Sunday, May 04, 2008

Recommended reading

Traditional media usually does an awful job of documenting the intricacies of modern dating. So the NY Times did something wonderful -- they held a college essay contest on the topic of "Modern Love" and are publishing the five best submissions. The winner, "Want to Be My Boyfriend? Please Define" by Marguerite Fields, a junior at Marlboro College in Vermont was published today. Field's piece is brilliant and heartbreaking at the same time:
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.

And even when I don’t want him to stay — even when he and I find each other as strangers and remain strangers until we stop doing whatever it is we are doing — I still want to believe that two people can meet and like each other well enough to stay together exclusively, without the introduction of some 1960s rhetoric about free love or other noncommittal slogans.

--from, Want to Be My Boyfriend? Please Define

Also, Angelenos know that LA Weekly food columnist Jonathan Gold is THE. BEST. RESTAURANT. REVIEWER. IN. THE. WORLD! Seriously, he's incredible. Check out, "Keep on Trucking: Notes from the taquero resistance" about the battle to save LA's beloved taco trucks. Warning, you're gonna get hungry for some tacos.


Anonymous said...

Wow, you LIKED this piece....?! I feel awful for this woman. If this is what the NY Times thinks modern love looks like, I'd better go chuck myself off a cliff. It doesn't exactly paint men in the best light, does it?

And by holding this piece - true though it may be of this one woman's experience - up to the light as just the way love in this society "works", I think they're just giving people permission to treat other people badly. Even the ones who ARE special. Thumbs down to the Times. Blech.

RFK Action Front said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
RFK Action Front said...

Hmmm. Interesting. Not the reaction I expected, but then again, that's why we blog.

Yes I thought the fellas didn't look very impressive in this piece -- that's one of the reasons I wanted to post it -- as a reflection and a wake up call to the fellas.

One of the things I found moving about the piece was the way that it perfectly captured how young men and young women are talking past each other right now -- leaving everyone really lonely I believe. I saw the article as a photograph of a bleak landscape.

In terms of how we got here, I'm not quite sure. I would at least like to make an economic argument to start the conversation. If it's the 1950s -- you have a union manufacturing job, you have health insurance and a sizable retirement package, you're off every night at 5, making good money -- enough to pay your mortgage, buy a car, take a vacation every summer. Under those circumstances, family is gonna be the center of your world. Your job is boring, you have lots of time on your hands for family, and if you're responsible, it's pretty easy to provide for your family. Indeed during that period we see a strong family-centric middle class emerge.

Now fast forward 50 years. People are working 50, 60, 80 hours a week. Required to travel for work. Adjusted for inflation, not making quite as much as the factory worker did 50 years ago. Not only that, but the job isn't boring -- it's all consuming. Even if you're a mid-level employee you have targets and huge responsibility on your shoulders, and the ever-present threat of layoffs if you don't perform at your peak. All of that, and you might not even have health insurance for yourself let alone family coverage.

Guy in the 1950s looks across the bar at the pretty lady and says, 'you know, I think I'd like to make her my wife.' Maybe it works out maybe it doesn't but everyone knows that a traditional middle class family life is possible. Guy in 2008 looks across the bar and says, 'wow she's hot, but I'm not even making it myself -- let's say it did work out, the notion of eventually taking on a big mortgage, health insurance, kids, how am I supposed to make all of that happen? I'm already overextended as it is, and yet still falling behind.' So they hook up. And that's it.

Let me put it a different way. Now this may be apocryphal, but I once read that aborigines in Australia were able to meet all of their needs for food, shelter and clothing by expending about 14 hours A WEEK of effort. If everyone in America was only working 14 hours a week -- I think a lot of people would be forming relationships and settling down and creating families.

I guess I'm just trying to find an explanation that goes beyond either sex blaming the other side for bad faith. I think perhaps there are bigger forces at work here. But maybe it is indeed cultural. Maybe guys are just screwing up and if they'd just get their act together, everything would turn out fine. I don't believe that's true, but I'm more than happy to have someone point out what I'm not seeing here.