A tongue-in-cheek rationalization for my Modern Love rejections, leading me to believe I'm neither modern nor loved!
Oh, boy. Just got my fifth rejection from the New York Times’ Modern Love column. Apparently, my love affairs aren’t modern enough. Or can’t even be classified as love.
In this last one, I wrote about an amazing incident that involved licorice, barbells and a guy in Angels Flight pants.
But Modern Love wasn’t interested.
I’ve deduced that ML wants current stuff, mostly meet-cute tales of millennials and iGeners connecting on Tinder, swiping right and hooking up. Ho-hum, right?
They also want open and honest writing about love. They don’t want a saga about one of my boyfriends who was so cheap, he considered a Whopper, fries, a drink and a cookie to be a four-course meal. But, as I see it, open and honest doesn’t always translate into the written equivalent of a clinch cover.
Modern Love also wants a narrative arc. You know, the getting acquainted part, then the epiphany. The realization over avocado toast that your best friend – with occasional benefits – is really The One.
Nor does Modern Love want to know what happens after the arc. But every epiphany has an epiphany. How many of these yarns about people finding the love of their lives really pan out?
Too often, these columns end with young lovers deciding to move to Colorado and live off the grid. But life isn’t like that. Most women can only go gridless for so long, and men get itchy every seven years (OK, some way sooner). Frequently, the only sunshine in these relationships is from the solar panels on the roof. That’s trouble. And some of us could write about it, having been there.
But no. Modern Love wants to leave all readers with the illusion that love will conquer all. They ask submitters to forgo harsh reality and instead pen an essay about their often inscrutable, but ultimately wonderful, partners. Forget the boring conversations over never-ending Pandora meals, the relentless video-gaming, the staring into the phone – find a trendy hook in your one-off love affair and write about it!
Don’t just take my word for it. Many successful ML columns follow this pattern. Train your husband as if he were an animal, and you’re both happier. Not only a Modern Love column, but a book deal!
Your beloved husband tells you he’s gay? Invite his new boyfriend to live with both you AND the hubby, then chronicle it!
Did you text a stranger thinking it was your boyfriend? No problem! Have lunch with your text’s hapless recipient (who is understanding in a way your jackass of a boyfriend isn’t) and find out he’s got the same last name as you! Get it down and send it off!
I’ll admit it. I’m downright dejected over missing out on the fame that comes with being a Modern Love writer. And the buzz doesn’t end with the print column. An up-and-coming actor nobody’s heard of — or one who desperately wants to be heard of again — creates a dramatic reading of your column — and the recording is linked on the Modern Love website for eternity. It’s a veritable eco-system!
Many’s the time I’ve envisioned Marcia Cross regaling readers with one of my now-rejected ML columns about falling in love with the sports information director at my college as he streaked across campus (yes, there are photos). Or the one I wrote about another boyfriend who dumped me by singing “I Will Always Love You” on a Jumbotron at a Seahawks game. Or --
OK, OK. You get the point. I’ve had plenty to write about. But apparently, I lack the ML factor, that elusive concatenation of words that’s able to turn a serendipitous meeting across a crowded room into a damn Rodgers and Hammerstein classic.
So where does that leave me? Content with having read my essays to a few friends (who are only too simpatico)? Can I help it if I still yearn to say I’ve published in the Gray Lady, letting people think it was an op-ed on international affairs, not just a column about a feckless boyfriend?
Ultimately, I’ve got to face some realities. The narratives of my failed relationships aren’t limitless. My options? I could end my quest to be published in Modern Love or hope that there’s still a guy out there waiting to be written about. If it’s the latter, he’d better have an angle, one I can fit into no more than 1,700 words.
And this time, I'll make sure my column will end, like all fairy tales, before the ever-after.