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Modern Love

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Modern Love

Stories on Loss, Love, and Redemption

Jasmin Jin

11.21.16

I’m a strange mix of cynicism and romanticism, of horror and hope. There are days in which my spirit sinks low, and others where my appreciation for beauty overwhelms me. Although millennials are often characterized as “lazy,” “entitled,” “easily offended,” “narcissistic,” I refuse to believe this alarmingly simplistic portrayal of our generation. People from older generations seem to equate screens and apps with superficiality and fear of commitment. I mean, sure we live in a digital age and we’re constantly fed sensationalized news, but that doesn’t automatically make us the “bad generation.” These days, it is rare to see a news story that doesn’t revolve around tragedy. Every day, we are reminded that humanity is irrevocably damaging Earth, hate crimes are on the rise, bombings and mass shootings happen way too often. With so much cynicism, disillusionment, and fear around us, it can be difficult to remember there is still love in the world. Love, in many ways, tears us apart and glues us together. So what better way to capture the essence of this than a podcast on the very subject of Love itself?

Modern Love started out in October 2004 as a column on The New York Times featuring “weekly reader-submitted essays that explore the joys and tribulations of love.” It soon grew in popularity, and was turned into a podcast featuring celebrities who agreed to lend their voices to these stories. By the time I decided to listen to the podcast, I had already read some of the essays on The New York Times website. I didn’t really expect anything radically different, but on a whim, I decided to give it a try.


The first episode I listened to was “To Fall in Love with Anyone, Do This.” I chose it because I had heard briefly about it, and it was narrated by Gillian Jacobs. The rich timbre of the host’s voice filled my ears. It was mellifluous, smooth, and even calming. I was struck by how intimate and direct the experience was. Listening through my earbuds, the sound of Modern Love drowned out background noise. With no visual cues, there was nothing to distract my senses except my own imagination and sonic perception. I went on to listen to “The Wait,” “Friends without Benefits,” “A Heart Outrun,” “Missed Connection,” “An Interlude of Clarity,” “A Heart of Gold,” “Marry a Man who Loves His Mother,” (narrated by Constance Wu!) and “Where it All Started.” Hearing these essays narrated was such a different experience than reading them on the website.


In these portable, bite-sized twenty minute tidbits, these actors made the words come to life. They made me laugh, think, and sometimes cry. Although I didn’t know any of the people who had written these essays, I felt a personal connection to their stories.


The lyricism of these essays stunned me.


“Already I was beginning to see our evening through the surreal and unreliable lens of retrospect.” (Mandy Len Catron)

“But while I stood waiting for him to happen to me, he was always looking for the next best thing.” (Hannah Selinger)

“I thought, it’s easy to love the beautiful, the normal. But what about the gifts of loving the strange, the uncommon, the odd?” (Caroline Leavitt)


I was inspired by their resilience, courage, and wisdom. One woman had written about how she lost her husband to the Iraq War, and how her relationship to her mother in law changed. Another woman had written about her pet tortoise, and somehow I was in tears by the end when *spoiler alert* her tortoise passed away after 20 years.


After the actors narrate the essays, the host invites the editor of The New York Times column (through which these essays are originally published) and the author to speak and answer questions. These authors share the backstories, and how these events shaped who they are today. Both pain and happiness are conveyed through these dialogues. In real life, endings aren’t always happy ones, and that’s what makes these essays authentic.


Through these heartwarming and heartbreaking stories, I was reminded of what matters to me most. My faith in the goodness in the world is slowly inching up, building gradually. Sharing stories, making meaningful connections with others, listening to others’ stories—these are part of what makes life worth living. In a world that constantly threatens your right to happiness and security, anything that reminds you that there's so much more to life is worth listening to.