Tag Archives: marriage

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari

Oddly (or appropriately) enough, an ex-boyfriend recommended Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari. I like his work from Parks and Recreation, so I finally got around to reading it over the Christmas break. This is probably a useful read for anyone who didn’t settle down in their early twenties–which, at this point, is most of us. In my early twenties, I was getting all the degrees, forging deep friendships, and yes, “dating,” as well as staying in a few serious relationships. Mostly, I was writing and making art. I was not pursuing marriage.

image from amazon.com

I do not look back on the dating eras with any fondness. So, it was validating to read Ansari’s take on modern dating. In his book, he uses a very soft social science approach and couples it with his good humor. Pairing stand up with social science and commentary is actually pretty amusing, if not hard hitting. Oh, and when you’re reading it, feel free to skim through large swatches of some of the repetitive stuff through the middle.

Ansari’s parents are Indian and, like most Indian couples, have an arranged marriage. Like many people in arranged marriages, they report being very happy. Of course, on the contrary, in the US, we’re all looking for soul mates and have relatively low levels of happiness in marriage. Ansari’s exposure to both US and Indian cultural attitudes toward marriage gives him an interesting perspective.

Here are some of the main take aways from the book: technology has expanded our options for coupling, which means we have the potential to find a better match, but it also means we’re paralyzed by options; we’re not great at intellectualizing what we actually want in a partner (i.e. we think we know what we want, but we’re often wrong); the vast majority of men and women pretty much dislike dating and just want the relationship.

This last one was a surprise to me. I mean, I hate dating, sure. But, I would hate dating. I’m an introvert, which means I don’t love going out all the time. I don’t *love* people, which means I don’t particularly love meeting new people. I’m very sensitive, which means the sizing up, and the texting, and the strangers, and the whole process tends to be a bit too soul-violating for my constitution. And so in the end, when it comes to dating, I’m very much just like, “Forget it. Everyone please fuck off.”

But then, eventually, you find your person who gets it and gets you, and it’s all worth it. Until then, it sucks, and it surprised me that most other people also think it sucks. Before reading this book, I thought most people were out there playing the field, meeting new people, and having a great time doing the things I typically don’t enjoy doing. Evidently, most other people don’t enjoy it either.

Here are a few gems from the book:

On previous generations: “People were marrying neighbors who lived on the same street, in the same neighborhood, and even in the same building” (14).

Things have changed: “Until they got married…women were pretty much stuck at home under fairly strict adult supervision and lacked basic adult autonomy…For women in this era, it seemed that marriage was the easiest way of acquiring the basic freedoms of adulthood” (18).

On the prevalence of FOMI (fear of missing out): “…what I see at bars today, which is usually a bunch of people staring at their phones trying to find someone or something more exciting than where they are” (27).

On the influence of technology: “That’s the thing about the internet: It doesn’t simply help us find the best thing out there; it has helped to produce the idea [emphasis mine] that there is a best thing and, if we search hard enough, we can find it” (125).

This and most other social interactions: “I started to despise the bar scene. I had experienced every single version of these nights. I knew all the possible outcomes, and I knew the probabilities of those outcomes” (210).

On passionate vs. companionate love: “Passionate love always spikes early, then fades away, while companionate love is less intense but grows over time…It is love, just less intense and more stable. There is still passion, but it’s balanced with trust, stability, and an understanding of each other’s flaws” (215).

This basically sums it up: “We want a lifelong wingman/wingwoman who completes us and can handle the truth, to mix metaphors from three different Tom Cruise movies” (239).

dreams and romance

For the past few nights, I’ve had romance-centered dreams. Not sexy stuff per se, but stuff about new boyfriends, and ex-boyfriends, and dynamics, and what not. Personally, I hate hearing about dreams. My own can be so random and pointless that I often hesitate to assign meaning to them. (Generally, I don’t want to hear about other people’s dreams unless they’re able to add some critical analysis, mythology, or narrative to the dream.) However, sometimes I do find my dreams to be meaningful. Sometimes my dreams are very clearly working through a problem or idea that’s been plaguing me.

image by wjserson

The night before last, I dreamt about an old boyfriend who is now married with children (aren’t they all?) We were at his house, the children were playing quietly (which seems unlikely), and we reconnected easily throughout the day. His wife came home in the evening and did my horoscope charts, and I awoke feeling emotional, perplexed, but I enjoyed the dream.

Last night I dreamt that I had two new boyfriends. I did not know them from real life. They were similar in build–only slightly bigger and taller than me. Neither relationships were very serious, but both were very exciting. I was with my dad’s side of the family, getting dressing up with my girl cousins for a Halloween party. Both of my new boyfriends were at the party. I was drinking some kind of whiskey and Sprite concoction and was quite pleased with myself.

Here’s the critical analysis part: When I started dating in a more serious way, in my late teens/early twenties, I tended to spend all of my romantic energy on one person at a time. It wasn’t a conscious choice, but a naturalized/socialized practice. Now, I think I would have benefited tremendously from dating more widely and with more people simultaneously–a model that was completely unknown to me at the time. I should have taken even more risks (though I did take plenty). This is absolutely the wisdom of looking back with the experience gained in the passing of a decade.

The important thing is applying that wisdom now: take more risks. Perhaps I would do well to date more widely. As some of you know, I am in a “serious, committed” relationship, and that suits me just fine in so many ways. But, I think these dreams are about working through relationships that might be good/better for me than the typical scenarios that I’ve been socialized for. Personally, I’m very excited about some of the new, socially acceptable models for relationships that are beyond the monogamous, hetero-normative, marriage model. That’s not to say that any of those scenarios are right for me, but I like that other possibilities exist.

I’m also thinking about this article that’s been circulating on Facebook, “Marriage Isn’t For You.” At first, my religious right-wing friends posted it. Then, my more academic friends started posting it too, and I had to stop, take notice, and take pause. I’ve never been married, but the premise seems off. Or, as my mother would say, it “insults my soul.” The article is about serving a spouse, serving children, and, I suspect, serving some kind of higher power under the assumption that the higher power wants everyone to be married and reproduce. But, something tells me that a higher power might not think that marrying and reproducing is the end all be all. In a world where women too often deplete themselves giving to everyone but themselves, I think there is meaning and value in nurturing your own soul, growing, gaining, and taking from those around you. Yes, oftentimes personal growth involves loving and serving others, but, for me, relationships are also about the individual.