That Ben Karlin "Modern Love": A Critical Reading

"Had I fallen into that New York City long con, the one where you think there is an infinite supply of potential mates, and the perfect one is forever around the corner?" This sentence is perhaps the most telling line of yesterday's NY Times "Modern Love" column, by Daily Show creator and author Ben Karlin, about his romantic journey. See, Ben Karlin is not responsible for his actions. Ben Karlin had simply fallen prey to the same disease that had seized so many of his other, maybe even older male friends in New York whereby their brains somehow do not process other people as actually being people. They are more like complex illiquid financial instruments that are difficult to value. Someone from somewhere else (not New York) might mistake such an affliction as basic inhumanity, the type responsible for slavery/genocide/ child molestation/etc. But New Yorkers, unsentimental followers of pop sociology that they are, know better.

This frame of mind is simply a societal cancer, the lottery addiction of the creative class, a malady that condemns generations of New York men to empty lifetimes of nihilistic self-absorption and worse, the omnipresent if never-articulated pity of their male friends who know they are making poor decisions, squandering for extra beer money precious commodities that someone wiser might surely see fit to make the centerpiece of their existence one day, like an heirloom you should have gotten appraised before that idiot took it to Antiques Roadshow.

After some stops and starts and wacky misunderstandings involving language, food and culture, we were in something like love and living together in a loft in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. A few years into the relationship, I jotted down these thoughts: "I need a better quality pen to write about Paola. What kind of person is she? Besides the obvious. The strength. The beauty. The individuality. The fierceness of her intellect. The confidence that may or may not be real.
A few years into his relationship, he wrote about his loved one. Her strength.intellect.beauty. It reads. Like ad copy. He is undisturbed by his ignorance as to the authenticity of her confidence. He is undisturbed because he is caught up wishing he had a more expensive pen.
Men look at her with something bordering on adoration. She has the ability to show unrestrained joy and still look cool. When she wears a certain hat, she looks like a woman out of time, which suits her well. I need a better pen still.
STILL with the pen. Run Paola Run! But no; Ben runs first.
But things fell apart, thanks mainly to the burden of expectation. Mine, naturally. By the end of that year I was on the outs with Paola and in the middle of a start with a clever redhead with the most spectacularly smooth and pale skin I had ever encountered.
Would you believe something seemed to be missing ? Like ability to recognize in women attributes incapable of alteration via a trip to Sephora and/or a "certain hat"? Whatever. He goes on an Outward Bound trip. An Outward Bound trip. I would hope, in any other "Modern Love", that this would be the most obnoxious detail. But no. I think it is the breakfast burrito. The pen, the hat, the breakfast burrito...
A flash of color did trigger a revelation: What I was looking for in a relationship could be attained only if I was willing to travel great distances for it. Be willing to battle the sun, sleep on twigs, and suffer through irrational fears of nonexistent thieves. Even be willing to consume a raspberry powdered drink mix that under no circumstances other than complete glucose deprivation would I ever consider putting to my lips.

In Paola, I had found a worthy travel companion.

Later that morning I paddled back to the main campsite and ate the most delicious breakfast burrito in my life.

And reader, he married her. He married her and knocked her up and now he's writing books about lessons about love allegedly learned by men who never seem to learn the ultimate lesson: that every woman they ever liked and hurt shares only one minor mistake: in evaluating their boyfriends, they tried to see actual humans . When really they should have just seen breakfast burritos.

A Signal In The Sky Said: Marry Her [NY Times]