Sunday, October 25, 2009

Monday Morning Quarterbacking XV

This week I'm getting smart and posting before the Giants game. That way my writing ability will not hinge on the status of Eli Manning's sore foot.

What’s love got to do with it?

This week’s essay provides an interesting window into what Modern Love editors mean when they say “love.”

Because frankly, there’s not a whole lot of love in this essay.

This week’s gripping piece is by Michelle Nicole Lee and it tells a fascinating, sometimes painful tale of the author’s lifelong battle with depression. Like many a great ML essay, “When Madness Is in the Wings” takes a familiar topic and travels an unfamiliar route. Mental illness – certainly depression – have been well covered in essay land. What makes this one different? It’s the relationship the author chooses to share with the reader.

Instead of friends and family, the author tells us about her relationship with a woman she encountered as a graduate student – a woman who displays signs of mental illness and becomes a mirror and a reference point for the author as she travels her own route through depression.

And so that brings me to my original question: why is this a story that belongs in a column about love? Even as the author expresses her sympathy, her connection and finally, her gratitude to this woman in her life, she does not say she loves her. There isn’t any indication that the emotion of love, as we understand it commonly, is present at all in this story.

So the essay is interesting, because it isn’t really about love. At least not traditional love. And that gives me a new insight into the market. The title of the column is not “Love.” It is “Modern Love.” What’s the difference? The addition of the word modern allows the possibility of reinterpretation of the emotion, of relationships, of what it means to feel love.

Perhaps the author does not feel the kind of love for this woman that she might feel for family or friends. On the other hand, there is a powerful, emotional experience there. And perhaps it’s one that shouldn’t be relegated to anything less than love.


  1. What about the love that the author finally feels for herself? I liked the essay a lot, too. Thanks for posting about it.

    Ruth in Boston

  2. Interesting point, Ruth. I didn't think to look at it from that perspective.