walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

_Modern Romance_ Aziz Ansari (and Eric Klinenberg)

Aziz Ansari is apparently a comedian. It's entirely possible I've seen him somewhere at some point, but I don't remember one way or the other. Eric Klinenberg is a sociologist. Ansari wrote a book about the State of Dating, and Klinenberg was a big part of the research process. They did a ton of focus group work here and in Paris, Buenos Aires and Tokyo. Also, some insight from places like Qatar.

If you _are_ currently looking, the book is probably some combination of comforting and helpful. The author(s) manage to walk a narrow path between pretending the games of dating are a Good Idea and Here's How to Win and a Terrible Idea and You Should Just Be Honest/Yourself/WTF. They spend some time talking to older people about what dating has been like in various places in the past, putting them in a good place to compare/contrast with the present in different regions. I'm a little sad/disappointed that they didn't do anything overt in understanding class differences in dating then/now/here/elsewhere, but this is a humorous overview of dating in the US currently, so not too surprising.

They limited scope to hetero right from the beginning, altho they occasionally made observations about other groups (notably, Grindr preceding Tinder by so long, failed attempts to come up with a Grindr for hets and why Tinder worked when its predecessors failed). There's a great opportunity in the Tinder story for someone to explore various stages in adoption curves, but asking that in this context would be insane.

Ansari winds up about where you would expect: get off the phone and meeting people face to face relatively quickly. We're wired up to assess each other in person, and you can spend forever and just exhaust yourself texting. He also advocates for spending more time (3-5th meets) with people who are a 6 or above, because most people have something going on that isn't apparent immediately and if you are looking for getting hit hard with LUUURVE on a first date you are going to be perpetually disappointed (exhausted, etc.). He spent a bunch of time talking to Barry Schwartz, so he has a good grasp of the perils of Endless Choice and he does a nice job of showing how even people who in the past would have been lucky have one or two choices now have hundreds a month online.

Ansari has a dippy sense of humor, but he deploys it well. All the "tum-tum" and food focus could get old, but instead it builds naturally into how he came to be with the woman he loves. He does have a relatively traditional perspective, but he winds the book up in a chapter on monogamish in which he manages to step slightly out of the relentless Find the One perspective.

It was a fast read, unusually well-researched, humorous and very likable. This topic is very easy to be overly judgmental on -- and it's also easy to be _so_ open minded that you fail to acknowledge clear awfulness (Argentina apparently is an entire country full of people with anxious-avoidant attachment styles. Who knew?). Ansari finds a good balance.

I wasn't _looking_ for a book about dating when I stumbled across this one, so even if you are never gonna be Out There again, I really encourage you to give this a try. It'll help you make sense of what your single friends (grandchildren, etc.) are talking about, and may even give you the ability to frame Your Wisdom in a way that is accessible to them.

If you _are_ Out There, and you read this, I'd particularly love to hear what you think about how well he captured the current experience.

ETA: Oh, and Happy Valentine's Day, whatever your relationship status!
Tags: book review, non-fiction

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