It’s funny. I go to a few girlfriends: “I want to do some ‘expert interviews,’ what topic do you want to discuss… if you’re up for it?”
And you know what I got back? Not “oh I’ll do film,” or a Netflix series, or my love for vinyl.
Nope, I get a handful eager to offer up their opinions on “modern love.” With “modern” being the necessary keyword. I hardly know why I’m surprised, and, honestly, I’m equally eager to be enlightened.
I book my first modern love interview with Ashley, a dear friend I’ve known for at least a decade.
We end up spending a solid two hours convincing ourselves that the struggle is real. We lament that technology is eroding the charm of dating and replacing it with confusing games. We vent about people’s impatience and shortsighted millennial-ness. We discuss the limitations of algorithms’ ability to really know us and what we’re looking for…How online dating has become weirdly comparative and addicting. Etcetera etcetera.
And, yes. Sure. All that is frustrating and — for many– is defining of today’s reality, but …
I walked away from the conversation feeling unsatisfied. We only echoed what seems like everyone else’s stance —That we’re living in an era of “modern love” where the standards are different (i.e lower) than our parents’ generation. I hate how black and white and defeatist this stance seems.
Naturally I take my frustrations up with Google. Unfortunately I get more of the same — If you ask your search bar to define love, it’s “an intense feeling of deep affection.” Modern love, though, that’s far bleeker. Urban Dictionary confirms, it’s mediocre love; love of this decade.
Lovely, what ideal times we live in!
But I disagree with this arbitrary line in the sand. Modern love, psh. ‘Modern love’ is — should be — ‘love’. What is up with believing the 21 c. gets to write new rules for romance?
In order to prove my theory though, I deiced to entertain the idea that there is in fact a retro, real love and then this more recent, mediocre version.
I go back to Google: “Percent of songs about love in western culture?” I assume this percent is high. Pairing a stat about Americans singing their hearts out for romance, in spite of the fact that 52% of women are unmarried proves… well…I don’t know, except maybe musicians are the experts I should really be talking to when it comes to all that. But I digress.
The fourth line of results returns, “Love in America” sans any reference to music.
I scan the headline and subtext.
Perfect — proof that today we have high expectations for a kind of love that isn’t being met by the real world….but surely these expectations have to be based in some kind of truth…probably from a past, better version of love…right?
Then I dropped to the next line of the article: Issue — May 1938. 1983?!
No: May 1938.
Wait what? For the past 80 years, love has been troubling our country? Even when everyone was paired off in cookie cutter houses, we struggled with this fantasy of finding our one, true soulmate and all the promised bliss in that?
Apparently technology can’t be our saving scapegoat. This proves that our problems with sourcing deep, passionate love date back to way before Tinder.
I was stumped. Maybe America’s independent, always-forward-thinking culture and the construct of long-term compatibility are fundamentally at odds with one another.
I’ll also venture that many 20 year olds may think they’re craving love but in equal measure love their freedom; Love being able to roam around as individuals — ever improving, ever becoming weller, wealthier.
After all, personal optimization can often seem easier as a nomad. And let’s face it. When marriage is less necessary, the logic goes that a relationship should be THE BEST or else what’s the point.
I don’t think modern love means lower standards than other generations — quite the opposite. Shakespeare was ahead of his time when he taught us that love, at the end of the day, is “an authentic and free expression of one’s innermost self.” In other words, modern love might actually be the highest order of romance.
Unfortunately, though, romance today is measured by the same impossible standards so many American overachievers apply to themselves, their careers, and their Instagram feeds. So while modern love — the good kind — might in fact be an alluring, self-actualizing experience. It’s also, maybe, a far rarer commodity, leaving many still searching.
…Or hopefully giving into a love for life, with or without some other half.