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I Challenge ‘Modern Love’ to a Duel

May 27, 2011

It's a modern love cartoon.

As is my wont, I was reading the online version of the New York Times.  After the requisite and slightly dulled reading of the front page, the arrest of a Serbian general wanted for war crimes, the continuing fascination with Osama’s demise (Osama got Obama’d!  It’s on T-shirts everywhere in DC these days!) and the suspicious lack of new news regarding Yemen’s instability, I turned to the style section with a guilty abandon.  The New York Times publishes a ‘modern love’ column that individuals can submit their own true, un-embellished love stories to, and it often makes for poignant reading.

However, I have noticed a trend in these tales that puzzles me: many, many authors of my generation (twenty-somethings! -including this one, which epitomizes the genre) that submit to modern love seem to reinforce the notion that our generation knows nothing of actually ‘dating’ someone.  That the only thing we understand is the hookup.  That we have sex like rabbits, can’t seem to commit, that most fundamentally we NEVER go on dates, that dinner and a movie is a thing of the past.  The author of the piece linked to above put it like so:

“I’m not sure I know anyone who has ever had a real date. Most elect to hang out, hook up, or Skype long-distance relations. The idea of a date (asking in advance, spending rent money on dinner and dealing with the initial awkwardness) is far too concrete and unnecessary.”

Um.  Well.  Gosh.  I feel old fashioned.

This hasn’t been my experience at all.  A vast majority of my similarly aged friends have been on dates.  We have all shared date stories: the good, the bad and the ugly (think mime costume.)  In fact, right now a majority of my friends are in long term, monogamous, serious relationships.  Now, some of these friends have hooked up and have indiscriminate casual sex without feelings attached, oh absolutely.  I have friends, male and female, who have had sex with twenty, thirty people, not all of which were even attractive according to their espoused sexual orientation.  I am not negating that for some people, some of the time, sex without a relationship label occurs.  It just isn’t all that occurs, not for this generation.

Because for every one person I know who had a roster of sexual conquests long enough to make their mommas cry, I know another person who has only had sex with one person, only dated and wanted to date one person in their lives so far.   I have played ‘get me laid’ wingman to friends, but more often than that I have been asked to set up two friends for a date.  I have been asked by male friends to give my opinion on jewelry they were picking out for their girlfriends.  I have been told by female friends that they are so content in their relationship that it scares them.  For some people, the relationship aspect of it all, the hand holding, the someone to come home to every night, the surety of the commitment itself is the best part.  Something impossible to cultivate in an ambivalent sometimes partner.

Most of my friends are not afraid of being in love.  They have other related fears: of not finding love, of losing love, of fucking-it-up-with-the-best-person-of-my-life-oh-god-how-could-I-be-that-retarded-in-love!, but most of them aren’t afraid of the beast itself.  Love is connection, and connection is something to aspire to.

So maybe I am old fashioned, or weird.  Maybe my friends are abnormal.  Maybe I’m missing out on the apparently laissez-faire nature of the hookup culture.  But I don’t think hooking up is the only way, the best way.  Just the most common way.


The best part of having someone. Hands down. Pun totally intended.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. May 27, 2011 3:21 PM


  2. Ted permalink
    May 27, 2011 4:25 PM

    I was going to leave a long comment, but then I realized that it was just making me more disappointed, so I stopped.

    • May 31, 2011 10:51 AM

      Disappointed? In what way? By the prevalent take no prisoners emotionless norm? This is supposed to fill you with joy and hope that Sex in the City lied to us, that it’s okay to feel!

      • Ted permalink
        May 31, 2011 2:33 PM

        Oh, no. I was disappointed in the post.

        “I Challenge “Modern Love” to a Duel?” Where? Where’s the fighting words in this blog post, huh? I wanted you coming out swinging, taking sides. This? This is more of an, I sit down with Modern Love and chat for a minute.

        Where’s the controversy?

        Furthermore, the whole post reminded me of too many conversations that people have had that they thought were deep. You and your friends are different? Yay! Next are you going to get together and talk about how you like indie movies and how pop music isn’t that good?

        I’m really just upset about the title, I guess. It said to me, let’s take on stereotypes. Let’s talk about love and relationships, in a new way. Let’s tear down some beliefs.

        And then, it broke things into the boring, staid dichotomy that I feel like I have seen in bad movies and books for years. And it did it with no real passion that I could detect.

      • May 31, 2011 3:03 PM

        Wow, tell me how you really feel! 🙂

        Okay, I accept your complaints. The reason why this post is lacking the fire and brimstone that you were apparently jonesing for is because ultimately it is anecdotal on both sides. Modern Love writer gave his opinion on the non existent dating world, and I have my anecdotally backed opinion to the contrary. It’s hard to impose a framework of facts to a social phenomenon and ostensible trend without interviewing people, and even then that is just more individuals piping in with their little experiences as well. So I wrote this piece to ask my friends why this Modern Love writer couldn’t imagine a world involving dating. Where does he live and why is his experience so different than mine? That was what I was really trying to go for, rather than something ‘new’ about love and relationships.

        A dichotomy, if you will, between my world and his, and an explanation for the difference.

  3. Philip permalink
    May 28, 2011 12:42 AM

    Agree with your point. But then again, I’ve been weird my whole life.

  4. Diana Camosy permalink
    May 29, 2011 1:20 PM

    I agree with Phil, because that’s been my experience too. I also don’t find it surprising that your friends, especially those from college, are very serious about their relationships. We’re serious about everything else, so why not that too? Obviously there are exceptions (also based on personal experience), but I definitely know a lot of couples–including myself–as you describe.

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