My Favourite Modern Love Essays

Friday, May 1, 2020


It's fun to see where people fall on the scale of skeptic to hopeless romantic. For me personally, I tend to stay nonchalant.

I do contradict myself in many ways when it comes to this. I avoid the romance section at bookstores because I think romance novels are cliché. I roll my eyes every time I see someone repost an Instagram poem about soulmates. (Is it really a poem if you're just breaking apart sentences like that?)

But I read the Modern Love column of the New York Times like a sacred ritual. I've been listening to their episodes for nearly the past two years.

And it's not just because of the beautiful writing and sound design. They are different, to me, compared to the love stories I'd see on the shelves. These stories are unfabricated, brutally honest, and adorned with unglamorous details.


Modern Love is a weekly column on the New York Times that publishes real stories and essays about – well – modern love.

Stories like how a woman in her thirties navigates dating in New York; how parents bear the weight of loss; how a date ends in the emergency room.

The column has since evolved into a book (which is sitting on my bedside), a podcast (which I'm still subscribed to), and a TV show (which first season I devoured within days.) So it's safe to say that by now, it encapsulates everything I know (and believe to be true) about love.

Because I gush so much about it already, here are my top five favourite essays, with reasons why I love them, to help get you started.

---

Need to Find Me? Ask My Ham Man

Read/listen here.

"I show up at the same places and overshare to people who are paid to be pleasant to me, until they develop a form of Stockholm syndrome that makes us friends." 

WHY I LOVE IT: This essay resonated with me in an endearing, devastating way. Like the writer, I, too, find solace in having regular chats with local shopkeepers and baristas. I may not live in Paris nor do I stock up on wine and charcuterie, but I relate to her journey of being home away from home — I have developed a warm friendship with a cafĂ© owner named Paris two blocks from me, though. This is a story about family, care, and comfort in local neighbourhoods.


Let's Meet Again in Five Years

Read/listen here.

They thought college was too soon for lifelong love, so they scheduled their next date for a little later — sixty months. 

WHY I LOVE IT: I've always found it incredibly romantic; the idea of going separate ways and then deciding to reunite. Somehow the best love stories are ones that collaborate with time, not chase it. In this essay, the couple hatches a plan to meet again, five years forward in the future, at the lion statue in front of the New York Public Library. Above all, I admire the writer's outlook. "The story is about foresight and prudence, not romance," she writes. "I wasn't trying to live my life like a movie — the story is about being smart in love, not starry-eyed." 

The lion statue at the New York Public Library. Fifth Ave, February 2020. (Tri-X 400 35mm film)


Sharing the Shame After My Arrest

Read/listen here.

"We had been married for just over a year, when the FBI showed up at our house at 6 AM and arrested me."

WHY I LOVE IT: How this story carries the theme of shame, and the strength we find in mothers. "While the charges were held against me, I slept on the couch in my parents' house," the essay reads. "I spent 90 nights on that couch. And my mom? She slept for 90 nights on the love seat." It's so poignant — how mothers do, indeed, "share" in our feelings, almost instinctively. This reminds me of how my mother would, too. If she saw me in even the deepest pit of sadness, under layers and layers of shame, all she would do is join me.


Take Me As I Am, Whoever I Am

Read here.

"In love there's no hiding: You have to let someone know who you are. But I didn't have a clue who I was from one moment to the next."

WHY I LOVE IT: I swear it's not just because of the producers' decision to cast Anne Hathaway as the protagonist when this essay became televised (but honestly, how good was that episode.) The essay tells the story of a woman, living with bipolar disorder, who loses (and tries to regain) hope in finding love. I don't think I've ever seen such a vivid retelling of what it means to be bipolar, and also, I guess, the qualms that brings to one's dating life. You've never heard a "hopeless romantic" story quite like this one. Identity, hope, the fear of beginnings, told in delightful candour.


Hathaway in Take Me as I Am, Whoever I Am. Modern Love season 1 episode 3, on Amazon Prime.


Sometimes It's Not You, or the Math

Read/listen here.

WHY I LOVE ITIf you read only one essay out of this list of five, choose this one to be it. This was one of the most recent episodes I listened to, which upon finishing, I instantly added to my list. If you've ever looked at yourself and thought, "What is wrong with me?", then this is the essay for you. It heroically tackles the myth that singleness means there's something broken or malfunctioning about you that needs to be fixed. I don't know who decided that love is a defining moment that comes when we've reached a perfect stage of ourselves. Because that isn't the case. And honestly, that stage doesn't exist. 

---

The main reason I veer away from writing about love is because so much has been said about it already. I don't want to put something out there unless it's heart-wrenching, beautiful, and grand. But that's what these essays are, to me. (And there are so many more.)

I hope you add these to your reading list — and if you read or listened to any of these, tell me all about it! Tell me your thoughts. Or tell me about another essay you know from Modern Love. Tell me about your story. You know what, tell me anything.

One thing that gives me the most joy is hearing from you, readers. So thanks for sticking around.

I hope you are well, in whichever part of this world you are reading from.

I love and appreciate you. I'll see you soon.

Signed,
Jo

---

Website | TwitterInstagram










5 comments

  1. I am about to go read "sometimes It's Not You, or the Math." I've literally been thinking today whats wrong with me and I stumble across your post and I'm so glad that I did.
    https://sputniksweetheartn.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oooh! It is pretty cool to learn about the different love essays. I love that you point out that best love stories collaborate with time. I feel like I can relate to that big time. Thanks for sharing!

    Nancy ♥ exquisitely.me

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you so much for sharing this, it's just the type of content I love, I can't believe I'm only just discovering the column. It's definitely going on my reading list. Also, I love your writing style! :)

    Anika | chaptersofmay.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Anika! Welcome. Thank you so much!
      So great to hear if this is up your alley - I highly recommend it. :) They're very uplifting and heartfelt.

      Delete
  4. Love this post! About to read "Let's meet again in five years". Feels like I could gain a bit of wisdom from it :)

    ReplyDelete

© with risa. Design by FCD.