Over the winter break from school I was sitting with two of my close friends, Sean and Rachel (who are married), watching Aziz Ansari do a standup special on Netflix. The conversation in the special turned to love and dating and all the technological advances with online dating that are around today. Apparently, it is a topic that both Aziz and I have been thinking about in detail. Aziz because he is fascinated by the landscape of dating today and me because I have been single for a year and a half and dating has left my head spinning.
Aziz said something in the special about how people want to be told the truth when someone does not want to make plans or continue talking but most people just stop communicating all together, leaving the other person confused about what happened (a similar clip is above). This sparked a “that has happened to me” conversation with my two friends. Sean began to tell me about how Aziz just released a whole book on the topic and that it was called Modern Romance. Intrigued by what one of my favorite comedian/actors has to say on the topic, I ordered the book the next day.
Reading Modern Romance was honestly one of the best decisions I have made regarding dating, and in life in general. I was expecting a straight up comedy book about one celebrity’s misadventures in dating but what I got was something so much more. Mr. Ansari wrote this book with a renowned sociologist, Eric Klinenberg, and actually did real sociological research with him. Aziz and Eric held focus groups, opened a sub-reddit forum to connect with people all over the world, traveled to other countries and examined the dating scenes there, read a ton of research on love and dating, and took a look at data from popular dating websites. The result is a seriously well researched and interesting book. For those curious, Aziz does include his signature humor. If you like his standup, the show Master of None, and my personal favorite show Parks & Recreation, you will dig the book. The overall reading experience was absolutely delightful and I recommend this book for anyone who is a fan of Aziz, single and dating, or just curious about the topic in general.
In the book Aziz breaks down how people are meeting their partners, where they are meeting, and how this has changed over time. Spoiler alert: modern Americans are meeting over the internet more now than at any other time. He uses data from dating websites and other studies to show this. Aziz then breaks down online dating from the initial ask, to messaging, to asking someone out, to how a profile can attract someone’s attention. Aziz confirms what I have long suspected, I need a dog and I need to go spelunking in caves with that dog to attract every woman ever.
Aziz also breaks down choices and options and how the paradox of choice impacts dating. He also travels to Japan where the dating scene is absolutely fascinating. I was shocked to read about “the herbivore man” and the lack of interest people have in sex and dating in Japan. Then he went to Argentina where the love hotels and casual sex is a part of the culture. Aziz also outlines the cultural differences with the pursuit of a partner and how when women say no in Argentina, they are playing hard to get because the chase factors heavily into the dating equation. Of course, this also leads to a sexually aggressive and oftentimes inappropriate climate for women. Aziz also travels to Paris where there is a very open culture of adultery with places advertising Valentine’s Day flowers with this slogan: “Don’t forget your mistress!” I can barely get a text back and French citizens are managing two relationships at once.
All of Aziz’s tips, tricks, and statistics were fascinating to read. I am actually going to use them in the future. The main takeaway I have will also be helpful. It is such a “DUH” moment, but when you are in the moment of online dating you can forget this hint. There is another person on the other side of the screen. It is easy to talk to someone online and be able to say whatever and carry on lengthy conversations. It is another thing to sit in front of someone and get to know them and read their body language. To sit with someone and see how the chemistry works is the true test. Last March I went on a date with a girl and I really liked her. Our conversations were great. We had tons in common. We went on a date and while it went well, we didn’t have the chemistry in person that we did online. It’s so interesting for me to think about, but it’s true. Aziz’s advice is to use online dating websites as a means to meet people, not to date them over the internet. There is a difference. He suggests having a back and forth to test the waters but not to wait too long before meeting. This was a detail about online dating that I seemed to miss, regardless of its obviousness. Duly noted Aziz, duly noted.
The final chapter of Modern Romance details settling down and the associated statistics. This chapter was most helpful in reflecting on my last major relationship. When I first began dating my ex-girlfriend, I was in Atlantic City with a whole host of friends for her birthday. Among the friends were Sean and Rachel. Sean and I stepped into the hallway of our hotel and were talking about relationships since I just entered one. Sean gave me some advice that was really helpful. Sean shared that in his experience, the first year of a relationship is the honeymoon phase. You and your partner are overjoyed at finding someone and being in love. The second year is when things start to get a little more real, a little more serious. Your real selves manifest and you have to learn how that fits into your relationship, but that spark and passion are still there. The Third year in your relationship is when everything gets real and that’s when you will know the most about your partner and your relationship. At this point, this is when you need to do the work and see how things go. How interesting for me, looking back, that my last relationship lasted for three and half years. I broke up with my ex at the moment when I realized that the current state of my relationship was not okay and that this isn’t what I signed up for (long story very short).
Fascinatingly, Aziz showed statistics that lined up with Sean’s advice to me. The differences between Passionate Love and Companionate Love are what Sean was talking about (even if he didn’t realize it). Passionate love usually burns out after about one and a half to two years. This can create a lull in the relationship and make it seem like it’s not going anywhere or that it lost the spark that created it. This is the exact moment when you need to do the work in a relationship because companionate love builds slower and over more time. I cannot begin to tell you how helpful this was to read. My last relationship was one sided and my partner was not willing to do the work. It became very painfully clear. It ended.
Moving forward, I have a greater sense of where I fit into the dating scene and how to be successful dating in today’s interesting landscape for singles. Modern Romance helped me reflect on my successes and challenges in my dating endeavors as well as reflecting on past relationships. All of this from a book you can find in the comedy section at your local Barnes & Noble’s.
How appropriate that on Valentine’s Day that I post this? The link is not lost on me. I think it’s important to say that this Valentine’s Day, I am my own Valentine and I am okay with that. My family and friends who have stuck by me also are owed a tremendous amount of love and thanks for their continued support, especially as my life and love life evolved and became interesting. Happy Valentine’s Day to all! May you all find love and happiness!