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July 18, 2005

Never Going to Fall for "Modern Love"

by Ron Hogan

As Mrs. Beatrice said when she put down the Sunday Styles section, "They should just kill the 'Modern Love' column, because it's a fucking joke." Especially this week's installment, in which freelance journalist Helaine Olen reveals to the world that she fired her nanny because her compulsive fixation on the young woman's blog made her feel like a loser. Since this is "Modern Love," though, she frames the issue in a slightly more self-absorbed way:

"Not only were there things I didn't want to know about the person who was watching my children, it turned out her online revelations brought feelings of mine to the surface I'd just as soon not have to face as well."

For those of you wondering how the hell an article about firing your nanny for blogging wound up in "Modern Love," well, we could make all sorts of psychosexual speculations, most of which the young woman in question refrains from in her online response to the article, which otherwise nails Olen's "pathologies" pretty well. "Tessy" may not be the greatest writer in the world--in fact, she admits as much in an earlier post--but she strikes me as being a lot more self-aware and a lot less judgmental than her former employer.

The huge flaws in "Modern Love" are even more glaring when you turn to the City section, where Thomas Beller writes a front-page essay about adjusting after his girlfriend moves in with him that puts nearly every single article that's run in "Modern Love" to shame. (And before you think I'm harshing too badly on the column, there have been exceptions here and there.) It's a little long, sure, but it shows what could be done if the Times handed the column over to writers who actually paid as much attention to the emotional lives of other people as to themselves--and weren't so quick to excuse away the parts of themselves that make them uncomfortable.

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