Modern modem romance

Cover of Modern romanceModern Romance by US comedian Aziz Ansari (of Parks and Recreation fame) is just another in a growing list of books I have started reading expecting one thing, but which turned out to be something else entirely (looking at you, High-rise).

What I had expected was a comedic look at modern courtship, man-woman relationships in the internet age etc. Having previously watched a bit of Ansari’s stand-up via YouTube, I knew this was a topic that he touches on a lot, so I expected to read a more or less extended stand-up routine. One man’s humorous philosophy on the opposite sex, feminism, relationship blunders and so on. Something similar to what Chris Rock was writing 10 years ago.

Um, yes. But also…no.

In fact, Modern Romance, is solidly non-fiction. Ansari, himself caught up in the changing courtship habits of a dating populace now fixated with mobile devices, became intrigued with what seemed a very flawed and frustrating process –

I got fascinated by the questions of how and why so many people have become so perplexed by the challenge of doing something that people have always done quite efficiently: finding romance. I started asking people I knew if there was a book that would help me understand the many challenges of looking for love in the digital age.

He didn’t find exactly the book he was looking for SO HE WROTE IT.

He wrote the book with help (Eric Klinenberg, Professor of Sociology at New York University is co-author), and after undertaking quite a bit of research with the help of online dating websites like OKCupid, as well as interviews, and focus groups. Most comedians don’t quote focus groups in their books, unless by “focus group” you mean “crazy cab drivers I’ve conversed with”. Nor do they have thorough indices and footnotes for the many research papers they cite.

So rather than being a written comedy routine with the occasional fact thrown in, Modern Romance is a book about the effect of technology on modern dating mores, (but with swearing and jokes). What Ben Goldacre did for Bad Science, Aziz Ansari has done for the sociology of modern dating.

But does it work? On the whole, yes. For someone who wasn’t intending to learn anything particularly much from Modern Romance (I am not on “the market”), it does a good job of entertaining and informing. I’ve learned that less choice can actually be a good thing, that the search for perfection in a mate is a fool’s errand, and though I’ve never used the dating app Tinder, I now understand better what it does and why it’s so popular. I’ve also been given a window into differing dating “cultures” via interviews with singles in Tokyo, Paris, and Buenos Aires.

And this isn’t really related to anything but I really wanted to include this quote about a Tokyo barman with an apparently quite active love-life who Ansari describes thusly –

Like most fedora wearers, he had a lot of inexplicable confidence.

This book has a lot of wisdom to offer, on a great many things, it seems.

So what are the takeaways from Modern Romance, other than ramen recommendations from Tokyo (Ansari is something of a “foodie” and the book is liberally littered with references to delicious meals), and the characteristics of hat-wearers?

  • Don’t get so caught up in the multitude of options that you forget to actually pay attention to and invest time in the person you’re with.
  • Make introductions online but don’t date online. Dating is a real world activity.
  • Treat potential partners like real people, not a bubble on a screen.

If you’re a bit sensitive to swear words then Modern Romance probably isn’t the read for you but thankfully Ansari and Klinenberg have included a bibliography of titles they consulted when writing their book, so one of the below may be of interest instead.

Cover of It's complicated: the social lives of networked teens Cover of Love @ First Click The Ultimate Guide to Online Dating Cover of The art of choosing Cover of Everything I ever needed to know about economics I learned from online dating cover of Sex at Dawn cover of Alone together Cover of Data, a love story Cover of Going solo the extraordinary rise and surprising appeal of living alone

Any thoughts on how modern technology is affecting our approach to courtship? Is it okay to ask someone out on a date via text message?

Chick Lit and the armchair traveller

Chick Lit is not as popular as it once was, at least publishers seem to think so. Chick Lit is light, quick, generally uplifting, at times thought provoking, romantic and quirky.  Armchair travel seems to quite easily rub up against chick lit – plenty of romance, exotic locations, quirky interesting characters and plenty of action. Try out some of these titles:

Head Over heelHead over Heel Chris Harrison

On a trip to Dublin, Chris falls head over heels in love with Daniela, an Italian girl with eyes the colour of Guinness, and follows her to her small home town of Andrano on the coast of Puglia. Among olive groves and cobblestone lanes, Chris takes us on a moving, insightful and often hilarious journey into the heart of Southern Italy.  Can this relationship with Southern Italy possibly survive or will the sweet life turn sour?

My Paris DreamMy Paris dream : life, love and fashion in the great city by the Seine Kate Betts

On a leap of faith Betts moves to Paris to throw herself into Parisian culture, master French and a find a job that would give her a reason to stay. After a series jobs, she begins a magnificent apprenticeship at Women’s Wear Daily and is initiated into the high fashion world. Betts gives us a view of what it is to be a  young woman, finding yourself, falling in love, and exploring this dazzling world all at once.

Cover of 50 year silenceA fifty-year silence : love, war and a ruined house in France Miranda Richmond Mouillot

After escaping the Nazi occupation, Miranda Richmond Mouillot’s grandparents, Anna and Armand, bought an old stone house in the south of France. Five years later, Anna packed her bags and walked out on Armand and the two never saw or spoke to each other again. This is the account of Miranda’s journey as she immerses herself in letters and archival materials, slowly teasing out what happened to her Grandparents.  Along the way she finds herself learning to survive, and to thrive in making a home in the village …and falling in love.

Sideways on a ScooterSideways on a scooter : life and love in India Miranda Kennedy

When twentysomething reporter Miranda Kennedy leaves her New York job and travels to India with no employment prospects, she longs to immerse herself in the turmoil and excitement of a rapidly developing country. She Lives in Delhi for more than five years, experiences friendships, love affairs, and alters her own attitudes about everything.

Ho Not to Travel the WorldHow not to travel the world : adventures of a disaster-prone backpacker Lauren Juliff

When Lauren left to go travelling, she thought she would instantly become a glamorous backpacker. But after being mugged, scammed, caught up in a tsunami and experiencing a very unhappy ending during a massage, she realised that learning how NOT to travel the world was the most enlightening experience she could have hoped for. It was just as she was about to give up on travel when she stumbled across a handsome New Zealander with a love of challenges…

The whirlThe whirl : men, music & misadventures Jane Cornwell

Travelling the world in search of love, great music and good stories, Cornwall collects relationship ‘experiences’ the way the rest of us do souvenir tea towels or postcards.

A fearless and funny search for love, connection and a man who can dance salsa with her (and not ask for money afterwards), this is a truly sexy travel memoir of music, men and mistakes for the adventurer in all of us.

Love in the elephant TendLove in the elephant tent : how running away with the circus brought me home Kathleen Cremonesi

On a whim, this former administrative assistant with wanderlust took a job as a dancer in an Italian circus and, working her way up, became an ostrich-riding, shark-taming showgirl. Kathleen bonds with the exotic animals that could strike and kill at any moment, but instead bring her a peace she has never known. And when she stumbles into the arms of Stefano, the sexy elephant keeper, she finds a man who understands her wild spirit.

It’s 2am… let’s blog!

It’s 2am, I can’t get back to sleep. What to do? My super alert 2am brain has the answer:

Let’s blog!

Sometimes I get asked about blogging: where do the ideas come from; when do I get time to blog;  what’s the whole process? In a nutshell, I believe –  if it’s keeping me awake at 2am, it’s probably something other people will relate to and maybe want to read.

Cover of Yoga BitchHere’s this morning’s 2am musings – all eminently bloggable in my opinion:

  • How can I be a fantastic granny? Where’s the book on The Dummies’ Guide to Grannyhood? I can generate quite a bit of brain-play on this topic, but it never sends me to sleep. Next.
  • Why are good things so often earnest, so humourless: Organic this, Spiritual that, Dietary whatever. Where’s the light-hearted look at Rammed-Earth Housing or Climate Change or Yoga. But wait, what about Yoga Bitch? I read the subtitle: One Woman’s Quest to Conquer Scepticism, Cynicism and Cigarettes on the Path to Enlightenment. Next topic please.
  • Cover of PlainsongWhat is the relationship between isolation and polarisation of behaviour? Take The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin and Plainsong by Kent Haruf. Lone men in isolated places and the arrival of pregnant, feral teenage girls. Is there a blog on mirror-image books? Not tired yet. Next.
  • Why doesn’t anyone tell young people that once you have kids you can’t really travel for ages? OK, you might manage a trip to Hanmer Springs – with military precision planning. Either that or you do travel with kids and spoil everyone else’s holiday. Try reading What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding. Almost there, but Next.
  • Cover of Contents May Have ShiftedHow come we think we have to travel all over the world to gain spiritual enlightenment, when it could probably just as easily happen from home? Because it makes for a better read? A good book on this (and with a terrific title) is Contents May Have Shifted by Pam Houston. Brain winding down now.

Finally drift off to sleep. Leap out of bed (OK, drag self out of bed) at 7-ish. Bash out blog before brekkie and submit it.

That’s my way.

How do other bloggers get it all together?