Millennials — anyone with a birthday between 1982 and 2004 — are known for a lot of things. Stacking up in the “things the world hates about Millennials column” we have: being obsessed with (perfectly filtered) self-expression and using social media to prove it; being completely attached to our phones (again, with the social media thing); expecting a trophy for everything (I must have missed all those days in school); and being more materialistic and less community-focused than the generations that came before us. On the positive side, we’re proving to be the most diverse generation by far, many of us are actually quite civically and politically engaged, and we’re reported to be the most educated generation in history. But there’s one thing the jury’s still out on: Millennial relationships.
After all, we’re the generation that invented terms like “ghosting” and “Facebook official”. And while there are plenty of common threads throughout all romantic relationships, across history, there is something unique about love in a generation that has no clue how to unplug (or, you know, how to communicate in complete sentences anymore. Or in person. With eye contact.)
If you’re not familiar with the New York Times’ Modern Love column — a weekly essay series that explores the endless manifestations of human love and relationships: romantic, platonic, unrequited, familial, strained, and more — then consider it your brand new crash course in what relationships look like in the modern age. Here are the 15 Modern Love columns that every Millennial should read.
'My So-Called (Instagram) Life' by Clara Dollar
For anyone who loves (or loves to hate) the over-use of a really good Instagram filter, Clara Dollar’s Modern Love essay tells a story of what happens when someone falls for your perfectly-curated Instagram profile — and what happens when you’re too afraid (and have kept the façade of your online personal up for too long) to let them in on who you really are, filter-free.
'Cropped Out Of My Own Fantasy' by Sage Cruser
From a painstakingly photographed selfie to a heartbreaking breakup, writer Sage Cruser describes what it’s like to love and lose in the age of social media — from having to take down (and therefore, click through) all those photographs of the two of you together, to finding your exes online dating profile just days after your relationship ended.
'No Labels, No Drama, Right?' by Jordana Narin
Touching and totally relatable, this Modern Love column looks at what it means to be in a casual, years-long… something — and what a relationship with someone really is without all the labels. Jordana Narin's essay tells the story of and her self-dubbed “Jeremy” — aka: "that guy we never really dated, and never really got over.” Don’t we all have one? Or, seven?
'Swearing Off The Modern Man' by Jochebed Smith
Another Modern Love column that dives into everything from what it means to be “Facebook official” to what it feels like to have your ex all over your social media feeds after a breakup, writer Jochebed Smith’s essay tells the story of another agonizingly label-less modern (Millennial) relationship and then the one (with a slightly-older, less social media-savvy) man that follows; demonstrating that heartbreak is heartbreak is heartbreak, whether that ex is all over your news feed or not.
'A Millennial’s Guide To Kissing' by Emma Court
After two college students lip lock on an overnight flight from Israel to the United States, they’re certain to never see one another again — until writer Emma Court seeks her in-flight kiss out social media. The experience forces her to reflect on the way her entire generation responds to, and perpetuates, “hookup culture” — and it’ll leave you with something to think about before embarking upon your next one-night-stand.
'The Five Stages of Ghosting Grief' by Rachel Fields
Anyone who has ever been ghosted — or simply consumed with the overwhelming fear of being ghosted — will totally relate to this essay about the painstaking hours a woman spends trying to distract herself between the sending of a “vaguely (vaguely!)” suggestive text and receiving (or not) a reply. We’ve pretty much all been there.
'For Best Hookup Results, Use Your Words, O.K.?' by Gabrielle Ulubay
Another Modern Love column that delves into the agony and defeat of being ghosted (this really is a thing now, isn’t it?) Gabrielle Ulubay shares the story of a one-night-stand with all the potential to be something more, until it turns out her hookup wasn’t as good at using his words as she thought.
'Am I Gay Or Straight? Maybe This Fun Quiz Will Tell Me' by Katie Heaney
Most Millennials are old enough to remember the days of passing Cosmo and Seventeen around high school locker rooms and at sleepovers, feverishly taking the quizzes in the back to determine which Sex in the City character you were, or what kind of girlfriend you’d make, or what eyeshadow tint will ensure lifelong success in love. In "Am I Gay Or Straight?" one woman dives headfirst into the world of online quizzes, seeking the answers to her lifelong sexual identity questions.
'The Entire Netflix History Of Us' by Tonya Malinowski
A column that the Netflix-and-chill generation can totally relate to, writer Tonya Malinowski takes readers through the Netflix history (and Netflix-inspired memories) of her recently-ended relationship. Then, after another pass through her queue, she discovers her ex has committed the cardinal sin of still using her Netflix login.
'A Life Plan for Two, Followed by One' by Marina Shifrin
'How ‘Lolita’ Freed Me From My Own Humbert' by Bindu Bansinath
A story that speaks perfectly, and tragically, to the #MeToo movement, Bindu Bansinath shares the irony of her much-older abuser buying her a coveted copy of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita (he didn’t know what it was about) and how that novel became a blueprint for her escape from her own cycle of manipulation and abuse.
'My Body Doesn’t Belong To You' by Heather Burtman
Another column primed for the #MeToo movement, Heather Burtman’s Modern Love essay looks at street harassment and body image, navigates the self-loathing that comes from the instinct to smile at catcalls even when you know better, and explores what it’s like when your body suddenly feels more like public property than your own.
'To Stay In Love, Sign On The Dotted Line' by Mandy Len Catron
One-half of a couple with a real life relationship agreement, Mandy Len Catron shares with readers the secrets of her successful relationship with her partner Mark, and how their own relationship agreement covers everything from sex and intimacy to who cleans the bathroom.
'The Wedding Toast I’ll Never Give' by Ada Calhoun
As part of a generation that came of age completely consumed by social media (at least, most of us were) sometimes a healthy (relationship) reality check is in order — especially for anyone still compelled to use phrases like “Facebook official” and argue with our partners because the same Instagram filter isn’t equally flattering for both our complexions. That reality check comes in the form of Ada Calhoun’s wedding toast-inspired-essay about the ups and downs that go on behind the scenes (and filters) of a marriage.
'Celebrating The Upside Of An Emotional Plunge' by Natalie Lindeman
Say what you will about Millennials, but I do know one thing for sure: no one can accuse our generation of being too timid. In Natalie Lindeman’s Modern Love column, fit for a John Green novel, an adventure-obsessed teen takes a deadly fall into a California canyon, only to fall even further (into love) during her recovery. The best part is, the fellow who stayed by her side was none other than her prom date.