Aziz Ansari's Modern Romance: Discussion

About a month ago, I pre-ordered Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance on a whim. I take book buying pretty seriously so it’s pretty rare that I’ll buy books “just because” but I think it was due to an overwhelming curiosity to what Ansari might write and find out about the current Gen X/ Y and our dating habits other than the oft repeated “hook-up culture”.

Instead of my usual review, I thought I’d discuss the some of the topics that Ansari explores with one of my friends, Sunny K. She’s a person who’s a lot cooler and a lot funnier than I am. If she ever wrote a book, I’d read it (subtle hint, Sunny).

Modern Romance Aziz Ansari / Graphic: Jessica Yang

Texting

Aziz talks a lot about “bozos” (see Aziz Ansari on Jimmy Fallon) and how a lot of guys send dud texts like “Watsup” or texts that sound awkward. Ansari also spends some time trying to decipher the “waiting” phenomenon, which is pretty complicated. He writes, “All the psychological principles seem to point to waiting being a strategy that works for singles who are trying to build attraction ... When you are texting someone less frequently, you are, in effect, creating a scarcity of you and making yourself more attractive.”

J: Hahaha, I feel like I’ve complained to you at least once about people who can't seem to text back in a timely manner. I get it to a certain extent that people don’t want to seem overly available or attached to their phones but sometimes, it’s just tiring to have to wait 3 hours for a boring, short response when you know they're on their phones during that time. I’m the type of person who’ll see a message or a text and respond to it because if I don’t, I’ll probably forget that it exists. When Ansari says that behavioral psychologists found empirical data that waiting as a strategy works, I was a little disappointed but it all makes sense because you want what you can’t have (also because #psychmajor). Ansari also admits that people who aren’t interested also tend to drop off so essentially you’re stuck in this conundrum of “Is he interested or not? What does this wait mean?" But I think it’s not necessarily an entirely negative thing that we have to change immediately, but a new playing field that we [read: I] have to get used to.

S: I am totally guilty of late-response-syndrome. Sometimes it’s because I see someone’s text and I mentally respond to it but never actually physically respond to it. But on Tinder I purposely wait a bit before replying. It’s kind of like you want to show you’re interested but you don’t want to seem overly interested which is kind of a major turn off for most people. You can kind of see that in the Fallon clip where the worst texts were those that were really long and shared waaaay too much information. I think a good way to judge if someone’s interested or not is judging how long they wait to respond to your texts. If it’s longer than you would wait or it’s gotten to a point where you’re kind of offended by it then take it as a sign he/she’s not interested.

Online Dating & Dating Trends, Statistically

Ansari asserts that online dating (including Tinder) should only be used as an introductory service. Data also finds that less people are meeting their partners in “traditional” ways such as through friends, college, church, family etc and more people are meeting their partners at bars and online.

J: I’m not on any dating platform at all so I don’t have any experience with dating online per se but I think it’s definitely true that people are slightly different in person than they are online. It’s easier to get along with people online since you craft your responses better but at the same time, you’re not seeing getting the entire view. I was catching up with my friend who I email frequently and I learned so much about her in person than I probably did over email.

At this point in my life, most couples that I know were friends or acquaintances before dating. I've met couples who met randomly then struck up a conversation outside of the typical school/work/place of worship/friend setting but it's rare.

S: I have a Tinder profile but I don’t use it seriously. I do know some people who actually go on dates with their Tinder matches but I don’t think it’s ever developed into a serious relationship. So from my experience I would have to agree with Ansari, online dating seems to be a good introductory service. I am curious though if other online services like eHarmony are more successful for relationships. To me, eHarmony strikes me as a more serious site then Tinder. Like Tinder is for hookups and eHarmony is so your mother can stop asking you when you plan to get married.

Soul Mate Debate

Previous generations essentially married someone that lived in their town or someone they knew because they had fewer options. Ansari writes, “A century ago people would find a decent person who lived in their neighbourhood. Their families would meet and, after they decided neither party was a murderer, the couple would get married and have a kid, all by the time they were 22. Today, people spend years of their lives on a quest to find the perfect person, a soul mate.” Yet, there are so many people who are frustrated.

J: I’m split on this because I’ve watched people who met, got along well, not necessarily “in love”, and married. I’ve also had friends whose parents were arranged and they seem really happy about it. Aziz tells a really telling story about how it took his parents less time to meet and decide to get married than the amount of time he took to find a place to eat. At the same time though, I think I’m a romantic at heart and I probably consume too many love stories. Are we searching for something unattainable? That idea scares me. But at the same time, there’s not necessarily a “formula” for love and I think that’s what Ansari is trying to get at, even with his empirical data. Arranged marriages, which has a negative connotation for most people, can work out and “love” obviously sometimes doesn’t work out as well. Also, I don’t think the way we love has changed. Eventually we go from passionate love to companionship love, despite how or where we start.

S: Ansari talks about how we’re a generation of “maximizers” or those who seek out the best and I think he’s correct in saying that comes across in our pursuit of One True Love (Does Disney have copyright on that phrase? Probably.). I think we all want the One True Love but we kind of hinder ourselves by comparing our relationship with those of others. If we go with the “maximizers” theory I think it’s because we become concerned that our relationships are not good enough or do not match the levels of others’. Aziz shares a story about how he went to a wedding where the couple exchanged vows that were so beautiful that afterwards four couples ended up breaking up. The couples broke up because they felt they could not match the love of the couple getting married. That’s just so bizarre to me because how could they expect to, you know? Those are all completely different relationships with different and unique people. I think as awesome as it is being a “maximizer” maybe people should start considering being “satisficers” or “those who satisfy and then suffice” when it comes to relationships. I’m not saying you should settle for less, just settle with what you have instead of comparing yourself and your relationship to someone else and their relationship. It’s just never going to be the same.

Overall:

J: I don’t think anything that Aziz Ansari (and Eric Klinenberg) writes in his book is necessarily new by any means but it’s weird for me to see the statistics and graphs backing the assumptions that we have and know already. Aziz Ansari makes a lot of jokes in Modern Romance, obviously, and I enjoyed them because they were relatable for the most part. At times though, the jokes got a little old and I wanted Aziz to move onto his point. Yet, would I have bought the book if it was a straight sociological report on the way we date today? Probably not.

S: I agree with you Jessica, it didn’t ever feel like something new was covered. To me it was mostly like sticking terms and support to things we already kind of understand about ourselves. I do think Aziz’s tone and voice make it an interesting and enjoyable read and it never came across as condescending or dry as these kinds of studies tend to do (read: every article about Millennials and how they’re going to end the world). I think this should be our school’s next common reading book because a. it’s relevant to college students and b. I just want to see how many nerd jokes Aziz would make about our school*.

*We’re known for being nerdy to the point where our library’s Snapchat geofilter jokes that we’re at the club. #getlearnt

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