A friend recently explained that his reason for reading The New York Times is to know the enemy. I relate. It provides an eye-opening, if frightening, window on modern culture.
Perhaps because I do my best to skim through the Times as quickly as possible on weekends, last week I realized I'd been missing out on an apparently regular column in the Sunday edition called "Modern Love." Having noticed the two most recent ones, I can only say that they almost left me speechless.
"Modern Love" consists of personal essays, vetted by an editor, which tell tales of what passes for love in the big city.
The first one I read was titled "Sex on the Run? No, We Parked." The author, a divorced mother of a 7-year-old daughter with whom she shares a bedroom, meets a man who lives with his sister. You can imagine their problem. Where to have sex?!
It turns out that her new boyfriend has access to a Lincoln Town Car and a large passenger van, both with tinted windows. Problem solved. She then proceeds to regale readers with such details as the best places to park in New York City that provide privacy for such activities, the importance of steering clear of street lamps, and of course, how critical it is to avoid rocking the car so as not to attract attention. There were other helpful hints such as where to stow your shoes and glasses, and taking care to watch out for seat belt latch attachments.
Has this woman thought about the fact that someday her daughter might read that column? Or maybe I'm being naïve. All things considered, this mother probably wouldn't care.
The following week, the column was titled "Gifts for the Broken-Hearted." And it was enough to break the heart of anyone reading it. The author's only child had died at the age of 6, and her life had completely fallen apart since. She writes, "[W]hile the losses that followed-my 17-year marriage, our 'dream house,' my job, several friends-were comparatively minor, collectively it was devastating." Dealing with the loss of a child is almost unimaginable, but referring to the end of a marriage as minor is tragic, too.
She finds solace in the arms of a man she barely knows. "When we finally reached his apartment, I realized what I missed by marrying at 23," she tells us. And the lesson learned from the short-lived affair? "People we love come, and they frequently go. What matters is staying open: to possibility, to connection, to hope."
I wish she knew there was so much more comfort and solace to be had, and that everlasting love is real. Modern love has so little to offer.