1 Fenrilkis

Self Defense Definition Essay On Love

“This is not rehearsed,” Dan Jones says into a microphone.

He’s standing in front of packed crowd in a small auditorium at the Santa Monica Public Library in Los Angeles. The group of 100 or so –which looks to have no shortage of New Yorkers in addition to locals – sucks on Sweet Tart candies; we’ve all been gifted with a pack, along with a Valentine’s Day card, as we made our way through the doors.

Jones, 51, is here to talk about his book, Love Illuminated, which takes on the least rehearsable subject of all (love). He is something of an expert (if anyone can be) having read 50,000 essays on the topic as the editor of the popular New York Times Modern Love column. Yet even after a decade immersed in tales of the heart, Jones isn’t here to offer advice (or answers) about what he calls “life’s most mystifying subject.” He is here to add an editor’s touch — and a wry sense of humor — to other people’s stories.

The book, like the weekly column, is not about Jones. And so instead of talking about himself up on stage, he calls up 12 members of the audience. Each is a one-time Modern Love essayist, and each has prepared a flash reading.

Hope, a writing instructor, explains that the ancient Greeks had eight different words for eight different kinds of love. “So why do we, caretakers of the planet’s international language” she asks, “expect a single generic monosyllabic word to carry so much weight?”

“What I’ll never understand about love,” explains Liz, an architecture professor, “is just how much of my experience of it happens against my will.”

Each of these presenters has written for the popular series: about maternal love, about looking for signs, about marital finance, about a health scare that turned out to be a blessing, about dating (and remarrying) after a divorce. There are at least 20 others in the crowd who’ve also written essays.

“The book was an attempt to figure out what I knew,” says Jones. “I felt like I’d been doing this column for years and years, and it’s the kind of work that you get lost in. These essays are pouring in, you feel like you’re immersed in it, and I feel like I was more marinating in love than mastering it. I was sort of… stewing in it.”

The Modern Love column started ten years ago somewhat by accident. Jones is a novelist, as is his wife; the column was first offered to them as a couple, after essays each had written about their domestic lives caught the attention of an editor.

Nobody turns down an offer to create a column for the New York Times. And yet, “I can’t say we thought it was the best idea,” Jones says. Who was the audience? What would be too risqué? How did you fact check a column about love, anyway?

And yet the essays began piling up, submitted each week by the hundreds. In the beginning, Jones tried to save them all: clipping each published one out from the paper each week, and sliding it into a protective sleeve; he still has dusty stacks of them on a bookshelf by his side of the bed.

But overtime, the physical collection became too much. And, who needed it? The column had grown into a cultural phenomenon. The actress Maria Bello, who hosted Jones’ book party in Los Angeles, used the platform to come out about her female lover. Dennis Leary’s wife, the novelist Ann Leary, wrote about picking up tennis — and a rough patch in their marriage that lasted for years. There has been an attempt to make the column into a TV show (it lost out to a reality show about Sarah Palin’s daughter), albums inspired by it, and anthologies of essays published. And, of course, pouring out one’s heart onto the pages of the New York Times has become a kind of writer’s right of passage not just therapy on the page, but a launchpad for book deals, films, and even future relationships. (There have been at least 37 books spawned from the 465 essays that have run so far.)

Some of what Jones has learned isn’t all that surprising: People still find love by meeting in the flesh; some find it online. Some treat their search like a job, while others happen upon it by chance. Online matchmaking hasn’t made the quest for love any less fraught. And yes, those OK Cupid algorithms do sometimes suck. (He and his wife of 25 years signed up for a dating site to see if they’d get matched with each other. They didn’t.)

But there is a certain wisdom that comes from reading the essays of thousands of strangers. He’s observed how our notions of love have changed over time: there is less incentive to commit and marry than there used to be (especially for women); love has become more about romance than necessity. He notes that a huge number of us (73 percent, according to a 2011 Marist poll) still believe in destiny, and that many of us still go out of our way to look for meaning in otherwise clinical online interactions. He observes how technology – while making matchmaking more accessible – has also made us painstakingly detached. “Acting aloof,” he writes, “is so common these days that sincerity and vulnerability, for many, can start to feel disgusting and unnatural.” (The term “stalker,” he notes, has been watered down to the point where confessing that you really like someone might qualify.)

There are sections on “booty texting,” “sending d**k pix” and “hooking up.” He speaks about the changes to the column topics over time (transgender issues, gay marriage, hooking up), the stories that really touched him (a couple who stayed married after the husband underwent sexual reassignment surgery) and those that drew the most ire (a woman who admitted in print that she loved her husband more than her children).

He’s heard all sorts of “rules” for dating: when to make the big reveal about bisexuality, or an STD, or a divorce, or – in one guy’s case – a single testicle. While a subject like spanking, for example, may not have been suitable for the Grey Lady at the start, “any sense of taboo or self-censorship has vanished.”

As you might imagine, as an editor of a column about love, Jones is frequently asked what he’s learned. But he has no desire to play guru (or therapist). He doesn’t claim to have any particular wisdom, other than knowing a lot of intimate, absurd, funny, and poignant details about a lot of different people’s love lives.

At the Santa Monica library, he pulls out a stack of heart shaped red rubber bracelets – a gag gift he’ll hand out to his guests, for Valentine’s Day. He bends the rubber around his wrist and holds up his arm. “It actually looks not unlike a sunburnt ass on your wrist,” he laughs. But, he continues: “An overexposed private part is what the Modern Love column is all about.”

(This journal entry was originally written three years ago on Valentine’s Day. I decided to revisit it and see if I still believed in what I wrote. My new comments are italized)

I Killed Cupid in Self Defense
This is one of my favorite quotes from a postcard found at postsecret.blogspot.com

I don’t know why. It often reminds me of an essay Virginia Woolf wrote called, “The Angel of the House.” It it she defends how she had to kill the graceful, silent, perfect angel woman of the house or else it would have killed her. This essay bares no connection to this quote but it leads me to think about it.

And its funny that my major paper for Communication Criticism with Ken Chase was titled , “The New Angel of the House” where I drew from Virginia Woolf’s article as a metaphor for the place of modern day creative writing in light of traditional rhetoric and how that plays against the traditional woman versus the new.

I also have a blog entitled something to the effect of the Angel of the House in which I compare myself at Wheaton versus myself any where else. And now that I think back on it..I”m not so sure that Wheaton was that bad. (I will later regret that in the morning after having my coffee)

All this to say. I was ready to write a witty entry about killing cupid in my own defense and then i googled cupid which led to learning about the history of Valentine’s Day which led to a change of heart. I also have had time to think, heard a quote from Garth Brooks and well today is Valentine’s Day. (I wish I knew what that quote was today)

Cupid is a Roman God, the symbol of passionate love. And his mother Venus, is the Goddess of Love. And St. Valentine was a man who married those who fell in love when marriage was outlawed because the government at that time wanted men to go to war. And Valentine was sent to jail and he was killed. And the story…which has many sides…contines. There is the story of St. Valentine. And the Lupercian Festival which was held in honor of the God of Fertility. And there is the story of cupid. And the story behind Valentine’s Day cards of the phrase wearing your heart on your sleeve..which used to be a literal thing. Well not your real heart but a paper heart with the name of the woman you loved. Basically upon further research I realized for me this holiday had merit.

Therefore, I cannot kill cupid. Because I believe in passionate love. Now, I don’t believe in his arrows. And I’m not too sure about destiny or fate. But I know a lot of it has to do with choice. Our choices lead us to one another and we met and collide and crash and dance and our lives our intertwined and when it involved a man and a woman or actually in this day and age when it involved any two people who then make the choice…they then choose to love.

And if Valentine’s Day is about celebrating the ones you love, Let Cupid Live.

Now I am single. Hmm. By choice, chance, and circumstance. (Little did I know that six months later, I’d meet the love of my life..another Roman/Greek/African God and Warrior in his own right. In six months it will be three years)

I love my family passionately. (Thank you mom for calling me on Valentine’s Day. I am not sure of many things. But as much as I believe that God exist, I also KNOW that you love me and would never wish me away no matter how hard or frustrating being a mom can be. (Still believe this. And this is interesting considering some of the parental challenges my mom now faces with my wonderful yet challenging siblings. But its all okay because in one month I’m treating my mom to an all expense paid trip to Vegas in celebration of her birthday and my love for her) Thank you for loving me and for doing my taxes and filing out the sheet and sending it to me along with the exact pen that you filed the form out with so that when I sign the paper it will be the same pen that you used so that it all looks uniform. I knew you would do that. (This year I learned the trick of filing electronically) Thank you for calling me every few days if I forget and for turning the speaker phone so that Dasia can hear me when I call to talk to you guys. And thank you for your random emails and gifts and wonderful words that make me a stronger person.)

I love my friends passionately. (Steph, at this moment in my life, you are one of the most important people in my life. I can literally talk to you about every single thing. And sometimes that frightens me because I have never been this close to a person before without being freakishly scared and then sabatoging the friendship as I start to withdraw within myself. And Hannah, even though none of us are perfect, you demand excellence from me. And for that, I will always be grateful. And you demand love from me. And you demand time and calls and books and conversations. You are very demanding. And it is good for me. Good because you don’t let me get away that easily. And there are many other friends in my life. Lola. Jason. Jonathan. Mimi. Vinny. Lydia. And many many others.) (Its interesting how times change, people evolve and things are just different..I still love my friends passionately…Lola, Collin, Sam, Megan, Amber, Jantira, SJ….they remind me that there is something all right with the world.)

I love my “freshman boys” passionately. (No need to expound. If you weren’t there, you’d never understand. The Freshman Boys Club…all those men are forever members)

I love my endeavors passionately. (Such as writing, theater, Thai food, dancing, short sexy shirts, serving, children and the list goes on. I am at a place in my life where I have to oppourtunity to do what ever I like and as selfish as that sounds it is also very satisfying. Its satisfying going to bed at night knowing I made choices throughout the day and at the end of the night I am at peace.) (Three years later, I have an ever increasing resume with amazing stage management projects from great theater companies. I have a satisfying and engaging job that is rewarding and am surrounded by talented people. The sexy short shirts have now become sexy short summer dresses..that I even wear in the winter with two pair of leggings. I still get to live my life selfishly…but by never compromising what I want out of life and pursuing that..I’m able to give back..to my family. And that is even more rewarding. I still go to bed knowing lived my day exactly how I wanted it. I said what I needed to say. I spoke up for myself. I made each moment intentional, specific, and sacred.)

Should my first love have said, I love God passionately. (Well, not enough. Not as much as I should. Certain people pushed me in the direction of Christ. Friede. Pete. Salem the Church. Disciples for Christ. Kevin. The children at Sunshine. And all of those things or people are not active in my life right now and sometimes that scares me. But you can’t be dependent on people or a church with four walls to pull you closer to God. That desire has to come from you. And I find that at random moments I pray. I remember praying for Steph when I knew she was in one of her auditions. I remember praying for Jewel as she and her family pulled away off of Sheffield Road. God comes to me
in ways that I don’t expect. But I know I must find more ways and places that I encounter him) (Thank goodness for the three years of my spiritual evolution. i love that i can find God everywhere…even within me. Its interesting that none of those people or situations are active parts of my life now. I don’t need them to be. Some of them shouldn’t be. And maybe one day one or two or them might be. But whether those things or people are in my life…God is in every breath, every exhale, every choice.)

Rodney Sisco and Mark Lewis have both been important men in my life. And these two mentors have both said very interesting things about my future and the man that I may love and marry some day. I don’t want to admit this because maybe its antithetical to my own self philosophy…but I hope that you are right. I hope that I will love and marry someone some day. Although I truly don’t see it happening for years..for which I can explain. (So Rodney and Mark..you were right!!! Oh so right. One day, I hope that you’ll get the chance to meet him for he rocks my world and my soul and my heart and my everything. And though I’d never marry in the traditional american sense…I know he is in my life forever. He is also in every breath, every exhale, every moment.)

But I hope that you two are right. I hope that when I’m forty, I’m not coming home to watch Lost and twist my hair in the calmness of my quiet apartment. I would hope that twenty years from now there would be brownies baking in the oven because that would be one of many things that this future husband may like of mine. (Again no future husband! But also..I’m guessing no brownies. Although I love to cook and bake..being the very particular man that he is…we only eat out or order in. One day though, he’ll let me cook for him. I can feel it in my bones and there will be no going back!)

What I kill in self defense is this notion that I’m just waiting for something to happen…in the guy department.

I am not lonely and I don’t feel awkward in front of couples. I don’t feel jealous. If anything I felt annoyed at the couplish talk that I had to partly endure at breakfast.

I am young and on the road to self-discovery. And I agree with Eharmony.com no matter how much I yell and growl. I am not a stable person yet. I am confusing and a contradiction. I don’t know what I want and my mind changes from one minute to the next. I can be crazy and spontaneous and then I can be an old hag that goes by the name of “Time Nazi” or “Make Up Kit Nazi” I don’t want to marry young. I want to marry when my life is in some kind of order. Not when I’m fresh out of college, practically broke, with no investments anywhere, not owning but renting a place, working on my first post-college job, and still figuring out a million things. (THANK THE GOOD LORD, I”M NOT THAT GIRL ANYMORE. THANK JESUS. Even though I don’t believe in him. But still. Thank goodness for personal growth and evolution!!!!!!!!!!)

Good luck to all of you who did it. Becca and Tom. Ted and Melissa. Greg and Kate? Jason and Annie. And the list goes freaking on. Have fun and God bless you…because you’re really going to need it. I love you all. But its not me. (Hannah and Josh. Jane and Joe. Junlah and Nic. Crissie and Chris. Chris and Ariel. Laura and Jordan. I’m sure the list is even more exhausting than that. If statistics are right…and maybe they aren’t..but if they are right, I wonder who’s it gonna be.)

So maybe in five to ten years I will visit Eharmony.com again and hopefully time is a healer as Eva Cassidy sings and I will be a stable person and then I can think about dating for keeps. (I will not visit eHarmony again! The devils! And screw dating. I’m done dating. I’ve met him. I’m with him. I’m sure he’s the reason the world goes round.)

Don’t kill Cupid because you’re single and horny and haven’t been kissed in a while. Or because you’re lonely and depressed. Or because you a feminist and you’re anti-everything anyway. Don’t kill cupid. His meaning is tied to passionate love. And God is all about passionate love. And me, I’m all about passion and love.

So where ever you are in your life. Happy Valentine’s Day. Or in whatever sense you want to take it Happy Passionate Love Day. Because I do believe in that!

Oh and mom, I forget to say, Happy Anniversary!

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