Aziz Ansari's Modern Romance, put together with the help of sociologist Eric Klinenberg, is an in-depth look at the unique difficulties of finding love as a young person today. While certainly funny, the book is overall more serious and inquisitive in nature, demonstrating that Ansari and Klinenberg really did their homework — they conducted several focus groups, interviewed people both young and old about how they found or go about finding romance, and even created a subreddit to collect as much data as possible.
The result is a sharp, smart book that not only explains the challenges associated with online dating and beyond, but also offers some legitimate insight into how we can all navigate the romantic search a little better. Ansari isn't necessarily a love doctor, but he's gone through a number of the same issues plaguing plenty of youth today.
The Modern Romance introduction dives right in with a story about "Tanya" (real name changed), a girl he hooked up with one night in L.A. They'd had a nice night together, connected over the band Beach House and he waited a few days to text a follow-up, as is a standard practice so as not to seem overeager.
Flickr: Traverse City
By all accounts, what he sent had every element of a good text in the context of asking someone on a date. It's transcribed word for word directly from the book below:
"Hey — don't know if you left for NYC, but Beach House playing tonight and tomorrow at Wiltern. You wanna go? Maybe they'll let you cover The Motto if we ask nicely?"
A direct ask to a pretty fun-sounding event and a little joke thrown in at the end. What more could you need? Apparently, Tanya never responded and it sent Ansari into fits of paranoia and over-analysis as to what he might have done wrong. Been there? Well, take in some of the below lessons from Modern Romance. There's hope.
We're all in the business of finding soul mates.
Ansari cites the work of psychotherapist Esther Perel in explaining what our expectations of marriage and love are these days. Whereas before marriage used to be about finding someone "good enough" to settle down with and start a family, today we expect much, much more. Now we want all the economic and social stability of marriage, but on top of that we want a partner to "be my best friend and my trusted confidant and my passionate lover to boot."
That's all good and fine, but as the book points out in great detail, "a soul mate is a very hard thing to find."
However, the payoff when you do find that soul mate is enormous.
'Emerging adulthood' is making people get married later and later.
Today the average age of first marriage is about 27 for women and 29 for men, and closer to 30 for both sexes in large cities such as New York. For our grandparents' generation, that figure was at about 20 for women and 23 for men.
That's because today young people, women especially, aren't burdened by the same social pressures and sexism present before the '60s. Now there's an exciting period of time post-high school and college where the rebellious youth gets to mess around and experiment with a variety of jobs, higher education, travel and, thanks to online dating, a near-infinite number of romantic possibilites.
You have two selves now: your real-world self and your phone self.
Your real world self is pretty self-explanatory: it's who you are and how you come off to people in face-to-face interactions. Your phone self is how you project yourself onto other's phone screens. Because you're hiding behind a screen of your own and devoid of any physical or vocal cues, this self can be miles different from your real world self, in the best ways and in the worst.
The unofficial texting rules.
Among the rules generally agreed upon by young people when it comes to texting:
— Don't text back right away.
— If you write to someone, don't text again until you hear from them.
— The amount of text you write should be of similar length to what they write you.
— If there's way more of your text bubble's color on the screen than their color, this person doesn't care about you.
— The person who receives the last text message wins.
We prefer to be lied to than rejected.
This one's a little odd, but nonetheless true. If someone's not interested in you, you'd much rather hear them say they're already dating someone or just moved across the country. That way, you don't feel rejected — it's no longer about you.
So now what?
Ansari says there's no straightforward guidebook to dating, but that in general, dating apps such as Tinder, Hinge, OkCupid, Happn, Bumble, The League, The Grade and so on have given us too many options when it comes to finding love. When a first date doesn't work out for whatever reason, we're quick to shrug it off because there are so many more possibilities just a swipe away.
His advice, among other things, seems to be to reel in the jittery, flaky, downright rude sensibilities smartphones and apps have brought out of us. As he told Refinery29, "If you go out with someone and you thought the date was a six out of 10, maybe give them one more shot and see," with the knowledge that "people have so much more to show you than what they can show you in one session of drinks."
As for situations like Tanya, where you never get a text back? Well, he explains what happened with her in the book — suffice it to say that you have no idea what's happening on the other end. There are a million reasons why someone wouldn't respond to a text. It's basically pointless to speculate.
Great, now go find love. Godspeed.
Cover image: Wikimedia