Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Book Review: Modern Romance, by Aziz Ansari

You didn't marry each other because you were madly in love; you married because you could make a family together. While some people said they were getting married for love, the pressure to get married and start a family was such that not every match could be a love match, so instead we had the "good enough marriage."

Waiting for true love was a luxury that many, especially women, could not afford. In the early 1960s, a full 76 percent of women admitted that they would be willing to marry someone they didn't love. However, only 35 percent of men said they would od the same.

If you were a woman, you had far less time to find a man. True love? This guy has a job and a decent mustache. Lock it down, girl.

Not one but two friends recently mentioned/recommended this book to me - one said he wants to read it, and the other said it was an interesting read. I checked the book out via e-book from my local library, but then knew I had to step up my reading "game" once I got an email from the library saying the e-book was due within three days (and I had not started it yet). I whipped through Modern Romance in a little less than 24 hours, and it was a great read.

Official synopsis:
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 Andrew Cherlin, 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.

Modern Romance, Ansari combines his irreverent humor with cutting-edge social science to give us an unforgettable tour of our new romantic world.

I like Aziz Ansari in the movies I've seen him in, and his recent Netflix series Master of None was great too. I'm also newly single, and I had previously done online dating, so I was curious to read this book.

The reason this book is so great is that although while some of it is cut and dry - statistics about online dating, different cultures, etc. - Ansari infuses his sense of humor through the book as well (I was reading the book to myself in his voice, too, which also made it funnier to me).

If you've seen Master of None, some of that carries through here - in that show, there was a scene where Ansari's character and his friends wanted to get the best taco possible, I believe it was, so they looked on Yelp, Facebook, and more review sites to find the absolute best. Once they got there, however, it was closed. Ansari recounts this happening in real life (undoubtedly the inspiration for the scene in Master of None) and how when he got to the Italian restaurant that he had so carefully and painstakingly selected, they were closed for dinner and only open for lunch. 

Some of the things revealed in this book I already knew, just by intuition - i.e., your first message to a stranger on an online dating site shouldn't be a novella, but rather a cute message, with maybe a few sentences, catered to that person's profile (and not something generic like "What's up?"). One thing that did surprise me was that in a test study, women who didn't hear back from some men they had messaged were attracted more to them than to some of the men who did write back; I guess it's the "uncertainty" of it that messes with our heads, and causes certain chemicals (the ones for attraction) to be released.

Ansari also traveled to Japan, France, and Spain, to talk to young and older adults there, and those findings were also interesting, although I do wish he had focused a little more on the U.S. dating culture like he does at the beginning of the book. 

Make sure to read the footnotes, too - they're a little harder to find in the Kindle edition but are well worth the read.

4.5 stars out of 5.
{Click here to purchase} 


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