I first learned about the New York Times column Modern Love right around the time I was about to leave for college. I had recently become obsessed with podcasts, and back then, the column had a podcast.
It was the name that drew me to it. Modern Love. The words spoke to my hopeless romantic sensibilities, developed as a young child watching soap operas and listening to the radio program Delilah with my mother.
Eight or so years later, I still read the column on a regular basis (sadly, the podcast went kaput ages ago). Sometimes, I wholeheartedly agree with what has been written. Other times, I try to put myself into the shoes of someone in a seemingly impossible situation, wondering what if I would do if it was me. And more often than not, I cry. I can’t help it.
Tonight, I had the chance to hear the column’s editor, Daniel Jones, speak at the Sixth & I synagogue as part of a tour for his new book, Love Illuminated. He read from the book and shared some of the insights he’s gained while reading 50,000 or so submissions* for nearly a decade.
Among those insights:
— Arranged marriage seems to work because people go in with such low expectations, the opposite of how most marriages in the United States start.
— Attraction at first sight is a thing, but love — a deep connection between two people — is not.
— Those people who say, “You know when you know,” aren’t lying. But they aren’t the only people out there; some people deliberate what they’re feeling because they have no idea if what they’ve found is *it.* And sometimes they don’t know until it’s gone.
My favorite moment was when someone from the audience asked Jones about the aversion people seem to have to love. She had written a novel, and when people asked her what it was about, she would tell them it was a love story. In turn, people would scoff.
Jones’s response rang so true:
I think we are all deeply cynical and deeply romantic at the same time.
The event also featured Sara Eckel, author of It’s Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons Why You’re Single (don’t you judge, it’s actually a very good read). Since I just finished her book a couple weeks ago, hearing her give a reading and then sharing her own thoughts on love was a delight.
All of this reminded me of a video I saw the other day on Upworthy. It features Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye of Project V.O.I.C.E. performing a piece about the illusions and realities of this crazy emotion.
For lack of a better word, I loved it.
*One of those submissions was from me. I just found the essay in my email inbox, sent more than five years ago. Rereading it makes me see how far I’ve come, both emotionally and as a writer. I realize I haven’t really been in a situation that deserves a Modern Love column just yet. But someday, maybe.