Desert Isle Keeper
When I first heard that Aziz Ansari was releasing a book about romance, I thought it was going to be chapters full of his stand-up sketches bemoaning the methods of dating in today’s world. I still wanted to read it because I think Ansari is hilarious; however, I did not expect his book to be particularly insightful. I was delightfully surprised to learn that this book, though still funny, is not just a mere catalyst to poke fun at smartphones and online dating. Instead, it is a qualitative research-backed book that explores the norms of modern dating and romance.
Ansari states upfront in the introduction that he solicited help from many professionals, including sociologist Eric Klinenberg, who is the co-author. This adds a necessary source of credibility to the project, which contains a multiple of statistics and footnotes that validate all claims that are made.
One of the more obvious reasons the concept of romance has changed so much in today’s world is because of the rapid growth and evolution of technology. Ansari does a great job at describing these changes, from potential romantic partners communicating via smartphones, to the good, bad, and ugly of online dating. The problem with the growth of technology, Ansari discovers, is that it creates options and choices. More options and choices initially sound like a good thing, but it inevitably creates the mentality that there is always someone better out there, “Mr. or Ms. Perfect.” Ansari discovers this type of thinking through focus groups and interviews with real single people searching for romance. In one particularly interesting interview, Ansari asks why an average dude turned down a seemingly flawless woman. The dude replied, “She likes the Red Sox.” This illustrates the detrimental effects of having too many options – it allows us to be excruciatingly picky.
The less notorious reason for the change in today’s perception of romance is much more fascinating. Ansari explores how, in prior generations, women used marriage as a catalyst to gain “freedom.” He interviews various older women in their 70’s and 80’s to illustrate this point:
“…I asked them straight out whether a lot of women their age got married just to get out of the house. Every single woman there nodded. For woman in this era, it seemed that marriage was the easiest way of acquiring the basic freedoms of adulthood.”
The women in these interviews continue to explain that in their day, women often married for stability, not love. Women and men typically fell into traditional gender roles within this marriage (the man being the provider, the woman being the one to fulfill domestic obligations including cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the kids.) Ansari explores that the multiple waves of feminism have created a climate where women do not have to get married:
“The push for women’s equality for a big driver of the transformation. As more women went to college, got to good jobs, and achieved economic independence, they established newfound control over their bodies and their lives. A growing number of women refused to marry the guy in their neighborhood or building. They wanted to experience things too, and they now had the freedom to do it.”
Since women do not “have” to get married anymore, they tend to only get married for the sake of love. Unsurprisingly, love is not as prevalent as stability. Additionally, Ansari discovered that people are seeking to have adult lives and experiences before they settle down, which was not done 50 years ago. Ansari denotes this as positive, sharing the statistic, “People who marry after the age of 25 are far less likely to divorce than those who get married young.”
Ansari explores many more subtopics of modern romance throughout his book, including cheating, snooping, and the difference in perceptions of romance throughout various cultures. Also, the book is particularly illuminating because Ansari inserts his own experiences, like the time he texted a girl to ask her out and she never replied. Ansari describing his anxiety during this situation is relatable and hilarious. I completely recommend this book to all ages, whether you are single, married, or somewhere in between. It puts today’s romantic climate in a perspective that neither demonizes nor glorifies, showing a multitude of sides and opinions that effectively paints a well-rounded picture of modern romance.