I'm Dish and I write a weekly newsletter about life, love and culture for those 40+. Because midlife and beyond is so much cooler than they said it would be. Hell yes, sign me up for the Dish.
Do you follow Brandon Stanton's Humans of New York Instagram account? He tells stories of the triumphs, struggles and thrills of people around New York (and now elsewhere) by presenting a series of photographs accompanied by interviews presented in the first person. His most famous was probably about Tangueray, a top stripper in 70's New York whose life was tangled up with mobsters, theft and presidential secrets. Her story ended up being turned into a fabulous audiobook read (performed?) by Tangueray herself. But I was immensely captivated by the story of John Gargano as well, who got a 30-year prison sentence for his first offense with drugs but then got clemency and eventually rose to become the General Manager of the highly acclaimed restaurant Craft. Stanton's stories are deep dives into the human soul.
I like him so much that I support him on Patreon, so I occasionally receive special patron notes.
This week he wrote that he interviewed an Orthodox Jewish man who said "Life is a blanket that's too small. The moment you pull it over your head, your toes are exposed."
Such an evocative way to capture this reality of our human condition. We are confronted with a lot of difficult decisions that no matter the outcome bring only imperfect or incomplete satisfaction. Saving for later in some sense precludes seizing today. (What if it turns out today is all you have?) Eat up today, diet tomorrow? The partner who will be a joyous ride or the sensible one who will keep the lights on? Hard choices.
I was considering the "small blanket" metaphor as I thought about all the choices we make starting in midlife. It is a time of profound transition for all of us - in our family life, jobs, geography, physical well-being, our partnerships. Every decision feels complicated. It's either your head or your toes. They can't both be covered at the same time.
The "short blanket" is so apt when we think about being solo or part of a partnership. There's less time left to chase our dreams, live a life fulfilling our deepest desires. Whether we're solo or coupled-up and with whom influences those outcomes. Staying married or getting divorced. The trade-offs are real. There is real joy in the freedom of being solo. There is real joy in the comfort or thrill of being in a committed relationship. It's either your head or your toes.
In this week's Letter we're continuing our exploration of solo life by getting into the mindset of PrimeCrush readers who are solo in Lisa Ellex's continuing series. Things, of course, are not cut-and-dry.
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. +The Solo Issue: Are Midlife Solo’s Looking for Love? Six Honest Conversations. By Lisa Ellex The stigma of “singleness" is so universal that it’s been a theme on the big screen since the early days of cinema +Hook Ups: Founders We Think You Should Know Meet Pete Keane, Founder of Pete Keane Mountain Guide +A Truly Good Thing. By Dish Stanley What my smart friends are trying and doing right now +Social Media I Loved This Week. By Dish Stanley +Our Song of the Week. I can love me better than you can.
The Solo Series By Lisa Ellex
In a series of in-depth conversations with midlife women and men, this author asked volunteers from the PrimeCrush community to share the things they’re hesitant to say out loud to even their closest coupled-up friends.
Part II: Are Midlife Solo’s Looking for Love? Six Honest Conversations.
Somewhere in Mesopotamia, circa 2350 B.C., someone said “yes” to the dress (okay, so it was more like a sheath), and as quickly as one could say, “I do,” they did. Should the union end in divorce – and the wife was deemed to be a good one – she was permitted to remain in the marital home where she would be fed, clothed, and paid a slave’s salary. If she was deemed to be a bad wife, she would be drowned. Pondering this tragic ending, one can’t help but wonder if the horrific fate of our predecessors has instilled in modern man/woman a cellular fear of remaining single.
The stigma of “singleness" is so universal that it’s been a theme on the big screen since the early days of cinema. From Bette Davis’ institutionalized spinster in Now, Voyager (1942), through the ticking of Marisa Tomei’s infamous “biological clock” in My Cousin Vinny (1992), the dread of being solo continues to be a storyline staple of many a screenplay, over eighty years later.
To honestly convey today’s midlife solo experience, PrimeCrush presents Part Two of our candid conversations with six readers – three female and three male – who have agreed to share with us what life is like inside their single world. Do note, their names have been changed here.
We first spoke with Klara, a 58-year-old HR executive, divorced for sixteen years. She recently reconnected with a man she knew when both were younger. “They see you through different eyes than someone you just met. There was something that was very comforting to both of us. But he wanted to ‘staple it down’ and it’s not what I wanted. I’m more introverted and it didn’t feel like the right fit for me. He was a really great guy. He was divorced after twenty-something years and it was difficult for him. Men who raised a family in a marriage are less adaptable and want another structured relationship/marriage.”
Continue reading here
Scroll down if you missed the beginning of our SOLO series.
Hook Ups: Founders We Think You Should Know
Meet Pete Keane, Founder of Pete Keane Mountain Guide
“Hook Ups” is an ongoing feature introducing our readers to some of our favorite entrepreneurs and small business owners.
Humorously explain your job.
I try not to “cheat death” every day, but I do take people on mountain climbing, rock climbing, and backcountry skiing adventures. If you really boil it down, I am a risk manager. I do my best to keep people safe and have a great experience all at the same time. Most of my clients enjoy moving through the mountains (hiking, skiing, ice climbing, etc.) but they don’t care to manage the risk. They just want to enjoy the movement. That’s where I come in.
For how many years?
Who takes your trips? And where do you lead them?
A wide variety. From Dorito-eating couch potatoes to extremely fit triathletes. Climbing and skiing experiences can be tailored to meet anyone’s level. I lead trips in the mountain ranges of the Western US, Canada, and Europe. My home mountain range is the Cascade Range, outside of Bend, Oregon. Right now, I am focusing my Europe skiing and climbing trips in Italy. Hut-to-hut skiing in Italy is amazing. The terrain is top notch for skiing, the people are friendly, and the huts are great places to stay with terrific food. This July, I am hoping to lead a few hut-to-hut treks in the Dolomites which are non-technical in nature. In September, I will be based in Cortina leading rock climbing and via ferrata trips. You all should come over!
Do partners/lovers/friends sign up for trips together? What do you see happen to their relationships over the course of a trip?
Yes, partners and groups of friends do sign up together, all the time. I have seen squabbling, bitching, and nagging at each other on my trips, but really most people just have a good time, and that’s where I feel like I hit the sweet spot. That is the goal, everyone feeling good, empowered, and amazed by the mountains around us. It’s not always glorious, and you do have to put in the work, but in the end, these trips are very satisfying.
Are people too exhausted to have sex though on your trips though?
Let’s just say, that intimate, quiet time isn’t always available in tents or huts, but if people are motivated, they can get it done!
What is the craziest thing that ever happened on one of your trips in terms of people dynamics?
We did have to kick one guy off a ski trip in Italy. He wasn’t listening to instructions, putting himself and others on the trip at risk. We escorted him out and said “Arrivederci”! After the trip, he was busted in the US for underage prostitution, so our intuition was not wrong about him. Gross.
Do you get a lot of people signing up who are over 45? How old is the oldest person who has taken a trip with you?
Absolutely! Many times. I regularly work with people in their 60s. I think the oldest people I have worked with are in their early 70s.
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 do and read and watch 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” to share them with you.
My friend Mary and I were going to dinner last week. Mary always knows good things. When I was in Venice last Fall, she sent me to our favorite restaurant of the trip - Osteria alle Testiere. If you just want the splashiest, most expensive option any guidebook will send you to the likes of Cipriani. If what you're looking for is a pint-sized family-owned 10 table intimate fresh fish place, you need a Mary.
Anyway, to confirm last week she sent me this text:
It's from the HiNote app. HiNote provides the tools for more personalized mobile communication. I was immediately hooked. Once I got Mary's HiNote I was off to the races for all sorts of things I needed to send.
But here's the one I'm really looking forward to sending out:
My sister told me about Habitually Chic's Paris Guide before my trip there in December. Unless you've lived in Paris yourself, I wouldn't go to the City of Light without it. First off, she updates it after each of her visits and took the time to send out the updated version automatically to all her purchasers, so you always have the latest information. That tells you how thorough and thoughtful she is. And then of course she recommends everything from fabulous one-of-kind shops, with particular emphasis on design; to intimate less expensive, family-owned boutique hotels; where to eat depending on your location, time-of-day and appetite; and she even shares a list of what's open on Sundays. (Valuable!) And if it's your first trip, there's a helpful 101.
She lists a super secret insider boutique hotel in Saint Germain that will be perfect for my next trip, which I've already booked. (I'd share it but she says that the hotel likes to keep it under the radar so nobody should post. This is how much I like this Paris Guide. I don't dare.) The guide is magnifique!
It's good to know when to quit. It's really hard, too. Annie Duke, a former professional poker player and author of How to Decide and Thinking In Bets (both of which I've read and recommend) is out with a new book Quit. A friend who is considering leaving her job (and possibly career for a whole new thing) mentioned that listening to Duke lay out some frameworks and considerations for decision-making in this podcast episode with Adam Grant was enlightening.
In life (like poker), Duke argues, often the biggest winners are the most strategic quitters. "Grit," she says "gets you to stick to hard things that are worth while, which is a really good thing." But the problem is we tend to take grit too far, so we stick too long with the wrong things, and we use all kinds of rationalizations to continue. Duke's first rule of thumb is that if you are thinking about quitting "it is usually already past the time when you should have quit." She and Grant talk about quitting all kinds of things, including graduate programs, jobs and relationships. She also shares who to go to in your network to talk about getting unstuck.
I do think somebody on Tom Brady's management team should have set him up with Duke for a conversation.
Duke is so convincing that I immediately dumped a half-read book that kept putting me to sleep and a knitting project that was making me miserable. Next up? This other situation I haven't been able to get out of. To decide on that though, I think I'll first read the book. (Recognize that? Rationalization + procrastination. That's a decision too.)
Social Media I Loved This Week. By Dish Stanley
Song of the Week
Flowers By Miley Cyrus
Okay I don't follow Miley Cyrus's comings and goings particularly carefully, but when she dropped this song about self-care, being better off alone and quitting I had to listen. Perfect for this Letter! Evidently it marks the start of her life without ex-husband Liam Hemsworth and includes the line "I can love me better, baby."
It's pretty catchy, so let's hope her message catches on.
Here is the first article from our Solo Series, and some other things we didn't want you to miss:
Dearest Crushes: Remember that there are a couple of things I'd love to know?
If you read my piece on Sylvie from Emily In Paris 'Merci’!' to Emily In Paris for One of the Most Compelling Women in Pop Culture. Sylvie., then you know I'm looking to hear what characters in pop culture depict women of a certain age that you love.
And two weeks ago I started our new Ask Dish: Stray Questions column. Hit me up with your question here.
I hope you have a happy week.