Modern-ish Romance as Explored by Aziz Ansari – Is Dating Dead?

It’s been just over 5 years since I last posted on this blog. Which is WILD. Have I read a book in the past 5 years? Erm… perhaps… a few. I quit my burgeoning career in publishing in 2015 (long story about glass ceilings and a disturbing lack of diversity) which may well be the reason why I’ve strayed from books these past few years. To give you an idea, that Aziz Ansari book (Modern Romance) pictured in my last post in October 2015 – I’m literally reading it now, hahaha. It only took 5 years.

I like the little that I know of Aziz Ansari. I’ve never watched his Netflix show but his sense of humour works for me. I wonder how I’d have felt about this book back in 2015 when I actually got it (free from work). Dating at the time, for me, wasn’t this laborious swiping that it is now. Perhaps I’d have been fascinated with the insights, maybe even disagreed with the notion of choice being a negative thing. However, reading it in 2020, I feel things have progressed since his time of writing so don’t feel as relevant now, and I also just felt it was affirming things I already knew quite well (though, to his credit, he explores the topics in a way that makes this affirmation feel rather warming knowing that your experiences are shared by millions – you are not the exception (points if you know which movie this line comes from)). Anyway, all the above is why I’ve called this review Modern-ISH Romance.

Look how dirty hardbacks with a white paper cover get when you drag them around for 5 years promising you’ll read them.

Firstly, this book isn’t what I thought it was going to be. I thought it was going to be significantly more anecdotal than it actually is, it’s very much factual non-fiction with data and theories developed from scientific research and focus groups, albeit spliced with a lot of dry jokes and an attempt to explain certain observations with humourous individual examples.

It’s crazy to think how much has changed in the dating world in the mere 5 years since this book was published. At the time of writing, Aziz talks about apps in a hesitantly positive way whilst also acknowledging the perils of choice. Whereas now, I don’t know a single person who uses dating apps and thinks they’re a positive thing. I think 5 years on, in 2020, choice has become a burden that has left singles numb and so distanced from the hundreds of faces that are swiping across their screens that the apps don’t function the way they were initially intended. I speak from experience that I did not have in 2015.

The joys of technological romantic exchange

“Searching for Your Soulmate” is perhaps the chapter that I enjoyed the most. It was really interesting (whilst also being quite depressing) to see how finding a partner has changed quite drastically from when our parents and grandparents were out there looking. The “soulmate marriage” is what most of us strive for today – finding someone we love truly, madly deeply and want to spend the rest of our lives with. Aziz explores this notion of the luxury of happiness and how only 50 or 60 years ago people married for simple reasons like the physical proximity of the love interest and for the ability to move out of their family home that marriage gave them. Like I said, these are things we already know, however, seeing the statistics and reading the research sort of solidifies things and makes it resonate.

“We want something that’s very passionate, or boiling, from the get-go. In the past, people weren’t looking for something boiling; they just needed some water.”

These “companionate marriages” of past generations allude to a life much smaller than that which most of us live now. We like to think we’re more worldly now. But it’s always this idea of the grass being greener isn’t it? I mean, I wouldn’t have wanted to marry someone who lived within a mile of my family home whilst I was in my early twenties (or even much later in life for that matter). I would have wanted the choice of living my own life first before settling. I would have wanted the choice of men from beyond my hometown, beyone my country, beyond my continent even. And we got all these things we wanted yet the finding has become significantly more difficult, significantly more laboured because our expectations have been distorted by too much choice. We are now simply fatigued.

The book deals with a bunch of subjects like cheating, sexting, settling down and the notion of monogamy. What makes it really readable is Ansari’s really dry, self-reflexive style of writing. He often goes off on hilarious little tangents as evidenced below with this old, stock photo couple who may or may not be in an open relationship.

In the book, Aziz also looks at dating/romantic culture in certain countries around the world. This is where I genuinely learnt something that I had no clue about prior. Maybe I’ve been living under a rock but I had no idea about what was (is?) happening in Japan with regards to dating and how people feel about the opposite sex. They’re so uninterested in it all that the government, out of fear that the Japanese race will be no longer due to a lack of interest in having sex and making babies, has intervened and funds several initiatives to get men and women to get together. Subsidised dating initiatives and marriage initiatives that involve actual cash rewards (!). It’s an honestly fascinating read that I couldn’t believe to be true. Did you all know this about Japan??  See the below for some shocking statistics:

The Japanese Dating ‘Crisis’

Ultimately, I found the opening sentence of this book to be the conclusion of the study in its entirety: “Many of the frustrations experienced by today’s singles seem like problems unique to our time and technological setting”. However, Aziz’s advice is to “treat potential partners like actual people, not bubbles on a screen” resonated with me. I wouldn’t go as far as saying I was filled with hope about modern day romance and dating but it did reaffirm that we’re all in this together and that maybe soulmate finding should be viewed from a position of priviledge rather than burdern.

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