Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg. Penguin, 2015.
Based on its cover alone, you may think this book would be found in the humor section. Aziz Ansari is a stand-up comedian and probably has a lot of funny things to say on the topic of modern romance. But actually this book should be placed with your non-fiction. Naturally, Aziz brings his humor into the writing style of this book, which made me laugh out loud many times. But at its core, Modern Romance is a sociological look at new dating trends in the modern age, and it’s pretty fascinating.
As a physical object, I enjoyed reading this book because it is filled with full-color charts and graphs, photographs, and an altogether attractive layout. The book covers many topics regarding modern romance, from hook-ups to break-ups, and even includes studies Aziz and Eric conducted in other countries where the dating scene is quite different than in the U.S. (For those readers of my blog not in the U.S., know that this book focuses primarily on dating culture in the U.S., except in the chapter in which they compare other dating cultures to ours. It also focuses only on heterosexual relationships – Aziz explains this in the intro to the book and says he’d need a whole other book to include all the information he wanted.)
One of the most interesting parts of the book to me were the comparisons between how dating was in previous generations versus what it is now – more specifically the fact that people aren’t getting married to those who grew up in the same town any more. There was a chart in the first chapter that detailed how close spouses lived to one another in the older generations; the majority grew up within 20 block of each other. 20 blocks! Additionally, the emergence of greater gender equality drastically changed modern romance. Women now have the life stage of “emerging adulthood,” during which it’s socially acceptable to live alone as a single women, rather than having to move straight out of their parents’ house and into their husband’s, as it was previously.
Another bit I found interesting was the fact that people looking for love these days have much higher expectations (a “soul mate” viewpoint) than earlier generations, when all you really cared about was that your partner had a stable job and wasn’t a serial killer. With the emergence of online dating, the world is literally open to us…how are we supposed to find the 1 person who “completes us” out of the seemingly countless number of people on this planet? I’ve never tried online dating, but this is definitely a concept I fear personally. When I find someone who feels right for me, how do I know there isn’t someone else out there even more right?? (Aside: I have the same problem with dress shopping. I gotta check all the stores in the mall to make sure I’m not missing out on anything before I buy the one I saw first. The difference is that you can have the clerk hold a dress for you so it won’t be nabbed by someone else while you go look for others. So maybe this isn’t a very good metaphor…)
I won’t talk about any more of the concepts in the book because you should totally go read it for yourself. I’d love to hear thoughts from anyone who did read it below in the comments, because it is a very discussion-worthy book. I highly recommend it! (Note: it contains mature content and language)
4/5 stars, because (minus the parts about other dating cultures) it didn’t really tell me anything I didn’t already know, and I like my non-fiction to do that.