I’ve been out of the dating scene for a solid 1 year, 1 month, and 7 days. But who’s counting?
Sorry, I can’t help but watch those days drift behind me with absolute pleasure.
I would say that the average female American– though there are certainly exceptions— is not officially out of the dating world until she has a ring on it, which for me was August 5, 2015. Even post-engagement or post-wedding, you can’t be entirely sure that you’ll never have to date again, but the hope is that all goes well from then on out. Going “well” may have a super loose definition, but you get the point. You’re no longer in that “getting to know each other” stage where you’re afraid he’ll dump you when he sees the volatile nature of your road rage. And you’re no longer in that lock-it-down relationship stage where you wonder if you have a right to be mad when he goes to happy hour with the hot girl from the office.
If you’ve decided to spend your entire lives together, you’ve got that stuff all figured out (I would hope), and let me tell you: It. Is. Glorious. Not to pour salt on the wounds of you single peeps, but I can’t sugarcoat it. (Is this a baking class? Why all the small, white ingredient metaphors?) Knowing I [God-willing] will never again sit through a bad first date or nervously wait for a guy to respond to my text is maybe the best feeling in the entire world.
I know half of you want to slap me right now because I should tell you that being single in your 20s and 30s is super liberating and wonderful, but I can’t sit here and pretend that being single is more fun than being married. I just can’t. However, why don’t we look at it as good news for all my single readers, because marriage gives you something to look forward to! Also, it’s not my fault that the dating world sucks. Blame it on feminism* and technology.
*I support gender equality. This is simply a fact I learned from Aziz’ book. Stay with me.
I was so scarred by my time in the dating scene that I’m still obsessed with it, even though I’m out of it. I’m absolutely fascinated by how modern relationships begin and end, and how strikingly different the contemporary dating world is from decades and centuries past. I still analyze the crap out of text messages that my single friends receive from guys they’re “talking” to. I still ask a million questions about the workings of Tinder, since I only dabbled in OkCupid and never got fully sucked into the blackhole of online dating. I still wonder why certain people broke up with or ghosted me, even though I’m obviously super glad they did because my husband is a freak of nature (in a good way). I definitely won at life by getting to marry him, which means I’m stoked those other dudes jumped ship. #bye And yet, I continue to try and make sense of all the heartbreak.
I simply love love, love relationships, and love understanding the psychology behind any and all things romance. If you share my passion, and sometimes aggressive frustration with how and why people meet, date, get together, and breakup, you will LOVE Aziz’ book.
Oh, that’s right! I’m doing a book review! And here you thought I was just going to rant about my own life.
So, let’s talk about Aziz. (Uh-zeez)
He’s a renowned comedian of Indian descent who often talks about the perils of dating during his stand-up routines. He also has his own show called Master of None that I probably need to watch. To write this book, he worked with a sociologist to conduct studies and acquire tons of first-hand accounts about the modern dating scene. For a year, he traveled across the world interviewing young adults, partnering with behavioral analysts, and compiling studies to provide support for his theories and interesting facts that will make your head spin.
This book is very smart. It’s not about Aziz (though he does give a few personal anecdotes), and it’s not written with the goal of simply highlighting his comedic talent (though he’s very funny, duh). It’s 100% about how relationships have evolved in the last 60 years, trends in the modern dating pool, and tidbits of advice on how to handle it all.
I earmarked at least 20 pages that held information that blew my mind, or confirmed a belief I’ve already developed through my own experiences and observations. Pages with data backing up the theory of not texting someone back immediately (apparently games work, ugh) and the success rate of high-angled selfies for women on dating sights. (Seriously?) Pages with graphs about how people meet and screen shots from real text conversations that start strong and fizzle out.
Through all the facts and examples, three major themes stood out to me most. The book held many more lessons than three, and delved into many more ideals, but these resonated the strongest with me on a personal level. You’ll have to read the book to pick out which topics speak the most to you!
(#1 has a way lengthier write up than #2 and #3, don’t fret.)
1. “Emerging Adulthood” is the best and worst thing to happen to the dating world
A mere 60 years ago, this concept of “finding yourself” in your 20s did not exist. You’ll be happy to know that “30 is the new 20” is actually a legitimate, historically accurate statement. A new stage in life formed over the last half a century, which sociologists have labeled “Emerging Adulthood.”
You see, before the feminist movement of the 1960s, pretty much the only way women were able to move out of their parents’ houses is if they got married. Few went to college. Living alone or with roommates while in the work force was frowned upon. Thus, the path to freedom and adulthood was via marriage. There were no pretenses about why a man and a woman would get to know one another. It was always with marriage on the horizon.
These days, women no longer need to get married to move out. They’re going to college. It’s acceptable to work and live on your own. Whatever you want to do, you can do it. This break away from traditional gender roles completely threw the dating scene on its head. Not only is marriage unnecessary for independence, it’s seen as the opposite of independence. And with that shift has come the desire to marry the perfect person, not just one that’s good enough to free you from curfew.
Since we’re all looking for our soulmates these days, it takes a lot longer to find that person. He’s probably not living down the street from your childhood home or hanging out at your parents’ church. Emerging Adulthood stems from this new age support of young people moving away from their hometowns, meeting tons of new people, and “experiencing life.” We know that the whole world is our oyster, so we feel comfortable searching every inch to find the person who “gets us” like no one else.
According to research in the book, the happiness level of people who do find that soulmate is extremely high, so we all take the risk of being single much longer in hopes that we one day achieve that optimum happiness. Patience for the best payout. However, many of us lose years and years of happiness along the way, bogged down by loneliness and fear for our futures, which argues that perhaps the payout of extreme satisfaction with a soulmate isn’t quite as rewarding as a practical relationship that grows its love over time.
I can see pros and cons to each type of marriage, but the most fascinating part to me is simply the change in our perspectives, and how that completely affects the way in which we date. It’s why we want to explore every choice (more on that in #3), obsess over “chemistry” (more on that in #2), and why so many men these days have retreated to boyish, lackadaisical dating behaviors. The feminist movement rocked their role as the provider and escape route, kicking up dust to create new dynamics– and that dust has not yet settled to reveal what those dynamics could and should look like.
Some women want to be lawyers, some want to be stay-at-home moms. And since women are now allowed to choose either path (or both!), what they want out of life looks very different from individual to individual. Thus, men have no clue where they stand and what they’re supposed to offer anymore. Women don’t even really know what we want from men on a practical level. We all just want to find our soulmates, whatever that might look like. It’s very confusing, so many men just give up, becoming bitter, noncommittal, childlike, or even barbaric.
We can expect that society will become more comfortable with these fluid gender roles in time (60 years is not much time to counteract centuries of a certain ideology), but it’s no wonder that singles don’t know how to date properly in this day in age– because everyone’s still trying to figure out which box they’re supposed to check, when in reality, those boxes no longer exist.
The good news is that in taking longer to find our soulmates and basking in individuality, we do have a better idea of what we genuinely want by the time we settle down. We have more time to enjoy the things we want to explore, instead of what we’re “supposed” to explore. Our individual freedoms are amazing. But that’s not to say it’s been an entirely smooth transition when it comes to the dating scene.
2. The human brain defies any compatibility on paper
One third of couples who married between 2005-2012 met online. I would assume that percentage has continued to increase over the last four years. So yes, online dating works. However, as Aziz puts it, “online dating” should really be called “online introductions.” No amount of sifting through profiles or looking at pictures can successfully determine who you’ll actually like in person.
I’ve said this before, but if I’d seen my husband’s profile online before meeting him, I wouldn’t have given him a chance. He’s hot, sure, but he comes across way more “over the top” in pictures than he is in real life, plus I don’t think he’d have mentioned things like God and family in a way that would’ve matched up with my expectations on paper. Now, don’t get me wrong, God and family and the other things people include in their dating profiles are important, but sometimes they’re not things a potential mate feels strongly enough about (at the time) to share online. Or he/she could still be figuring some things out, which means you can’t determine their lack of [fill in the blank] as an immediate dealbreaker. (For the record, my husband loves God and his family.) People are far more complex than a profile can capture, so we fail to see all the little nuances of beliefs, character, goals, and perspectives. Anyway, with Aaron, we are absolutely perfect for each other– that soulmate stuff. But I don’t think we would’ve had a chance if we’d met online. Chemistry happens in person.
The big lesson in Aziz’ book in terms of online dating was that you should never exchange messages more than 3-4 times before meeting in person. Developing a rapport online is very, very rarely a reflection of how you connect with that person face to face. The other important things it to not write people off if they don’t fill every fantastical wish you have in your head. (I always thought I was going to marry a black guy, so there’s that.) It’s better to know very little about a person before meeting them. Just talk to them long enough to determine whether or not they’re a serial killer, then set up a [public] date. If you drag it out, it’ll inevitably fade or be a let down.
3. Too many choices lead to unhappiness
When it comes to food, appliances, or men, you’re going to be significantly unhappy if you think there’s always more– always something better– out there. Studies show that if someone spends hours and hours choosing the perfect restaurant (a “maximizer”), they’ll be less satisfied with their meal than someone who spends a short amount of time figuring out where to eat (a “satisficer”– mix of satisfying and suffice). This is because the satisficers don’t care enough to continue wondering if something better is out there. They’re perfectly content with what they have.
I’m a total satisficer by nature. My husband, on the other hand, is a major maximizer. He researches absolutely every product or establishment, because he wants THE BEST. I’m like, meh, if it gets the job done, I’m cool with it. Being a maximizer has its benefits, like saving money or making a better choice…but it can easily lead to never feeling satisfied.
It’s hard not to be a maximizer in relationships these days, when almost every single person on the planet is available to us. Not only can we travel anywhere with ease, but we’re connected on the internet. If you have a bad first date, you’d rather go on another first date that might be better, instead of going on a second date with the same person to see if things improve. This tactic doesn’t allow connections to grow unless they’re immediate, and not all soulmates connect immediately.
Having a million options also leads to tons of issues with commitment, but I won’t get into it in detail. The list expands from giving up on a relationship too easily to cheating to becoming jaded over time from chasing an impossibly ideal person that doesn’t even exist in the first place. It’s kind of nice to have options so that you can find a person you’ll be happiest with, but it also kind of stinks.
THAT WAS A LOT. I know. I’m so sorry. But now you have a really, really good idea of what you’re getting yourself into if you choose to read this book. There are plenty of topics and lessons that I didn’t cover in this report/review, but remember, these were just the ones that stood out to me the most.
As far as the tone of the book, you don’t need me to tell you that Aziz is hilarious, because OBVIOUSLY he’s hilarious. He’s the sixth comedian in history to sell out a show at Madison Square Garden and has his own television show. Like, hi.
Another note: He curses less in this book than the Bachelorette Andi Dorfman did in her book, so that’s interesting.
I can’t recommend Modern Romance highly enough. It’s informative, funny, creative, well-organized, thorough, and downright fascinating. You may have to stare at the graphs for awhile to truly let them sink in, or re-read sentences a few times to really grasp the magnitude of a finding, but I think those are actually signs of a really great book. One that forces you think, expands your worldview, and makes sense of things that are hard to understand in your personal life.
Whether you’re single, married, in a relationship, or a-sexual, go get yourself a copy. Thank me later.