like cabbage.”

Uniquely, F*ck Divorce acknowledges the ugliest bits—from brushing your teeth to awkward first dates guiding through the process of finding a life partner again. Post-divorce you aren’t the same as the one when you got married. Self-care, getting along with your ex, counseling your kids: You’ll have to learn and re-learn a new way of moving forward. If the authors are leading by example, there is, eventually, a way of walking off into the sunset, but not without embracing the Winston Churchill time-tested truism: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

My Personal Take

I’m going on nearly two decades since I ended my short-lived marriage, and I wish this book was around back then. The eternal adage is true: In times of crisis, you learn who your friends are. Moreover, some who are your real friends simply don’t know how to give you the support you need when you need it most. While a book written by strangers is never meant to replace the compassion of your nearest and dearest (or even a great therapist), it can provide an emotional life raft when you feel you're most alone. What Slotter and Markey have done is create a realistic playbook, and, despite their professional expertise, they try to keep the jargon out of it.

And perhaps this book's biggest strength: It actually doesn’t “tell” you what to do. It’s an easy read as if you’ve sat down with a good friend, who also happens to be a skilled professional. This friend knows you’re in a vulnerable place, and also knows that because opinions are truly like assholes, everyone you’ve met and haven’t is going to have an opinion about your divorce. No matter how well-meaning, most of these opinions will feel like they were and dually weren’t meant for you. “You’ll get over it” and “you’re better off” don’t really help when you’ve been crying for two years straight. The fact is, most of us will get through it safely, Slotter and Markey know this, but it’ll be really shitty far before that, and this book is their attempt to support, sympathize, cajole and guide you through.

Snapshot Recommendation:  An Optimist’s Roadmap for the Divorce-curious. Our Snapshot Rec: F*** It. Get A Divorce. By Steve Kane. Reviewed by Dish Stanley

And While We're On the Topic of Divorce, I Don't Know Who Needs to Hear This But F*** It. Get A Divorce by Steve Kane gives an "optimistic roadmap for the divorce-curious".  When you're in a place where your emotions are on full tilt, you need the grounding (and humor and hope) that this "Effit" book provides.  Kane steps you through all the considerations - from kids to money to lawyers to sex and forgiveness.  "Don't stay in a bad relationship over money," he argues, or at least if that's your biggest concern "price your happiness".  (He provides a formula.)  The exercise in honesty will definitely move your thinking forward.  As you ponder your options, Kane provides "Playlists for a Breakup".  So I have him to thank for reminding me of this gem from Lucinda's Williams best album Cartwheels On A Gravel Road, "Joy", in which a defiant, triumphant hard-rockin' Williams travels from Louisiana to Arkansas to chase down the happiness a betrayer had stolen from her.  

Song of the Week.

Adele- Easy On Me. Listen Here

This week end (and every week end, dearest CRUSH Readers), take it easy on you. I love you for being here and sharing this love & connection thing with me.  I love to hear from you, so write to me

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, facebook & twitter.

The Crush Letter
The Crush Letter is a newsletter curated by Dish Stanley on everything friendship, love & sex for those of us over 40. We come to your inbox Saturdays to make your life - and week end - better. Want the Dish?

Some of the past favorites of CRUSH Readers, in you case you missed them:

+The Dish on the Midlife Friend Audit: You Need Good Friends. But Who Is Good? (Part 1)

+Mi Amas Miajn Amikojn. By Dean Christopher

+Hefner. By Bob Guccione, Jr

+“Don’t Touch My Hat.*” Midlife Men & Friendship, Depression, Loneliness. By Dish Stanley

+“Don’t Touch My Hat.*” Midlife Men & Friendship, Depression, Loneliness. By Dish Stanley


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