Real talk: I’ve done some online dating. Realer talk: I’d be hard-pressed to name a friend who hasn’t. If I had any amount of embarrassment about getting online at first, that’s pretty much vanished by now. And if I had any lasting doubts, reading Modern Romance (Aziz Ansari, 2015) has quelled them entirely.
Here’s the problem with dating in the 2000s, as Aziz and his partner, sociologist Eric Klinenberg, see it:
- We marry later in life and we have a wider group of people to choose from. We don’t just marry the guy from around the corner of our childhood home. We have more choices and more time in which to make them.
2. Marriage is no longer about economic stability or escaping one’s family. We have the luxury of demanding an equitable marriage rooted in love, which makes successful marriages just that much more satisfying, but the search just that much more frustrating.
3. We don’t really know who we’re looking for. We say we want one thing in our profiles, but we repeatedly date people who don’t fit the bill.
4. Dating site algorithms don’t work because they depend on the information we provide, which doesn’t necessarily represent the people we are.
5. Dudes are sending out both too many and too few messages, the first of the generic variety and the second of the carefully-crafted and long-winded variety. Because women are inundated with messages – far more than men – many go overlooked.
6. People are spending far too much time online, and far too little time meeting real people. According to Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist who advises Match.com, “the only way to determine whether you have a future with a person [is] meeting them face-to-face.”
All to which I say: YES!!!!
I opened the book with a bit a trepidation, worried that I’d find I had committed many of the online dating blunders they name. Instead, they were 100% in line with everything I had complained to friends about. Too many “Hey” messages from guys. Misrepresentation of who the person really is. Flaking out. Claiming they felt too fat to go on a date (true story, this happened). And my personal pet peeve: spending way too much time exchanging messages online without any real drive to meet. You can have a perfectly pleasant time writing messages back and forth, but the only way to really know if you click with someone is to spend time with them. (In other words, you can have mad game with the texts, my friend, but ultimately I need to know if you chew with your mouth open.)
What really struck me was the amount of sociological research that went into the book. While I had expected merely a comedic recounting of dating woes, I got a thorough look at how dating practices have changed over the past century and how they vary over different countries. I would expect nothing less from Klinenberg, whose Heat Wave I’d previously read, but the seamless manner in which the two diverse voices merged was impressive. If you’ve ever wondered why, when we have so many options available to us, dating is so hard these days, or why, without even the advent of email, couples in previous generations seem to endure, this book is a great way to start exploring those questions. It’s not that our generation is just picky or their generation just knew that a good marriage requires compromise. The answers are far less simple than that.
Modern Romance: come for the comedy, stay for the sociology. You won’t regret it.