Sunday, January 24, 2016

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari (Audible Version)

Happy "Snowmaggedon" everyone,

Hope you are staying warm. I finally finished Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari (audible version). Before I begin my review, lets take a brief detour and discuss audiobooks.

Growing up, I always preferred the smell and feel of paperbacks. I remember huddling under my covers with my lovingly worn copy of The Little Prince or one of the Harry Potter books, hoping my parents wouldn't come in and find out that I was still awake, and ruin my fun.

As I got older, and the age of the iPad was thrust upon us, I became used to the convenience of my Kindle app. I have downloaded tons of Kindle books. Without the popularity of Kindle, my blog wouldn't exist. As a busy student and now resident, I don't really have the time to go to the library and check out tons of books (although I will always have a fondness for libraries and I'm so sad that many of them are closing down). I also don't have the money or space in my apartment to make frequent trips to the bookstore. Kindle books are cheaper and provide me with an easy way to take my library on the go. Sadly, the busier I get, the harder it gets to sit down to read. Additionally, I spend a lot of time on the road, driving back and forth between the state that I currently live in and the state I consider my hometown. I spend tons of time in traffic. I have been also making a more concerted effort to get out of my apartment during my free time - to go out and explore, go on dates, and sign up for classes (i.e. kickboxing, which I highly recommend). All of this involves more driving or using public transportation. Audiobooks are a very convenient way to listen to books while I'm driving. Additionally, with the right narrator, my enjoyment of the book is taken to a whole new level.

I am very glad that I chose to listen to the audiobook version of Modern Romance, narrated by Aziz Ansari himself! I knew very little about Ansari before reading his book - I haven't watched any of his stand up routines, or his show "Master of None". That is about to change however, because I found him to be insanely funny and I found his book to be very relatable.

Modern Romance explores how love and what people are looking for in a relationship has changed over time, as well as why the advent of online dating has made it easier to find love in some ways, but has also made it extremely difficult.

In one early chapter, Ansari discusses his parents' arranged marriage as well as the love lives of residents at a nursing home he visits. Although the concept of arranged marriage seems so foreign to many Americans, you can see through his conversations with the nursing home residents that their marriages weren't that different. In each situation, the couples approach the relationship with a practicality that is often missing in modern relationships. Their decision on whether or not to marry is based on whether the other person is a good "fit" for reasons including upbringing, family, and personality. Not once is the concept of the "spark" mentioned. Not once is the phrase "true love" spoken. Of course, not all of these relationships can work out and by no means am I a "strong proponent" of arranged marriages. However, it is food for thought, especially when you compare it to the struggles of dating in the modern world. As someone who has been actively dating for a few years, I have to say that it is extremely aggravating for many reasons, but the main reason is because of how hard it is to predict whether a conversation will lead to a date, or whether a date/dates will lead to a worthwhile relationship.

People come up with all sorts of ridiculous dealbreakers in the modern dating world. Ansari makes fun of this when he describes a young man he interviews who doesn't think one woman is a good match because she likes a sports team that he hates. This is of course an extreme example, but in modern dating, potential couples and established couples fight over stupid things like bands or tv shows, or over a text message or post on social media. Sometimes the dealbreaker is a physical "flaw,"  i.e. the other person is too fat, too tall, too short, etc. Race, religion, occupation, etc. of course will always play a big role. And after all this, sometimes things fizzle fast and without warning for no rhyme or reason. You may connect online and have some good conversations, which never lead to a date, not because they don't like you, but because life happens and people get preoccupied. Ansari also brings up one MAJOR problem with modern dating and the use of dating apps - the fact that we have so many options. Who would settle down with one person when Tinder, Match, Coffee Meets Bagel, etc. promise you that you can find someone hotter or smarter? These apps hold the promise of "true love" and "the one". How could any human being resist? The problem of never being completely satisfied will always be part of the human condition and thanks to this, dating has become a nightmare.

In other chapters, Ansari discusses infidelity, the concept of "ghosting" (which is when someone disappears and stops talking to you, which can happen in my experience after a few dates or a few months, but as some of the examples in Ansari's book show, can even happen after years!). He also travels to Buenos Aires where men don't take no for an answer; to Paris, where mistresses are commonplace, raising the question of whether monogamy is actually necessary for a successful relationship; and to Tokyo, where the women are becoming increasingly frustrated with the passive or "herbivore" men who require constant reassurance to work up the courage to even speak with a woman.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised at this stand up comedian's thoughtful approach to the perils of Modern Romance. The book is well-written and funny. Oftentimes, I found myself laughing nonstop at a conversation with a young single, or one of Ansari's ridiculous scenarios such as an imagined affair between his girlfriend and Tyrese Gibson, who really does have a Benihana-style restaurant in his backyard (he invited Ansari!).

My Rating:  5 stars

I look forward to reading more by Ansari, if he chooses to publish another book. In the meantime, I will be enjoying Master of None. Thanks to the Great Snowpocalypse of 2016, I binge-watched all of the episodes yesterday, and will be reviewing the show shortly, along with Meet the Patels, a movie that I didn't really like, but is worth reviewing because it hit a nerve (actually several nerves) with me, as a young South Asian woman.

Stay Tuned and Happy Reading!


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