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.


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