“Spend more time with people, less time in front of a screen, and— since we’re all in it together— be nice to people.” –Aziz Ansari, Modern Romance
I bought Modern Romance under the assumption that its content would be similar to that of Tina Fey's Bossypants, Amy Poehler's Yes Please, or even Lena Dunham's Not That Kind of Girl. I thought it would be a funny and insightful memoir about Aziz Ansari's childhood and adolescence and his rise to fame, with some stories about other celebrities and how much fun it is to work with them. But I was wrong.
Rather than writing about himself or his career as a comedian and actor, Aziz chose to tackle a cultural subject that constantly has the world (twenty-somethings in particular) in a state of confusion, apprehension, and anxiety: modern dating.
For this book, Aziz paired up with NYU sociologist Eric Kleinberg and several other top social scientists to conduct a massive research project about dating, marriage, and relationship trends in the United States and around the world. They traveled to several different countries, conducted interviews with individuals and focus groups, and even created their own sub-reddit forum to get input from Reddit's millions of diverse visitors.
Here are a few things I took away from Modern Romance.
Online dating is nothing to be ashamed of.
“I once met someone who found his wife by using Match.com and searching— and this is a direct quote— ‘Jewish and my zip code.’…that’s how I would go about finding a Wendy’s.” –Aziz Ansari, Modern Romance
Maybe it's because I didn't grow up in a bustling big city, but online dating has always been somewhat stigmatized where I live. Rather than viewing it as a database where you can meet and connect with people across the country (and even the world), people thought that only those who were "desperate" or "couldn't find anyone in their own town" looked for relationships online. That's simply not the case, especially in today's world.
As Aziz points out, a fairly recent study from the University of Chicago concluded that between 2005 and 2012, more than one third of married couples in the US met on the internet through an online dating website (which is more than those who met at work, through mutual friends, or at school combined). That's a big deal!
With huge statistics like that, online dating clearly isn't going anywhere anytime soon. In fact, more and more people are meeting online every single day in the hopes of finding someone special, so don't be afraid to put yourself out there. (Just remember to do it safely.)
Texting etiquette is super-important.
“How do we figure out when to call, when to text, and when to just drop everything, stand outside someone’s window, and serenade them with your favorite nineties R&B tune, perhaps ‘All My Life’ by K-Ci & JoJo?” –Aziz Ansari, Modern Romance
I'm sure we've all been there... you're texting your crush and spending a crazy amount of time formulating the perfect message that effortlessly and casually shows just how smart, funny, and interesting you are. You hit "send", you wait, you see the three dots of doom, they go away, you wait again, you purposefully leave your phone in another room and try to distract yourself, you come back and stare at your phone some more, and then... *buzz*. They replied! Your imaginary tail starts wagging as you open the message. Your pulse is quickening, your mind is racing, you're clutching your inhaler. What did they say?!?
Aziz (and probably anyone on Earth with a cell phone and a data plan) agrees that bad texting is straight up the worst. It may not have anything to do with the person's face-to-face communication skills, but in a world where a huge chunk of our day is spent staring at screens, our online presence can often make or break us when it comes to potential relationships.
This is especially true for dating apps with built-in messaging capabilities, such as Tinder and OK Cupid, where your first impression of someone is entirely based on their profile picture and the first message he or she sends you. Communication is universally regarded as one of the most important aspects of a relationship, and it applies online as well! Don't be that person who only gives a one word response to someone else's thought-out messages. Just don't.
Here are a few other things interview participants said irritated them the most when texting potential romantic interests (these are all horrible things, IMO) :
- Generic texts like "Hey" or "Sup"
- Endlessly texting back and forth without ever making plans
- Poor spelling and grammar
- Not knowing if you're making plans to go on an actual date or just to "hang out"
We're too hung up on the idea of "perfect"
“When you hear a Flo Rida song at first you’re like, ‘What is this, Flo Rida? It’s the same thing you’ve always done. I’m not listening to this song.’ And then you keep hearing it and you’re like, ‘Oh my God, Flo Rida. You’ve done it again! This is a hit, baby!’ And that’s what people are like. People are like a Flo Rida song. You need to hear them a couple of times before you really get what they’re about.” –Aziz Ansari, Modern Romance
I'm not saying that we shouldn't have standards, but sometimes it's necessary to re-evaluate what's truly important in a relationship or potential partner. If you're dead-set on only dating someone who's least six feet tall with green eyes and dark brown hair and loves cats and Minions as much as you do, then you're automatically shutting doors before they've even had the chance to open.
Perhaps the most important lesson to take away from this book is to remember that the people we're connecting with online (or in real life) are just that... people. And, spoiler alert, people are not perfect. We're all awkward, and we all say really stupid things sometimes, so keep that in mind the next time you go on a less-than-perfect first date.
Unless the person is a total jerk or absolutely bores you to tears, there's nothing wrong with giving someone who you didn't spark an immediate flame with a second chance. Some of the greatest relationships start off slow and then grow into something much deeper and significant down the road. Love at first sight is a joke, don't let Hollywood fool you.
What did you think? Have you read Modern Romance? What are some lessons you took away from the book? How do you feel about modern dating? Get the conversation started by leaving a comment down below!