The Crush Letter No 84

. 10 min read

I'm Dish and I write a weekly newsletter about friendship, love and sex in midlife.  Because midlife is so much hotter than they said it would be.  Hell yes, sign me up for the Dish.

Hello Crush,

October is a moody month for me. Many see January as the start of their new year; not me. Each October I re-read something he wrote about life that I meditate on, as a way to center myself for the upcoming year.

I’ve shared it in today’s Letter. I hope that is some small inspiration to you, too.

In another sort of inspiration altogether, I always get inspired by CRUSH Readers who send in unsolicited entries for our Reader-driven columns. We got a “5 Things That Turn Me On” piece from a long-time loyal Reader. He’s a gem. Check it out.

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.  +HOT THOTS: What’s At The Center. By Dish Stanley Ambitiously, generously, joyfully, lovingly, intensely, and with a great deal of humor, he lived as if he were a flare struck by lightning, fired up on oxygen.   +Dear Dish Hopefully its up to snuff for the newsletter1   +5 Things That Turn Me On: MusicGeek77 Run your fingers and nails down my spine and up my sides   +Our Song of the Week Well, if you’re rough and ready for love, Honey, I’m tougher than the rest

Hot Thots.

A periodic column where Dish lets off steam.

An Annual Reflection: What’s At The Center. By Dish Stanley

At the innermost point of the circle are the things that really matter: family, faith, love.”

My late husband died over a decade ago on October 27th. He died too young, at the age of 41, but he lived big. Ambitiously, generously, joyfully, lovingly, intensely, and with a great deal of humor, he lived as if he were a flare struck by lightning, fired up on oxygen.

He died that way, too. Throwing off sparks until the very end. After a tracheotomy, those sparks came in the form of scraggly notes in blue ink on a yellow legal pad I had picked up for him in the hospital gift shop.

Okay at the time, some of the notes seemed mundane to me under the circumstances. Like a roughly scribbled: “Can you ask the nurse whether she can put off my night meds until after the Red Sox playoff game tonight? My brother is going to come in to watch it with me.” He veered from the ordinary to the philosophical. “Forgiveness often felt so hard to give,” he wrote after a visit from his father. “But holding onto the anger, feeding what could easily turn into a tragic grudge, takes so much energy and creates so much ongoing damage. Forgiving is actually easier.”

But before that — before he was admitted to the I.C.U. — he wrote the following [in part]:

“As I grew sicker, I also had what for me was an extremely comforting insight. I came to view serious and progressive illness as an ever-constricting circle with oneself at the center. The interior of the circle represents the contents of one’s life. As the circle gets smaller, things that were inside get forced out. Some of these things are dearly missed; others that were once thought precious gets forced to the exterior and turn out to go surprisingly unlamented.

At the innermost point of the circle are the things that really matter: family, faith, and love. These things stay with you until the day you die. At the very end, because the circle has shrunk down to its center, they’re all you have left. But as we approach that end, we finally realize that all along, they were what mattered most. As a consequence, life often remains beautiful and worthwhile right up until the end.

I realized that I was taking an amazing journey to the center of my life…at the center of my life I found something bigger, more powerful, and more beautiful than I could comprehend…and I felt God’s presence as surely as I felt the ground below my feet.”

Every once in a while you come across stories about those who work around the dying. A hospice nurse who shares a list of things people regret or would have done differently looking back. “I wish I had cared less about what others thought” … “I wish I had spent more time with my kids” … “I wish I hadn’t been so focused on status” are the ones you hear about a lot. I am so glad to say that my late husband had none of that. He had great successes and colossal failures, personally and professionally — a difficult relationship with his father, a thriving business that went under almost overnight, a writing career that soared surprisingly from the ashes, and a great love that was entirely unexpected. (That last one would be me.)

And heaven knows he endured many physically and emotionally challenging moments struggling with not feeling well, and then more metaphysically with beating back bitterness over the cards he was dealt. Or with the blues that would occasionally invite themselves in, as if considering whether there was a spot hospitable enough to stay a while.

But it is probably because he was born with a fatal disease and a life expectancy of 14 that he began to realize—he said sometime around his mid-30s—that every single day was an immense, incredible, remarkable gift. “Another day to do something useful that might be useful to the world, to read something brilliant, eat something delicious, hit a flop shot that lands like a butterfly on the green [he was an avid golfer]. To call my Mom, to chase our dogs around the house, to kiss you. In other words,” he’d say, “another perfect day.”

This is the great gift of living a life that includes recurring, increasingly debilitating battles against the fiercest of opponents. We appreciate life more when we understand how voracious and ever-lurking death is. Witnessing his blazing arc as intimately as I did I suppose I soaked some of it up.

Of all the many great gifts that his good love gave me, the most important was to expand my imagination of what makes life meaningful, and to appreciate what makes a day perfect. It’s many different things at different times, of course. These days I enjoy a big nomadic life. Taking lots of far-flung travel adventures, catching my favorite jazz guitarist live at multiple shows with multiple friends in multiple cities. Occasionally pulling out a win on the doubles tennis court. It’s a comfort to both appreciate the fineness of these things at the moment and to know, at the very same time, that none of those are necessary to feel like I have a life worth living. A perfect day can be as simple as watching your favorite team in the playoffs with your brother.

To me, it all feels so perfectly exquisite in a way that went underappreciated before. The thing is, every October I meditate on my good luck to be alive and surrounded by love. This will sound like an overstatement, but I assure you that it is not. I feel overwhelmed with gratitude for the room my family and friends make for me in their ceaselessly crowded days and lives. This ritual (though that sounds fancier than it feels) is a humble way to begin to circle around another year. A reminder of how simple it is, really, at the center of my life. That’s where the beauty and power are.

And then I hope for another perfect day to take a walk with a friend, snuggle with my dogs, and call my Mom.

Dear Dish...

Dear Dish,

I religiously read your newsletter each Saturday, and I figured it was time for me to actually send you a submission. Hopefully, it's up to snuff for the newsletter!
Keep doing what you're doing!
"- MusicGeek77"

Dear MusicGeek77:
This is so good. Thanks so much! Your girlfriend sounds fun - dark and moody. Enjoy!

x-oh, x-oh!

Dish Stanley

5 Things That Turn Me On: MusicGeek77

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 You must be a CRUSH Reader! (PS you can publish under your alias.)

Name:  MusicGeek77

Is this your real name: No, but it's my profile name, um, "elsewhere."

5 Things That Turn Me On:

Sexiest Song: "Desire" by Meg Myers. Her voice floats between pure lust to obsession to unrequited longing and everything in between. She also does a great cover version of Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill."

Sexiest City:  Quebec City. I know it's almost a cliché at this point, but it's great to feel like you're in Europe while you're in Canada. And it's so walkable that you can explore and find small mysteries around the city while you enjoy different types of crepes for all of your meals.

Kiss Me…  Where my neck meets my shoulders while holding me tightly.

Touch Me…  Run your fingers and nails down my spine and up my sides.

Personality Traits: Confidence, radical candor, a sense of adventure, and a dirty sense of humor go a long way with me.

Song of the Week

Tougher Than the Rest By Bruce Springsteen

“The road is dark
And it’s a thin thin line
But I want you to know I’ll walk it for you any time

Well, if you’re rough and ready for love
Honey, I’m tougher than the rest”

If you’ve ever seen Springsteen live then you know that as a prelude to Tougher Than the Rest he asks the audience “Have we got any lovers out there?” The version I link to below includes this characteristic line, and he sings it with Patti Scialfa, his wife since 1991, and the presumed “Red-Headed Woman” he sings about in his song with that name. Scialfa has been a member of the E Street Band since 1984 as a guitarist and vocalist.

The thing I’ve always liked about Tougher Than the Rest is that it’s a love song that seems to knowingly sidestep love song cliches. Or maybe it is more accurate to say that it plays off them by offering a contrasting, very humble gesture of love: “Some girls like a sweet-talkin’ Romeo / Well, ‘round here you get what you can get / So if you’re rough and ready for love / Honey, I’m tougher than the rest.”

The thing I learned about love is that a certain toughness and a whole hell of a lot of faith through difficult times are required for it to endure. Tougher Than the Rest captures that feeling perfectly.  If you had a chance to see the documentary of Springsteen on Broadway (or see it live), or to see his concert film “Western Stars” then you probably surmised that being Springsteen’s romantic partner for over 30 years had to include some tough moments.  I guess that’s like loving anyone, especially for over 30 years, but since he’s an idol somehow the revelations seem both more reassuring and more stunning. He shares that he had many periods of depression and in Western Stars also says “For a long time if I loved you, I’d hurt you if I could.”

I’ve seen Springsteen and Scialfa sing this song live in concert a few times. Ever since Springsteen’s honest admissions from his more recent biographical and revelatory works I realize that of course, both of them had to be pretty tough to stick it out. It’s sung by Springsteen, so naturally, it brings to mind the strong, loyal male but the truth is Scialfa has had to be pretty resilient, you figure. Springsteen and Scialfa have sung this song together often, but interestingly, he wrote it in 1987 for the Tunnel of Love album, while he was still married to Julianne Phillips and their relationship was reportedly having troubles. Springsteen invited Scialfa to play with the E Street Band for the Tunnel of Love tour, during which she and Springsteen fell in love. Phillips and Springsteen divorced in 1989, and he and Scialfa married a couple of years later.

Here’s the Tougher Version Live MSQ 5/23/88) from Springsteen’s Songs of Love compilation album

For a live version from his MSQ in 2007 watch this

Hope the rest of your weekend is an inspiration. As Springsteen says, “there’s another dance, all you gotta do is say yes.”

Dish Stanley XO,

You Won't Want to Miss A Thing. Here Are Links to Some Favorites.

+DEVOUR {things to do, watch, see & have} In our monthly DEVOUR column we share all the things we think you should eat up.  Here are some snacks from the last few months, but to get all of us, subscribe.

+‘5 Things’ That Turn Our Crush Readers On. By Dish StanleyWhat 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 You must be a CRUSH Reader! (PS you can publish under your alias.)

+This Must Be The Place: Bob Guccione, Jr’s Upstate New York Escape This Must Be The Place’ is a new feature where PrimeCrush-ers share the one special place they love to go.

+The Friendship Files. By A.K.A. Darla In this month’s installment—“SHIMRIT: A May-December Friendship”—our series’ author shares a personal story of her own.


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