Parks and Recreation is one of my top ten favorite television shows of all time. And Aziz Ansari’s character Tom Haverford is one of my favorite characters from that show. So naturally I was interested in his new book, Modern Romance. It’s not a straight-up comedy memoir, in the style of Tina Fey’s Bossypants or Amy Poehler’s Yes, Please. There is some real sociology here, as the book is coauthored by NYU Professor of Sociology Eric Klinenberg. It’s an interesting look at today’s dating culture here in America as well as glimpses of cultural mores in Japan, Argentina, and France, with some signature Ansari-style humor. I did laugh out loud in quite a few spots. (I imagine the audio book, read by the author, would be killer.)
What I liked about it was the engaging style. He throws a lot of facts at the reader, taken from various academic studies, focus groups around the world, and crowdsourcing on Reddit, but it’s very readable, with lots of graphs, charts and pictures (old video dating service ads, the ever-quotable Pitbull, hilarious commentary on stock images of couples.) He starts out with a dating story from his own experience involving texting a woman he’d hit it off with, seeing her iPhone dots moving, as if she were composing a text, and then… nothing. No response. It was the spark that got him interested in investigating how modern technology is changing the way we interact, date, and get married today as opposed to earlier generations.
As I am not in the dating market, but happily married, I was perhaps not the intended reader of this book. Thank goodness I got my dating in before the advent of the text! But Modern Romance does offer some really good dating advice for those seeking their soul mates. Ansari talks about how in his focus groups he met tons of women with these generic “Heyyy” or “Wsup?” texts from guys and how boring and lame those texts are to women. He describes what makes a good, interesting text that will likely end up with you going out with the woman you’re interested in. There’s advice on what kinds of profile pictures gather the most hits on online dating sites. There’s even some a discussion of the merits of passionate love vs. companionate love in long-term relationships.
My favorite section was the examination of dating and marriage in other countries, specifically the section on Japan. Apparently there’s this phenomenon I’d not heard of called the “herbivore man.” Young men in Japan, in large numbers, are not interested in dating and romance because they’re deathly afraid of rejection, among other reasons. People are not marrying and/or reproducing enough to the extent that the government is even subsidizing establishments that host giant dating events called machikon, a roving party for singles in restaurants and bars in a certain area. Compare this to focus groups on Buenos Ares, Argentina, where the women told Ansari that “being the object of unsolicited male attention was a daily occurence, and many men here were reluctant to take no for an answer. “Guys here, they don’t care if you turn them down or deny them,” one woman told us. “They just keep talking to you.”
While not necessarily surprising, this was a fun, interesting, cute read. If you’re a fan of Aziz Ansari, you’re in the dating market, or just interested in current trends, you should pick this one up.