When I first heard that comedian Aziz Ansari, best known for roles in spunky TV shows such as Parks and Recreation as well as his own Netflix series, Master of None, had written a book I assumed it was another comedian biography much like Tina Fey’s Bossypants. I’ve recently been listening to many comedians’ biographies and had heard a lot of people talking about this book, all giving great reviews. What I didn’t realize was that it wasn’t really a biography at all. Instead Modern Romance is an interesting look at the dating/marriage culture of today and the impact technology has played in shifting trends. Ansari has written a laugh out loud worthy, well-researched social commentary on why singles of today are finding it difficult to settle down and stay married.
As part of the 30 something’s crowd I hear a lot about online dating. Once looked down upon only a few years ago, now it seems like everyone is trying it! Newly divorced, perpetually single, etc. are wading into the world of online dating with little social judgment. But as Ansari asks in his book, is this good? What implications does all this access to so many single (or at least ready to mingle) strangers have on the tradition American dream of finding a partner, settling down, and raising a family?
According to research done for Modern Romance, technology does play a large role in dating these days. But the cultural shift is deeper than just the ability to swipe right or left for new mates. Ansari found during his interviews that most marriages only a couple of decades ago most likely happened between people who grew up around each other. With little ability to travel, especially world travel as we have today, most couples lived within a very short distance of one another. Roles were also very different for marriages in that time period. Men and women had very narrow views of their roles within a marriage. If the man found a job and provided for the family, he was a good husband. If the woman cooked, kept a clean house, and took care of any children, she was a good wife. In today’s culture genders no longer need to limit themselves to these narrow guidelines. Women can have a job, men could stay at home, and overall it means that the immediacy of needing to find a partner has greatly reduced.
I found this book overall fascinating and hilarious. I really enjoy the sarcastic humor of Ansari and found the information provided within the book extremely insightful. As someone who has witnessed firsthand many of the frustrations discussed within the book it was helpful to find words to these experiences. The nature of texting and instant gratification has taken a toll on patience and expectations. Today’s singles must navigate a dating environment that mostly takes place through screens and very rarely actually involves face to face or even phone call communication. On top of that we now have the ability to travel thousands of miles, a seemingly endless supply of options through online dating apps and websites, and a progressive society open to letting genders have more choices towards career and marriage.
After listening to Ansari’s book it made me realize how special today’s choice of marriage is. The book’s final message is that couples today have the unique ability to choose something that is no longer economically or socially necessary. Women don’t need to escape their parents’ house by getting married and men don’t need a wife to do all the cooking and cleaning. Getting married today likely means you have found a life partner with whom you truly and deeply love which is a gift many generations ago were not given.
Formats Available: Book, Audiobook, eBook
Reviewed by Lindsay, St. Matthews Branch