Researching Jenna, Discovering Myself | With Hasan Minhaj

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(Brian Rea for the New York Times)
(Brian Rea for the New York Times)

Sometimes, when you go through a bad breakup, the only thing you want is answers. Why didn’t things work out? When did it go from good to bad? What went wrong?

Well, Brian Goedde took an unusual approach to getting those answers. He writes about the experience in his essay, “Researching Jenna, Discovering Myself.”

It’s read by Hasan Minhaj. Hasan’s Netflix show is “Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj,” and it’s releasing new episodes now.

Where Are They Now?

Brian Goedde’s essay was published fifteen years ago, in 2005. He says he reached out to Jenna before the essay was published.

"That’s the last contact that I’ve had with her in more than fifteen years," Brian says. "But I hope she’s doing well. If I do run into her, I hope we can have a good conversation. I know very little about her life [now], but I’ve certainly had a lot happen in my life, and I hope we can catch up on amicable terms."

Just a few weeks before his Modern Love essay was published, Brian met Emily, the woman he eventually married.

"We have three kids ... and a very happy, busy family life," he says. "But back then, we were newly dating. I told her that ... this piece was going to come out in the Times, [and] we celebrated."

"It was a very happy memory, but all the while [I was] thinking, it's maybe a little awkward that she’s starting to date this guy who’s been through this breakup and is now writing about it in the newspaper. But it didn’t stop her."

These days, during the COVID-19 outbreak, Emily, Brian, and their kids have been doing movie nights, playing basketball together, and balancing homeschooling and working from home. And Brian says that in some ways, it’s been a good experience.

"There’s been a lot of stress with the quarantine situation, but one of the great things has been how much time we spend with each other," he says. "As the kids get older ... they spend a lot of time with activities.  That’s fantastic, but we’re in this capsule now with each other, and at the end of all this I think we can look back at this time as being a special one."

And Brian says that, unconventional as it may be, he does recommend conducting interviews after a breakup.

"It worked for me in a lot of ways,"he says. "It definitely was kind of goofy and awkward to put people on the spot, and it also made me feel bad and awkward. People would say things I didn’t want to hear. But that’s good in the long run too."

"I guess I would recommend it. It helps to get the insights from others, so you may be better able to read the writing on the wall."

Headshot of Caitlin O'Keefe

Caitlin O'Keefe Producer, Podcasts & New Programs
Caitlin O'Keefe was a producer of podcasts and new programming at WBUR.



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