On Modern Love: A Reader Basically Wonders If This Shit Is Made Up (Also, a Call for Submissions!)


In which The Gay Recluse disagrees with one reader and agrees with another.

Recently reader Wil sent in the following comment in response to our April 5th updated analysis of the Modern Love column in the New York Times, in which openly gay writers almost never appear, and even less frequently describe romantic relationships:

[I]t’s written for the ladies, by the ladies. My advice – stop reading it.

Ha! That’s actually pretty funny. And we would probably follow Wil’s advice if we didn’t find it ultimately entertaining to laugh at the Modern Love column (ha ha — look at Modern Love!) and the way it perpetuates so many ridiculous (and bourgeois!) stereotypes, mostly with regard to gender but also sexual orientation in those rare columns that dare to broach the issue. Plus we met Kayla Rachlin Small by way of her unusually awesome column, and that alone has justified the venture from our standpoint.

We also received another letter, this from reader Donna (of Crazed Angels fame), who wrote the following in response to this week’s Modern Love column about a woman who (supposedly) orders a sex chair (but then never uses it — Zzzzzzz):

I couldn’t get through the column. And I don’t think it’s true.

I tried twice.

My big issue with ML lately is that I think they’re accepting writing that’s more fictional than non-fiction – but not non-fictional in a satirical way. The single mother lawyer who came across as a crazy b****, choosing homework with her daughter over time with men she supposedly loved, was clearly lying about how many men were chasing her and how long they were willing to wait it out. But she wasn’t funny.

This week’s couple is SO not funny. At least not as far as I got.

And who orders sex chairs when you’re drunk? Who the f*** can get through an online form when you’re drunk?

As if.

I’m getting really tired of the ML editors. I wish they’d post the concept of ML – what do they think it is? It’s becoming increasingly sloppy and unclear.

Thanks for writing, Donna — like you say, half the shit seems made up, and not in a good way! (You’re also living proof that even lady readers are unhappy with the ML column, so take that, Wil!)

We’d welcome more opinions on Modern Love, and not just from a gay perspective (although that’s obviously our axe to grind.) Ladies? Gents? Is anyone else as annoyed as Donna? Do you also think they’re making the shit up? Let us know!

Finally, a call for submissions! If anyone ever wants to submit a TRUE Modern Love column, we’d love to post it, whether it’s gay or straight or about cats or drugs or whatever; just make it modern — you know what we mean! — and about love in whatever form you believe it exists. (Our only rule: don’t send us a story about a piece of sex furniture unless you use it at least once!)

4 Responses to “On Modern Love: A Reader Basically Wonders If This Shit Is Made Up (Also, a Call for Submissions!)”

  1. 1 James van Maanen

    Made up? Not made up? Do you really care? I don’t, and I’ll tell you why:
    To begin with, if major publishing houses continue to publish supposed non-fiction (James Frey’s “A Million Little Pieces” and SO many others: a new one seems to appear with each passing month) because the editors at these publishing giants don’t have time or don’t care to tackle the necessary due-diligence, do you really imagine that a newspaper editor today is going to handle the job any better? Particularly one in which the subject is “love”? (As though most people involved even understood the meaning the word. “Modern Relationships” might be a better moniker.)
    Secondly, don’t we all know by now that fiction can get at the truth much better than so-called non-fiction, unencumbered as it is by little things like ego and memory and all the rest that actually betray the very truth the author is trying to unearth. I’m not saying “Don’t read memoirs” but I am saying “Take most of ’em with a grain of salt.”
    Thirdly, what’s the big fuss over this generally silly column? If TGR–as much as I love and respect (ooops–there’s that “L” word again!) his views and his site–is so upset by the lack of gay stories presented by this continuing NY Times Style feature, email the editor and ask Why? Maybe the guy just doesn’t get all that many gay stories, and maybe they aren’t all that well written. Hey, TGR: send him one of your own stories. Bet it’ll be better written and more interesting–certainly different–from his usual fare. Or maybe you’ve already tried. In any case, this whole thing is beginning to feel like “beating a dead horse.”

  2. James–thanks for the comment. For the record, I don’t *really* care if these pieces are fake or not, and I agree that fiction is generally better suited to examining all sorts of truths with regard to love (and modernity!). But one important point of the exercise is to tell true stories, as Daniel Jones (the editor) has made clear in his annual columns on the topic, and as far as I know, that policy is still in place. I actually don’t think the columns are made-up, I think they sometimes just feel that way, kind of how when you watch certain reality shows and you’re like: “wtf, are those people for real?” (Alex/Simon on NYC Housewives the most obvious example).

    As for your third question, here’s why I make a fuss about the column: 1) it’s one of the more self-consciously “literary” columns in The Times (which is obvs a big media outlet), which has a very interesting premise — Modern Love — and which is sometimes even a great read that totally fulfills the premise (Kayla Rachlin Small!). But on the whole it reinforces the stereotype that women are more “emotional” than men and thus better positioned to write about it, which is something that is also (maddeningly) reflected in popular post-war fiction (ditto the predisposition against gay writers!); thus, I question it more as a symbol of stereotype (and conformity!), which is annoying because it could be so much more. (BTW, have you read my original post on this? I kind of already laid out these arguments.) 2) As for my writing a wtf letter to Daniel Jones, it’s not my place to do so. I have no doubt that he’s aware of the situation and the tally, which in my opinion presents — to use a legal term — a prima facie case of wtf! An editor really interested in a diversity of viewpoints would write a note and say: hey everyone! 95 percent of my columns have been written by straight women; where’s everyone else!? 3) As for my own Modern Love piece, it was already published by Gawker (there’s a link to it in the “ethos” section above).

    In short, I don’t think beating Modern Love is a dead horse at all, given that I’ve seen no sign of anything changing at The Times. Most people who have written (including many women) seem to enjoy the mash-ups, so I’ll probably keep doing it. (And though I consider you a good friend of TGR–you should feel free to skip over if it gets on your nerves, which I understand!)

  3. 3 James van Maanen

    Hey– Now that I’ve found you, I hate skipping over ANYTHING from TGR ! But I may start doing that, where this particular subject is concerned. Modern Life is getting frustrating enough without having to deal with Modern (fake? not fake?) Love. In any case, for me the Style section of the NYT is among the stupidest and least edifying parts of this supposed “news”paper.

    BTW, the finally got to see the movie version of The Yacoubian Buiding. Everything that you said about the novel seems pretty much true of the film. It may have been ground-breaking in Egypt but will probably seem a whole lot less to western eyes and ears. Some of the performances are wonderful, however.

  4. I’ve been thinking it over, James, and though I don’t agree with you about ignoring the ML column, I also don’t want it to become a focal point of TGR. Hence I’ll probably just stick to the standard updated tally and once-a-week mashup, which doesn’t strike me as overkill. (Plus it drives traffic, which is important to a traffic whore!) But as for the call for submissions, etc., I’ll definitely downplay that…I want to get back to some fun stuff, e.g., hot gay statues!!!

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