A month ago, I got my wisdom teeth out. They were deeply impacted, it was an ugly surgery, and the recovery was slow. The point is, that I had a lot of long hours sat in front of my laptop, and it was then that I saw the first ad for Modern Love, the Amazon Prime show named after The New York Times column. A fool for love, a sap for romcoms, and a lover of Tina Fey, who was the face of the advert, I couldn’t wait to binge it.
The show is eight episodes, each a stand-alone story based off of a piece from the column, and named after each one too. A slew of stars pop in and out, and at one point intertwine, kind of like those movies that have every celebrity imaginable where you see Taylor Swift for like, 3 seconds, and none of them quite live up to hype. But this venture in celebrity-speckled love stories was sweet, and not as poignant as the column, but regardless fun to watch. I expected as much, but what I didn’t expect was to reassess my entire approach to how I’ve been choosing love.
I’m 26, I’m single, and I really haven’t made any effort at love (save for my last article, read for a peek into my love life). Every date I have had in the last two years has been from a long-forgotten mutual or a rando DMing me on Instagram, and very few have panned out beyond a couple of deep talks and some meme-riddled, forgotten text chains. When I started watching Modern Love, I noticed a pattern: the first episode showed a woman consistently going on dates (even under the judging eye of her doorman), the second was about a dating app (which I’ve long refused to go on), the third addressed mental illness’ role in finding love, and so on. They all had these characters who were consistently making an effort. Even the character with (SPOILER) Bipolar Disorder made the effort when she wasn’t shut in her room for days on end, working as hard as she could against her chemical imbalances. In the fourth episode, when Fey’s character’s marital fire is petering out, they find a thing. They work at it even when it seems they won’t, even when they say they won’t. Because, I stupidly realized, real people who want love work at it. They don’t sit around and wait for it to happen to them.
So what was my excuse?
I think because my first love sort of happened when I least expected it to, I hoped all love would find its way to me that way. And I am by no means lonely, nor do I ever feel lesser because I don’t have a partner. In fact, even when I did, they didn’t change much of what I had already been doing as a singleton (save for a few key differences wink wink hubba hubba). But now, I’m not in a foreign country where I’m exotic and interesting. I’m back in my hometown, where people I’ve known for years run into me on the street, and everyone seems to be getting married. What was I missing? Already I’m going to outings and consistently finding myself to be the nth wheel, an amicable and fun one who doesn’t make anyone feel left out, but an extra wheel nonetheless.
The fifth episode reminded me that love isn’t always a whole relationship, rather a realization about what matters and who’s important. The sixth one made me angry and I won’t really get into my thoughts on it now, just watch it. The seventh one showed me the love I’d developed as a single person: for other people, non-romantically. For unexpected family, like the people I had slowly let infiltrate my life despite the voice telling me “what’s the point?”. But it was at the final episode that I realized how important it is to pursue love. How necessary it is to live in the moment, to find the people who give meaning to those moments, and hold them tight. Or they’ll slip away and you’ll have nothing to show for it.
After all of this, what is Modern Love? To me, it’s making the effort even if it backfires. It’s always reaching for better, either for yourself or for your loved ones. It’s sweet and genuine, a little awkward, and ultimately vulnerable. It’s finding and re-loving even if it hurt the last time, kind of like dusting off old roller-skates after falling a few times. My god it’s cheesy, and that’s probably because so many people have said it over and over again: it’s messy and touching and an important part of living your life.
So maybe I’ll peruse a dating app or two (should I report back?). Maybe I’ll ask someone out for the first time in years. Maybe I’ll do everything wrong and another crazy Brit will fall into my lap like last time. All I know for sure is that I think I’ll be a little less passive from now on. Falling in love is a brutal and beautiful thing, and I don’t think I want to let that pass me by anymore.