Editor of Modern Love Column: “Hard Stuff” More Interesting than Romance

Daniel Jones, the editor behind the insanely popular Modern Love column, talks about trends in submissions:

What is the one relationship theme or essay topic that you see over and over?

I see a lot about Facebook.


That’s got to be the single most written-about topic. It’s just invaded modern life so much that people can’t get away from it. The more surprising thing I see a lot of for a column called “Modern Love” is people being diagnosed with and dying of cancer. It’s gotten to the point where it becomes a red flag, something to avoid. When I’m reading, where I get to that line of “and then he was diagnosed,” or “and she was stage 4,” whatever… It sounds horrible to say it, but, really, there’s just way too much of it.

Have you seen a shift in the trends of the topics you see, from when you first started the column?

In the past year, I got a bunch of stories about people dealing with siblings – or friends, or lovers – who were dealing with going through gender changes and surgeries – like, people whose daughters became sons. That’s not something I saw any of for years. I think the public acceptance of that has shifted, at least in what I see in what people are willing to talk about publicly.

And this on romance vs. the hard stuff:

Do you consider yourself a romantic person?

Umm… I don’t think I’m all that romantic. I think I have romantic dreams about what my life should be, but I’m not getting all excited about Valentine’s Day or anything.

Then, do you think it’s at all ironic that you’re the editor of a column about love?

I think it’s just more about how complicated human relationships are. I pretty much equate romance with naiveté, you know, before “the hard stuff.” And I’m more interested in the hard stuff.

3 comments on “Editor of Modern Love Column: “Hard Stuff” More Interesting than Romance
  • That last quotation is the best. Also, I’ve lost count of the number of friends who have a Facebook-related love/hook-up story (both good and bad).

    (Sidenote: I was recently in a meeting and somehow the topic of online dating came up. One person admitted to meeting someone online and then meeting in person and being really disappointed, having a horrifying experience, etc. Suddenly 90% of the people in the room piped up with stories of their own online dating history. It was really surprising to me that so many people do it – and will talk about it. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, but I felt embarrassed for some reason.)

  • Daniel Jones may not have meant it but the quotation in italics comes across as if he thinks there is sequentiality as well as mutual exclusivity in “romance” and the “hard stuff”. He appears to think of romance in terms of clichés, when those, who are engaged in whatever it is he deems the “hard stuff”, know to recognise the many little quotidian gestures driven by romance. They are not things an outsider would recognise; nor things an insider may be able to articulate for an outsider with any great success. That is what makes love so unfathomable. Only the people concerned know it to exist, and in some cases, not to exist. (As a rationalist, I can’t argue this position but as an empiricist, I sure can).

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