Who Loves You
by LAUREN BANS
You know what, guys? I first addressed the evils of the NYT's Modern Love column years ago. But the essay series continues its reign of terror, and the editors are not even kind enough to tip your chair back and wake you up out of the third-level inception nightmare that is an essay titled, "I Fell For A Man Who Wore an Electronic Ankle Bracelet."
That is why we are revisiting this today.
It’s also worth noting, that important science people say devastating solar storms could put the planet in peril as soon as 2013. Dare to think: What if all that’s left for Wall-E to find of our civilization is a What Women Want DVD and this vast collection of pandering one-dimensional essays? We would look so terrible! My therapist says I care too much about what other people think. And my life coach says that "my therapist said" jokes are totally overdone. I just feel really lost sometimes, you know? Pls consider the last three sentences my Modern Love pitch.
How A Series of Horrible Essays Taught Me All I Need To Know About Modern Love And Made Me Crawl Into A Bucket of Fried Chicken Left On The Roadside
I have this fantasy where I get the Sunday Times. After sleeping in until 10 or so, I begin the last weekend day in my sun-filled living room curled up on the couch by the huge bay windows, cuddling close to my fiance who has just given me the greatest orgasm of my life. He used to be a sociopathic rapist with a trust fund and I, a staunch feminist who preferred to date non-rapists. But you know what? We learned to compromise. That is what love is all about.
And now, cuddling close on the couch together, the clock shows it's nearly 11, and we're so intelligent we've almost completed the entire crossword. "12 letter name, philosopher, wrote On Women..." he reads aloud. We sit thinking, curling our fingers together.
"Schopenhauer!" I scream. He looks at me admiringly. "How did you ever get to be so beautiful but so brilliant too?" he gushes. "I didn't know they made women like you! I would never have been raping all those years if I knew someone like you was out there." My lower class roommate Marmsies walks in on our cuddling, and exclaims in her slightly Cuban accent, "My Momma always says when you got somethin' good, you gots to hold onto it!" My fiance turns to me, looking soulfully into my eyes, "That Cuban girl is right....Marry me now."
Does this sound like something you have or may want someday?
Then you probably love Modern Love, and maybe you should be a Modern Love writer!
I'd like to outline the fairly simple formula of a Modern Love column to make it easier for you to find this elusive brand of love and then write about it for a prestigious paper! First, it's very important to be an educated, upper middle class female. Actually don't bother trying to find modern love if you're not. You can leave subtle hints of your elitist qualifications by describing how you picked up your New Yorker copies scattered throughout his apartment after he broke your heart, or you can casually mention "pre-nups", "Ph.D's", "foie gras", "Park Slope", or "Schopenhauer" at any point during the course of your essay. All of these methods have worked beautifully in the past.
Sometimes a great twist on this element is how your educated position set you up to fail at love. For example in my FAVORITE column ever, "Changing My Feminist Mind, One Man at a Time" the author demonstrates how her superb intelligence and thorough understanding of feminism actually inhibited true love. Someone get this girl a book deal! She is a 19th wave feminist!
I read, re-read, and underlined "Backlash," "The Beauty Myth" and "The Feminine Mystique." I grew enraged by what I learned. Enraged, and utterly confused. Who was keeping women down? Men. But who were just so cute that I couldn't sleep at night for thinking and writing and obsessing about them? You guessed it, the self-same.
Then I went off to an all-women's college, Smith, where I didn't see a whole lot of men. I joined the campus women's group and studied up on gender issues. My rage toward men in general grew ever stronger, as did my desire to meet that one specific man who could make my dreams come true.
It also helps, once you've established your superb white upper class affiliations to dabble with some lower classes. You see, they're not as smart as you, thus they are not constricted by their own intelligence. They can teach you how to love purely and intensely, to rid yourself of the shackles of the Ivy League pedigree. Find a poor musician, like this week's columnist did, one who will kind of embarrass you, but who will play Damaged by Primal Scream, and tell you “This song makes me love you so much I want to die." So romantsies! Also, if you can manage to date a rapist serving time in prison you get like, a billion trillion bonus points. That is way modern love.
Lower class people are also very important in the Modern Love story arc to help bring you to your senses. When you're sobbing on some bus, after collecting your smart person materials from your ex-boyfriend's house, make sure that some guy with a "West Indian accent" lightly jokes with you, "Aw, that fool must be crazy to give up a nice young thang like yourself!" Let these people be the voice of sensibility. Let them guide you to your ultimate catharsis. You can even dedicate your entire essay to these characters like in "How My Plumber Turned Water Into Wine" (but remember the focus should still be on you and the shackles of your upper class life). I mean, this week's author comes to her senses thanks to a tenant in a flophouse!
So there I was, a girl with a university education, a glowing résumé, a loving family, and all the other annoying characteristics of a charmed life, writhing on the urine-stained floor of a flophouse. And I was making such a scene that the tenant from the next room, a hulking man in torn boxers, emerged from his den, pointed a shaming finger at me and shouted, “Girl, you need to get your mind right."
Once a poor tenant in a urine-soaked flophouse admonishes you for being crazy you can finally say, "If this dirty dude thinks I'm being crazy, then I must be being too crazy!" and begin the process of love's recovery. Brush the urine right off you. Go to the 'Bucks, grab yourself your usual Grande Skim Latte. Sit and listen to Norah Jones while sipping your steamy drink and process what just happened, though don't come to any conclusions that could, you know, subvert the patriarchy. This experience you've just had — this is modern love — and you should write about it so that I can barf up my Sunday brunch and not put on any winter weight.
Lauren Bans is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Brooklyn. You can find her website here. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here. She twitters here. You can find an archive of her writing at GQ here. She last wrote in these pages about Modern Romance.
"Razor Face" - Elton John (mp3)
"True Love Will Find You In The End" - Spiritualized (mp3)