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Nicholson '12.5: Modern love, revisited

Valentine's Day was yesterday. You, reader, are probably aware, as you spent the time either whining about it with friends or dressed in a cheeky outfit in the presence of your loved one. While we may be too affected to dress up for Saint Patrick's Day and too ungrateful to remember Mother's Day, it is difficult to let Valentine's Day pass by unnoticed. Valentine's Day has always given us an excuse for self-loathing and chocolate consumption, a miserable pairing to which we look forward each and every year.

This year, however, I greeted the holiday with not only a sense of impending doom, but also a deadline. A few days ago, as a literary arts concentrator, I received an e-mail announcing a literary contest. Usually, upon receiving these e-mails, my eyes widen. I always find it interesting to see what is being called for — what subjects merit exploration in this increasingly pluralistic literary world.

The contest for the New York Times Style Section called for essays on "Modern Love" written by college students. The press release mused, "In this age of Facebook, texting, new attitudes about sex and dating, evolving gender roles and 24/7 communication, what is love now?" As if Valentine's Day were not enough, my e-mail just sent me back to CVS for another package of Dove chocolate bars.

I protested the contest on principle. With a prompt like that, we, as a literary voice, were bound to fail. We were bound to fulfill the stereotype mandated of us, of schizophrenic lovers and disconnected soul mates. We were bound to write about booty calls and boy toys. When asked the question, "What is love now?" we were bound to answer, "irrelevant."

I felt denied something that, as a human, is part of my birthright. I felt that finally, spelled out before my eyes, is the reality of my existence — that the world is changing and that people are changing along with it. My worst fear has been realized — love is dead. What once defined the species is now inconsequential to the massive power of the Internet and new ways of communication.

For past generations, our love lives have become a spectacle. Whole talk shows dedicated to Internet romance? Scientific journals preaching the negative effects of texting? A New York Times column dedicated to modern love? In the modern age, are we so stratified from prior generations that they need a translator to understand our existence?

Enter Marguerite Fields, winner of the New York Times' "Modern Love" contest. Her column, "Want to Be My Boyfriend? Please Define," details what she describes as "many, many encounters" with creatures of the opposite sex. To say the least, Marguerite has had bad luck. She has met every walk of crazy and seems to have had a mild flirtation with them all.

The piece is peppered with wit and quips, essential in creating the kind of voice expected of our generation. With classics such as "I don't want her to be mine, and I don't want to be anybody's," Marguerite retains her positive outlook on the world of BlackBerry Messenger and "The Bachelor."

And yet, for generations past, love has become virtually unrecognizable. In the eyes of our elder contemporaries, we are an emotionally bankrupt, disconnected people. They require essay contests and reality television to understand our existence, finding themselves infatuated with what the dating world has become. And yet, they miss the point. While we all have depressed girlfriends and chocolate-crazed professors and care package-sending mothers, we do not have a unanimous experience. Modern love cannot be defined by a Drew Barrymore movie or a column in a newspaper.

For this reason, I feel the New York Times did our generation a great dishonor. When choosing an essay to speak for our time, the paper chose that of a mistreated female. Their choice failed to depict the heart flutter when reading a text message from a crush, or the heartbreak of finding a naughty picture of an ex on Facebook. It failed to mention long-distance relationships that flourish because of Google Voice and all the marriages that have come out of

Modern love is synonymous with the love that preceded it, expressed in a different medium. Heartbreak feels the same. Connection feels the same. The New York Times asked, "What is love now?" When put that way, I have to say "everything."

Just because we live in the age of "Facebook, texting [and] new attitudes about sex and dating" does not mean that the essential character of love has been altered. In fact, I would like to argue that love is even more important. Love is the only way to transcend the bounds of this techno-culture and find true human bonds. We must love each other, perhaps more so now than ever before.


 Lorraine Nicholson '12.5 is a literary arts concentrator from Los Angeles, Calif.



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