As I binge watched Amazon’s eight-episode Modern Love series this week I wondered what part of my relationship with my husband would serve as the jumping off point for our episode.
Nothing came to mind.
That is not because there wasn’t drama, comedy, love, hate and everything in between. (Note: Please, we’re talking about two gay men here). It’s because after celebrating 32 years together this Oct. 24 there are too many stories.
There are also too many risks that the one story I did choose to tell would only come across to the collective YOU as a painfully self-satisfied humble brag.
Maybe something along the theme lines of:
— See, we almost broke up but then a series of inspired events where we both took chances brought us together!
— You think the perfect mate for you will never come along, well let me tell you about how many toads I had to kiss.
— Share your deepest secret publicly with the world and perhaps get some therapy, or meditate, or give someone a chance that you NEVER would have dated or befriended in the past and you too can be as happy as the ME in MY love story. Why NOT, right?
I just can’t do it for numerous reasons, and one other, which we’ll get to in a minute.
For those unfamiliar with the world of Modern Love (Note: And which of us isn’t in some shape or form in the broader sense), the series is loosely based on real-life love stories that appear in a recurring column in the NY Times Style section. It began 15 years ago and grew exponentially in popularity. Four years ago it became a podcast. This month it debuted as a half-hour streaming show and this past week it was renewed for season two.
I guess that means it has good ratings but, seriously, with streaming platforms like Amazon (Note: And Netflix and Hulu and…) we don’t really know. I mean, would you swear to it? I certainly wouldn’t. Maybe it’s a loss leader, like the perfect sized 125 inch Hi-Def TV on sale in limited quantities just to get you into Target on Christmas Day.
Losing interest, already?
Before deciding this universe is only for romance novel fans, rom-coms addicts, or those looking for a very special brand of reassuringly Hallmark non-holiday movies (i.e. women and gay men of certain age), not quite. Actually, not at all.
Modern Love is not necessarily focused on romantic love and not always about happy endings for all concerned. It can be about weird friendships, familial connections, unsettling dysfunction between parents and kids, old people too close to death’s door or mental illness. Years ago I read one about a dog that I barely got over, though quickly decided I could have written better from my own experience. (Note: See humble brag). Yet on reflection I recently decided the latter was not true, it would have only been different.
The half hour format gives the show a bit of a kick as does the limited space the Times reserves for its frequent Sunday column. You don’t like that particular story, you won’t be bored or annoyed for long. But every so often you get whacked upside the head in a great, unexpected way by one of them.
To call them inspiring is to imply too much bathos. The best ones emerge as unusually true and atypically heartfelt. In fact, the best ones are the anti rom-com.
This is why actors such as Dev Patel, Catherine Keener, Anne Hathaway, Tina Fey, Jane Alexander, Andrew Scott and Andy Garcia were attracted to emotional season one roles that these days are scarce to sometimes non-existent (Note: Depending on the way you look and your age and your race) on the big screen.
As Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and many others have opined in the last few weeks, not everyone – meaning actors AND moviegoers – can fit into the Marvel/DC Universe.
This came into specific focus when I began reading the extremely mixed and varied reactions to Amazon’s eight episodes. Numerous critics felt at least half of them were flat and phony while others loved most of the entire series. A reviewer for Entertainment Weekly rated them from best to worst and had the nerve to put MY LEAST FAVORITE at number one. Imagine!
But that’s the way it is with love, modern or old-fashioned. What floats your boat is a repellent to someone else. This is fortunate because if reactions were universal I am fairly confident I would not be in a loving relationship for 32 years.
Which reminds me, towards the end of my binge something happened in my own story that may or may not read like a humble brag but stopped me right in my tracks at the moment.
My husband had come upstairs (Note: No, we didn’t couple binge it together!) for an Energy Drink to sustain him long enough to focus on finishing a chapter for the long overdue textbook he was writing. He went to the fridge, looked up, poured the drink into a glass and finally noticed I was searching, frantically and frustrated, through the cupboards and drawers for something.
What are you looking for?
Do you have any gum? I just really need a piece of gum.
Yes, I am addicted to Extra’s sugarless bubble gum. A nasty habit but certainly better than drugs, McDonald’s or indiscriminate anything at this point in time for me.
Actually, I do. It just so happens that I keep a secret package downstairs in a drawer in my office for this very reason.
At which point he proceeded to go down and up the stairs in less than a minute and proudly produce that pretty pink pack of overly sweet, plastic-wrapped, chemical deliciousness.
This might not make a good episode of Modern Love but it says everything I could possibly tell you about what might still float your boat after 32 years.