The #1 winning essay in the NY Times essay contest for college students, “Modern Love.”
I began reading this essay with high expectations. The NY Times described the essay, “Want to Be My Boyfriend? Please Define” as being, “an eloquent, clear-eyed account of her generation’s often noncommittal dating scene.”
I saw it as a lie, or as an exaggeration of a truth that we all encounter - but which does not happen so frequently (and at such extreme levels) as to this junior at Marlboro College, a small school in Vermont, and which could conceivably happen in her 20-or-so-years of youth.
The writer’s name is Marguerite Fields, and her credit claims her to be a college junior, and her writing claims to have at least dated 21 men. Most of whom were described as providing her with unique experiences to write about, including a Jesuit who was “taking a break” from the seminary and never saw her again after she refused to have sex with him on the third date. Seriously Marguerite?
So I asked her. It just so happens Marguerite is on Facebook. And after I questioned her at 10:55, she wrote back at 11:05.
Today at 10:55pm
Fantastic essay in the NY Times on Sunday. Congratulations!
I’m just curious: as I was reading your essay, I wondered how you could possibly have had so many unique relationships at such a young age. Are you older than the standard college student? I have to say, the Jesuit “taking a break” tops the list!
Again, congrats — this must be huge for you right now!
All the best,
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Today at 11:05pm
thanks for reading my article.
its funny, a lot of people have been asking how i have dated as many people as i have (im 21 by the way). i guess i dont really have an answer other than i started dating when i was 13— and i think part of it was living in the city. its just hard to escape meeting a lot of people.
Today at 11:09pm
That totally makes sense now. It actually had me thinking about how many people I’ve actually dated. I counted 21 people in your article — and now that I consider my own dating life, I may have hit that number, too. It’s funny how you forget, right?
Best of luck… in life and love!
So I was skeptical - but then I started thinking about my own relationships, and how while only a handful ever lasted beyond a few dates. Each, like Marguerite’s, were unique in their own way - and worth a story or two over drinks with friends or, if I ever got lucky, as an essay featured in The NY Times.
There was my first kiss with the hottest boy in school who used to drive a huge Suburban while blasting Nelly. He played baseball and was just the cat’s meow. I used to sneak out of my house late at night just to hang out with him in the summertime.
Then there was the bad boy with the supped up car, dysfunctional household and who would eventually go to jail for burning down a covered bridge. Oh yeah, and he made counterfeit money.
Then I dated the one who broke my 16-year-old heart. He went away to college, sent me roses on our one-year anniversary and came back home for winter break, only to ignore me. I arrived at his house and forced him to tell me: he had started seeing someone else. I missed school and cried for two days straight. I thought my world was collapsing around me. Now he teaches Kindergarten.
Then I started seeing the one I thought I loved, who I would follow to Temple because he went to Penn. Three years after breaking up with him just a week before college began, I would learn that he was physically abusive to his girlfriend following me. My 18-year-old instinct had told me something was amiss, and I had escaped a relationship that could have been potentially damaging to me.
Freshman year I broke a Penn boy’s heart from Virginia who I thought was gay when I first met him, dated the Jew from Quebec who spoke fluent French, moved to St. Louis and then back to Philadelphia (only to find I still didn’t like him), then the guy who adored me and who was so depressed I only stayed with him out of pity.
And we can’t forget the most recent additions: The “friend” who paid more attention to me than any boy in the past three years, the summer romance who threw his ring across the park when I told him I wasn’t interested in seeing him anymore, the 28 year old with a 2-year-old daughter, the Jersey meathead who counted his calories more attentively than me, the Rittenhouse Square lawyer who wouldn’t see me one weekend because his “lady friend” was in town. And he had only wanted to sleep with me the weekend before. Thankfully, I hadn’t.
In criticizing Marguerite, I had forgotten just how true her experiences are: As 21st century lovers, we spread our love thin. I, too, have had 21+ “encounters,” both physical and non, as she describes in her essay.
Four runner-ups will be published between now and Father’s Day. I wonder just how much their experiences will resemble mine - and remind me that I have stories, too, which sometimes just can’t define the truth.
Because in today’s Modern Love, the only truth is that there is none.
*Posted by Sammy D