If you’re like me, the first thing you do every Sunday morning is check the “Modern Love” column in the New York Times—a collection of first person essays about love of all varieties. Usually, I am wrapped up in the storyline, scrolling down the page, sipping my coffee, eager to find out how the saga ends, but every once in a while, I wonder what the other characters in the piece must be feeling as they read it—mothers, daughters, ex-lovers, and friends. Well, that’s what some writers over at Double X were wondering too. So they decided to start a genius column called “Modern Love Revenge” where they provide the subjects of “Modern Love” essays the chance to post their responses, rebuttals, and reflections — basically, to tell the other side of the story. I was especially interested in this response from Joyce Maynard’s daughter, Audrey Bethel.This past July, I was riveted by Joyce Maynard’s “Modern Love” essay called “My Secret Left Me Unable to Help” which chronicled the predicament of a mother who was so worried about her daughter while she was living abroad in the Dominican Republic that she was driven to do something she vowed she never would—snoop. After breaking into her daughter’s email account, she discovered some very unsettling things—things she could not fix. Her daughter was living with a Haitian man, Johnny, who was HIV positive.
So what was Audrey’s take on the essay? Audrey explains that her mom did ask her before publishing the piece. “My mother’s article had put me in a difficult position. I read it over and felt very conflicted,” Audrey writes. “Beyond the basic feeling of the intrusion, I had many objections to the way she presented the story and her lack of understanding about systemic poverty and the deep-seated nature of centuries of colonial domination and positions of privilege … I knew how much she wanted me to tell her to go ahead with the piece, especially since it would be good publicity to coincide with her new book coming out.”
Eventually, she decided to give her mother the go-ahead, even though she was not thrilled about it. Audrey says she kept quiet about the incident—which happened many years ago—not because she was in a dark place, but because she was trying to process the difficult situation. In fact, she barely spoke to anyone about it, especially her mom whom she knew would detect something was wrong immediately. She feels that the whole incident has truly come full circle now that she was able to finally express her point of view. I guess there are always two sides to every story. [Double X]