Book Report: ‘Modern Romance’ by Aziz Ansari

A hilarious, thoughtful, and in-depth exploration of the pleasures and perils of modern romance from one of this generation’s most popular and sharpest comedic voices

At some point, every one of us embarks on a journey to find love. We meet people, date, get into and out of relationships, all with the hope of finding someone with whom we share a deep connection. This seems standard now, but it’s wildly different from what people did even just decades ago. Single people today have more romantic options than at any point in human history. With technology, our abilities to connect with and sort through these options are staggering. So why are so many people frustrated?

Some of our problems are unique to our time. “Why did this guy just text me an emoji of a pizza?” “Should I go out with this girl even though she listed Combos as one of her favorite snack foods? Combos?!” “My girlfriend just got a message from some dude named Nathan. Who’s Nathan? Did he just send her a photo of his penis? Should I check just to be sure?”

But the transformation of our romantic lives can’t be explained by technology alone. In a short period of time, the whole culture of finding love has changed dramatically. A few decades ago, people would find a decent person who lived in their neighborhood. Their families would meet and, after deciding neither party seemed like a murderer, they would get married and soon have a kid, all by the time they were twenty-four. Today, people marry later than ever and spend years of their lives on a quest to find the perfect person, a soul mate.

For years, Aziz Ansari has been aiming his comic insight at modern romance, but for Modern Romance, the book, he decided he needed to take things to another level. He teamed up with NYU sociologist Eric Klinenberg and designed a massive research project, including hundreds of interviews and focus groups conducted everywhere from Tokyo to Buenos Aires to Wichita. They analyzed behavioral data and surveys and created their own online research forum on Reddit, which drew thousands of messages. They enlisted the world’s leading social scientists, including Eli Finkel, Helen Fisher, Sheena Iyengar, Barry Schwartz, Sherry Turkle, and Robb Willer. The result is unlike any social science or humor book we’ve seen before.

Review:

If you’re looking for a check list book on the dos and don’ts’s of dating, ‘Modern Romance’ by Aziz Ansari is not for you. This book goes a deeper than the conventional dating handbook you may find at the self-help section of your local bookstore. Don’t plan on standing at your book store ramming into your brain as many anecdotes as you can while sipping your café mocha. You need to make an investment into your dating life and buy this book.

‘Modern Romance’ by Aziz Ansari explores our deepest fears, why we choose to make the choices we do in the early stages of dating, how we interact with potential partners and the emotional turmoil that unfolds in the early days of getting to know someone. Think school science project experiment gone awry.

‘Modern Romance’ by Aziz Ansari threw me after my first few chapters when I was met with more than gags but the substance to back those gags up. I truly enjoyed reading about guys and girls psyche through the new lens of revolving digital technology.

As an adult who is pretty tech savvy, I sometimes wonder if going old school and talking on the phone is the best way in getting to know someone. Those were the good old days when you could reveal to your potential new mate, your wants, dreams and desires. It took time and it felt great similar to getting a handwritten letter in the post. These days with text messages, Facebook adds Twitter follows and Instagram stalking – I have come to realize that dating is becoming crowded with superfluous judgy data when you are just trying to get to know someone. Enough so, that you can cut them off without really giving them a try. Do I really want to know all of your business after one date?

‘Are we ‘hanging out’ or going out on a date?’

Another thing that really pisses women off is when dudes ask them to ‘hang out’. The lack of clarity over whether the meet-up is even an actual date frustrates both sexes to no end, but once it’s usually the guys insisting, this is a clear area where men can step it up.

‘It’s becoming too common for guys to ask girls to ‘hang out’ rather than directly asking them on a date,’ said one woman. ‘I’m not sure if it’s because guys are afraid of rejection or because they want to seem casual about it, but it can leave one (or both) people unsure about whether or not they’re even on a date.’

When you are forward in this regard, it can really help you stand out from the crowd. A girl from our subreddit recalled meeting a guy at a loud party: ‘After I left he texted me, ‘Hi [name re-dacted], this is [first name, last name], we’re going on a date.’ His confidence, straightforwardness, and refreshingly gentlemanly approach (vs. skirting around ‘let’s hang out some time’) made for an incredible first impression and had a lasting effect.’

You maybe scouring Amazon on a Friday night wondering why he hasn’t texted back after you know he read your text or why she blocked you on Twitter. ‘Modern Romance’ by Aziz Ansari will numb the constant running dialogue that can take you out and provide you with not only permission to try something different but to have a laugh at the comedy of what is ensuing. Think of it this way, in only a matter of time you will be relaying these scenarios to friends in a pub.

‘After the Ask…’

So you’ve fired off a successful text, or maybe you’ve just received one. If you are one of the growing number of people evaluating and making plans with potential romantic partners via text messages, the games are just beginning. Unlike phone calls, which bind two people in real-time conversations that require at least some shared interpretation of the situation, communication by text has no predetermined temporal sequencing and lots of room for ambiguity. Did I just use the phrase ‘predetermined temporal sequencing’? Fuck yeah, I did.

In one of four first focus groups, a young woman, Margaret, told us about a gentleman she’s met at work. He sounded charming and she was definitely interested in him. I asked to see her text exchanges and immediately noticed that his name according to her iPhone, was ‘Greg DON’T TXT TIL THURSDAY.’

So it was clear why these texts were important. These early communications could be the determining factor in whether she would one day become Margaret DON’T TXT TIL THURSDAY and make a family of little DON’T TXT TIL THURSDAYs of their own.

Margaret later explained that the last name she gave this guy was not his name but, in fact an extreme step she was taking to avoid sending this dude a message for a few days, so as not to seem too eager and to ultimately make herself more desirable. The fear of coming off as desperate through texting was a common concern in our focus groups, and almost everyone seemed to have some strategy to avoid this deadly pitfall. There is no official guidebook anywhere on texting yet, but a cultural conscious has slowly formed in regard to texts. Some basic rules:

  • Doesn’t text back right away. You come off like a loser who has nothing going on.
  • If you write to someone, don’t text him again until you hear from them.
  • The amount of text you write should be of a similar length to what the other person has written to you.
  • Carrying this through, if your messages are in blue and the other person’s messages are green, if there is a shit ton more blue than green in your conversation, this person does not give as shit about you.
  • The person who receives the last message in a convo WINS.

‘Modern Romance’ by Aziz Ansari is a perfect summer essential read. Read it before summer’s end!

http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/317123/modern-romance-by-aziz-ansari-with-eric-klinenberg/

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