However you feel about Valentine's Day, you have to admit that the entertainment options surrounding the holiday are pretty bleak. You can either settle down and watch Valentine's Day ( a poor man's Love Actually) or maybe you'll choose a slighter depressing option and watch Blue Valentine. Or you could make a totally horrible decision and watch Fifty Shades of Grey.
Luckily, when it comes to Valentine's Day entertainment the old written word has plenty of great options, especially in the treasure trove that is the "Modern Love" column. Featured in the New York Times, the "Modern Love" column runs essays every week about love, loss, desire and the human condition. Filled with people's personal stories that are both vulnerably honest and edifying, the column has its own cult readership and is probably one of the most valued columns running today. So in honor of Valentine's Day, here are eight of our favorite "Modern Love" columns to read this week.
1. "To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This" by Mandy Len Catron
Released about a month ago, this article went viral with its catchy "magic formula for love" premise. The essay tells the story of how writer Mandy Len Catron asked her date 36 questions from a 1997 psychology experiment to see if she could create the special intimacy often associated love. Though Catron doesn't claim that there's a simple equation for love, her essay does spark an interesting dialogue on how love is not just something that happens to us but also a choice we make.
"Most of us think about love as something that happens to us. We fall. We get crushed.
But what I like about this study is how it assumes that love is an action. It assumes that what matters to my partner matters to me because we have at least three things in common, because we have close relationships with our mothers, and because he let me look at him."
2. "Single, Female, Mormon, Alone" by Nicole Hardy
An insightful and beautiful essay on what it's like to be a 35-year-old Mormon looking not just for love but for self-agency.
"Most troubling was the fact that as I grew older I had the distinct sense of remaining a child in a woman's body; virginity brought with it arrested development on the level of a handicapping condition, like the Russian orphans I'd read about whose lack of physical contact altered their neurobiology and prevented them from forming emotional bonds. Similarly, it felt as if celibacy was stunting my growth; it wasn't just sex I lacked but relationships with men entirely. Too independent for Mormon men, and too much a virgin for the other set, I felt trapped in adolescence."
3. "What Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage" by Amy Sutherland
One of column's most popular essays and featured in the NYTimes' "The 10 Best Modern Love Columns Ever" list, the essay explains how animal behavior training can be applied to maintaining a marriage.
"The central lesson I learned from exotic animal trainers is that I should reward behavior I like and ignore behavior I don't. After all, you don't get a sea lion to balance a ball on the end of its nose by nagging. The same goes for the American husband."
4. "Wearing You Heart On Your Skin" by Patricia Stacey
An essay on how a bout of scabies helped a woman realize the importance of being desired and expressing desire for her partner.
"Here was a man with hopes and dreams, a child's large curious eyes, a man who worked hard and needed a vacation. Not just his body but some essence of him was present to me, and I was lost not in wanting to be known but in knowing. I was struck by the otherworldly quality of someone else. I had been so lost in my desire to be seen that I had almost become blind."
5."Want to Be My Boyfriend? Please Define" by Marguerite Fields
What's the difference between dating someone versus hooking up with someone versus seeing someone? In this essay, one college student navigates the noncommittal dating scene.
"Sometimes I don't like them, or am scared of them, and a lot of times I'm just bored by them. But my fear or dislike or boredom never seems to diminish my underlying desire for a guy to stay, or at least to say he is going to stay, for a very long time."
6. "How Hollywood Ruined Me for Romance by Benjamin Svetkey
An entertainment journalist has difficuluty finding love in the real world with real people.
7."What the Rabbi Said" by Amy Klein
In this funny essay, Klein shows how believing in something silly for solace doesn't make you irrational, it makes you human.
"I might have stopped being Orthodox, but its indoctrination had left me with the sense that nearly anything - God, spiritualists, healers, psychics and witches - might be equally possible. Thus I found myself in an airless Jerusalem classroom with this old rabbi, who had a white beard so long I couldn't see his mouth and glasses so thick I couldn't see his eyes."
8. "Truly, Madly, Guiltily" by Ayelet Waldman
An honest essay on motherhood and the guilt often associated with romantic love.
I am the only woman in Mommy and Me who seems to be, well, getting any. This could fill me with smug well-being. I could sit in the room and gloat over my wonderful marriage.
"But I don't. I am far too busy worrying about what's wrong with me. Why, of all the women in the room, am I the only one who has not made the erotic transition a good mother is supposed to make? Why am I the only one incapable of placing her children at the center of her passionate universe?"
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