Modern Romance(Book Review)

Originally posted 2016-04-02 17:00:14.

Title: Modern Romance
Written By: Aziz Ansari
Rating: PG-13
Grade: B

If you’ve dated in the age of the smart-phone, you have an idea of the struggles that come with it; the feeling of dread when your fling doesn’t immediately text you back, the stress of carving out the perfect opening line, or that gross feeling you get when you’re swiping so fast you wonder what happened to your humanity. I’ve been there.

Modern Romance dips its toes into the icy water of dating in the 21st century, camouflaging Aziz Ansari’s patented humor throughout. Tackling divorce, unreal expectations, international dating, and the phenomenon of ‘Netflix and Chill’, Ansari looks at how the “modern” age of “romance” has brought us equally closer together and farther apart than we’ve ever been…See what I did there?…

Partnering with leading socialist Eric Klineberg, Ansari is aided by hundreds of focus groups, in-depth interviews, popular dating sites, active Reddit participants, and journalists and academics across the world who have devoted their professional careers to studying courtship. Each chapter is devoted to a certain aspect of dating, and how it’s changed; ranging from the reasons for marriage in the first place, to sexting and misogyny, to even constructing the perfect Tinder profile. While Ansari has never used most of these tools for himself due to his celebrity status, he always has a friend, an interviewees’ tale, or a hypothetical story to make the topics more relatable.

“I always figured there was a chance someone who was a stalker type would use it as an opportunity to kidnap and murder me. I’m not sure how the scenario would go. Maybe the stalker(Probably an Indian dude) sees my profile and thinks, Oh, here’s that comedian guy on OKCupid. FINALLY, I have a way to reach out to him and slowly plot his murder. He sends me a message pretending to be a woman. I see the profile. ‘She’ likes tacos and Game of Thrones. I’m very excited.”

The biggest take-away is two-fold. First, that from the outside looking in, things are easier than ever. While it may appear this way(literally hundreds of girls/boys are your fingertips on OkCupid), it doesn’t mean happiness is a click away. The overabundance of both men and women has made us pickier than ever. Choosing not to message someone based on the awesome Star wars T-shirt he’s wearing(that’s me), the fact that she has a ‘basic’ profile(I do that), or her duck face being a little too realistic(I also do that). Culture has led us to believe our online soul mate to be perfect in every way, and that’s just about the most idiotic thing to believe. We’re all flawed, and loving someone’s imperfections is half the battle.

Let me get off my single high-horse for Modern Romance’s second point – Culture and society play a role in dating larger than anyone would think. I know you’re likely thinking, “Of course it does, you dummy.” And you’re right, it’s obvious for our own culture(and I may be a dummy after all). Americans like movies and food, hence dinner and a movie is the most cliché date of all-time. But it’s when you open it up internationally do you really have to take a step back.

A quick swim across the Pacific and you’ll see what I’m referring to. Japan is in the midst of a marriage and birthrate crisis. Japan’s birthrate is ranked 222 out off 224 countries, and according to a 2013 study, 45% of women aged 16 to 24 “were not interested or despised sexual contact”. It’s perfectly understandable to have to reread that stat to comprehend how large of a number that is. Ansari goes into some in-depth socio-economic reasons behind it, but the end result is a separation of sexual interest and companionship. Bars and clubs offer services to just speak with men/women for your dose of companionship, and there are plenty of alternative ways to
satisfy your other urges. You can look those up on your own time.

There are basically two ways to read this book – One, if you were born in the early 80s and actually used your phone as a phone, you’ll think, “Holy crap! Dating is so much different now,” or two, it’ll be a ‘been there, done that’ and you’ll read every line and think, “So true.” Either way you’ll end up thinking, “I”m jealous/grateful for how they/we have/had it.” And the interesting thing is neither answer is right. Things are just..different.




One of my favorite ever opening lines in a book, “Oh shit. Thanks for buying my book. That money is MINE”

Andy Knauff