Friday, December 11, 2015

#47 [2015/CBR7] "Modern Romance" by Aziz Ansari

I was happy when my book club decided to read Modern Romance (2015) by Aziz Ansari because it had already been on my library wait list for months. I had to do some maneuvering to pick it up before our meeting, but I was looking forward to reading it. I knew Aziz Ansari was a comedian from Parks and Rec, but I had never seen his stand-up and was not too familiar with him. I still expected great things, though, because comedians often write entertaining, surprisingly thoughtful books, and who doesn't want to read about relationships?

But when I started the book, I was immediately disappointed. I did not get Ansari's comedy. I felt like he was trying too hard to be funny instead of finding the funny that was already there. I was also not very excited about the information in the first chapter. It seemed to only point out the obvious: older generations got married earlier and had fewer choices. In fact, they often ended up marrying people who had grown up nearby. But today we are waiting longer and longer to get married. We are traveling and meeting more people before we marry, and we have so many options for meeting people.

I thought the entire book was just going to be a reiteration of this same idea, but it fortunately grew on me exponentially as I read. Also, the more I read, the more I understood where Ansari was coming from, and the more I liked him. Ansari has found a woman he loves and is in a serious relationship, but he looks back on some of the mindless dating of his younger years and all the hopeless singles out there and really seems to want to help. He has a chapter on how communication has changed, with the younger generations communicating primarily by texts. With examples of guys repeated text of "What's up?" or "wassup," he suggests they put a little more effort into it.

One of the more interesting chapters is when Ansari compares romance internationally. I had no idea that Japan was having such a serious problem in getting their younger generation to marry and have kids. The government is actually getting involved. It sounds like a fascinating and complicated mix of the old culture of arranged marriages, a newer culture of burgeoning women's rights, and the pressure of the workplace all coming together to stifle romance. On the other hand, Brazil is something of the opposite, with the men being generally very aggressive in going after women. I wouldn't have minded a deeper look into these cultural differences, but Ansari gives a good overview.

Ansari also explores the idea and reality of monogamy, and how that changes from country to country as well. It's a fascinating discussion because so many people cheat, it doesn't always make sense to give up on a long-term, loving relationship because of one discretion. On the other hand, I need the security of a monogamous commitment. I can't share. I listen to Dan Savage's podcast, who Ansari quotes in his book, and I just can't be as open-minded about open relationships as Savage is. Ansari makes the point that there are two kinds of love, the high of falling in love, and the deeper love of companionship that takes years to develop. Savage wants us to be able to have both, but I think I'm with Ansari on this one: that all those relationships might be too hard to balance. It would hurt me too much, and I wouldn't want to hurt my partner.

So, I was looking forward to this book, started out disappointed, and ended up liking both Ansari and the book. Recommended.

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