Jonathan Smith // Blog Writer
Aziz Ansari, best known for his role as Tom Haverford in NBC’s Parks and Recreation, is not the type of person most would expect to write a detailed account on dating in the digital age. But the stand-up comedian, actor, and producer—along with New York University sociologist Eric Klinenberg—conducts serious research with reputable interviews and statistics to investigate the current status of love in Modern Romance. The result is a comprehensive history of recent dating patterns, filled with Ansari’s unorthodox commentary on a wide array of controversial topics.
I must preface the rest of this review by declaring my strong bias toward Ansari: I have watched all of his executive-produced Netflix series Master of None, his Netflix comedy specials, and his recent appearance as host of Saturday Night Live, along with all of Parks and Recreation. If it weren’t for Ansari being the author of this book, I probably wouldn’t have given it a second glance. But, as a fan of Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner’s Freakonomics series, I’m certainly glad I gave it a read.
If the cover depicting Ansari with a phone and two heart-shaped eyes isn’t enough to set the book’s tone, Ansari’s introduction certainly does. “Thanks for buying my book,” Ansari says in its opening lines. “That money is MINE” . This statement is valid, as is the fact that Ansari knows how to construct a relatable personal narrative. The reason he gives for writing this particular book stems from his confusing relationship with one friend under the pseudonym Tanya. They enjoyed each other’s company at a friend’s party, and when Ansari followed up with a text message asking her out to a concert, she didn’t respond. Feeling upset, perplexed, and self-doubt in the face of this silence, Ansari went to a comedy club and discovered an audience that could easily relate. He knew the search for romance had layers worth exploring.
And explore Ansari did. Along with Klinenberg, Ansari conducted interviews at various demographic levels, including senior citizens living in retirement homes and millennials who are just entering their late twenties. What he finds is remarkable: A large amount of the senior citizens he interviewed married partners who lived within a couple blocks of their childhood houses. This is accurate in correspondence to a 1932 University of Pennsylvania study Ansari includes in the first chapter. However, most of the millennials Ansari interviewed have adapted to the ever-changing ways of technology, with apps such as Tinder and Match bringing people together from all over the globe.
Times certainly have changed. Ansari offers as evidence the fact that his parents had an arranged marriage. His father told Ansari’s grandparents he was ready to marry, so they sat down with three different families. Ansari’s father said the first girl he met was a “little too tall,” and the second girl was a “little too short” . The third girl, whom he married a week later, was of suitable height. An arranged marriage in the present day sounds absolutely crazy to the modern reader, especially given Ansari’s repeated notion that everyone is in search of a soul mate. People today are getting married later than ever, and most of us are fortunate enough to live in an age where we choose our own partners.
There are certain aspects of this book that may appear too obvious to the average reader, but what Ansari is able to synthesize is always intriguing. Among the many topics Ansari breaks down are the initial moves that are most effective when asking someone out, the waiting game when texting a potential partner, and, of course, the ever-controversial choices for online-dating profile pictures. There’s a preview of Modern Romance available on Google Books, and anyone looking for Ansari’s signature voice while awaiting season two of Master of None will undoubtedly find solace in its content. And maybe Ansari’s analysis of today’s dating world may just help its readers find love in their lives.
Final Rating: 7.5/10