“Modern Romance,” a Humorous Exploration of Dating Culture

“Modern Romance,” a Humorous Exploration of Dating Culture

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Aziz Ansari researches texting, online dating, and breaking up

We all want love. We all want to couple and connect. We all want to find our soulmate. But in these modern times, we often are faced with the conundrum of how to do it.

Fortunately, we have the funny, engaging, and smart-as-shit Aziz Ansari, a famous comedian, actor, and now author, to filter the craziness of today’s dating culture into one enlightening and engaging novel—Modern Romance (Penguin Press, 2015).

In the olden days, when teenagers crossed the magical 18-year-old threshold into adulthood, they would marry someone who lived in their building or on their block, or the nieces, nephews, or grandchildren of those people. Then they would “make it work” because that was how it was done. They’d reproduce, and their children would do the same . . . rinse, repeat, etc., ad nauseam.

The women’s movement tilted this courtship archetype in another direction. Then social evolution and technology tipped the slant into an all-out, downhill water-park slide. Today, college comes first, then the wildly youthful Eurorail years, then the career, leaving us to enter into marriage much later in life, if at all.

And when matrimony mode kicks in, it’s no longer a Playboy centerfold or People magazine’s sexy man issue that titillates our fantasies. Rather, it’s a smorgasbord of real, live human beings, just a swipe away, leading us to seek the “perfect” mate, embodying modern media’s stilted presentation of “perfection” that leaves some still single at 75. (We’ve all seen the creepy old dude still showing up at parties, trying to hook up with younger chicks.) In short, we are crippled by options.

Add the invention of texting, emoticons, dick pics, tit pics, and “tiger photos” to the mix, and today’s dating scene is more confusing than ever—often more frustrating than fulfilling.

For Ansari, this conundrum makes for great humor and a great book. However heartbreaking, truth really is—at least in this case—funnier than fiction; and issues of modern romance, dating, sex, and love, and our search for the aforementioned have been fodder for Ansari’s stand-up from the time he could stand up.

But the dude is also smart, insightful, and curious. Modern Romance, clearly a labor of love, illustrates his desire to understand and explore today’s dating culture, taking the reader along on his journey.

In collaboration with New York University sociologist Eric Klinenberg, Ansari conducted enormous research projects, interviews, and focus groups, including a Reddit forum. They examined online dating, why and how we look for love, and serious issues of sexting, cheating, and breaking up. They studied vastly different dating rituals in different cultures and countries—from Tokyo to Buenos Aires, Argentina; and from Paris to Wichita, Kansas—and consulted the world’s leading sociologists, social scientists, and psychologists to produce a book that combines comprehensive research with an irreverent humor and wit that actually makes learning about relationships a laughing matter.

While this solo mommy found some of the more statistical bits a bit dry, I can safely attribute my attention deficit disorder to exhaustion and kids banging on my bathroom door. (I read in the tub.) But this was easily overcompensated by Ansari’s self-deprecating anecdotes of his exploits with “Tanya,” unrequited love, and an examination of all the stupid, embarrassing, and goofy things we do in our quest for connection. Ergo, with skillful skimming of the heady parts, I couldn’t put it down and was sufficiently shriveled by the time I’d finished—aka, it’s a really good book.

Kathleen Laccinole, ESME’s Dating Resource Guide, has penned numerous films and parenting books but is best known for producing the highly lauded Greta, age 20, and William, age 16.

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