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Want to Be My Boyfriend? Please Define
April 14, 2011 8:45 PM   Subscribe

Want to Be My Boyfriend? Please Define is the winner of a 2008 New York Times essay competition asking college students to write about what love is like for them. The competition runs again this year.
posted by shivohum (70 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
oof.
posted by millipede at 8:53 PM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Paywall'd!

:(
posted by you're a kitty! at 8:54 PM on April 14, 2011


I wish I had a login for this because there's nothing that makes me feel more smug than reading college student's essays on universal matters of the heart and soul.
posted by tumid dahlia at 9:00 PM on April 14, 2011 [13 favorites]


I just read the article, closed the tab, then tried to reopen it. Now I just get the paywall. WTFNYT?
posted by ryanrs at 9:02 PM on April 14, 2011


Weird. I thought that links from blogs were not paywalled ("We encourage links from Facebook, Twitter, search engines, blogs and social media. When you visit NYTimes.com through a link from one of these channels, that article (or video, slide show, etc.) will count toward your monthly limit of 20 free articles, but you will still be able to view it even if you've already read your 20 free articles.")
posted by shivohum at 9:04 PM on April 14, 2011


I'm not paywall'd, that's weird...
posted by Phalene at 9:14 PM on April 14, 2011


New York Times goes out of business in 3 ... 2 ...
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 9:16 PM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Then it came. The story. The long, boring, aggravatingly rehearsed and condescending story. It spewed, overflowed and dripped off our table and onto the floor and underneath the shoes of the other patrons and into the street.

I'm not supposed to like this paragraph. But oh, how it captures so very much.
posted by effugas at 9:17 PM on April 14, 2011 [15 favorites]


dear m

for whatever reason, you are attracted to users and men who aren't going to commit

i strongly suggest you take a good long look at yourself and figure out why
posted by pyramid termite at 9:27 PM on April 14, 2011 [2 favorites]




I found it to be poignant. Thank you for posting this.
posted by Windigo at 9:32 PM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


as everyone in New York knows, there’s the possibility of meeting anyone, everywhere, all the time.

wha? Clearly I am doing something EXTREMELY wrong.
posted by sweetkid at 9:33 PM on April 14, 2011


Turns out it wasn't paywalled.

This article irritates me on many levels but as a man I doubt I am permitted to comment on it, but I'm going to:

Author is a college junior, apparently, which puts her at, what, 20, 21 years of age? Fine, she writes very well and seems quite intelligent and introspective for a person of that age. It's a shame then that she has found herself trapped, so young, in such an ancient and played-out metaphysical conundrum: wondering what it can all mean whilst flitting from non-relationship to non-relationship with all the frenzy and determination of a pinball stuck up the top of the game on all those bouncy bits, upset that there's no fulfillment to be found in dating (or seeing, or hooking up with) a different guy every week or month or whatever, perhaps living out a personal soap opera, because she's been taught that that's what people do when they're 21. This article provides no insight into anything beyond her own non-unique confusion, rendering it valueless. And in a way it seems a little like throwing open, I dunno, your bathroom cabinet or whatever, for all the world to see, as though any of us are interested.

I tried to remember that I was actively seeking to practice some Zenlike form of nonattachment.

I beg to differ with you, Marguerite, based solely on the content of that essay. But best of luck, really.
posted by tumid dahlia at 9:41 PM on April 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


t's a shame then that she has found herself trapped, so young, in such an ancient and played-out metaphysical conundrum: wondering what it can all mean whilst flitting from non-relationship to non-relationship with all the frenzy and determination of a pinball stuck up the top of the game on all those bouncy bits, upset that there's no fulfillment to be found in dating (or seeing, or hooking up with) a different guy every week or month or whatever, perhaps living out a personal soap opera, because she's been taught that that's what people do when they're 21. This article provides no insight into anything beyond her own non-unique confusion, rendering it valueless.

You don't want me to post a video of me reciting a poem I wrote using pinball as a very detailed metaphor for both sex and relationships?

I think knowing that other people are going through the randomness and strangeness of this period of your life is valuable. It's part of why I liked Scott Pilgrim - hey, other guys date girls with strange hair and crazy exes. The best advice my shrink gave me was to realize that all my 'random' wandering through life was EXACTLY what people my own age were doing.

I wonder if the writer will look back on this and realize she used to be the queen of lower Chelsea.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:46 PM on April 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Whenever I read articles like that, I am amazed that people make such complicated, difficult, dramatic lives for themselves, and that they generally seem so unhappy with them.
posted by Bugbread at 9:53 PM on April 14, 2011 [22 favorites]


Whenever I read articles like that, I am amazed that people make such complicated, difficult, dramatic lives for themselves, and that they generally seem so unhappy with them.

(paywall gone)

I think it's more fun to mythologize things. It might be a personality divide but I'm one of those people who prefers to imbue every moment with EPIC SIGNIFICANCE, even when there really isn't much going on. If I was attractive enough to get into all those relationships that would become part of it but in the absence of it moving apartments, going to a show, or seeing a friend becomes fodder for the grand movie in my head.

I liked the writing style, and I liked how she sketched the 'characters' of the people so quickly. It really captured the randomness of living in a city.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:01 PM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


So she's been dating Mr. Flinchy, eh?
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 10:24 PM on April 14, 2011


I'm 30, not in college, a dude, very definitely do not live in New York City, have dated no more than six women in my entire life, and am not presently looking to get all wrapped up in any monogamies. I still found this pretty sympathetic.

I know, I know, my favorite band sucks and the prose I enjoy is childish and obviously completely lacking in self-awareness.
posted by brennen at 10:44 PM on April 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


Most of her comments about men— "big steaklike hands," "whimpered and kicked in his sleep," "wore more makeup than I did," "graying long underwear"— are passive aggressive jabs. (Why doesn't she ever describe herself in those terms?) The article is cute and she has a gift for descriptions if you can get past the thoughtless commentary about gender, relationships, and city life.
posted by grammar corrections at 11:30 PM on April 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


I started reading this with the full knowledge that it was a college contest, but halfway through I somehow forgot this and started assuming she was 35.
posted by mochapickle at 11:32 PM on April 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


This article provides no insight into anything beyond her own non-unique confusion, rendering it valueless.
Why should it? Perhaps its value is in expressing a confusion that is common to many?

And in a way it seems a little like throwing open, I dunno, your bathroom cabinet or whatever, for all the world to see, as though any of us are interested.
The brief was pretty clear: "Tell us what love is like for you".
posted by doublehappy at 11:48 PM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jesus christ, this is the essay that won?? The best out of thousands?? Holy flying shitballs no wonder young people are narcissistic if this live-journal-snowflake crap is what we're promoting, as good writing and good reading.

Pro-tip, NYT: the world has enough vacuous lifestyle columns from self-obsessed bourgeoisie with no research, facts, or emotion. Why don't you give a prize for - oh, I don't know some real journalism, cause god knows there's less and less of it every day. Of course, facts are hard, and they can be kinda uncomfortable, too, so I guess we should just stick to trite crap that got rejected from The Fray circa 1999.

This girl makes Erica Jong look like Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
posted by smoke at 11:51 PM on April 14, 2011 [11 favorites]


It's so obvious to me that they had an agenda, which went something like this: Modern love sucks! Kids these days are crazy! Just what does that ca-razy teen slang "hook up" mean anyway? And who wants to read all the essays about happy, silly still-illusioned kids enjoying monogamy and first love ala Romeo & Juliet when it's so clearly not The Quintessential Example of Modern Love, which should be fragmented, despairing, sterilized and postmodern?!?!

Article's really not that well written. Girl strikes me as narcissistic. Can't decide whether to congratulte herself for her desirability or make sure to inform us she's not a slut, don't worry.

In sum: Bah humbug.
posted by Nixy at 11:55 PM on April 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


It seems like the writer totally forgot the topic: "What Is Love Like For You". Instead it's an article about "What Is Dating Like For You". Probably can't be helped, given the age of the submitters.

An honest essay would either just say "I dunno, I'm still kinda young", or, perhaps more saccharine but much, much, much more honest, "Here's what love is like for me (followed by a description of their love for their parents, or their dog, or their best friend)".
posted by Bugbread at 11:59 PM on April 14, 2011 [4 favorites]



He said that his disregard for monogamy wasn’t a chauvinistic throwback, but quite the opposite: the ultimate nod to feminism.


The declared collusive factor of feminism in the guys stating their preference for non-monogamy is kind of interesting to me. I wonder if she sees it that way too - I sense there's a self-wariness of not being on board with perceived feminist-driven hook-up opportunism. She's not sure what 'freedom' is yet, but this isn't it.

It's fairly average writing, and I do wonder if it's a worthy winner given the thousands of entries. But. Perhaps because of this relatively unschooled/unpolished element, it reads as quite an honest account [down to the passive aggressive commentaries]. She does get across a feeling, a sense of the borderless, pastiche-y postmodern fragmentation. I think she reveals this rather innocently, avoiding [or possibly incapable of] being self-consciously, studiously clever. I imagine this would have stood out amongst the entries.

It makes me think of The Lovesong of J Alfred Prufrock - and because of that link in my mind, it does feel on topic with "What is Love Like For You?"
posted by honey-barbara at 12:10 AM on April 15, 2011


I refuse to take relationship advice from a publication that, out of nowhere, has begun selectively doling out and withholding its affection each month.

Look, NYT, fine. You're right. I value you, and I need you in my life. Happy? Now, can't we just settle this like (broke) adults?
posted by evidenceofabsence at 12:11 AM on April 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


God, no. Kindly fuck off, you vacuous tart.

Flagged as sexist.

An honest essay would either just say "I dunno, I'm still kinda young", or, perhaps more saccharine but much, much, much more honest, "Here's what love is like for me (followed by a description of their love for their parents, or their dog, or their best friend)".

Who wants to read an honest essay?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 12:43 AM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Article's really not that well written. Girl strikes me as narcissistic.

What's the alternative at that age?

and i went back to reread the essay and now its gone. FFS.

does this mean I can get someone to publish my wistful, self-absorbed blog?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 12:45 AM on April 15, 2011


From my experience with the small magazine that I worked for having a writing contest every year, at a certain point judges just fucking pick one because there are so many awful shitty essays that even the good ones start to look bad just for sharing the language with the dross. I don't think this is terribly bad, but it's not Alice Munro.

It might be a personality divide but I'm one of those people who prefers to imbue every moment with EPIC SIGNIFICANCE, even when there really isn't much going on."

Yeah, I tend to get annoyed by people like that around me. Either something's already awesome (there are many things that are) or it's not. Having contrast in life is important.

But I'm also someone who finds the mantra "I am nothing, there is nothing," comforting, with the idea that in the overall scope of the universe or world, one person's troubles are very insignificant.
posted by klangklangston at 12:46 AM on April 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm comfortable with nihilism, but narcissism's much more fun.
posted by doublehappy at 12:50 AM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Girl strikes me as narcissistic."

"What's the alternative at that age?"


Not being narcissistic? I knew some narcissistic folks when I was in college, but they were greatly outnumbered by the non-narcissistic ones.
posted by Bugbread at 12:51 AM on April 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


I figure it's either narcissism or depression, at least at that age. You need to convince yourself your own personal story is important and personally I enjoyed reading that. Probably wouldn't have enjoyed it if I was one of the people reduced to a character sketch in her story, but then I'm guilty of doing the same thing. I just don't have the same kind of audience.


Yeah, I tend to get annoyed by people like that around me. Either something's already awesome (there are many things that are) or it's not. Having contrast in life is important.


Everything is awesome if you look at it the right way but you need to imbue it with that significance. My walk home last night was an epic journey across strange territory, beset with possible danger. More interesting than an amble from the pub to my flat. This writer's life is more awesome than mine, so she's treating it that way.


But I'm also someone who finds the mantra "I am nothing, there is nothing," comforting, with the idea that in the overall scope of the universe or world, one person's troubles are very insignificant.


I find it depressing, so it's better to craft some epic in your head.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 12:57 AM on April 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


It might be a personality divide but I'm one of those people who prefers to imbue every moment with EPIC SIGNIFICANCE, even when there really isn't much going on.

I'm a superhero in my dreams. Beats Mrs. arcticseal's dreams about being stuck in an exam all the time. Also, I look awesome in my underpants.
posted by arcticseal at 1:09 AM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


there was the construction worker I ran into on the train twice before saying anything, kissed the third time, kissed the fourth time, got stood up by the fifth time and never saw again.

It was at this point that I wanted to take her aside and tell her, as gently as I know how, "Ms. Fields, I hate to be the one to say this, but it may not be them-- it may be you."
posted by dersins at 1:09 AM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Huh, I liked the essay. I thought it ended too abruptly, though.
Her essay tone might make her sound like she's miserable and stuck, but I doubt she truly feels that way. For one thing, she was writing this for an essay contest. You can be honest in these, yes, but it pulls things together better if you write them with a certain slant to them. In her case, it's the overarching theme of non-committed "relationships" with men she always found reasons, small or not, to not completely enjoy the company of, yet still feel that inevitable stab of emotional pain when they decide to 'break up', or say 'it's moving too fast' or give some nicer variation on the classic 'sorry babe, I just wanted a quick lay'.

I might be projecting what her feelings are about this, because I kind of relate. At the same time, though, I feel that it's not the end of the world if I don't find 'true love'.
Anyway, plenty of guys are willing to commit, actually, even in New York, it's just I bet most of them aren't guys she's attracted to. For whatever reason, the attractive guys who approach girls they don't know very well are the ones usually not looking for commitment. For whatever reason. Heh.
posted by majonesing at 1:21 AM on April 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


majonesing: "You can be honest in these, yes, but it pulls things together better if you write them with a certain slant to them."
majonesing: "Her essay tone might make her sound like she's miserable and stuck, but I doubt she truly feels that way."

Okay, so I'm supposed to overlook any inaccuracies because it's a stylized essay. But I'm also supposed to overlook the style because she's probably not that bitter in real life. Got it.
posted by grammar corrections at 1:34 AM on April 15, 2011


I started reading this with the full knowledge that it was a college contest, but halfway through I somehow forgot this and started assuming she was 35.

More than that -- Marguerite summarized no fewer than 10 relationships and has NONE of the anxiety of anyone that's lived in an environment rife with HIV and numerous, nasty STDs.

There's also the part where she talks about leaving her mother's Brooklyn home for the Lower East Side. Marguerite's story sounds more like a typical 70s, 80s or 90s story, rather than 2011, where it requires a 6-figure salary to live in the Village.

How does a 21 year-old 'college student' have the time or money to re-live the Sexual Revolution in the Manhattan, especially if she's supposed to be in college up in Vermont? Does she even have a job? A trust fund?

The essay sounded more like a memoir from the Patti Smith-Robert Mapplethorpe '70s than anything contemporary. I honestly wonder if the NYT vetted her story; it sounds like a fairy-tale written by someone in their mid- to late-50s.
posted by vhsiv at 3:46 AM on April 15, 2011 [8 favorites]


How does a 21 year-old 'college student' have the time or money to re-live the Sexual Revolution in the Manhattan, especially if she's supposed to be in college up in Vermont? Does she even have a job? A trust fund?

Isn't New York a playground for rich kids havng a sort of combination grand tour/rumspringa of the hipster art-party lifestyle before they assume their destinies as captains of industry?
posted by acb at 4:09 AM on April 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm not that much older than the author - only about 10 years - and all I can think is that this whole flitting from person to person clearly only happens for non-nerdy people. I had a few non-committed hook-ups when I was younger, but they only happened once every 3 years - so maybe there was enough reflection time to realize that they made me unhappy. But other nerds I know didn't even have that much opportunity -- so much so, that when they had a chance for partnership, they grabbed on and clung for all time. And I can't imagine that nerdy life has changed that much since -- the reality of love for nerdy young people is years of angst about how they are all alone.

Also - about the whole monogamy thing: definitely not something to be studied via anecdata, because people are actually different. Don't have a citation, but heard about some studies that found that people exist on a spectrum of monogamy just as they do for gender and sexual orientation -- that is, sone people are "naturally" totally monogamous, some people polyamorous, and some people in-between. Big thing is to make sure you're honest and compatible with your partner.
posted by jb at 4:24 AM on April 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


But other nerds I know didn't even have that much opportunity -- so much so, that when they had a chance for partnership, they grabbed on and clung for all time. And I can't imagine that nerdy life has changed that much since -- the reality of love for nerdy young people is years of angst about how they are all alone.

I've observed the opposite: that "nerdy" people tend towards various forms of polyamory, whereas the more mainstream people go for serial monogamy and/or friends-with-benefits. It's almost like knowing algorithms, scifi and/or conlangs cognitively prepares one to handle topologies more complex than variants on monogamy.
posted by acb at 4:36 AM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


This article provides no insight into anything beyond her own non-unique confusion, rendering it valueless. And in a way it seems a little like throwing open, I dunno, your bathroom cabinet or whatever, for all the world to see, as though any of us are interested.

You do realize she had been invited to do so? Becuase this was not an article, it was a personal essay she submitted to a contest.

...And I wish for her sake that I could tell her things get better as she gets older, but at age 41 -- and based on my own experience -- I'm not so sure it does.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:53 AM on April 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


acb: I was thinking nerd less in terms of computer programming, and more in terms of socially-awkward. I don't program the least bit, myself, though I do read a lot of (soft) SF (dragons and harpers in space).

People who read speculative fiction might be more open to polyamory - I'm in favor of polyamorous marriage rights, myself. And there is definitely a polyamorous sub-culture in fandom.

But when I look around at the people I knew who were "NERRRDS" in high school - in the uncool, lacking in friends and dates sense - I see people who take relationships, once they form, very seriously and look to the long-term. Whether those relationships are monogamous or polyamorous will depend on their own physical inclinations.
posted by jb at 5:08 AM on April 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


"Love" is one of those placeholder words, like "art" and "God" and "satisfaction," that must stand for something terribly important that you want very badly, but beyond that, you can pretty much make it mean what you like.
posted by LogicalDash at 5:40 AM on April 15, 2011


Since the article was written February 2008, I wonder how the recession that started September 2008 has affected dating. The old saying is that hemlines rise and fall with the economy; that women want more stability and less promiscuity in relationships during tougher economic times. I look forward to this year's contest to see the differences.
posted by I am the Walrus at 5:51 AM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


You guys are too harsh. I took a bunch of creative writing courses in college and worked on a literary magazine and this girl's essay would have been in the top three pieces I read. She was 20 years old. At that age you tend to overextend the significance of your romantic experiences. I've seen it go either way – from "I'm going to marry this person because I've never felt this before" to "I'm going to be alone forever because none of this feels right." Regardless, this is a well-written essay, and I wouldn't be so dismissive of the author as to believe she's unaware of how unfair she's being in caricaturing these men.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 5:52 AM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Whenever I read articles like that, I am amazed that people make such complicated, difficult, dramatic lives for themselves, and that they generally seem so unhappy with them."

Yeah. I started down the serial dating drama road one time in college while wallowing in a self-esteem trough, had a moment of lucidity where I went, "Wow, this seems neither healthy nor fun," and just decided to quit dating for a year since clearly I was doin it rong.

She says: "I tried to tell myself that I’m young, that this is the time to be casual, careless, lighthearted and fun; don’t ruin it."

If it isn't fun, lady, quit doing it, and don't rationalize it under the excuse that it's SUPPOSED to be fun when you aren't enjoying it.

I'm tired out on her behalf, geez. (And I think it gets better as long as you refuse to play by other people's rules that you don't even like.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:04 AM on April 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


This is great because I just found a song that sums it all up, I think, in that straight-to-the-heart way that only truly great songwriting can achieve.
posted by Wolfdog at 6:07 AM on April 15, 2011


I am amazed that people make such complicated, difficult, dramatic lives for themselves, and that they generally seem so unhappy with them.

Is anyone not doing this?
posted by swift at 6:09 AM on April 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


The old saying is that hemlines rise and fall with the economy; that women want more stability and less promiscuity in relationships during tougher economic times.

See also: survival values. I.e., when people feel threatened at the base of their hierarchy of needs, they become more authoritarian, xenophobic and intolerant of difference, even in fields which do not touch on the threat. Sexual morality and adherence to tradition would come into that.
posted by acb at 6:16 AM on April 15, 2011


Huh, I'm surprised by all the hate. I thought she seemed like a likable, pretty normal, fairly well written young woman. I was a little taken aback by the way that the early 20s dating whirlpool has not, apparently, changed much since I was 21 despite the lack these days of pterodactyls and Boy George but other than that, it all seemed pretty damn par for the course for any conversation I've had over the decades with other single women.
posted by mygothlaundry at 6:36 AM on April 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


vhsiv: "I honestly wonder if the NYT vetted her story; it sounds like a fairy-tale written by someone in their mid- to late-50s."

A Facebook page with matching basic identifiers exists. Must be real.
posted by Perplexity at 6:51 AM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is so Millennial it hurts.
posted by 23skidoo at 7:09 AM on April 15, 2011


It seems like the writer totally forgot the topic: "What Is Love Like For You". Instead it's an article about "What Is Dating Like For You". Probably can't be helped, given the age of the submitters.

Oh, I completely disagree. There's probably some exaggeration in the descriptions and the number of men involved, but this is intended to be a personal essay, not serious journalism, and I think the author did tell what love is like for her. She just seems to fall readily into what she thinks is love (I would say infatuation) with every man she is physically attracted to.

Which is part of the problem she's having, in that she doesn't really seem to develop friendships, just hook up with random men and hope it goes somewhere. And I imagine her hopeful projections are far out of proportion to the reality.

I've known girls like this, the ones with a different guy every few weeks. They tend to rhapsodize about how much they 'love' him incredibly early in the acquaintanceship (while their supportive girlfriends try hard not to roll their eyes and think, 'What, this again?").

Then, days later when it inevitably leads to nothing, they are equally disdainful about every little thing that first attracted them ("big steaklike hands," "whimpered and kicked in his sleep," "wore more makeup than I did") in an obsessive, fixated way that just seems overblown and exhausting to me.

But then I dated my husband for seven years before we married, so I guess I am more the cautious, lets-see-where-this-goes type.

I am amazed that people make such complicated, difficult, dramatic lives for themselves, and that they generally seem so unhappy with them.

Is anyone not doing this
?

Oh, this makes me sad. I suppose there is some truth to that; "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation," as Thoreau put it.

But I hope most of us are at least trying not to further complicate our lives by seeking out relationship drama.
posted by misha at 7:27 AM on April 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


jb: I guess my experience was the exact opposite. Once liberated from the tiny cultivated fish hatchery of High School, to the complex coral reefs of college, I found myself with an embarrassment of riches within my own densely-populated niche of nerds. As Dan Savage says, it gets better. That's not because adult life is any less cliquish, but because cliques become subcultures capable of colonizing their own territory.

And of course, the freedom to spend a night with someone without being accountable to the parental units is a big help as well.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:36 AM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Didn't want to spend a Times click on the essay, but found it on her Tumblr (go figure, she's the first hit for "big steaklike hands"). I have been young, and I have been self-obsessed, but looking at her blog, she's just not the kind of person I'd want to be sitting near at a bar. Then or now.

*Sample blog quote: "Paul Stewart handmade loafer collection. My new apartment. Africa. Evian water. Workout. These though pour through my head."
posted by evidenceofabsence at 7:38 AM on April 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


For those of you hating on Miss Fields and her literary gifts, take a few moments to skim the four runners up (I promise, it really will only take a few moments):

"May I Have This Dance?" by Owen Powell, American Military University
"Instant Message, Instant Girlfriend" by Roger Hobbs, Reed College
"My Dropout Boyfriend Kept Dropping In," by Lee Conell, SUNY – New Paltz
"Let's Not Get to Know Each Other Better," by Joel Walkowski, USC
posted by eric1halfb at 7:44 AM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's always other boys. There's always other boyfriends. There's always other boys and you can make him like you.

I'm not that much older than the author - only about 10 years - and all I can think is that this whole flitting from person to person clearly only happens for non-nerdy people.

I'm socially awkward and this just happens on a geologic timescale. One or two hookups a year. Never felt the urge to cling onto a relationship tho.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:52 AM on April 15, 2011


And I'd enter this if I was still in college. And believed in love.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:53 AM on April 15, 2011


This is pretty good honestly. I was reading it and just steeling myself to hate it. But nope it's pretty good, it's about a type of person far less neurotic than I am but still self-aware and capable of noticing things that are easy to miss. Not bad and the prose is mostly fine and if I didn't know a college kid wrote it I would probably be able to find the writing pretty good too.
posted by I Foody at 9:52 AM on April 15, 2011


"I find it depressing, so it's better to craft some epic in your head."

But that epic feeling is artificial. And it means that you have to keep imbuing that hyperbolic epicness to moments that are genuinely awesome, otherwise they're no different. I'd rather live honestly and mindfully than expend the constant energy to lie to myself about how awesome my life is. A walk home from the pub isn't bad — it's neutral. Let it be what it is.
posted by klangklangston at 10:11 AM on April 15, 2011


Millenials can't commit to anything. News at 11.

I am a Millenial who can't commit.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:15 AM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ah, the poor huddled masses of the cynics cultivated over years and years of life experience that ends with them being older than they were and realizing they knew nothing back then, as they actually know now.

If you're not 18 or 20 something, it's hard to look fondly back on that time, as it inevitably is colored by the "if I knew now" or "that person doesn't understand love..."

From the perspectives of where the authors are all coming from, I think there is merit in each one, and that wonderful post-teenage angst of realizing that they didn't know everything as a teenager like they thought they did, but now they see everything so much more clearly and can be so much more honest in their introspection.

I daresay any essay I would write on the topic of love right now would be vastly different than even just 5 or 10 years ago, let alone (shudder) 20 years ago. And it would be so much more insightful and introspective (that is, until someone in their 50's reads it and tosses it like a used up tube of denture paste).

What I find intriguing is that I don't think things have changed for those college age kids much in the 20 years since I was in their shoes. It's all about searching for meaning, definition, not falling into those traps of 'labels' and silly teenage behavior (which they always do, anyway), being so much more self-aware, and experiencing being grown up for the first real time.

People react differently, I think - either shielding themselves or being overly promiscuous (either sexually, or just relationship-wise, without much attachment). Non-social (nerdy? sometimes) or social awkward don't have a lock on either, and it may just be a function of the way people perceive the other 'types' (jocks, preppy, nerds, blah blah blah).

Wow.. that's way more than I intended to write.
posted by rich at 10:49 AM on April 15, 2011


A lot of failed relationships with one common denominator: Marguerite Fields
posted by Gin and Comics at 12:15 PM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't know. I have sympathy for her. She's obviously not comfortable with the meaningless hook-ups and empty platitudes glued vaguely and disingenuously to liberal/ feminist politics. If only she was more noble, huh.
I like her contempt. It'll come in handy when she finally realises she doesn't have to put up with any of this shit if she doesn't feel like it.
posted by everydayanewday at 1:10 PM on April 15, 2011


"I am amazed that people make such complicated, difficult, dramatic lives for themselves, and that they generally seem so unhappy with them.
"

"Is anyone not doing this?"


Well, I'm not. And, looking around, I don't think many of my friends are. Maybe they are, secretly, but this person's tale doesn't read like "secret drama", it reads like the kind of drama all her friends would be painfully aware of.

I find this person's mindset and lifestyle, as expressed in the article, pretty strange, but I find even stranger the comments on here that this is pretty much the norm. I have a hard time believing that people have changed so much since I was in university in the mid-90s.
posted by Bugbread at 2:05 PM on April 15, 2011


Speaking as a nerd who's done poly and monogamy, I still go eons between prospects.

I think the polyamory folks are the "cool ones" in the nerd set. Actual nerds still are actual nerds and are rarely liked.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:34 PM on April 15, 2011


Last summer, I lived with a guy who was intimidatingly self-assured. He was good-looking and he knew it, and was so unafraid of rejection that he'd walk into cafes just to give girls his number and walk out again. I looked up to him a lot as far as that was concerned. But at the same time, he wasn't good at actually being friends with girls. Once he fell heads-over-heels in love with one girl who wouldn't look at him twice, and it felt like a major role reversal. Helpless crushes on girls? That was my high school experience! And I realized that while I spent my teenage years hopelessly romanticizing girls and looking for "love", some people just started casually hooking up, but then years later started doing the lovey-dovey stuff that I assume was how all adolescent minds worked.

Love and romance and sex is a many-dimensional thing, and it would be a mistake to assume that we all have the same shared experiences, or the same specific wants and needs. I find that among my group of nerdy high school friends, some of us have become heavy partiers, some of us have gotten into the kinks scene, some of us are in long-term relationships, some of us still show no signs of sexual activity, and most of us are mixes of those four. We're all finding where we're comfortable, where we'd like to be comfortable, and where we're getting sick of certain ways of doing things and abandoning them for new experiences.

I liked this essay because it was written by somebody who's my age, but has had much different experiences than me. It was well-written, even if it got a little schlocky at times. I read to the end without getting frustrated. And it was interesting both because it told me a story about a person I didn't know, and because it reminded me that people my age are just as complex and faceted as I am, and that when I meet somebody new whose experiences don't line up with my own, it doesn't mean they're boring; on the contrary, they've probably done a whole lot of things I never have, and that makes them fascinating. If I'm lucky, it means I'm interesting to them back!

(I don't believe that nerds really exist. When you're young and like nerdy things, sometimes you don't realize that not everybody loves fantasy novels and computer languages as much as you do, but that's the same as being a baseball fan and not realizing that most people don't have all their favorite players' stats memorized. If you're obsessed, you're obsessed, and most people are amused rather than hostile. But as you grow up and pick new interests, you become much more than who you were at 14, and "nerd" becomes one of many hats that you pick each day to go with the rest of your outfit.)
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:17 AM on April 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


Welcome back, Rory.
posted by ersatz at 7:58 AM on April 16, 2011


Thanks, ersatz!
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:27 AM on April 16, 2011


He said that his disregard for monogamy wasn’t a chauvinistic throwback, but quite the opposite: the ultimate nod to feminism.

M: When you hear this outlook on life, do you agree wholeheartedly? Or do you silently disagree and not say anything? Because if it's the later, you should probably avoid sleeping with guys who say stuff like this.
posted by Kurichina at 12:01 PM on April 18, 2011


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