When Casanova’s Europe opened at the Museum of Fine Art, Boston, we thought that the best way to explore the exhibition would be through a lens of modern romance. Lucky for us, the “Millennial Love Expert” herself happens to be Boston-based IVY member Samantha Burns. We caught up with Samantha after she toured the exhibition to get her initial thoughts as she prepares for our tour of the exhibition together.

What did you think of the exhibition?

I liked it. The exhibition really gives you the feeling that many of the same constraints we have around love, romance, and human nature have been part of our DNA for hundreds of years. It’s really interesting to see parts of ourselves mirrored back to us from art that is hundreds of years old. Three main things that popped out at me – one was the idea of seduction as a game, which leads to the second, catfishing, and finally the idea of the masquerade space as an outlet for romance.

Great! Let’s unpack that. Start with seduction…

The exhibition touched on how love and seduction was sometimes seen as a game – the thrill of the chase. We see this today with online dating apps, swiping left and right, where the interface is built like a game. We experience a similar endorphin release. Whether it’s letters of seduction or browsing online dating profiles, treating love like a game ultimately is a defense mechanism to avoid being vulnerable.  The gamification of online dating has led to a lot of ego boosting and sexting, with no real intent to get offline, which can be frustrating to those taking in seriously, hoping to make a true connection.

Many of the pitfalls are the same as well; seduction in the 18th century and online dating both involve a little (or sometimes a lot) of lying and warping of one’s image and identity.

Masquerading is like modern day catfishing!

It’s not a new phenomenon! The exhibition details encounters where seduction involved a lot of identity deception, hiding behind masks, where you could pretend to be anyone you desired to be. There is even a portrait at the end of the exhibition that includes a foreground image of a cat fishing! The only difference is that in the 21st century we have so many more ways to do it. Behind the screen of a phone, you never can be exactly sure who the other person is that you are talking to – we have apps that can change how we look, how we sound, we can steal pictures and create fake profiles – without much accountability to represent ourselves accurately.

At some point though, regardless of the century, don’t you have to meet in person? 

Both in the 18th century and today we have spaces to do that. Back then it was a masquerade ball, where people of different social classes came together to mix and mingle, often in disguise. One of the perks of online dating today is that it enables you to meet so many people with whom your paths may have never crossed. Your options are endless, although eventually you need to take off the mask and show up authentically if you want a relationship to work.

Samantha Burns is a Boston-based IVY member and author of the new book Breaking Up & Bouncing Back: Moving on to Create the Love Life You Deserve, now available on AmazonBarnes & Noble or Indie Bound. The book teaches you how to survive a big breakup and learn from your patterns in love to become a smarter, more intentional dater so that you can meet your ideal match.