So, Aziz Ansari wrote, Modern Romance, which I actually read a while ago but recently convinced my book club to read so that I would have people to talk to about it (full disclosure: that did not really happen because as is most often the case book club was just an excuse to hang out with some of my super busy friends and catch up while drinking at someone’s house). So I reread it and decided I’d tell the internet about it instead.
ANYWAYS Aziz Ansari is famous for being a comedian (on Parks and Rec but also in other stuff too, I guess?) so I think a lot of people were expecting this book to be a comedic memoir – which it kind of is when he talks about his dating forays and failures – but mostly it’s a book about the sociology of dating and specifically online dating. He does do significant sections of it as part of his stand-up and I think several of the text message examples he uses in the book are from people who volunteered to come up on stage at some of his comedy events so it’s safe to assume it’s all pretty funny. But there are also studies, graphs, focus groups, and even a co-author (Eric Klinenberg, who has actually written a bunch of other interesting-sounding books too) who is an actual Professor of Sociology (and a bunch of other stuff) at NYU.
It’s a super interesting book. In which I learned that, shockingly, I am not alone in being literally the worst in the world at dating. I am actually part of a pretty large team. Because dating is nebulous and ever-evolving as an idea and because most people in my age range aren’t even sure how seriously they want to take it anyways. This, apparently, is new-ish. In previous generations marriage was how you moved out of your parents house and started being and adult. Now it’s pretty much the last thing most of the people I know want to do. Like the steps are: you want to be settled into a location, employed at a thing you like, financially stable, generally happy with your life, and then find a person who fits into all of that to feel serious feelings about. This is rambly and making my head hurt. It’s/We’re all a mess basically. Let’s just stick with “nebulous.”
One of my favorite things in this book were the various graphs. For example: So I knew that average marriage ages were younger and that people often lived with their parents until they got married. But it never really occurred to me that this meant that people 70 years ago didn’t really consider many options before to deciding who to marry. There are some pretty hilarious quotes in the book from people they interviewed at a retirement home about how they literally proposed to/were proposed to by and then married the first non-off-putting stranger they saw. Which certainly sounds simpler but is definitely not ideal.
So, I guess, in conclusion I’ll leave you with this quote because it seems pretty pertinent:
“We want something that’s very passionate, or boiling, from the get-go. In the past, people weren’t looking for something boiling; they just needed some water. Once they found it and committed to a life together, they did their best to heat things up. Now, if things aren’t boiling, committing to marriage seems premature. But searching for a soul mate takes a long time and requires enormous emotional investment. The problem is that this search for the perfect person can generate a lot of stress. Younger generations face immense pressure to find the “perfect person” that simply didn’t exist in the past when “good enough” was good enough.”
Last thing: This book, I think because it was comparing dating over several generations where the definitions would have been significantly different for each, sort of uses the words dating and marriage like they are interchangeable (not as parts of speech, but as activities) and that wasn’t great but I can understand why it would happen. It occasionally made it sound like dating was what you did after you got married in the past and/or that all dating in modern times was leading inevitably towards marriage otherwise it was unsuccessful. Perhaps feeling strange about that is just a me thing. But, just a heads up, that happens.