The Crush Letter

. 8 min read

Hello Crush,

Thanks for being here.

I am Dish1, the Master of Ceremonies. I read a lot about love and I'm sharing the best of what I find with you.  If The Crush Letter were live, we'd be at a cabaret.  I’d be ushering onstage a titillating and oscillating roster of diverse performers - eye-opening, poignant, underground(ish), hopefully funny. I'd invite you to come to the cabaret.  Take your seat.  Behold the carnival of love in all its prosaic ordanariness and poetic glory. My hope is that the show will usher in a life with more, better love in it.  That may require a shift in our understanding of what love is. If the show is really on fire, you'll nudge a little closer to whomever you’ve come with.  Or if you're here solo, perhaps closer to somebody new?  (Or not.  After all, life is a cabaret!)

Every good show has a velvet rope. You’re in!  But since this is a dress rehearsal for Founding Subscribers, only you can give out tickets.  Oh, and to make sure that you are in line for the right show, please take a look at our Playbill2.  Thank you.

Let the show begin!

Less Fervor, More Forever

Connection would be easier if, when we met someone new we began with “And how are you crazy? Because I am crazy like this.”  Authentic perhaps.  Romantic? Decidedly not. It’s the right modest mindset for the true hard work of love though, says Alain de Botton. He is the author of “Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person,” the most read piece in the New York Times in 2016 (a year that saw a presidential election, BREXIT and a refugee crisis). This past week the popular On Being podcast hosted by Krista Tippett re-released one of their most listened to podcasts ever, also starring de Botton.  It is an addictive, eye-opening listen.

“Love is a painful, poignant, touching attempt by two flawed individuals to try and meet each other's needs in situations of gross uncertainty and ignorance about who they are and who the other person is. . . [But we’ll] do our best.”  Humorous in its seemingly absurd modesty, but that is, de Botton argues, a much more generous (and honest) starting point for any relationship (romance, friendship, partnership).  It begins with being humble about our own limitations, open to living with another's limitations and realistic about the limitations of the human condition.  Love is not an enthusiasm.  “It’s a skill. It is something we learn, and make progress with."

So often we blame our lovers when things get rocky, de Bottom says.  What we should be doing is reconsidering our view of love itself.  This is a realization he came to honestly.  He had, he says, genuinely thought problems in love were the result of being with people who are in one way or another defective, a [view] that was fiercely tested when he met someone who was wonderful in every way. He married her.  And then discovered something surprising. There were all sorts of problems. “And I learned that they had to do with the challenges of being a human being trying to relate to another human being in a loving relationship.”  By accepting a more measured understanding of our humanity, we can then get to the hard work of love.  Picking up the skills. "Forbearance, generosity, imagination and a million things besides."

And it’s not for everyone, coupling up.  Another thing we should reconsider is a definition of love that makes partnership primary, he suggests. Love is really simply about our hardwired need to be connected.  We would all feel a lot more loved if we consider more deeply and take more seriously all the many forms of love in our lives besides romantic love.  I realized in my own life that when I am not coupled up, I have more time and freedom for a greater range of deep and quite meaningful connections.  I have begun to wonder if that make for a more meaningful life.  Even though my last relationship ended with the onset of Covid, this realization also made me feel very connected while flying solo through this bizarre pandemic geography.  I no longer think of myself as solo, but rather as a "connected solo".  Content with my solo status; very connected to a web of loves - family, friends, community, lovers (if I'm lucky).  (The Crush Letter will have more on the good life of being what I call a "connected solo" as I tell you about Peter McGraw, an advocate for solo life and host of the podcast “SOLO: The Single Person’s Guide to A Remarkable Life.)

Silicon Valley, of course, seems to be obsessed with bringing people together romantically. (Wall Street too. Yo, Bumble!)  Or at least with dating apps that facilitate the romantic spark of love. We want our love (however we structure it) to survive and thrive, though. And that requires the work of love. One of the very kindest things we can do with our partners is to be incredibly generous in the way we interpret their (seemingly sulky) behavior, says de Botton.  Can we get an app for that?  Or an app that reminds us how truly difficult it is for people to change.  That will tell us how to read a lover’s confused signals of distress.  That reminds us that some of the problem might actually be us.  That there is just a lot of mundane shit in life; it’s not our partner’s fault. That we will never fully be understood by someone else, really. And switching partners won't change that.  How to live comfortably with our existential loneliness. Artificial intelligence will allow us to make a lot of advances in predicting, interpreting (and manipulating) human behavior for sure.  But all that work of love?  It is asking a lot of an app.

For Founding Subscriber’s only: if you would like to receive my personal notes on this On Being episode, send me an email at

Here’s the On Being podcast. And also an animated short illuminating some of de Bottom's "darker truths" about love.

The Darkest Truth About Love
Alain de Botton’s short piece of writing on love and loneliness is elegantly handled in this animated short by Hannah Jacobs and Lara Lee.

Literal Good Vibrations. Dame Products has been making sex toys for women (by women) since 2014, so we expect good moves from them. But under the heading "T.M.I." (no, it's not says I), a reviewer in Refinery29 says that Dame’s just released latest, a suction vibrator, made her feel like she was getting oral play from a cloud. (The review itself was pretty exciting, truth be told.) “Dame's Suction Vibrator Feels Like Getting Oral From A Cloud". And if this toy sounds maybe a little too advanced, depending on how far along you are in your toy journey (not judging here), it might make sense to first dip into this seminal piece by Liza Lentini, Features Editor at perennially hip rock mag Spin. “The Sex Files: A Crash Course in Sex Toys

Upcoming "Greats" in the Tactical Files

We all learned how to clean our sex toys from her popular podcast (and much more).  We learned from her insta that a hand job, when done correctly, is one of the most underrated sex moves (and much more).  Now "Sex with Emily" is a Master Class! We are in the midst of it now, in order to report back.  (What won’t I do for you, Crush readers?)  . . . I have already read both of Esther Perel’s books, and listened to all the podcasts she has hosted (and been a guest of).  But I have not yet finished her most recent offering, an online virtual course “Rekindling Desire.”  (I’ll report back on that too.). . . Mel Robbins, my best friend (who I've never met, but that's how our relationship feels to me) is dropping so many gems on in her insta stories right now I hardly know where to begin. But I will find a way. . . And finally, in the continuing list of “Relationship Greats,” there’s Drs. John and Julie Schwartz Gottman, recently lovingly featured on Brene Brown’s podcast “Brene with Drs. John and Julie Gottman: What Makes Love Last”.  We have listened to the episode, and are reading the Gottman’s latest book “Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for A Lifetime of Love.” So much to - well - come, Crush readers.  I appreciate you being here for it.

Good (But Quickie) Vibrations!

Awkwafina's Vag. Before goop x heretic sold out of the first run of their $75 “This Smells Like My Vagina” candle (yes I received one from a friend and yes, it does smell good), there was a young Awkafina on YouTube bragging about her vag and dishing out the clever,deadpan and ridiculous.  Awkwafina "My Vag"

About the Sex in Bridgerton. I realized when talking with my Mom last week that she'd never seen any porn because her reaction to the extended and explicit sex in Bridgerton was "I've just never seen anything like that." (Me: awkward silence.  The irony that I can talk sex to you, Crush reades, but not my Mom is not lost on me.)  If you’ve watched the Regency-era sex in Bridgerton, then you know.  And if you sat through all the sex in Bridgerton, you’ll want Ashley Ray’s X-rated, modern, hilarious take on it.  "On God, We're Gonna Get This Girl Some Jizz"

Writing for Vox, Aja Romano takes on the Bridgerton rape scene that the show’s creators seem to have missed. And Romano is right. "Bridgerton has a rape scene, but it's not treated line one"

Life Goals. Inventing the Bra Was the Least Interesting Thing This Blue Blooded Bohemian Did. Indeed.  From Messy Nessy.

How to Build a Life.  In his “How to Build a Life” column in The Atlantic, Arthur Brooks argues that the pursuit of achievement distracts from the deeply ordinary, like relationships that make life worth living.  "Success Addicts Choose ‘Being Special’ Over Being Happy"

Finally, I would love if it you loved this first issue so much that you wanted to share this subscription link with friends you love.  If they become a Founding Subscriber, they'll get a gift box. And then, well, they'll love you even more.  (Obviously.)  Throw it around, this love thing. That's what it's for. Thank you.

The Crush Letter

Dish Stanley XO,

1. She/Her. Dish (or “the Dish,” as in, what is the Dish hungry for tonight?”) is a nickname an ex gave me that just stuck. This newsletter is a passion project (literally) and my day job is vanilla, so I’m sticking with this as a pseudonym for now.
2. We celebrate diversity, body positivity, curiosity, age positivity, tolerance and openness. We believe that our lives and our own relationships are richer and can benefit from appreciating others’ stories and experience, even if they live lives entirely unlike ours. We share articles, intelligence and original stories on everything from the mundane and prosaic to the (lightly) profane and poetic. This is a dress rehearsal, so we’d love your feedback and offerings, but please don’t throw rotten tomatoes at the Dish. Write to her at Thank you.


'Merci'! to Emily in Paris for one of the most riverting women in pop culture "Divorce, Baby, Divorce" by Liza Lentini "Don't Touch My Hat.*" Midlife Men & Loneliness "This is a Tale of Modern Love ..." 2022 2024 Hit List 3 things I'm crushing on 5 Books to Help You Chill TF Out 5 Great Boutique Hotels Around NYC. By Jeanne Bosse 5 things that turn our crush readers on A Book That Could Unf*ck Your Relationship: I Want This To Work By Elizabeth Earnshaw. Reviewed By Angela Kempf. A Circle of Crones. By Elayne Clift A Roman Love Affair. By Lady Verity A Turntable and a Candle: F-ing Classics About Face: Skincare Essentials for Men An Upbeat Playlist for the Divorce-curious And I Wondered ... Do We Really Need A SATC Reboot? And Just Like That... Who Are These People?? By Jeanne Bosse And so this is Another brother gained and lost. By Jeanne Bosse Ask Dish Bedtime Rituals for Couples. By Lauren D. Weinstein Bisexually Anxious Among the Noodges. Review: shiva Baby Bloody Good Sex Book review Book Review: A Certain Hunger by Chelsea G. Summers Book Review: I'm With The Band by Pamela Des Barres. Reviewed by Evie Arnaude Book Review: Maurice Book Review: Norma Kamali: I Am Invincible Book Review: Swan Dive: The Making of a Rogue Ballerina by Georgina Pazcoguins. Reviewed By Lady Varity Book Review: The Confidence Game: Why We Fall For It Every Time By Maria Konnikova' Book Review: The Lover. By Marguerite Duras. Book Review: The Story of O Book Review: VOX by Nicholson Baker. Reviewed by Christian Pan Building The Perfect Music Collection Calm App Review: “If I Traveled Or Worked In An Office, I Would Rely On This App Heavily”. By Evie Arnaude Christian Pan CRUSH Summer Reading List! From CRUSH Reader Sharon Weinberg, Owner of The Chatham Bookstore Culture/Comments Dear Dish devour DEVOUR {things to do, have & know about} Devour: Reads we think you should devour Dish Gets A Kink Assessment. 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By Dean Christopher Hook Ups Hot Thots How to Be the Most Charming Person at a Holiday Party. By Evie Arnaude How to find porn thats actually good I am my own family I just turned 60 but I feel 22 I redesigned my closet. I'm Dish, the Master of Ceremonies Im glad my mom died In Good Hands. Kathy: This Is A Love Story About Three Friends La Mia Famiglia by Lisa Ellex Lamentations on the Lost Art of Kissing. By Elisabeth C. Lamotte Leave the husband, bring the cannoli. By A.K.A. Darla Let's Reconsider, with Adam Grant Love & Mike's "Bad Girl Pasta" Love/Sex/Moon Magick By Lynn Eaton LXIX. By A.K.A. Darla Meeting Across the River Melissa Biggs Bradley's New Book Safari Style Makes Me Want To Go On A Safari midlife MIDLIFE CRISIS: When Reality Strikes, By Dean Christopher Movie Magic. By Amy Ferris My First Solo Trip: Mexico, Part I. By Dawn Larsen My Prostate Journey: A Personal Story My Tits Contain MulTITudes Naked & Not afraid by KC Roth Oasis in the Desert. 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Weinstein The Friendship Files By AKA Darla The Golden Bachelor The Hole. By Kiva Schuler The Holiday Anti-Checklist By Liza Lentini The New Menopause By Dr. Mary Claire Haver The Perfect Snowy Saturday. By Jeanne Bosse The Ritual of Comforts. By Lady Verity The Sex Position Report. By Dish Stanley The Solo Series Thee Timeless Travel Books. By Bob Guccione Jr. Things To Let Go Of. By Dish Stanley This must be the place To get all of us, subscribe. Top Ten Jazz Albums To Soothe Your Soul. By Lisa Ellex TOPIX Transitions Travel tips Treats: A Sex Toy Tester Update Under The Radar Series. By Dish Stanley Valentines day what dead to me taught me about family. Who Are CRUSH Readers Grateful For? Women of a Certain Age Whose Style I Admire You're My Medicine Your Big Green Heart. By Liza Lentini Your Love Is King & Queen, GQ Zits a poppin Zoning Out in Comfort. By Dean Christopher