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?

Looking for love – must enjoy reading (It’s not easy finding the perfect relationship).

Cover of Millions of women are waiting to meet youIt is hard to find the perfect man or woman.  If you love to read, to live with someone who never picked up a book (or a kobo or Kindle) could be a make or break it situation!

Literary review website Omnivore has come to the rescue with a dating service that seeks to match couples by their book tastes.

Perhaps Richard is just your type?

Poet, educator, inspiration, sex god, Richard, 30 from London, tells us how he’s preparing for his solo tour to Canada and why he’d like a woman like Angela Carter but usually ends up with the Sylvia Plaths.

Then there is Natasha….

Kelly Brook lookalike, Natasha, is a (nearly) 25 year-old librarian from Whitechapel with a penchant for older Hungarian men.

Or. how about Digby?

A 24-year-old writer from unfashionable West London who enjoys walking, tinned food and pseudo-intellectual pop music.

Admittedly it’s a bit tricky to meet up with either Richard, Digby or Natasha being stuck away down here in the Antipodes, so the relationship section of the Library may well have to suffice for ideas and tips about how to find “the one”.

Love still sucks

Join together, single folk of the world and harden your resolve for the worst day of the year approaches…St. Valentine’s day. Yet again television and radio ads are explaining to us all the causal relationship between love and expensive jewellery (the implication seems to be that if you have one that you simply must have the other) and florists are looking decidedly enthusiastic.

As I mentioned last year here and here, I find the whole thing more than a little depressing and I see no reason why the un-coupled amongst us shouldn’t be catered for at this difficult time. So fear not, for I have come to the rescue with the following library treats to help the microwave-meal-for-one crowd cope –

Love sucks (for guys too)

Millions of women are waiting to meet you - a story of life, love and internet dating In an earlier post I pointed out that St Valentines day isn’t quite so much fun for singletons but it seems that I was remiss.  It’s not just lovelorn ladies that get twitchy around the 14th of February.  Lonely lads suffer too.

So here’s a hitlist of what the library has for bummed out bachelors – Continue reading