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The Modern Love podcast got a revamp this year, with two new hosts and a fresh sound produced entirely by The New York Times. And, of course, there were new stories to tell. Some were unique to the moment — like a serendipitous romance that bloomed on a train ride from Paris to Barcelona, then was abruptly stunted by lockdown. For other stories, we dug into the archives to unearth some of our favorite essays and check back in with the authors.
Here are 10 episodes from the newest season, introduced to you by the people who made them. We hope they can be a balm, providing a sense of connection and comfort for the holidays.
1. Driveway Elegies
The car parked outside, the stained teacups, the razor and shaving cream by the sink. What stories are told through the objects in our homes?
“Maggie Smith’s essay about zooming in to her family home on Google Maps after a breakup is heartbreaking, relatable and beautiful. Maggie is an accomplished poet, and in the second half of the show she reads her poem ‘Good Bones,’ about the complicated dance we do to shield our children from darker truths. You will look at the world differently after you hear it.” — WENDY DORR, editor
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2. When Getting Old Never Happens
A Black woman was asked out by a firefighter on the street. She deemed him a “bald, white, middle-aged New York City cliché.” They went out anyway, and she could have never imagined what happened next.
“I love how this episode goes beyond the essay and the writer to include the friends, family and colleagues of the firefighter, who were surprised and moved to find their loved one in the pages of The New York Times.” — DANIEL JONES, Modern Love co-host
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3. Devoted but Doomed
A transgender man and an Indian American woman started secretly dating in college. It was juicy, forbidden love. We find out where they are now.
“Two incredibly warm and wonderful people are featured in this episode. Cecilia, who wrote our Tiny Love Story, and Malcolm, author of the Modern Love essay, each gave generously in time and spirit, so we had to make hard choices about what delightful and thoughtful tape we were going to be able to fit in.” — HANS BUETOW, producer
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4. Dusty-Danger Dog
This story, about a dog who taught his two-legged companion everything he needed to know about life, is a respite from these tough human times.
“I’m always drawn to the essays that offer a thoughtful perspective on both solitude and companionship. I like how the dog, Dusty-Danger, isn’t framed strictly as a transitional steppingstone between a solitary artist and his eventual marriage, but an integral part of how he comes to understand himself and relate to the world.” — DAN POWELL, composer
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5. No More Secrets
A newly married woman knows that if she has a drink, she’ll be barreling toward the end of her marriage.
“Many people have unhealthy relationships with alcohol. Few tell their romantic partners. Even fewer tell the public. I am grateful to Liz for talking to me about her own struggle with alcohol. She writes and speaks candidly about this common experience, noting how drinking did not only impact her, but her marriage.” — MIYA LEE, Modern Love co-host
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6. Confronting Race on the First Date
They met in San Francisco on a dating app. They were both Asian-American, and for one of them, that was a problem.
“What I find so striking about this episode is the profound, almost subversive candor with which Andrew and Sarah interact in their relationship and during Miya’s interview with them. The couple engages racism for what it is: an ingredient baked into each of us from the start, like it or not, which influences our worldview and is to be unlearned through hard work, vulnerability and ultimately, love.” — KELLY PRIME, producer
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7. A Lifetime of Good Loving
A newly widowed woman, alone on the eve of the pandemic, wonders if her heartbreak will give her some perspective on life and death. (The answer is yes.)
“Fifty-six years is a long time to be married, and Bette wonderfully lays out how those decades don’t blur into each other. Her marriage has different stages with such different tones. It’s a master class in how to grow yourself as your relationship evolves. Bette is a delight, and there’s a bonus: In the interview she uses a word I had never heard before in my life.” — SARA SARASOHN, editor
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8. With the Help of Strangers
A survivor of domestic violence finds allies and strength where she least expects.
“This episode is all about voice. Eliza Rudalevige’s voice is arresting and intimate as it draws you into the Tiny Love Story. Julia Whelan’s voice is close and impactful as she reads the essay. And Courtney Queeney’s voice is urgent and complicated as she lets us into her life since she was published.” — HANS BUETOW, producer
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9. ‘Desire Is Never the Mistake’
Growing up in foster care, a young woman came to dread the holidays, the most want-plagued time of year. Until she realized what all that wanting was really about.
“Desire often gets a bad rap. Remember: greed, lust, and gluttony are three of the seven deadly sins? This episode doesn’t encourage bad behavior like stealing from your neighbor, but it does demonstrate the benefits of desire — especially, for women who have been taught to temper their appetites or ambitions. Listen to this episode to learn why it’s OK to want more.” — MIYA LEE, Modern Love co-host
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10. What the Silence Said
After her peaceful marriage quietly dissolves, a woman comes to appreciate the vitality of conflict and confrontation.
“For some, love is about peace and safety. But as Laura Pritchett explores in this essay: What if that idea of love is all wrong?” — DANIEL JONES, Modern Love co-host
Hosted by: Daniel Jones and Miya Lee
Produced by: Hans Buetow and Kelly Prime
Edited by: Sara Sarasohn and Wendy Dorr
Music by: Dan Powell
Audm narration produced by: Ryan Wegner and Kelly Rogers
Executive Producer, NYT Audio: Lisa Tobin
Assistant Managing Editor, NYT: Sam Dolnick
Special thanks: Nora Keller, Mahima Chablani, Julia Simon, Laura Kim, Bonnie Wertheim, Anya Strzemien, Joanna Nikas, Choire Sicha, Kimmy Tsai, Jeff Glendenning, Jason Fujikuni, Anisha Muni and Kelly Doe.
Want more from Modern Love? Watch the TV series and sign up for the newsletter. We also have swag at the NYT Store and two books, “Modern Love: True Stories of Love, Loss, and Redemption” and “Tiny Love Stories: True Tales of Love in 100 Words or Less.