The Crush Letter No. 6

. 8 min read

Hello Crush,

Welcome back, and welcome new readers!  Happy Saturday.  We moved from Thursday afternoons to Saturday mornings because last week (after the delay from our technology complications) we noticed that the immediate open rates were significantly higher. Here's to meeting a big love at that party you didn't want to attend. Smooch!

We've got a lot this week, so let's get it on. First, let's talk about 50+yo men and emotion, friendship and loneliness. And then (like going from Mars to Venus) a lot of folks who are making predictions on what life will look like in the immediate aftermath of strict pandemic lockdown are saying life looks horny.  So I suggest you take a kink assessment (no matter your relationship status).  Totally apropos of that, for the Quickies, I tried a couple of  new arousal serums for women, the New Yorker crowned Stanly Tucci the latest sex symbol (we're here for it) and I binged the British tv series The Split. Finally, Rosie Perez lights up up our song of the week So Emotional from Soul Train (1987).

Don't Touch My Hat*: Middle Aged Men & Their Unmanly Needs

"Men can express a couple of emotions. I can be angry. I can be horny. I can be confident. That's about it."  That's Joe Gerstandt talking with Broc Edwards on Edwards' Midlife Mastery podcast. The recent episode "Normalizing Emotion" is a wide-ranging exploration of the themes of core male identity, male friendship, mental health (particularly loneliness) and the struggle many 50+yo men in America have expressing a healthy range of emotion. Their conversation was sparked by a video Gerstandt released on YouTube in the wake of his own divorce and his father's suicide.

Edwards and Gerstadt's conversation made me think of my brother, as well as the many middle aged men I've dated (very many, too too many men) since I was widowed who have said the exact, very same thing that Broc and Joe said: their 30's to 50's were taken up with the crushing combination of responsibilities of family and career (specifically amplified by societal expectations that equate career success with worth), their ex-wives took on the role of organizing couple's friendships (all of which were lost to them in the divorce), and their own direct friendships had atrophied as a result.  And if they didn't atrophy, they revolved around events, not conversations about how they feel about their lives, or what they need. Because the range of emotions that are socially acceptable to express expressly excludes "I'm sad," "I'm anxious," "I'm lonely."  I can personally attest from my experience dating that "I'm hungry" is one need that midlife men are perfectly comfortable expressing. But I've begun to wonder whether the hunger for dinner (or sex) that they are able to express so easily is sometimes really a metaphor for a much more existential hunger.

There are profound and negative consequences for all of us from men living in such a constrained state of expression. And - this seems obvious - especially for men. After listening to Edwards and Gerstand on Midlife Mastery I did some quick research on the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's website and their stats say that the rate of suicide across America is highest in middle-aged white men (in 2019 men died by suicide 3.63x more often than women). Is their high suicide rate the underbelly of white male privilege, too politically sensitive to illuminate or discuss in the same conversation? I have read and listened to a lot lately on midlife men, friendship and loneliness and I believe that (like women's physical and sexual health), we are just getting started understanding and dealing with men's emotional well-being.

Please consider taking a few minutes to listen to this short video from Joe Gerstadt that sparked his conversation with Broc Edwards on men and loneliness.

And in the wake of all this, did I reach out to my brother and all of my male friends? Yes. Every one of them. My way of checking in is sideways. Sending an article, a recipe, a spotify song that made me "think of  you." Something to get the conversation up and running enough to ask: "how are you doing, anyway? It's been hard for me, the isolation and loneliness. How are you?" You do it your way. There is a brother, a father or a friend in your life who seems okay but really is not. Who needs to hear from you. Let it fly today.

In addition to Edward's Midlife Mastery episode "Normalizing Emotion," I recommend listening to Guys, We Have A Problem from the podcast Hidden Brain, The Hidden Tragedy of Male Loneliness from the podcast The Art of Manliness. I also especially appreciated Peter McGraw's conversation with Rhaina Cohen on his podcast episode "Making Friends The Center of Life." McGraw is an advocate for a solo lifestyle and host of the podcast SOLO: The Single Person's Guide To A Remarkable Life.  As someone whose life is not centered around marriage or children (by choice), his friendships (with men and women) have a special status. In this episode in particular and in his podcast generally, McGraw, a hetero white midlife man, takes on the "one-two punch of homophobia and hypermasculinity that make it difficult for men to be vulnerable enough" to have close male friendships.  He provides a powerful model of male friendships and offers an important and distinct perspective on friendships generally.

*Lyle Lovett, Don't Touch My Hat "I grew up lonesome / On the open range / And that cold north wind / Can make a man feel strange / My John B. Stetson / Was my only friend."

People Are Predicting Orgies

People are wondering how we will all come out of it. Dr. Nicholas Christakis, Yale Professor and social epidemiologist, has the answer. Orgies. Well, he puts it more academically in his heavily quoted book Apollo's Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live. "People will relentlessly seek out social interactions" that could include "sexual licentiousness." (Orgies.) A second "roaring 20's," he predicts. A lot of brands targeting millenials are jumping the gun, perhaps ushering it in, depending on your take. In We’re Ready For the Pandemic To End.  So Are Brands, Terry Nguyen of Vox says "Brands want to "help" (quotations added) consumers imagine a post-pandemic world . . ." While some brands may up their sex factor slowly "Don't be fooled," says Nguyen, "The summer of 2021 could possibly by the horniest of our lifetimes."  Suitsupply seems to agree.

“I’m A Dom. And A Brat Tamer.  What Are You?”

To get ready for the post-pandemic sexual revolution, you may want to know whether your kink is more rope bunny** or less switch***, says my friend "Jesse" in a recent text exchange:

Jesse:  “Hey Dish, I have something to share with you.  A few weeks ago I took a kink assessment.  I found out I’m a Dom.  And a Brat Tamer.  Surprising, huh?"

Me: “OMG.  *You’re* a Dom?  Wow.”

Jesse:  “I know.”

Me:  “I mean Brat Tamer I kinda get, cuz u hang with me. ;-) But Dom?"

Jesse:  “Haha. I'm 83% Dom. Do you want to find out what you are?  Take the assessment.”

Jesse:  Link to The BDSM Test

Jesse:  “Take the long version.  It’s so comprehensive.  I learned so much about myself.  I mean 83% Dom!”

Jesse: "Crush Readers should know. Not @ me, the Dom. But the test. Cuz sex will be here again."

And so, Crush Readers, now you know. And I did take the test. The long version. And it is quite comprehensive and even more fascinating. Rope bunny. Voyeur. Vanilla. Experimentalist. Switch. Aren't you curious about how many multitudes you are? Then, as they put it, let's test the kink out of you! Here.

**"Rope bunny likes to be tied up and restrained, using roper and/or other attributes (chains, cuffs, spreader bars, etc.). Whether for sexual enhancement, for art or just for fun, they enjoy being totally at the mercy of their partner(s)."

***"Switches like to . . . well, switch. Always taking a dominant or top position is not for them, neither is always taking a submissive or bottom position . . ."


Arousal Gels, Babe. Arousal gels for women have been piling into my ad space lately, so I ordered three from natural brands I trust: Dame Products, Simple Jane and Foria. They all feel good (not at the same time!), amplified the feels, made me tingle, heightened the experience and felt more "organic" than a lot of lubes (but don't replace lubes).  Here's my quick take: I like them all, but Temptress from Simple Jane and Awaken from Foria both have CBD in their formulas (and I really liked that). Temptress (with CBD) has a spicy/clove smell that was perfect for a cold night (and, let's be real, also has the best name). Foria's Awaken (with CBD) had a subtler taste and smell (and I preferred that on a warm night) (and Foria has a version called Pleasure that also has THC in it, which I'd like to try but couldn't get). Dame Product's straightforwardly named Arousal Serum had the most tingle, my favorite smell and taste (mildly minty) and is the least expensive (and if you prefer it without CBD, this may be your pick). Pro Tips for all of them: start with a very small amount because the sensations can be strong. And they might take a few minutes to rev up (especially the CBD products).

Stanley Tucci Is a Sex Symbol. In the wake of his recent popular CNN series "Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy" and lesson on how to make negroni's on his insta feed, the New Yorker has referred to Tucci's "unexpected late-career reinvention as a sex symbol" in a recent article "The Timeless Fantasy of Stanley Tucci Eating Italian Food." And we're happy for him. This development reminds us of being a die-hard Shelby Lynne fan in 1999 when, after her sixth studio album, she was given the Grammy for Best New Artist. Since this was neither unexpected, nor late, nor a reinvention. Because Tucci opened up Paradise for us in Big Night back in 1996, and in our cookbook he's been sexy every day since.

I binged The Split (on Hulu). The first two seasons straight, in 24 hours. And if you think you might enjoy watching a dysfunctional family with a lot of dangerous, sexy secrets whose family business is headed by a matriarch who launched London's premier divorce law firm, then it would be wise to start before its third (and final) season airs. Two thumbs up, as Siskel and Ebert used to say.

And for this week end's vibes, I get so emotional watching Rosie Perez light up this line dance to Whitney Houston's singing on Soul Train (1987).  I'm following Rosie around the room kinda like Prince does here. You can take it from there. But make sure you find a friend (maybe a father, brother, uncle?) to join you.

Dish Stanley XO,

The Crush Letter
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