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A Passionate Defense of Love

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Writer, essayist, and critic Cristina Nehring says we’ve gotten romance all wrong.

Modern-day love is a “poor and shrunken thing,” she writes. “Defused and discredited” and “cause for embarrassment,” she says. And it’s time to look back for inspiration.

From Plato to Emily Dickinson, she takes us on a passionate tour of what love was, what love can be. It’s ok to yearn. It’s ok to take risks. It’s ok to lose. It’s time to reclaim our wild side and learn how to fulfill our romantic needs.

This hour, On Point: Cristina’s Nehring and “A Vindication of Love.”

You can join the conversation. Tell us what you think — here on this page, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

Guest:

Cristina Nehring joins us from Paris, France. A critic and essayist, she has written for numerous publications, among them Harper’s, The Atlantic, The New York Times Book Review, and The Los Angeles Times. Her new book is “A Vindication of Love: Reclaiming Romance for the Twenty-First Century.”

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  • Angela

    Romantic love is now seen as a frivolity, a ‘weakness’, when it should be the foundation by which we are measured. How can an individual expect to have any sort of meaningful relationship if they cannot even communicate this, the most basic and essential of our needs?

  • Andrew Garrett

    How can she say that the modern world needs to reclaim love when it seems that every novel, sitcom, movie, or talk show embraces the myth of a “soul mate” that everyone must have? Virtually everyone in the U. S. marries for love yet 50 percent of marriages fail. We should marry someone who has similar values, plans, is smart with money, and whom get along with. Love will fade – choose wisely.

    Andrew Garrett

  • Todd marcus

    Isn’t this more a critism of the further push from the united states society to keep women and girls “appologizing” and “asking for permission” for anything to do with empowerment and sexuality, including romantic love?

  • George N

    I am very glad that they are discussing this particular subject. Also i cant go to an extennt as to where it is derived from but woman these days especially in America are so defensive it is hard to show any feeling for them because it would display weakness on a mans part.There is no answer to this subject.Its way to far past the return point most woman have lost there principles and remolded themselves into heartless money grubbing demons,because this is what society suggests is the way to be a success. Its like a epidemic and gets worse in time. I myself have been subjected to this particular woman who is so self centered that they will sell them self to the highest bidder no love involved just to get to a social status that she may desire.I dont believe there is any way back egos are on a pedistool and its a shame that these irreversable demeanors of modern day people is sad and evident and leadsw up to a bigger issue of morals and values.

  • Michael

    My wife is a feminist and a very strong, smart young woman that has never been afraid to be in love and to tell people that she is in love. The women that you speak of in the hookup situations and of these other women that cannot speak of love are trying to adopt a macho version of feminism that mirrors the men in their same situations, ie powerful stockbrokers, bankers, professionals, etc that have played that role of sex without love for years. All of these people are missing out on what love is an dhow it completes your life. In closing, my wife and I are hopelessly romantic and are both intellectual professionals.

  • Ronald

    What role does the male play in the lack of romance? I am a recent college graduate and I find that there is no concept of romance whatsoever among men. It is not to say that a man has to possess an effeminate ability that is contrary to their masculinity. Rather, we have a culture that promotes a instant gratification especially when it comes to sharing with another. IE: it’s all about hooking up and no fidelity or romance.

    Also, I think a good reference to this Female Chauvinist Pigs, a book by Ariel Levy.

  • http://Google lucille magnus

    Oh good god!! I’m sorry. This (she) sounds ludicrous. The lady who said she bought the backlash is correct. I am way older than she, have a Masters in English, have read a good deal about Wolstoncroft, Eliot etc. She found what would fit her “thesis.”

    And again, to talk about religion, when most of the religions of the world base their structure on the subjugation/oppression of women is not smart. Passion isn’t dead; romance isn’t dead. Read Stephanie Meyer.

    I wish these folks (women or men) wouldn’t even think that to be a feminist is not to have a broken heart at times. Feminism has ALWAYS been about the integrity of women in this world. Courtly love was a joke. Feminism is based on the outlandish notion that women are people.

    “daring to love.” Where did this woman come from? I guess everyone has to write a book these days. Lucille Magnus

  • Daniel

    I think it’s unfair to blame intellectualism or feminism in the downfall of love. Isn’t it more likely a symptom of an increasingly isolated culture? Human interaction has diminished significantly over the past 50 years. Perhaps we just don’t know how to open up to one another.

  • Barbara Benagh

    Ms. Nehring is difficult to listen to. Her comments are filled with self promotion – all the books she read, all the things she’s done, etc. etc. The end result comes across as someone who is incredibly insecure and defensive. Cristina is trying to convince us that a cultural shift has left smart women embarassed by love. Hogwash. I am a smart woman in my late 50s and have many much smarter female friends who love romance and have found it.

    Honestly, I think that the group she describes as anti- romance consists largely of young women who are insecure about pretty much everything, including love. This is nothing new and probably existed in days of yore. Most of us grow out of it.

  • Cecile Serazo

    I agree, I find men and women have given away any discussion of romantic love to be “real” and discussions about sex are the only legitimate discourse. In my own life I have seen eyes roll when I have introduced the theme of romance in a discussion about a book. Conversely, sex is the intellectual topic. I have been married 19 years and still enjoy romance in my marriage.

  • cme

    An irritation about this interview: I hope this women writes better than she speaks…the stuttered, hesitating, frequent “ums” and continental speech patterns/affects are not conducive to an objective or definitive point about her thesis, which is still elusive…Unfortunately, there is something Anne Counlter-ish about her…I’m trying to give her time to be credible about this, but so far she just sounds like she’s making it up a sentence at a time…

  • Penny Powell

    So, what would your proposal for romantic love look like, very specifically?

  • Montreal

    Feminism is only partly to blame for the lack of ‘romantic love’ in today’s society. The main culprit is the rampant individualism and “me first” attitude that now guides our relationships with others. We have all just become consumers of love (or sex, since the two seem to have become interchangeable).

  • Ellen Dibble

    Love as vulnerability — I agree with the caller who works in a correctional institution. One can look back at it as a phase. A pre-integrated phase of life.
    I think cultures that do planned marriages try to shuffle women from one familial matrix to another without that dangerous interlude. Then when a marriage fails a woman, what an opening for novelists and art.
    When a planned marriage fails, that is when the spiritual link hasn’t taken root.
    Sometimes in this culture women are protected, welcomed back to their parents home after college, safe emotionally and financially. So where could that need for risk come in? Life is too safe, too sheltered, maybe. If people want each other for sex, they arrange that. It is when there are huge risks involved in approaching another that the heroic love comes in.

  • peter

    The mere fact that she wrote this book shows she knows that the idea of romantic love is alive and well, more so than it has ever been at any point in history. We are a love obsessed culture. People buy books about love, especially about passionate defenses of it against imaginary enemies.

  • Terry Brady

    This is not one of your best programs. Your guest is living in a theoretical and not a real world, apparently. Anyone who has a heart (career women included, feminists included, stay at home moms included, widows, divorcees — anyone) who is willing to open her heart is capable of passion and true love. Your guest is self-promoting and her affectations are annoying, sorry to say. Passion, romance, falling deeply in love — these are alive and well in the 21st century.

  • John DeCicco

    Hi Christina,

    What seems to be missing is a common agreed-upon definition of love. How do you define love? Is there one definition?

    Thank you,
    John
    Brandon, VT

  • Mari

    “We should marry someone who has similar values, plans, is smart with money, and whom get along with. Love will fade – choose wisely.” -Andrew

    Sounds like a corporate business plan. Also, sounds very materialistic and narcissistic. “Love fades”. For you, perhaps, when your mate’s financial portfolio diminishes in value.

    I despise the bottom-line thinking of so many twenty-first Americans when they only “choose wisely”. No romance at all in that. No imagination or spiritual growth, together- through the development of patience and tolerance- either.

    Just a reminder: carefully planned, wisely wrought businesses fail, too, not just love.

  • http://www.luxeartstudio.com Aimee Marquot

    Cristina- I wish we could sit and talk! I feel like the people calling in have rather missed the point you are trying to make.

    I am an American married to a Frenchman, currently living in the US. We have lived all over the world, and in my experience, misery loves company. I have a fabulous marriage. My husband is my hero. He and I balance each other out beautifully, and he is the first man who encourages my femininity. He WANTS to take care of me and simultaneously encourages any endeavor I desire. I could talk about my beloved husband until the cows come home, but I keep myself in check most of the time because people who do NOT have the joy I do… don’t want to hear it. People envy what we have, so I feel I need to refrain from seeming like I’m “showing off” my happiness. I feel it has little to with feminism and more to do with our “out for myself” culture. I married this man- not worried about what I could get out I the relationship but rather, what can I do? Every day I wake up thinking about how I can bring him softness and love and ease… And by gum- he does the same thing. How can we fail when our focus is on each other rather than ourselves? Thank you!

  • Courtney

    I consider myself a feminist who is unafraid of love. My boyfriend and I based our relationship on the principles of both feminism and romantic love, if the latter can be considered to have principles. When we first started dating two years ago, we made the promise that we would be independent despite the fact that we’re naturally, madly in love. The most important thing to him is that I remain an individual, independent woman. We just graduated from college and are taking some time apart to rebuild our independence so that we can remain in love. I believe you cannot have one without the other. The most longlasting loves will only be accomplished if you are both romantic and independent. It seems a strange combination, but we are making it work.

  • http://onpoint.org stillin

    I have had a passionate love experience for over 25 years. I left the north country with my boyfriend at 18 and lived with him, loved him, married him, had 3 kids with him, but in the very end, I think passion blurred my vision. I have a better life WITHOUT passionate love, now. I have art, animals, my kids, music, literature, food, and god and family, and I DO NOT MISS PASSIONATE LOVE.

  • tony

    i am so glad to get out of the car. this woman has no idea what she’s talking about!

    as person in his mid thirties with younger and older male and female friends of the mainstream and subcultures who run the gamut of corporate jobs to artists, most of the women i know are very smart and strong. the complaint i hear most often is that they cannot find a suitable partner to be romantic with. NONE of them are embarrassed that they are romantic.

    if romanticism is on the decline, i’m not surprised. with a rise in gender equal, gender roles have diminished and are seen in a negative light.

    what i’d like to see is more “old fashion romance” without the connotations of inequity. i still take my fiancee out on dates, buy her flowers, write her love letters, etc. what i want as a human being is to likewise be romanced. i love it was she buy me (a man!) a nice bouquet of flowers or does some “romantic” act that men did traditionally.

  • Deena

    I think romance is fleeting for most of us. I have been married for 19 years. My husband and I were thrilled with each other, initially. In short order we had three children and romance and passion dissipated. Romance happens when a relationship has few encumberances–both tangible and emotional. As relationships become so very complicated as we all age– the kids, the parents, the grandparents– it is the rare long term relationship that maintains the giddy joy of romance.

  • lee

    Where on earth did you come up with this silly woman? I’m in agreement with a previous poster who expressed the hope that she writes better than she speaks. This is a book that I, an avid reader, a graduate of UC Berkeley with a Masters degree will definitely not read.

  • Erin

    At different times in history, intellectualism has been regarded both as a feminizing characteristic in men, and as a masculine characteristic in women.

    I suspect it actually just leads to a more well-rounded personality and an ability to recognize the opposite sex as human beings – which, admittedly, won’t sell as many self-help books.

  • mimi

    Oh please. First of all, Nehring’s conception of feminism is perhaps 20 years out of date.

    Secondly, it is certainly wrong to say that women (how about just people) have ceased to yearn for soul-consuming, risk-taking, courageous love; however, I get the feeling that she is taking her examples from anecdotal evidence and select artistic expressions of romantic love. How can you take a couple of decades of experience (of life and modern culture) and compare it to the very best of the past centuries — our Shakespeare, Sappho, Byron, Dickinson? Of course romance novels (selling like hotcakes in this economic downturn) and “silly love songs” will seem banal and intellectually unworthy. But don’t dismiss these cultural artifacts; they are also evidence that love isn’t dead.

    Finally, I wonder what she has to say about the courage of those in love and seeking gay marriage?

  • CAV

    Wow – worst interview I’ve heard yet on this show. The Interviewee is the most inarticulate, unprepared guests I’ve heard on your show.

    Hey! If I come up with some broad sweeping generalization about the 20th century, and write a book about it can I be on your show too?

    *Disclaimer*
    -I won’t be able to explain any of my theories, reasoning, or implications in such a book if allowed on the show…

  • Violet

    I agree with CAV — a second hour of the health care discussion would have been preferable.

  • Larissa

    I could not agree more with Cristina. I married the love of my life during my junior year of college. I’ll never forget telling my Victorian Lit professor, a staunch feminist (who was also my academic advisor) that I had recently gotten engaged. She was crestfallen and tried to explain to me that marriage was for when your life is already settled, a partnership of reason & shared ideals (and how could I know what my ideals were at 20?). She was married to another English professor (with no children), and I got the impression that to her, marriage was about platonic partnership, combined assets, and like interests, not passionate love. I have to say that nine years later I’m so glad I did not take her advice. I think if I had married just for partnership and shared ideals that I would have gotten bored a long time ago. It is that shared spark, unconditional love and acceptance, faith in God (okay, so there’s the shared ideal), and effort to forgive a multitude of sins that keeps us both going. It doesn’t surprise me that in an age where it’s recommended NOT to marry for love that the divorce rate is as high as it is.

  • Gerald Fnord

    The guest comes across as someone with a fetiche for a particular sort of male/female role-play…fine in and of itself, but it’s obnoxious to claim that people who don’t share it can’t love.

    For that matter, I think love itself is worshipped too much. Love is grand, but it does not conquer all. It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me, but if I acted like a jerk or worse, or if my wife (as if that were possible) were to act such-like, our love would _not_ make it all right. The shelters are full of women who must be disuaded from coming back to their abusive men; ‘But he _loves_ me!,’ many of them shout. It’s traditional to say, ‘That’s not love,’ but I think it’s more accurate to say, ‘That’s probably true, but he _hits_ you, too.’

  • Kathleen

    My heart longs for worthwhile guidance about romance, so I gave up an hour of my day to listen attentively. I’m so disappointed. I already feel the giddy lift. What is a good resource to take me to another level? I’m a 60 year old intellectual feminist who loves feeling in love.

  • Ward

    Jane,
    First of all, you handled this interview very well. You did not try to dominate the your guest or control the program so everyone thought how brilliant you were. Good for you. Others are not so mature.

    Cristina,
    Your were very nervous and it showed. The more you do programs the easier it gets. Judged by the on-air questions and posted comments, neither your host or most of the listeners understood your premise, or its implications. The ego driven, rational, me first, media, fear and sex driven culture is not only clueless to the world of the heart and spirit, and too afraid and embarrassed to admit to themselves let alone anyone else. Keep it up and continue writing. The world needs more dreamers and lovers. The great artists, musicians, writers were holding candles in a dark world, and usually had so suffer as their light made others, whose hearts damaged or closed, too uncomfortable to bare a message of hope. Sufis, saints, artists, lovers, dreamers, and visionaries have a hard time in this world, and what a dark place this would be without them.

  • may

    I was quoted in this piece, I am the young lady from the NPR show “Sex Without Intimacy: No Dating, No Relationships.” In truth, I disagree with the assertion that romantic love is at risk – I think it has just changed shape to keep up with changing technologies and social geographies. I have published my further thoughts on dating/relationships and intimacy in current times, here: http://www.takethehandle.com/interactive/?p=8777

    Please take a look.

  • Mark S.

    I agree with Stillin. So-called “passionate love” is essentially a chemical imbalance in the brain, a giddy but ultimately oppressive state that is unreal and unsustainable. The endorphin bath that drives such states, and always has, as well as the desire of so many individuals to return to and somehow perpetually remain in that state, is essentially an addiction that keeps cheap motels and divorce lawyers in business. As Stillin says, there are so many more things in this universe to remain passionate about that an obsession with this nonsense seems limiting.

  • Joe Kesselman

    All I can say is, if you’re not finding romantic love, you’re either looking in the wrong places or defining it incorrectly.

    I also have to point out that, like it or not, being “in love” is a very different thing from loving, romantic or otherwise. “In love” may be more intense, but is also far more self-centered (it’s defined entirely by how you feel, after all) and is inherently transient unless you both put a lot of deliberate effort into it.

  • Joe Kesselman

    I also think Tony’s got a good point. If you aren’t getting what you want, try giving it and see if your partner gets the clue. Or — gasp! — talk to them about it.

    That’s part of the “deliberate effort” I mentioned.

  • Holly

    Thank you for this discussion. There is something to this–I’m very interested to read further. I’m a woman in my 30′s, fiercely independent, a poet, a feminist . . . I see now that perhaps some of what I am finding in relationships could be understood in the context that the author has detailed. I’ve had some wonderful, romantic encounters in my very colorful love life but I also feel there is much missing in the modern love I’ve come to know (and indeed look for . . . ) There seems to be a dark side to the autonomy and independence that I’ve cultivated. This discussion is insightful. Thank you for bringing it to your audience.

  • http://www.helenepstein.com helen epstein

    Cristina writes far better than she does talk shows — a good thing for an author. I’ve just read the first chapter of her book and liked her clarity, her range and the way she pulls ideas together. Every generation of men and women writers are reacting to what came before and carving out new territory. Take a look at her book before you write her off!

    Helen Epstein

  • Wayne Young

    Aloha

    It’s far to easy to change partners in this fast paced materialistic society . Look how many people in this county get divorced and mostly for reason of money .

  • Carol

    Too bad the guest was inarticulate, unprepared, and ignorant. The topic is fascinating. I can excuse the guest’s nervousness, but not her lack of preparation. I don’t think she answered even one question directly. Perhaps she should have just read from her book. It must have been a painful experience to interview her.

  • BAS

    This program was hard to listen to. Ms Nehring took a long time to say not so much, not too well. Hmm…not the best choice of guest for a radio interview/ discussion. Strange really, I would have thought the topic would generate some expansive expression of some internal qualities and reveal insight. Instead a halting, defensive conversation, I am relieved is over.

    No fault of Jane; she held her own – but how was this person selected for this program?

  • Ed Helmrich

    It seems to me that love is something that doesn’t contradict reason, but which stands outside of reason. So, we seem embarrassed to love because today the ideal is to be live according to reason, and so it’s viewed as childish. Part of human life, though, is outside reason. People of earlier times were able to keep these areas of human life separate and work in them both.
    “To find love, to make love, to be love.” St. Therese of Liseux.

  • http://www.modernreverie.wordpress.com Kate

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! This program aroused me from an evening nap in its rebroadcast and I was so disappointed I could not call in. I could not agree more with Ms. Nehring, down to the bit about the film, “He’s Just Not That Into You.” I saw the movie for the first time last week (at the entreaty of a dear friend) and I could not have been more repulsed. Significant to me was the the notion that men deal with romantic love “rationally,” acting always in direct logical proportion with their feelings and emotions, and that if women could just learn to do the same, they would be much happier. Oddly enough, I have been talking about the underlying misogynistic tones for days and find the entire story line insulting, not to mention, boring.

    The vitriol of self-proclaimed feminists against this work is astounding. I am a feminist, but also attuned to the idea that the movement creates a kind of compartmentalization, I believe for women especially, as Ms. Nehring mentioned in her literary examples such as Wollstonecraft, as well as Simone de Beauvoir. I wonder too, her perspective, on an intellectual like Lou Solome, who aroused passionate love for the sake of intellectual inquiry.

    A finer point: I wonder if this is a tension that afflicts women of certain artistic/creative/and professional ambition more starkly. I am 28, a freelance writer, a law school graduate, and about to enter a Ph.D. program in literature. My own insight may be related to the feeling (or, dare I say, embarrassment) of feeling torn between passion and love (as it is often tied to family) and my creative and intellectual aspirations.

    But alas, this is not about my pain… though I could go on and on (for a personal reference… ask my therapist). How comforting it was to wake up and know that, before I fell asleep, I didn’t do the wrong thing when I sent a last-ditch-text to the man I am kind of, sort of, passionately falling for (even though he didn’t call me first).

    Ms. Nehring: excited for your scholarship, thank you, I just ordered your book online.

  • Dean Buckingham

    I’m a male with many female platonic friends some of whom engage in what I see as misguided and poor judgements as to who they date and even marry. My friends’ relationships have boggled me since I see myself as a feminist and believe that all women have every capability and most of the same weaknesses as men. I have always thought throughtout my life that feminist thought can bring about a more realistic and rational check against these poor relationship matches. I strongly question Ms. Nehring’s solution or stated problem. In-fact I have seen too many dominating or totally irresponsible men date and harm my friends’ lives while they take it and not realize what’s happening.

  • KC

    Oh! What a dreadful and disappointing guest! And such a delicious and interesting topic, too. Thank goodness Jane turned to the callers for help. How about some more careful guest vetting?

  • James A. Fergus

    Oh good grief. This is some of the most ridiculous clap-trap I’ve heard on the radio.

    Seems to me that Nehring is either incredibly naive or lives entirely within the confines of a bourgeois bubble. She has fallen for the great Victorian myth of romantic “heroic” love and is surprised that it does not exist now.

    Heroic love has, I would wager, only ever existed on a very limited basis. I’m sure Acchiles had passionate love Nehring mourns, but he was a hero. The vast majority of people struggling to put bread on the table have not and do not have the luxury of making the kinds of wild romantic gestures she claims they did or should. The vast majority of people experience a much more prosaic, yet equally valid type of love.

  • Mark S.

    What James said … with one caveat. Achilles may indeed have manifested such heroic love, but he was a fictional character, like Spiderman or Indiana Jones. Hence, the author’s utilization of said character is about as relevant to the real world as the Harlequin Romances and episodes of “The Bachelorette” that I assume occupy blocks of her time. Pardon me if I watch Star Trek instead.

  • http://www.aguystudio.com A. Guy

    I am impressed with the sheer scope of the vapidity of this topic and with the grossly inarticulate manner in which any attempted intellectual point was given.

    Oh, I take that back…there really is no point to this person’s “thesus,” intellectual or otherwise.

    Actually, I must correct myself again… Ms. Nehring’s inarticulateness was boldly apparent whether she was fumbling for some sort of point or not.

    Rather than a well presented topic with value, I would characterize this stammering series of inarticulate kvetchings as a world class case of cluelessness, combined with uninteresting navel gazing of the sort mostly found scrawled about in horrid, unoriginal papers written by immature sophomore college girls.

    This interview in no way enriched my life, added to my store of knowledge or touched me in an emotional way…and though I am a male, I am an artist and so am stereotypically emotional, passionate and full of love. Therefore, for me to walk away from this wasted hour with all the warmth of a cold fish is unusual.

    On Point is a fine show. How it stooped so low as to entertain this person on-air is beyond me. But then, I suppose it is often easy to be fooled by professional publicists.

    Let us hope Ms. Nehring and her publicist make their proverbial dime swiftly, so as to allow them both to disappear from the public forum, leaving air for those who can properly contribute to our collective public discourses.

  • Ed

    Found the author a little muddled. Are people not up to passionate, romantic love now? Some are some aren’t. This is one of those cases where literature is going to lead you astray. Achilles wasn’t a real person. No one ever slayed a dragon for love. We live in a real world, no one is going to measure up to the characters in books.

  • Putney Swope

    A. Guy, I tried to listen as well but turned it off. This was mental masturbation at it’s worse. Shameless marketing, not unlike the show the other day on students going abroad, at least the author was articulate. She also joined the forum to respond to peoples comments, which I found pretty refreshing even though I was very into the show.

  • moni

    What a bizarre interview . . . Ms. Nehring adamently contended in her self-styled “continental-valley- girl- lingo” that her book is intended for men as well as for women. Her “l’espoire extraordinaire” is that both sexes “invest” in love. She spoke of this essential “investment” in romantic love, several times. For me it was disconcerting and disingenuous to hear this “capitalistic” notion used in relation to romantic love. She NEVER spoke of “commitment” in reference to her “grand vision de l’amour “.

  • Barney

    It is so hard to read these comments and not feel smug. Those of us who have found romantic love know exactly what Ms. Nehring is saying. I met my wife 26 years ago, married her 22 years ago. My only regret is wasting four years; why did it take me so long to recognize happiness?
    And then I read the snarky, bitter comments of those who dissect Ms. Nehring’s speech patterns or the intellectual rigor of her argument. They remind me of those who reject God because God’s existence can’t be proven, when we are swimming in the evidence.
    In either case, it’s a waste of time and words to argue about it. If you don’t grasp her concept at one glance, you never will.

  • Putney Swope

    which I found pretty refreshing even though I was very into the show. Should read: which I found pretty refreshing even though I was not very into the show.

    Fools fall in love and so do some species of parrots.

  • Helene

    Alice, the woman who called at the end and grew up during the Depression, had a very interesting point—that her generation was fed too MANY romantic ideas about love. What Nehring ignores is that concepts of love are socially constructed through the very types of literature and other forms of culture that she describes in her book (including the kinds of films she doesn’t like, such as He’s Just Not That Into You). That’s not to say love isn’t real—of course it is. But our ideas of romance and love are often shaped for us by culture. So, to argue that romance is disappearing might merely be to observe that we are less swayed by these cultural forces than we once were and that we have different ideas of what love is supposed to be. I think several callers who stood up for their own definitions and experiences of love pointed this idea out nicely, and Nehring would do well to think about this idea rather than re-iterating her own version of an over-romanticized conception of romance. Cultural constructs—in film, literature, etc.—are inspiring, to be sure, but they can also create some unrealistic images of what our own true love is supposed to be like (again, here I go back to Alice and her interesting observation that perhaps she did not recognize true love when it first came to her because she’d been fed too many overly romantic notions of what love should be).
    The anti-feminist tone of Nehring’s comments is distressing and seems predicated on the usual misunderstandings of what feminism is.
    I’d like to hear more about how Nehring defines romance and where she gets her evidence that love has become discredited and an embarrassing topic in today’s society…will have to read the book for that, I guess.

  • Doris Aschke

    Thank you, Cristina, for a book, that, I believe,
    was necessary to be written. It’s not only an
    inspiration. It certainly is not a call for
    imitation. But it is a call for action: Let not
    fear of failure limit your love. Break out of
    limits. Love is limitless. That’s how I
    understand your book: It opens up a dimension
    that is, it seems to me, on the brink of getting
    lost: the dimension of the uncanny unity of love
    and death. Whenever, wherever, the power of this
    union intrudes into our lives, we are touched by
    – if not pulled into – a reality that transcends
    our quotidian reality by the glory of its
    radiance, the promise of unspeakable fulfillment:
    a threat to our safe and sound, down-to-earth
    existence. Are we going to fly into the light
    that may burn us? Do we want to resist? CAN we
    resist? Should we? Could we bear the light? What
    would happen if we gave up the safe ground under our feet?
    These questions are, maybe, unanswerable. You,
    Cristina, attack them – and they more than
    deserve to be attacked, now and then, to remind
    us of the pitfalls as well as of the unearthly
    dimensions of our earthly lives. In a world of
    seemingly limitless limits, barriers intended to
    shut out the unanswerable, they push the limits,
    they let us hear Hamlet’s voice “There are more
    things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are
    dreamt of in your philosophy.” Thank you,
    Cristina, for letting me hear Hamlet’s voice again.
    Doris

  • Maureen

    I agree with Ms. Nehring that our culture is more comfortable talking about sex than love, and has sometimes disparagingly separated the former from the latter.

    But I fail to see how this is a women’s issue over a human issue. And implicating feminism strikes me as a particularly dastardly and simplistic read of modern history.

    But moreover I fail to see how Ms. Nehring’s ideal is very different from the system she critiques. A wild, unrestricted, spontaneous, and irrational “romance” sounds an awful lot like the wild, unrestricted, spontaneous, and irrational sex we’re usually sold.

    What I see lacking in all this is a value for love that is long-suffering, patient, and sacrificial. I also feel we tend to under-value friendship and other relationships that are not romantic in nature, assuming they cannot develop the same depth or complexity (in fact, modern films invariably show the best friend as a mere ally in the search for that one true, all-encompassing, romantic relationship.)

    At any rate, the book may well be more expansive, but what came across in this interview is a hardly radical image of narcissistic love–with perhaps a bit more historical reference and poetry than most magazine covers.

  • O. Jin

    i sat through the entire interview while driving on the road because the topic intrigued me. however, the let down came just minutes into cristina nehring’s response that i realized she simply wasn’t on the ball. it was painful to listen to cristina speak. her responses sounded labored and even contrived. i was glad they took her off the air and kicked in the fund raiser.

  • Ann-Marie

    Wow, what a painful hour-my ears are bleeding! I still have no idea what Ms. Nehring was trying to sell. Jane Clayson should get a metal of honor for surviving an interview with a clueless 14-year old valley girl pretending to be an educated adult woman.

    Did someone else write this book for Ms. Nehring? Perhaps, she should just spend her next interview reading the book out loud.

    I have yet to meet ANYONE in my life (man or woman) who is “embarrassed” by being in love or wanting to be in love. If anything, it’s the reverse. Our modern society values love MUCH more than ever to the point where those who are not in love, or in love with being in love are viewed as abnormal or strange!

    Thanks for being such a good sport Ms. Clayson, you saved Tom from an awful interview.

  • Maureen

    I’m glad it’s not too late to post on this show (though I doubt anyone will now read this), but I think relevant to note Ms.Nehring’s reaction to the Mark Sanford scandal.

    In a column for The New Republic, she wrote, “Give it a rest. The man didn’t commit murder here. He’s in love. Anarchic, hurtful, but seemingly true love. … For all the fall-out of real passion–and there is always fall-out–it is better to have loved and erred than never to have loved at all.”

    Seeing her philosophy applied confirms her idea of romance is indeed as narcissistic as I first suspected, to the point of declaring Mark Sanford, a man who appears to me frightening narcissistic, a mere romantic.

    There is a reason calling a person “in love with love” is never offered as a compliment. It usually reveals a person is truly in love with themselves.

  • http://battlepanda.blogspot.com/ Battlepanda

    Hmm…companionate marriage Cristina Nehring must consider so passionless and lacking in abandon: The Obamas.

    True Love: Mark Sanford and friend.

    Hmm…what to choose…

    Maureen,
    Thank you so much for you comment. Ross Douthat had a great snarky take on Nehring and Sandra Tsing Loh, who wrote a column in a similar vein. “The dutiful, somewhat-boring husbands from Sandra Tsing Loh’s Los Angeles, for instance, sound like ideal soulmates for Kate Gosselin, the soon-to-be-single mother of eight.

    And as for Cristina Nehring, who can’t live without being “derailed by love, hospitalized by love, flung around five continents, shaken, overjoyed, inspired and unsettled by love” — well, maybe someone should introduce her to Mark Sanford.”

    I love it when life imitates snark.

    Also, thank you for other on-point listeners who commented on this…I’m glad so many of you shared my baffled reaction to Nehring and it made up for the fact that I had to sit and listen to her for a whole show…almost.

  • Justin

    I would encourage those who found Ms. Nehring to be inarticulate, unprepared, or even vapid to set aside ten minutes during their next trip to the bookstore; use it to peruse the introduction to and first chapter of her book. You will find it to be well researched, rigorous, passionate, and imminently readable.

    I consider myself lucky for having read it before listening to this admittedly dreadful interview.

  • Meg

    @Andrew,

    What is a “failed” marriage? Unless the definition is “marriage that ends in divorce and not in death”, then that seems like a difficult thing get hard numbers on. If that *is* the definition you’re using, then IMO it’s an old-fashioned and oversimplified one. Let’s say two people get marry for love. They spend several years enjoying each other’s company, helping each other to grow as people, and supporting each other during rough times. They fall out of love, or more worldly concerns, such as money, cause problems they don’t know how to work through. In the end, they part on relatively good terms, and both are better, happier people for the years they spent together. Let’s say another couple marry because, according to some rational measure, they decide they would be a good match, though they don’t really love each other. They try to be dutiful spouses, but over time, their situations change, and they’re no longer a good match — rationally or emotionally. They each feel like they’ve been deceived and trapped; they resent their partners. But they believe that the only failure of a marriage is one that ends in divorce, so they remain together, but become miserable and bitter, sharing no romantic affection (except maybe extramaritally). Which one is a success, and which is a failure? Statistically, it may look like marriage is failing as an institution, but it seems to me that marriage is just changing. The ideal is no longer to live together until you die; it’s to have a healthy relationship for as long as it may last.

  • Meg

    By the way, blaming feminism for the ‘death of love’ is just ridiculous. Without feminism, many would be denied love, since women would be forced to marry for money just to keep food in their bellies. Because women can work and support themselves, they’re free to date whomever they please. Now, almost everyone says they want love, but like every other good thing in life, only some are willing to put in the effort required to obtain and maintain it. That’s got nothing to do with feminism, and everything to do with the human condition and the fact that our time on this earth is finite. I don’t think the guest even understands what feminism is, actually, judging from the way she represents it during the show.

  • Maureen

    Justin,

    I’ll try it; I’ll try it.

    But I do warn, Ms. Nehring would need to have written the next manifesto for me to have respect for her after her Passionate Defense of Mark Sanford.

    Incidentally, Mr. Sanford is now explaining to anyone who will listen (and maybe to inanimate objects, too; I don’t know) that he needs to stay in office to improve his character. Alas, I don’t think that is what the people of South Carolina elected him to do.

  • http://frenchmoi.com/ micaela haley

    Firstly, this interviewer was awful. Poor Nehrig. Look, it is obvious at every turn that narcissism and hooking up has become part of our culture. Read “The Narcissism Epidemic.” It actually has a study regarding that to love is uncool these days. I agree. People are scared and are in hiding. Everything is so controlled that to throw oneself into a messy, old fashioned kind of love affair is rare these days. Luckily, I don’t have that issue but I know people who are living these walking on eggshells type of lives & it’s depressing to watch because even in a relationship they are still alone and unable to connect on a visceral level. Also, what I notice is an ever growing wall between men and women. Guys are clinging to their guy friends more than ever these days. Bromance movies are doing quite well. Where are the passionate romances of old hollywood up on screen? They are few and far, very far between…
    http://www.frenchmoi.com

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