I'm Dish and I write a weekly newsletter about life, love and sex in midlife. Because it's so much cooler than they said it would be. Hell yes, sign me up for the Dish.
I hope your week was hot and healthy. Thanks for your notes - I quickly regrouped from taking the updated Covid booster (and my flu shot) last Friday and was back at life the next day.
This week, among many other things, we are starting a long overdue conversation on what living and loving in midlife really looks like. TOPIX will be a regular feature to share bold and honest personal essays and stories about how we are constructing relationships in midlife today. Many of us hoped for (or even have) long-term happy marriages. What a blessing. But we are at a turning point, I believe, where people in midlife are constructing variations on the traditional model – or altogether new models – of living and loving. Couples who never marry, married couples who operate a lot like divorced couples, long-term platonic friendships that function a lot like married couples, solo lives where friends are the family, etc., etc. As a good friend likes to say: love makes a loving relationship, a label does not. In other words, in midlife we are curating a lot more than craft beer and artisanal cheeses. Talking about it offers the opportunity for more ideas, more courage, more understanding and more support. Ultimately, more love.
So we're starting TOPIX this week and I'm really, seriously excited about it.
Check that out, and so much more. Thanks for being here.
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. +TOPIX: Exile in Normalville By Dish Stanley Even if all we were to learn is that we are not alone in our glorious messiness, that would be enough. That would make some of us feel much less isolated, more validated. +Three Things I'm Crushing On: Liza Lentini, Managing Editor at SPIN.com When it comes to makeup, I’m easily the laziest person you’ll ever meet. +Call Me Daddy (or Mommy): What Does Roleplay Mean, And How To Play With It? By Ralph Greco Sure, roleplay is, by its very nature, that which we get into to take us away from who we are +Songs That Make You Wanna F*ck: “John Doe” Sexually, I am motivated almost solely by my external physique +Social Media I Loved. By Dish Stanley Admit that this is true, and stop kidding yourself about some of your friends and family +Our Song of the Week It’s hard to get by just upon a smile
TOPIX: Exile in Normalville By Dish Stanley
Let’s Admit There’s No “Normal” to Relationships in Midlife
& Start Talking About What We’re Really Doing.
“Topix” is a new series where PrimeCrush’s always-anonymous friends start all-important conversations about their views on life, love & friendship in midlife.
There is a prevailing narrative around midlife that maintains that being in a couple — preferably a long-standing married couple — is not only widespread but also the natural and best way of living. In the “couple narrative,” each person’s partner is their everything (or nearly so): best friend, soulmate, lover, roommate, business partner, work-out partner, chess partner, pickle partner, you-name-it playmate. In a secondary constellation around them are coupled-up friends to throw dinner parties and go on vacation with, as well as each partner’s same-sex friendships.
But we’ve gone through seismic shifts in society over the last decade+. Divorce, same-sex marriage, an increase in the number of working women, artificial insemination, and single parenting have become commonplace. Against that backdrop, in midlife, we become empty nesters, divorced, and widowed. We change jobs or retire early, lose an increasing number of friends and family to death, move to sunnier places, grow apart. These evolutions, tragedies, and disruptions, along with just everyday ordinary life played out over time, add up to knowing ourselves more deeply. We become clearer about who we are, what we need, what we like and don’t like — and more confident acting on it in and with our most intimate circles.
If we take a closer look, we see that midlife relationships are a messier picture than our shared narratives tell. Among adults 40 to 54, there has been a significant increase in the number who are unpartnered (neither married nor living with a partner) — 38% in 2019, up sharply from 29% in 1990. And those who are married in midlife have a more complicated story than we admit: the 2016 U.S. Census Bureau Report shows that 43% of people who are 55 to 64 have gone through a divorce. Many remarry, but many marriages after 55 are not first marriages - many who are married are actually remarried, in other words. Seemingly slight cracks in the prevailing narrative, but the numbers are not minimal and the trend is pronounced.
Where we’re at, I believe, is a turning point. Where more of us are constructing more “curated” relationships in midlife — relationship structures that divert from expectations or assumptions, that are far more original and varied than are acknowledged by our friends and family, let alone society at large. We're still only whispering about them to our most intimate friends (if even that), but we'd all be better off if we found a way to speak up.
TOPIX is going to share those stories.
We all know of or have friends who are doing the Jackie O-Maurice Tempelsman thing - living in committed, long-term romantic and life partnerships with no intention of getting married to each other. In their case, Tempelsman and his wife of 30+ years never divorced; he separated from Lily Bucholz in 1984 and moved into Jackie’s Fifth Avenue building in 1988, 13 years after Jackie was widowed from Aristotle Onassis. Jackie and Maurice's relationship was not a secret, though there was remarkably little coverage of it at the time, particularly given the press’s love affair with Jackie.
Even among those who are married and appear to all over the world to meet society’s familiar expectations though, the stories are richer and more nuanced than they seem.
Anecdotally, in my own small world I’ve encountered the following:
A friend who has been married 20 years and hasn’t had any kind of sexual intimacy with her spouse in over a decade. They’ve never talked about it. She assumes that he, like she, doesn’t want it any more (from anyone) and is going without.
Another friend, same set of facts. Except he has an old college friend (also married) who lives on the other side of the world with whom he started having regular, scheduled phone sex about five years into his sexual drought with his wife.
Another friend, same set of facts. Except they agreed to what I’ll call a “Not Divorced But Not Really Married Either” lifestyle. What does that entail? Ninety percent of the time they lead entirely separate lives. She stays in the city, he stays in the country. He does golf trips with his buddies; she goes shopping in Milan with her girlfriends. They have agreed that they can discreetly get involved in “curtailed” romantic relationships with others - for a trip, a season, an event - but the married couple comes together under one roof with their children for extended family vacations twice a year, as well as all the holidays, and presents a “married” front.
Continue reading here.
Got a reaction or comment on this TOPIX? We’d love to hear it. We’ll publish it in an upcoming Letter. Thanks!
Three Things I'm Crushing On Right Now: Liza Lentini, Managing Editor at SPIN.com
In this new series, readers like you share recommendations for the things they love the most, right at this moment.
- Prada Cashmere Sweater, $1,720.00
I’ve tried to analyze why I love these sweaters so much and, moreover, why I prefer men’s sweaters to women’s, but really it all comes down to one factor: comfort. I’m very tall, so generally, men’s sweaters tend to be longer and looser and more comfortable for me. I don’t need to tell you why cashmere is so luxurious, but I will say, sometimes you really do get what you pay for, and this sweater is worth every penny. Treat it right and you’ll have a classic style you can wear forever.
2. INFINITIPRO by Conair Hot Air Paddle Styler Dryer Brush, $19.99
I have very fine hair, so when I finally found this under-twenty-dollar miracle cure for making my hair look like I stepped out of a salon, I pondered: “What the heck took me so long???” You don’t live to midlife without wasting way too much money on frustrating beauty fails, so when something actually works, it feels like a dream
3. Revolution Pro Blur Stick Universal Face Primer, $15.00
When it comes to makeup, I’m easily the laziest person you’ll ever meet. I rarely wear it at all. However, I can’t deny that I look so much less like a swamp creature with just a little bit of makeup on in virtual meetings. What I love most about a great face primer is that you can grab it five minutes before the meeting starts, smear it all over your face and you’re (sort of) meeting-ready. It’s not heavy and I still look like myself in natural light. I found this one after my Milk Blur Stick ran out—they’re both quite excellent.
SIGHS & Moans. By Ralph Greco, Jr.
A new column on love, sex, and kink in relationships from the host of the podcast Licking Non-Vanilla, who has spent a lot of time contemplating all of it in his sixty years of being alive.
Call Me Daddy (or Mommy): What Does Roleplay Mean, And How To Play With It? By Ralph Greco
In the 6th installment of his series, writer Ralph Greco gives tips for approaching roleplaying safely.
According to the Urban Dictionary, roleplaying is “acting out a fantasy while engaging in sexual activity…this may include dressing up for the roles, using props and/or creating or finding the right setting.”
Just think of the potential for you and your lover if you get into this! Dressing up in some sexy costume, adopting an accent, or even a fantasy scenario where you two go out for the evening, enter some local bar, and play that you’ve only met for the first time. What you can do with roleplaying skirts across a veritable plethora of options.
But taking a little trip into this kind of fun is not without its risks.
How To Begin
If you and your partner have never tried roleplay or have only tickled across it a few times, it’s best to ease yourselves into simple scenarios and quickly adopted roles (assuming, of course, you’ve had a nice long talk about what you both want and do not want from roleplaying) initially. The Stanislavski acting method will probably not serve you well in your first few tries, and if you are inclined to slip into a costume or two, keep them easy to take on and off, at least until you two have a handful of role-plays under your belt.
You also might want to try not going too far afield of who you are. Sure, roleplay is, by its very nature, that which we get into to take us away from who we are. But for the first few times, if you or your partner are inclined to a little cross-dressing, maybe you shouldn’t try putting on that complicated garter-stocking and corslet, or she might avoid trying to get herself into the full firefighter’s suit.
Also, keep the play far from the hard and true power differences of your usual dynamic. Yes, this might be the opportunity you have been hoping for, where your partner plays librarian to your student with overdue books. But if you are hoping he/she/they might enact some sexy comeuppance on your person (and by “person” we mean a right spanking), if your partner has never been dominant in bed, in your initial roleplays, you’d be better served easing yourself into attitudes foreign to you both.
Continue reading here.
Songs That Make You Wanna F*ck: “John Doe”
An occasional pop-up where we share the songs that make the readers of The Crush Letter want to bang. Got one? Send it to me at Dish@PrimeCrush.com.
Song Title: Popsicle Toes
Artist: Michael Franks
What about this song musically does it for you? It’s mostly about the lyrics, but the music is laid down by some prominent jazz musicians of the 1970s who subtly flash their brilliance without stealing the show. Mostly they are content to establish a light but insistent groove.
The lyrics are near and dear. The second verse is built around the word pulchritude, which rhymes nicely with nude. There isn’t anything I like more than the pleasant rhythm of feminine pulchritude.
The third verse then uses the shape of the Americas to describe the figure of his lover. Sexually, I am motivated almost solely by my external physique. I like prominent secondary characteristics, mountainous North America, and well-rounded Brazil. I’m into the topography of the continents and am less concerned with Panama, though I do like to visit.
Continue reading here.
Social Media I Loved. By Dish Stanley
Admit that this is true, and stop kidding yourself about some of your friends and family.
Song of the Week
Wild World by Cat Stevens
Simply put, this week's well-known pick from 1971 is a tribute to our new column TOPIX. Oh baby, baby it's a wild world.
Let the TOPIX flow, CRUSHes. How are you living and loving now? I want to know. Dish@PrimeCrush.com.
You Won't Want to Miss A Thing. Here Are Links to Some Favorites.
+‘5 Things’ That Turn Our Crush Readers On. By Dish Stanley What turns you on? We'd love to hear from you! (Yes, you!) If you’d like us to send you a template to fill out, it’s really easy and fun, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You must be a CRUSH Reader! (PS you can publish under your alias.)
+What My Smart Friends Are Trying & Doing Right Now. By Dish Stanley Like me, you no doubt have friends who are “first movers” on everything from what they read to where they go. They are not trendy, but rather smart, discerning people who are informed, confident, grounded, and often in front of the pack in recognizing a truly good thing. This is a periodic column where I’ll occasionally round up recommendations from my “first-mover friends” and share them with you.
+LXIX. By A.K.A. Darla A self-proclaimed “fierce multi-tasker,” one PrimeCrush writer explains why this position simply isn’t for everyone (including her).