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Modern Love College Essays

A Complete Set
of Modern Loves

2018

It’s Us Against a Particle of Dust

Parents of children with potentially fatal allergies exist in a state of constant high alert, one that can unify them as a couple.

Am I Gay or Straight? Maybe This Fun Quiz Will Tell Me

A young woman seeks answers to her sexual orientation online, where the endless quizzes she takes deliver whatever label she wants.

A Future Without Him, Aided by Duct Tape

A month into widowhood, a young mother finds herself to be the sole protector of her children — and a trapped bird.

How ‘Lolita’ Freed Me From My Own Humbert

A teenager in distress turned to a famous novel with the hope of normalizing her situation. Instead, it provided a road map for escape.

Just for Tonight, Pretend You Don’t Know Me, O.K.?

For a Valentine’s date, they wanted to go to a bar and act as if they were strangers. Then she sat next to someone else.

When Your Body Tells You What Your Brain Won’t

A woman who had collected stories of others’ marriages and infidelities for years learns a powerful lesson that research alone could never teach.

Are Bitcoins More Real Than Boyfriends?

She believed that loving a person would be a safer bet than investing in a cryptocurrency she could neither touch nor understand.

The Bike That Saved My Life

Saddled with a run-down house, a faltering marriage and a vanishing bank account, a woman takes to her two-wheeler.

For Best Hookup Results, Use Your Words, O.K.?

How physical desire, fake flattery and a vanishing act can make casual sex anything but casual.

How 30 Blocks Became 30 Years

A teenager in a wheelchair forges an unlikely but enduring relationship with the young woman hired to care for his infant half brother.

2017

Love Calls, and So Does the Priesthood

On a subway platform, she shared a New Year’s Eve kiss with a man planning to be a priest. Could it go any further?

10 Ways to Love Better

This year’s most-read Modern Love columns delivered unexpected kernels of wisdom.

Shooing Carolers Away for a Love That Stays

As Christmas nears, a young woman hospitalized with pediatric leukemia basks in a new romance even as her health fails.

Getting Married Is Better Than Dying, Right?

She was gravely ill. He had a job with health insurance. Nothing like tying the knot on the way to the hospital to make someone believe in love.

He Showed Me His Tiles, So I Showed Him Mine

Nine years of therapy and one board game help a woman understand that love can’t be mastered through hard work and perfectionism.

When Even a Toddler Can Tell You Don’t Belong

An American stepmother feels like an outsider in the British family she joined. Driving the car pool in her bathrobe doesn’t help.

Love to Love You, Baby

Sometimes we fall for a person, sometimes a place. For Jacqueline Woodson, it was disco-drenched New York, where anything, and everything, could happen.

Winning the College Contest Means Everything Is Rosy, Right?

Some of the youngest Modern Love contributors weigh in on the impact of writing and publishing their essays.

An Optimist’s Guide to Divorce

She fell in love with a married man. He told his wife he wanted to split up. How did they all end up as close friends?

17 Million Frozen Sperm Await the Perfect Moment

A woman trying to get pregnant on her own finds connection and hope during a total solar eclipse.

Senior Couples Try the 36 Questions That Lead to Love

The questions have led to countless unions. What can they do for pairs who know everything about each other?

‘Happiness Is Incomplete’: A Refugee Couple’s Scattered Lives

A family flees Iraq and eventually resettles in Indiana — all except for one, who remained halfway around the world.

The Secret of Modern Love

Daniel Jones, the editor of Modern Love, takes a look at his teenager.

When Your Uber Driver Brings a Time Machine

A woman is plunged into her tumultuous past when she gets a ride to the airport from a man intimately connected to her divorce.

Your 13-Word Love Stories

We asked readers to share succinct summaries of their personal lives. Here are some of our favorites.

Don’t Know What the Angular Gyrus Is? Your Heart Does

A University of Chicago neuroscientist is studying how we may reap key rewards from being in love. And her most persuasive evidence may be herself.

An Open Adoption Now Crosses Many Time Zones

Amelia, 5, lives with her Mama and Mimi in Switzerland, Skypes with her birth mother in Seattle and was a flower girl at her birth father’s wedding.

On the Path to Empathy, Some Forks in the Road

What happens when your wife wants to be “unmarried” but still together? Essential oils and trying to butter up a dog, for starters.

Dear David’s Wife, Can You Diagnose My Husband, Too?

Figuring out her husband had Asperger’s meant everything would be fine between them, right? Not so fast, says Kristen Finch.

Doc, Help!

A cartoon strip on the signs one man is leaving for his wife. (One placard contains instructions concerning a wet towel.)

What Love Looks Like

We set out to find couples in New York who would be willing to have their photo taken and to answer some personal questions. Here are 10 couples who agreed.

Mom: ‘Is He Jewish?’ Me: ‘No.’ Mom: ‘Is He Smart?’

A playwright’s mother, modern and progressive in much of her life, still has a few old-school tics.

The 13 Questions That Lead to Divorce

If you were given the chance to bring peace to the Middle East, would you also make that about you?

We Were in Our 20s and We Didn’t Have a Clue

They met at a wedding. She had a husband. It was brief, fiery, and the memory lingers even if the specifics are a little hazy.

The Other Woman Speaks

A memorable essay recounted a man’s chance encounter (and coffee date) with the wife of his wife’s lover. But what did she make of the meeting?

Looking for the ‘Bad Mother?’ She’s Still Here

In one of the most provocative Modern Love columns, Ayelet Waldman dared tease out the nuances of romantic versus maternal love. Then Oprah got involved.

Recognizing What They Had, 20 Years Too Late

A closeted gay woman didn’t know how to have platonic love with a man. Decades later, she wishes she had been brave enough to try.

Is There Something Odd About Being Single?

In a society that rewards marriage, a woman asks why the single life should have to be condemned, even by the Supreme Court, as one of loneliness.

Single, Unemployed and Suddenly Myself

After hooking up with a much younger man, a woman realizes she has been looking for love all wrong.

Prenup Is a Four-Letter Word

A man’s request for a prenuptial agreement roils an engagement, forcing his fiancée to confront her financial choices.

The Secret to Marriage Is Never Getting Married

Rather than making a single, ceremonial commitment, unwedded couples must choose each other every day.

Taking My Ex Back In (for His Own Good)

They loved each other and had a child together, but couldn’t make it work. Twenty years later, could their bond save his life?

Discovering Manhood in Soapy Bubbles

He thought he had left his father’s machismo behind. But when it came time to propose, he didn’t think he was man enough to be anyone’s husband.

My Platonic Romance on the Psych Ward

A patient with mania was told that nobody forms lasting friendships in a psychiatric hospital, but she adored her roommate too much to listen.

Finding God in a Hot Slice of Pizza

After her divorce, a mother and son who had been living by the rules of Orthodox Judaism decide to test (and taste) a new world of possibilities.

Who’s Allowed to Hold Hands?

A Jamaican woman chafes at the reality that expressing affection for her wife can lead to confrontations with her fellow immigrants in New York.

Are You There, Dad? It’s Me, Alice

After a 10-year-old girl tries to contact her recently deceased father by email, an unusual correspondence begins.

Married to a Mystery Man

A woman comes to the conclusion that it’s not a lack of love that ends long-term relationships; it’s a lack of curiosity.

Four Castaways Make a Family

In adopting three foster children, a woman with a fraught past of her own makes “a decision to love.”

Escaping From a Dire Diagnosis on Match.com

To entertain her hospital-bound friend, a divorced woman opens an online dating account so they can scroll through profiles of available men.

During a Night of Casual Sex, Urgent Messages Go Unanswered

On one of the most consequential evenings of his life, a young man still finding himself wishes he had picked up the phone.

The 12-Hour Goodbye That Started Everything

A spurned woman confronts the question: When you lose love, should you even try to get over it?

How to Stop Breaking Up

A writer and artist valued their creative independence too much to stay together. But they couldn’t stay away.

A FaceTime Relationship Turns Face to Face

A woman discovers that in-person love is much more taxing than just holding up a phone.

Seeking the Comfort of an Old Flame: Solitude

After leaving a man she had feared, a woman finds solace in anonymity and separation.

To Stay in Love, Sign on the Dotted Line

They launched their relationship by answering 36 questions. To keep it going, they drew up a contract.

My Body Doesn’t Belong to You

A young woman who finds herself being catcalled, followed and grabbed at wonders why some men seem to think a female body is public property.

A Husband for Home; a Wife for Away

When a couple routinely seek different pleasures, sometimes you need one spouse for travel and another for the everyday.

Making a Marriage Magically Tidy

At her husband’s suggestion (and with the wisdom of Marie Kondo), a recovering slob discovers the sexiness of cleanliness.

2,000 Entries, 5 Winning Essays: Catch Up on the Modern Love College Contest

This year’s standout stories focused on faith, gender, technology and, of course, love.

Wanting Monogamy as 1,946 Men Await My Swipe

They met on Bumble and fell into a fun, one-night-a-week, nonexclusive routine — until she realized she liked him.

Not Friends? Then No Benefits

A woman who feels no sexual attraction without first establishing a deep emotional connection wonders if there is something wrong with her.

White Shirt, Black Name Tag, Big Secret

After spending years abroad trying to convert strangers, two Mormon missionaries realize how little they really knew each other.

My So-Called (Instagram) Life

When the person you’re trying to be on social media takes over the person you are in real life, it can be hard to break character.

The Physics of Forbidden Love

The winning essay from our Modern Love College Essay Contest explores an unlikely romance between a transgender man and an immigrant Indian woman.

To Stay Married, Embrace Change

It’s unrealistic to expect your spouse to forever remain the same person you fell in love with.

A Dose of Empathy From My Syrian Doctor

A woman with a debilitating motor neuron disease finds hope in a man from a war-ravaged country.

From Best Man to Puzzled Woman

A woman discovers surprising complications in navigating her male friendships after transitioning in midlife.

Modern Love Podcast: Laura Dern Reads ‘I Will Be Your Mother Figure’

This week, the “Big Little Lies” actress reads Rhonda Mawhood Lee’s story of her church’s reaction to a gay parishioner’s last love.

The Accident No One Talked About

When a family tries to sweep tragedy under the rug, the damage is deep and lasting.

Keeping the Boardroom Out of the Bedroom

A hard-charging executive has trouble balancing the power of work with the intimacy of marriage.

Pushed Into the Future When Illness Strikes (in an Unlikely Place)

After contracting a rare case of the mumps as an adult, a man receives bad news about his fertility....

When Mothers Bully Back

A good mother does bad things on behalf of her bullied son. Should she feel triumphant or ashamed?...

‘Live for the Moment’: Readers Share Stories of Love and Loss

Readers respond to an essay by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, who, after learning she doesn’t have long to live, composed a dating profile for her husband....

You May Want to Marry My Husband

After learning she doesn’t have long to live, a woman composes a dating profile for the man she will leave behind....

Podcast »

When Your Greatest Romance Is a Friendship

A writer seeking solitude in a small town finds himself developing a deep and unlikely bond with his elderly neighbor....

Opening the Heart’s Floodgates, With a Paw

An animal shelter volunteer has a dim view of her fellow man, until she starts playing matchmaker for dogs and people....

After 264 Haircuts, a Marriage Ends

He acknowledged he was gay and left his wife, but he kept returning home for their monthly ritual....

The Secret to Sibling Success

Two brothers and a sister credit a surprising source for their lifelong closeness: their parents’ ugly divorce....

Confronting Race, Religion and Her Heart

After a painful breakup, a young woman finds healing in honesty — with both her former boyfriend and herself....

Boy, What a Fabulous Baker

After a woman swipes right on a man with his own bakery, she falls for both him and his bread....

A Tattoo for the Living

After a young woman’s troubled boyfriend disappears, she scrambles to preserve scraps of his existence....

Can Cuddle Parties Cure Modern Loneliness?

Readers were split on a Modern Love writer’s resolution to seek the touch of strangers....

Refreshing a Mother’s Memory With Love and Stories

An aging woman’s dementia causes her to learn about her family all over again....

2016

In the New Year, More Cuddling

A single woman in need of physical connection pledged to attend a cuddle party....

The Night Girl Finds a Day Boy

For a sleep-disordered woman who works all night and sleeps all day, dating presents challenges....

A Year In, and Still Trying to Say the ‘L’ Word

They had been together for 12 months. She realized that she loved him. Should she say so?...

9 Ways to Improve Your Love Life

A guide for having better relationships, culled from 2016’s most popular Modern Love columns....

From Syria, With Love

An Atlanta mother who volunteers to help a refugee family discovers that the need, and the benefit, goes both ways....

After a Breakup, an App to Help Breathe, Then Run

Jilted by her longtime boyfriend, a woman considers trusting intuition over rationale. If only she could figure out what intuition is....

Catfishing Strangers to Find Myself

A young boy in Finland pretends he’s a woman on an online gaming website to get the attention of other players. Then the game changes....

When Eve and Eve Bit the Apple

A Christian woman’s identity is challenged by her love for church and another woman....

Grappling With the Language of Love

For an American woman falling in love with an Iraqi doctor in Syria, Arabic provides both a bridge and a source of frustration....

My U-Turn From Isolation to Intimacy

When her only child outgrows cuddling, a single mother realizes that her daily life is almost entirely without physical affection, or even touch, from anyone....

My Biological Clock Can’t Tick Fast Enough

A woman with no maternal desire wrestles with the expectation that married couples should try to have children....

My Biological Clock Can’t Tick Fast Enough

A woman with no maternal desire wrestles with the expectation that married couples should try to have children....

Cropped Out of My Own Fantasy

A young woman relies on carefully prepared images to present her relationship in the best light, until the picture no longer includes her....

What’s Love? Don’t Ask the Answer Couple

A onetime advice columnist realizes that the more she learns about love, the less she seems to know....

When Trump vs. Clinton Becomes a Family Affair

In midlife, a man quickly forges a tight bond with a sister he never knew he had, until the presidential campaign threatens to pull them apart....

Dear Dad: We’ve Been Gay for a Really Long Time

A brother and sister decide to come out to their 95-year-old Mennonite father in a pair of carefully written letters....

When a Couch Is More Than a Couch

For a young mother with terminal cancer, questions about her own mortality merge with decisions about upholstery and cushion width....

From He to She in First Grade

When a 6-year-old boy wants to wear skirts and dresses to elementary school, his parents grapple with the reality that it’s about more than clothes....

When Love Isn’t as Simple as Standing by Your Man

The stresses of a man’s double lung transplant push his marriage to the brink....

The Internet Thinks I’m Still Pregnant

When a box of formula arrives on the doorstep months after a miscarriage, it becomes clear that the virtual world didn’t get the pregnancy update....

Security in a Bright Yellow Suitcase

An overnight bag becomes a token of hope, signifying someone waiting on the other end....

A Single Mom Escapes the Friend Zone, One Non-Date at a Time

With parenthood dampening her romantic options, a woman changes her strategy....

How a Bird Feeder Revived My Marriage

A wife in India finds that feeding birds nourishes her relationship....

The Shirt Stays On

Four open-heart surgeries by age 15 had left a young man’s chest riddled with disfiguring scars. It’s kind of hard to explain that during a hookup....

Words With (I Wish We Were More Than) Friends

While searching online for a local woman to date, a man finds himself falling instead for a Scrabble-playing stranger on the other side of the world....

A Crash Course in Honeymoon Survival

Lost in the Amazon jungle, a newly married couple finds hope in fantasizing about the future (while clad in underwear and headlamps)....

At Sea, and Seeking a Safe Harbor

A woman who escaped the Cambodian genocide as a child hopes her mother can accept her for who she is now....

After a Suicide, a Security Guard for the Heart

A shocking discovery following the loss of a sister becomes an unlikely source of solace....

What Is a Man For?

After a twice-married woman realizes she doesn’t need a man to provide, protect or procreate, she finds herself seriously questioning their purpose....

How the ‘Dining Dead’ Got Talking Again

Passionate conversation brought them together, but after seven years of marriage, they had nothing to say. What to do?...

A Path to Fatherhood, With (Shared) Morning Sickness

Their dreams of foreign adventure shelved by a dire diagnosis, a man and his wife decide, instead, to become parents....

Podcast »

Learning Humanity From Dogs

After his marriage unravels, a man is left with a sleeping bag, two 150-pound pets and a lot to figure out about life and love....

Can Tylenol Help Heal a Broken Heart?

When a neuroscience student gets dumped, she finds comfort (and an over-the-counter remedy) in her knowledge of the physiology of romantic rejection....

Putting Love to the Stress Test

When two self-described tech geeks slide into a relationship that seems too easy, they design a monthlong trial to expose its flaws....

No Sound, No Fury, No Marriage

After her peaceful marriage quietly dissolves, a woman comes to appreciate the vitality of conflict and confrontation....

Single Woman Seeking Manwich

Dating, like insanity, is doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different outcome....

Just Don’t Call Me Mom

A gay father who chooses to be a stay-at-home parent has some issues with being celebrated on Mother’s Day....

The Entire Netflix History of Us

When a shared account is all that’s left of a relationship, the connection can both comfort and annoy....

All Twisted Up by Gender Bending

A surprising realization about her ex’s new girlfriend makes a writer question what it means to be a woman....

It’s Been a Long Time Coming

When a gay son brings his boyfriend home to meet his parents, it leads to a misunderstanding that lasts for decades....

When Moving Forward Means Stepping Back

After a casual encounter goes terribly wrong, a young woman retreats from love....

On a Serpentine Road, With the Top Down

A widow contemplates letting go and holding on from behind the wheel of her husband’s vintage convertible....

A Field Guide to Male Intimacy

The son of a gay father struggles with stereotypically masculine conversations and rituals....

A Slow-Motion Demise, a Fast-Forward Repair

As her own marriage crumbles, a sister plays matchmaker for her divorced younger brother....

In the Waiting Room of Estranged Spouses

An ex-soldier, rocked by infidelity, finds hope in a chance meeting with a mother and her young son....

Podcast »

Love and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

For a young woman on the road, motorcycles meant autonomy and then togetherness....

Shedding Skins at the Zoo

A young woman learns about love and bravery from snakes, gorillas and cockroaches....

What Luck Means Now

During a health crisis, a woman gains a new appreciation for the terms “husband” and “wife.”...

In a Foreign Land With Something to Declare

On a trip to Singapore with his girlfriend, a man waffles over romantic commitment....

A Heart Filled With Love, Not Stuff

A daughter struggles to dispense with meaningful possessions after her mother’s death....

To Text or Not to Text: A Dating Conundrum

The promise of a romance was disrupted by a guy who seemed content to let his fingers do the talking....

Platonic, Until Death Do Us Part

How I reached another level of love and respect by allowing myself to be comfortable in a relationship....

The End of Small Talk

Why can’t we replace trivial conversations with meaningful ones, and ask each other profound questions right from the start?...

Sharing a Cab, and My Toes

During a taxi ride home a co-worker makes a surprising request....

Single, and Surrounded by a Wall of Men

At 37, a lawyer half-heartedly attends yet another singles mixer and awaits the dreaded mingling. It was all so deliciously awful, she thought....

2015

One Reason Not to Believe in Santa Claus

A visit from St. Nick nearly turns tragic....

A Culture Gap the Size of an Ocean, Bridged by Facebook

An Italian-American man, 75, leaps across generational and technological chasms to find common ground with a Saudi Muslim woman nearly a half-century younger....

The Heart Said Yes; the Horoscope Said No

Was my fate truly predetermined? The astrologers in India seemed to know pretty well....

Is There a Doctor in the Marriage?

I wanted to support my husband as he pursued his dream career, but I couldn’t help feeling that his work and I were in competition....

When Cupid Is a Prying Journalist

An interviewer encourages a subject not to make the mistake she did and to run to his lost love before it’s too late....

The Five Stages of Ghosting Grief

A woman dives into the confusing vacuum created by an unanswered text....

One Bouquet of Fleeting Beauty, Please

A former florist shares lessons learned from work and a loss of her own....

For a Single Mother, an Alternate Reality

A divorced mother fantasizes about a world in which her daughter has the love of two parents....

A Romance That’s Extra Zesty

What a TED talk about Prego (and consumer choice) taught me about love....

When the Doorman Is Your Main Man

For a single woman in New York and the guy who stands watch in her building, their special bond proves lasting....

Podcast »

On Tinder, Off Sex

Living a life where secondary abstinence isn’t exactly a first choice....

The Original Conscious Uncouplers

A writer senses a change in her divorced parents’ relationship. Her husband points to their wedding day....

Taking a Break for Friendship

A widowed novelist learns that when dating, it pays not to hold a grudge....

Podcast »

From Divorce, a Fractured Beauty

A recently divorced couple manages to have a happy family vacation....

Podcast »

When the two finally met in real life, however, their interactions faltered. (Ms. Dewey had rented a car and driven nine hours to see him.) They strained for conversation. After spending a disastrous final evening barely talking, Ms. Dewey left, holding back tears.

“I don’t think our relationship failed because it played out online,” Ms. Dewey said. “I just think the internet managed to disguise a lot of flaws.” Within the confines of a screen, Ms. Dewey and her cyberlover presented their most engaging, charming selves, while omitting everything else.

Although that experience left Ms. Dewey suspicious of digital interactions, she decided to sign up for OkCupid when she moved to D.C., a city where she felt isolated. After going on a number of dates, Ms. Dewey met the man who would become her husband; they married this year over Labor Day weekend.

Their courtship was the reverse of her previous experience. “In our online interactions we didn’t instantly click,” Ms. Dewey said. “Our match percentage was really low, our messaging back and forth was kind of stunted. But in person, we hit it off.”

Malcolm Conner, “The Physics of Forbidden Love,” 2015. Here, in his own words, he discusses the essay and its aftermath.

You know how people say, “You write to find out what you believe”? My motivation was to find out why I was staying in a relationship I knew was doomed. Since my girlfriend and I started seeing each other, we’ve kept our relationship secret; I am a white, trans man and she is an Indian immigrant. Her parents only approve of her dating someone who’s Indian, which means she and I eventually must break up.

In writing this, I just realized that our relationship is what it is and that I overwhelmingly wanted to remain in it. I think there are reasons to pursue and value relationships that are finite.

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about my parents’ divorce. Initially my parents and sisters and I all felt that it was just a painful experience. But we’ve come to understand that this end wasn’t entirely negative — their marriage was still a successful union.

I also wanted to write my essay because I found out that some people on campus knew I was trans, but I hadn’t told them. I worried my control over this information was slipping. I didn’t think I would win the contest, but if I did, I would be able to let people know about my trans identity in my words, in my voice and on my terms.

The response has been very positive, which was a surprise. While I did receive some hateful messages, the majority were really kind.

The two biggest subjects of the essay — my trans identity and my relationship — were both hidden parts of my life. When important aspects of your life remain secret, they start to feel unreal or invisible. My relationship and trans identity not only have been validated, but also made real in a way that had been previously denied.

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