For this month's Readers' Review: "Drown" -- the debut collection of short stories by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Junot Diaz. Twenty years ago, Diaz published ten heart-breaking tales about a fragmented family from the Dominican Republic finding their way in 1980s America.
For nearly 10 years, Daniel Jones has edited the popular Modern Love column in the New York Times. Over the decade, he has read 50,000 stories about relationships lost, found and transformed. Along the way, he has learned quite a bit about the human heart. He shares his insights in a new book called “Love Illuminated: Exploring Life’s Most Mystifying Subject (with the Help of 50,000 Strangers).”
- Daniel Jones editor of the New York Times column "Modern Love" and author of "Love Illuminated: Exploring Life's Most Mystifying Subject (with the Help of 50,000 Strangers)"
Read An Excerpt
The foregoing is excerpted from “Love Illuminated” by Daniel Jones. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. For almost 10 years, Daniel Jones has edited the popular "Modern Love" column in The New York Times. Over the decade, he's read 50,000 stories about relationships lost, found, and transformed, learning quite a bit about the human heart along the way. He shares his insights in a new book titled "Love Illuminated," just in time for Valentine's Day.
MS. DIANE REHMDaniel Jones joins us from New York. I hope you'll share your stories of love as well. Give us a call at 800-433-8850. Send us your email to email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Daniel Jones, welcome to the program.
MR. DANIEL JONESOh, thank you very much for having me. It's a pleasure.
REHMAnd, Dan, it's good to see you as well. On Skype, your balding head, your beard, you look just like my son. For those...
JONESOh, it's good to see you, too.
REHMThank you. For those who haven't read the "Modern Love" column, tell them -- tell us what it is all about, how it began, and how you began doing it.
JONESWell, sure. So the "Modern Love" column runs in the Sunday style section of The New York Times, every Sunday, comes out online usually on Thursday evening, and it's a personal essay written by a different person each week from anywhere in the world, mostly anywhere in this country, many from New York.
JONESAnd they are exploring whatever struggles they are going through in relationships. It's a column about love, but it's also a column about problems. And I came to this job -- I sort of backed into it because my wife and I -- my wife's name is Cathi Hanauer. And she's a writer, an editor, and she had put out an essay collection that she had edited called "The Bitch in the House." And...
REHM"The Bitch in the House." Okay.
JONES"The Bitch in the House." Yeah. Are we allowed to say that?
JONESAnd it was a -- it was a really powerful collection of women trying to figure out this post-feminist promise of having it all, work, motherhood, and marriage, and balancing it and being frustrated by it and often taking out that frustration on their husbands, sweet men like me.
JONESAnyway, that opened the door for me to do a follow-up from the men's perspective...
JONES...which was called "The Bastard on the Couch." Those two collections, especially edited by husband and wife, got a lot of attention. And among the people who paid attention was Trip Gabriel who was then editor of the Sunday style section. And he liked this material, and he wanted to have that in his section on a weekly basis. And he offered it to us as a husband and wife team to do. And my wife was working on a novel. I was more interested in the job than she was.
REHMHmm. I see.
JONESAnd I took it over. And that was almost 10 years ago.
REHMThat's terrific. And I want to go back to something you said early on. You said many of the essays you get are from New York. Do you think that New Yorkers are particularly in need of some assistance with love?
JONESI -- you know, no. I think New Yorkers may be or other people in urban areas are maybe more self-reflective about love and self-examining and maybe obsessive about trying to figure it out. That's what I sense.
REHMSo what do you actually do with their essays?
JONESWell, so these come in at a rapid clip, about -- a little more than 100 a week, a little more than 5,000 a year. And I sort through them and figure out what story we want to tell that week, basically. And I contact the writer, and we edit back and forth, get it into shape, and publish it that weekend.
REHMSo it's not really a book that you've written, "Love Illuminated." It's not filled with advice to people. It's really stories of the people who've written to you. What do you want people to get out of it?
JONESWell, I wrote the book to figure out what I knew. I'd been buried in this material for eight years. And, you know, we write to learn, and we write to figure out what we know. And, in this case, I was down in the weeds of editing, and it's hard to sort of pull back from that and get a sense of perspective.
JONESBut this was an interesting vantage point, the unique vantage point on human relationships and sexuality and what people were struggling with. And I felt like I needed to figure out what was going on. So that's -- that was my reason for writing the book. And what -- you know, it's funny. I looked up -- I research books on love and relationships.
JONESAnd they often all begin with quizzes. And they say -- you know, and these are quizzes that have actual answers. Then you get a score at the end. And I'm not sure what you do with that score. But there it is. The essays that come in to me and what interests me are questions that don't have obvious answers. No one is coming to me with answers. They're coming to me with complicated, complicated problems. And I love that material. And that's what the readers love. So...
REHMGive me an example of the kinds of complicated materials that readers and writers come to you with.
JONESHow do you trust someone?
JONESHow do you trust someone in a relationship?
JONESHow do you keep passion going in marriage over the long term? Is it better to use -- to work toward finding love and to consult all kinds of services and that sort of thing? Does that lead to the right person? Or does just leaving it to fate and sort of who you run across? Is that the right way? These are...
JONESThese are the things that people struggle with constantly.
REHMYou know, it's interesting because I gather you started your column around the same time online dating began. So how do you think that changed the whole notion of love, romance, finding the right person, and trust?
JONESIt has changed it profoundly, but it's changed it in a sneaky way. It puts us in the driver seat, even if we don't necessarily want to be there, and asks us to think in advance and determine in advance who we might be compatible with. And, you know, who -- what does that mean in terms of who -- how much money the person should make, how tall they should be, what religion are they, what are their interests?
JONESAnd we naturally sort of migrate back to the familiar in those cases and think, well, I'd rather have someone like me than not like me, according to a lot of those, you know, parameters. And it makes us, I think, cautious because we're dating strangers. And it turns the whole love process into sort of an adventure where you're really opening yourself up into this sort of cautious search for the familiar.
JONESAnd that concerns me. I think it works for a lot of people. It exposes you to a lot of people. And I don't want to denigrate it completely, but it changes our focus and makes us very -- to think about love in the abstract instead of a person who's sitting across the table from us.
REHMYou know, you use the word naturally, and I've always wondered whether genetically, deep in our genes, not just our souls, but our genes, we are attracted to another person because of what our genes know.
JONESWell, I've certainly heard that, that you -- you know, if you're with someone who's too similar to you that it makes you weaker going forward. You know, you -- I'm not a scientist, but it certainly seems like that's a sensible argument. But the other thing that the online experience does -- you know, what is connection?
JONESYou can connect on an emotional level with someone. You can connect on an intellectual level and a physical level. And all this finding people online removes the physical part from the equation, what people smell like, what their little mannerisms are.
JONESYou know, these things are important.
JONESBut we're not making decisions based on those things. And, you know, a lot of people are starting into relationships and get very deep into them emotionally and intellectually online, and they think this is a really deep connection. And we sort of elevate emotional connection over physical connection.
JONESWe think physical connection is shallow, you know. Sex is shallow compared to this, like, soul mate bond. But it's just not true. You really need those different parts, and you need them to develop, you know, simultaneously, not having this emotional connection online race way out in front of any physical connection and then have that try to catch up. It just leads -- it often leads to disappointment. Sometimes it doesn't, but often it does.
REHMBut the physical connection, if it's not strong to begin with, do you think -- have people written and said, at first I was turned off physically, but the more I came to know this person, it became clear he or she was my soul mate?
JONESOh, that certainly happens, yes. That certainly happens. It's more just when you're looking at a broad population getting to know each other in a certain limited way that I worry about that being fooled into thinking that connection is more important and deeper than an in-person physical connection.
REHMDaniel Jones, he's editor of The New York Times column "Modern Love." His new book is titled "Love Illuminated: Exploring Life's Most Mystifying Subject (With the Help of 50,000 Strangers)." Short break, your calls when we come back. Stay with us.
REHMWelcome back. As our pre-Valentine's Day gift to you, Daniel Jones is with me by Skype from New York. Luckily, he was able to get into that city from Los Angeles considering the storms we've been having here in Washington and all up and down the East Coast. He has a brand new book, it's titled "Love Illuminated." Daniel Jones is the editor of the New York Times column, Modern Love, which appears each Sunday in the Style section of the New York Times.
REHMHere is an email from Peggy: "Does Mr. Jones know if all these stories are true? And does it matter to him?
JONESIt matters to me a great deal. It matters to the New York Times a great deal. Yeah, we are very careful about that.
REHMHow are you -- how can you confirm that the stories you've gotten are real?
JONESSome things are verifiable, some things can be looked up. And mostly, you can have long conversations with someone in which you probe them about all kinds of aspects of a certain story and background details and you get a sense. At the same time, I'm convinced that they're real stories, but they're also one person's perspective. And we're not interested in a balanced account of what happened in a relationship. We're not interested in getting all sides.
JONESAnd memory is not necessarily the same for two people. It's funny because my wife and I, still to this day, cannot agree on the circumstances of our engagement. And she says I acted in a certain way and that I did a certain thing on this ferry to Sausalito in San Francisco Bay. I don't remember that at all. And I wouldn't write an essay that had her version in it, and she wouldn't write an essay that had my version in it.
REHMOh, that's too funny.
JONESBut we're entitled to our own memories and our own accounts. And that's what the column represents.
REHMWell, you know, I must tell you, my husband and I have been married for 54 years. We wrote a book together titled, "Toward Commitment," all about the two perspectives in marriage and what happens when they do come together. So I feel as though I'm well-equipped to talk about love and what happens therein. Here's a wonderful email from Judy who says: "I'm lucky to be 65 and spending a snowy North Carolina day with my high school sweetheart, eating popcorn, drinking hot chocolate while we play Scrabble. Love," she says, "is good at any age."
JONESWell, that's certainly true. You know, among the more popular and inspiring stories we've run, there was a piece -- I guess six or eight months ago -- b y a writer named Eve Pell who was in her 70s when she found new love. She'd been twice divorce and she found new love with a man who is in the early 80s, whose wife had died. And what was so charming about the piece is she was surprise to feel the same kind of shyness and giddiness that she had experience in 9th grade.
JONESAnd, you know, you -- she said, young love, even for old people, it can feel the same way. You can still have young love -- love in that sense is always young. There's no, you know, different kind of love when you're 85 and you meet somebody. And it still can feel the same way.
REHMAnd yet -- and yet you write that over the last 10 years you've heard from only a handful of people who say they've maintained a passionate marriage. Why do you think so few?
JONESYeah. Well, I'm talking there about sexual passion in a marriage. And, you know, it's just -- marriage goes through phases and through changes. And early on in relationships, there's such a sense of fantasy about what marriage will be. And we start off on this plateau, you know, ideally on this plateau of passion and commitment and how could I ever feel any other way. You know, maybe other -- maybe other people start to lose that sense.
JONESBut it's not going to happen to us. But it's -- for most people, it's not realistic to think that they're going to have sexually passionate marriages for 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years. Sure, it will change in phases and you'll come to appreciate each other in new ways. But a lot of people are disappointed in a lot of marriages and because of that lack of passion. And passion does not equal love. You don't -- if you lose one, it doesn't mean you lose the other. And if you approach marriage with that sort of realism, I think it's more durable.
REHMAnd it is the unrealistic expectations that do perhaps bring that marriage to an end.
JONESYeah. We, you know, love and marriage is a relatively new phenomenon. You know, marriage used to mean much more about practicality. And we didn't load it up with so many expectations as we do now. And we start out at this sort of peak of a wedding. And we just -- we put so much pressure on marriage and so much pressure on long-term relationships that it just didn't used to be that way.
JONESWe require that someone be out equal, that they be our soul mate, that they be our sexual partner, that they be our equal parenting partner, and equal earning partner and that they entertain us and make us laugh. It goes on and on and on. It's a hard role to fill. And, you know, it is too bad. I think we load it up to such an extent that it's hard to live up to that sometimes.
REHMDan, in the book, you talk about the so-called grand gesture. Talk about that and what you mean and perhaps there are some examples you could share.
JONESSure. What I have enjoyed reading about are -- I don't -- I'm not much of a risk taker myself. But we don't want to be vulnerable in relationships. We don't want to be vulnerable in starting a new relationship and it often prevents us from taking any risks. And so when someone does, especially in this sort of cynical age, it's really something to admire. And, you know, one of my favorite stories was a woman who'd gotten divorced.
JONESShe lives in upstate New York. She's in midlife, in her 40s I think. She and a friend of hers, a Chinese woman, had said, my brother is in China and he's divorced too, he's lonely. You might like each other. And she said, I'll pay for your ticket if you go to see him. And she said, why not, you know.
REHMBut she couldn't speak Chinese.
JONESShe couldn't speak Chinese, he couldn't speak any English. She took the ticket, went over there. They spent three weeks together, hardly able to communicate. And at the end of that period, he said, "Will you marry me?" That was his one full sentence of English he'd been able to master and she said yes. They liked each other. You know, they couldn't really communicate, but they liked each other.
JONESAnd they thought they could come to love each other. Several months passed for the immigration to sort of clear for him to come to the States. And they are together to this day, living in upstate New York. This was a bunch of years ago, six or seven years ago. And that was such a leap and it paid off so handsomely for her. But it's so rare, you know.
REHMI mean, and so scary to...
REHM...to become that emotionally involved with someone whose language you may not speak and whose life you may not totally understand. That's really an incredible story. Another section of your book deals with devotion test. How to respond when things get tough. Sometimes they come early, sometimes they come later. But devotion test. Explain that.
JONESWell, these were remarkably inspiring stories of, you know, you say when you marry it's for good times and for bad times.
REHMIn sickness and in health.
JONESYeah. And you don't think of that. You don't think of, really, the consequences of that. It's just you're in love with this person. It feels so good to be with them. You're young and they're just words that you say. And then suddenly you're in a position where your spouse has cancer or your spouse has Alzheimer's and is fading or is in a car accident. And now your devotion is tested. And some of the stories that I've gotten of these circumstances, you know, there's an interesting silver lining to them.
JONESAnd that's how people often look back at these times of stress as the time when their love was most pure. And there was a story of a young man who married a woman, they were completely in love and she fell into a deep, deep depression, suicidal depression. And he sort of nursed her through this. ANd they were just -- they were young, they were 25, 26. And she was -- would frequently talk about suicide.
JONESAnd they were trying to get her on medication and counseling. And -- but their time together was all talking about how much they loved each other and how much they cared for each other. She finally came out of the depression with medication and counseling. And then they became a couple who argued about who was going to do the dishes. They became a couple who argued about, you know, his socks being on the floor.
JONESAnd that became their relationship, just as it is so many people's relationship. And they look back with nostalgia to the time when their relationship was tested, and all they had to talk about was how much they loved each other and needed each other. And I hear that kind of story over and over and over. Not that you want to go back to that time...
JONES...but you miss that depth of connection.
REHMDaniel Jones, his new book is titled "Love Illuminated: Exploring Life's Most Mystifying Subject (With the Help of 50,000 Strangers)." And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We're going to open the phones now and take calls from our listeners. Let's see, we've got -- let's go to Mike in Lansing, MI. Hi, you're on the air.
MIKEHi. Thanks, Diane. I love your show, by the way.
MIKEEvery day I listen to it.
MIKESo, I'd like to ask your guest what his thoughts or what his advice would be to somebody that has gotten out of a relationship and is looking to get that feeling again, but they just -- they can't feel it towards someone new. I got out of a seven-year relationship and I just feel numb. And I've met new girls, it's just I just don't get that same sensation like when I was with her. And it -- I have ended relationship, new relationships because of it, because I just don't feel like I want to hurt the new people.
REHMMike, let me ask you, how long has it been since you got out of the old relationship?
MIKEIt's been almost seven months.
REHMOkay. Dan, over to you.
JONESYou know, I am not much of an advice columnist, and I learned through other people's stories and I feel like that's a better way to learn than someone telling you what to do. And that's what I feel the value of the column and other people's stories. These things take time, I can tell you from the stories that I've read. And sometimes they take a lot of time.
JONESAnd the depth of the connection you felt earlier is probably going to be equivalent to the amount of time, you know, or lead to how much time it's going to take you to get over it. It's not easy. That's the whole thing. It's very, very difficult.
REHMIt takes time, Mike, but don't give up.
REHMOkay. Thanks for calling. Happy Valentine's Day. Let's go to Mary in Martinsville, VA. Hi, you're on the air.
MARYHello and thank you. I'd like to ask your guest for word. I am looking for a word for what I felt that seem to just come out of time, lots and lots of time, months, weeks, years, with a person. We were not a couple in the, you know, ordinary sense. We happened to be housemates for a while. Then I just packed up, very attached and that seem to be more important, more stronger than all the normal things we had in common and so forth and so on.
REHMSo what you're saying, Mary, if I understand you correctly is that you had a friend...
REHM...to whom you were quite attached and now has that friend left you?
MARYGone to live somewhere else.
REHMI understand. And I think the loss of a good friend, as I too have experienced, can be so, so saddening. Dan?
JONESWell, that's true. I think she may also be talking about different kinds of relationships that you don't have names for. And this is really something that has changed these days and become -- you know, we sort of opened our hearts to new kinds of love. I feel like it's one of the few things that we're getting at, at love is being able to appreciate different kinds of relationships, different kinds of families, friendships that are stronger than romantic relationships.
JONESAnd we may not have names for these relationships, and that's frustrating to people that they don't fit into conventional boxes. But the love that people feel in them is the same. And I think we're getting a lot better at being able to sort of cherish and value those relationships rather than trying to squeeze into some box or give them some name that already exists.
REHMTell me how long you've been married, Dan.
JONESI've been married for 21 years.
REHMTwenty-one years. And are there children?
JONESWe have a daughter who's 19 and a son who's 15.
REHMAnd did you share responsibilities for those children as they were growing up?
JONESYeah, we've been pretty good about that. We -- my wife is very strong willed and she doesn't let me get away with very much.
REHMAnd that is always a good thing.
REHMDaniel Jones, his new book is titled, "Love Illuminated." Short break here and we'll be back with more of your calls, your comments. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. We'll go right back to the phones, your comments, questions for Daniel Jones. He is not a marriage counselor or a relationship counselor. In fact, he's the editor of The New York Times column "Modern Love," which appears every Sunday in The New York Times in the style section. His new book is titled "Love Illuminated." Let's take a call from Carol in -- pardon me -- South Bend, Ind. Hi. You're on the air.
CAROLGood morning. And let me say that your program is a staple of my day.
REHMOh, I'm so glad. Thank you.
CAROLAnd I ordinarily play tennis in the morning, but I happened to be home this morning. And your program just has so touched me because last year, I lost my husband after 16 years. We'd been married over -- well over 20 years, but he had Parkinson's for 16.
REHMOh, I'm so sorry.
CAROLWell, we had a very nice life. But as we moved through the stages and the changes, oh, the dramatic changes of when we met and then as our life progressed. One of the things that happened -- and I now see that it was a mixed blessing -- is that the passion that we had, it began to diminish. But I was able to write him a Valentine's card last year, and I keep it out. And I'd like to read my note to him.
CAROLI said, our love has gone through many phases. And each one has had its own joy. But I think the quiet, tender love that we share now is the one that thoroughly warms my heart. The twinkle in your eyes and your special smile are all I need. And last -- then, a few months later, he died. While the passion that we felt had diminished, I now see that it's what enabled me to focus on another area of our love.
CAROLBut shortly after he died, I felt certain feelings that I had not experienced in years. I really thought that side of my being was just kind of over with. And tomorrow, Friday, or whatever day, I'm actually having my first meeting with someone I've spoken with online. How about that?
REHMNow, that's terrific, Carol.
CAROLSo I just -- can you imagine, when I turned on the radio this morning and happened upon this conversation?
CAROLI just, you know, felt so moved to share that there are so many phases to love, and...
REHMAbsolutely. You're quite right. And, Carol, I want to wish you all success in that first meeting tomorrow. I'm sure there are expectations on both sides, but if, as Dan suggested earlier, you can keep those expectations at a reasonable level, I'm sure it will be wonderful. Talk about, Dan, what she said earlier about those different phases. You've heard, I'm sure, from many who've experienced, as Carol did, going through a disease stage with a spouse or a good friend and how that changes the relationship overall.
JONESYeah. And she really -- that was really beautiful, what she had to say about that and so...
JONES...and so reassuring about being able to recover those feelings that you thought you'd sort of pushed into the basement, you know, and to feel that again. Of course, I hear that over and over again, and it's what sort of keeps love fresh. And it's good to remind yourself of that, you know, when you're feeling low. But the idea of going through phases in love and being able to appreciate your partner when certain parts of your relationship begin to, you know, get lost, well, what's taking its place, you know?
JONESAnd what are you coming to appreciate about the longevity of your relationship and about that person's sort of good spirit? And instead of focusing on not being young anymore, you know, and being able to appreciate sort of a mature relationship and what it turns into -- those are happy people who do that. And it's really to be commended.
REHMAll right. Let's go to Mary in Cleveland, Ohio. Hi. You're on the air.
MARYThanks for taking my call.
MARYI've a very old Valentine's Day story. I was living in New York between my junior and senior year of college. And a friend of my mother's fixed me up on a blind date. And we went to the theater. And at intermission, we bumped into the roommate of another fellow I know who knew who'd I been dating. And he introduced himself, and I said, hi, I'd like you to meet -- and I turned to my date.
MARYAnd I could not remember his name for the life of me. And I stared at him, and he glared at me. And finally he gave his name, shook hands with the other guy, and he said, my name is -- and I won't say it -- and gave his name. Then he turned to me, and he said, remember it. It might be yours someday.
MARYAnd I went back...
REHMI gather it was.
MARYIt was. I went back to college. We had a total of about five dates. He came up for a dance at my college and proposed. And I said, well, I'll have to think about it. And I thought about for about five minutes, and I said, okay. And we got married that summer when school was out. We were married for 50 years.
REHMOh, that's wonderful.
MARYAnd he died five years ago.
REHMI'm sorry. I'm sorry.
MARYAnyway, that's my Valentine's Day.
REHMI'm glad you shared that, Mary. Thanks for calling. And on that note, apparently someone has written in to ask me to tell the story of how I met my husband. We were both at the State Department, he, an attorney, I, a secretary. He was doing some work for my boss, and I heard him coming down the hall.
REHMAnd I thought, good grief, that man has a loud voice. Didn't his mother ever teach him to keep his voice down? Well, I came to love that voice. And now he has Parkinson's disease, and his voice muscles have obviously been affected. So he speaks very softly. But the other day, because he is in assisted living now, I was there reading to him.
REHMAnd we were sharing his bed as I was reading to him. And that soft, beautiful voice is still as tender and loving as it can be. So I can truly identify with our last caller. And let's take another quick call from Laura in Jacksonville, Fla. You're on the air, Laura.
LAURAHi, Diane. Thank you for taking my call.
LAURAUnfortunately, my story isn't such a happy one. You know, we've talked about how cancer and other serious life events have brought out the best in some marriages. And my sister's been married for three years and has breast cancer. And her husband is...
LAURA...is terrible to her. And, you know, my family, we just can't figure out what's going on. And we're trying to do everything we can to help her, and he just doesn't want to be bothered.
LAURAAnd my question is, you know, after they get through this and her cancer is cured, is there any hope in renewing their marriage? Or, you know, is this a big sign that this is not going to work?
REHMThat is such a fascinating issue. Dan, I'm sure you've come across these kinds of things and, you know, as you said earlier, tough times, good times, sickness, health. Let's just remind listeners that you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Dan, why don't you comment?
JONESYeah. Well, you know, tough times don't always bring out the best in us, unfortunately.
JONESAnd some people aren't up to that task. And some relationships aren't strong enough to endure it. I don't know what you can do about that as a relative or as a friend or as an outsider. It's so hard to be inside of a marriage, another person's marriage, and understand the dynamics of it and what's really going on. And there's a lot of judgment of, you know -- outside judgment of marriages, and it's -- you know, it's something that should be done very cautiously. But it's true, yeah.
REHMYou know, you have a story in your book about Carrie and Theo. Do you remember that story?
REHMShe was 19, and he was 42. Tell that story.
JONESI love this story.
JONESYeah, Carrie is a 19-year-old, just out of college or maybe even still in college. And she met this guy who could not be more charismatic and caring, and his name was Theo. He was an architect. Forty-two, right? Yeah. And a huge age gap. Several dates into their relationship, when she was completely falling for him, he revealed that he was HIV-positive.
JONESYou know, imagine yourself as a young woman trying to start a new relationship. Imagine what Carrie's mother would think about this new relationship with an older man who had a history decades before of drug use and wild behavior that had led him to contract HIV.
JONESAnd imagine trying to conceive of having a family and all of the complications of that and a sex life. She loved him, you know. And she couldn't really stop herself from loving him. They -- and he was healthy. That was the other thing. He had been on his cocktail of medications, and he ate well and exercised. And he radiated health.
JONESAnd the irony to this relationship is she fought against it. Her mother fought vehemently against it. They wound up together anyway. They got married. He remained healthy. And she, two decades later, is the one who was diagnosed with breast cancer, advanced breast cancer, and he ended up being the one caring for her and with, you know, incredible support and love.
JONESAnd here was this relationship where she just thought it had a, you know, date of expiration stamped on it from the beginning and that he would -- they would have their, you know, their relationship, and he would eventually get sick and die. But it would be what it would be. And instead, she was the one who was sick, and he was the one who was caring for her.
REHMExtraordinary. Dan, what makes a good modern love story?
JONESWhat makes a good modern love story? You know, it's so funny because we try to get better at love. It's what everyone tries to do. And, you know, I don't think there's really a difference in basic ways between a modern love story and an ancient love story. It's the one thing we don't really improve upon with time. And the means change. We can maintain a relationship through Skype, or we can maintain a relationship through our phones.
JONESAnd maybe the roles and responsibilities change in long-term relationships and those sorts of things. But the complications of love and the vulnerability that you have to allow yourself to be in a loving relationship, none of that changes over time. It's the same as it was, you know, when Shakespeare wrote about love 500 years ago. It was the same dilemmas that we're facing today in trying to connect with another person.
REHMBut isn't it odd that especially for people who've come from families where perhaps the parents reached a point where they weren't getting along or there was divorce or death and maybe you grow up either wanting to replicate your parents' great love story or you want to improve on what you saw as their failure at love? Somehow, what you say is so true. It's all the same. It just keeps going on the same way.
JONESIt's always difficult and joyful in the same ways. And I do feel like we -- as I said earlier, we're getting better at sort of accepting different kinds of love and not being so judgmental and dismissive of who people love and how they form their families. That used to make those kinds of unusual relationships difficult, whether it was gay families, whether it was families that involved transgender relationship or transition.
JONESWhen there's outside judgment, it can make that love kind of crumble and be hard to maintain. And that is how we've improved, I think, in being able to allow that kind of love to bloom along with any other kind and just respect it and allow it to be a good thing instead of something that we feel like we need to sort of shove aside and demonize.
REHMAnd do you think those of us watching from the outside have become more accepting of different kinds of love?
JONESOh, absolutely. I think it's been a profound change. And it's happened so rapidly in the past decade or so, you know, with people coming out and sort of talking about who they are every day. And now we have a new NFL player who's gay, and these are revolutionary changes.
REHMDaniel Jones, his new book is titled "Love Illuminated." And be sure to catch his "Modern Love" column Sunday in The New York Times. Dan Jones, Happy Valentine's Day to you.
JONESOh, Happy Valentine's Day to you, too, Diane.
REHMThank you so much. And thanks all for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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