Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari

I loved this book far more than I anticipated.  I like memoirs written by comedians, so I knew I would pick up Aziz’s when it came out.  I love him in Parks & Recreation, and his stand up on Netflix is some of the smartest, most modern, most feminist comedy I’ve seen.  I knew his book would be funny.  I did not expect it to be so smart!  He’s an insightful guy, but teamed up with Eric Klinenberg, sociologist, this book is everything my humor-loving sociology-major heart could want.

I found it fascinating to look back at courtships of yesteryear (aka 30 or 40 years ago) and compare them to my struggles as a single with an iPhone.  So much has changed with the advent of the Internet and phone apps that allow us to check out singles all over the world.  In an especially effective analogy, Ansari likens dating to a hallway.  Men and women used to enter a hallway with four or five doorways–they peeked through a couple, found one that wasn’t too horrible, and walked through.  Now, singles stand in a hallway with millions of doorways.  This enormity of options means that we are more likely to find someone who aligns closely with our interests, values, and personality.  But it also means that we are often paralyzed, terrified to walk through any doorway for fear that the next one down will be better.

Ansari hilariously describes and analyzes the frustrations of modern dating.  I appreciated his honest assessment of the good and the bad, and I really appreciated how he managed to find humor in it all.  I finished the book both thankful and horrified to be in the dating world at this time in world history.  But at least now I have the tools to understand what I’m going through and hopefully wade through the complications a little more effectively.

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At some point, every one of us embarks on a journey to find love.  We meet people, date, get into and out of relationships, all with the hope of finding someone with whom we share a deep connection.  This seems standard now, but it’s wildly different from what people did even just decades ago.  Single people today have more romantic options than at any point in human history.  With technology, our ability to connect with and sort through these options is staggering.  Just a few years ago, in 2010, 10% of single Americans said they met their significant other online.  Three years later, in 2013, that number was up to 35%.  We are truly in a new world.  What’s the good in all this change?  What’s the bad?  Why are so many people frustrated?

Some of our problems are unique to our time:  “Why did this guy just text me an emoji of a pizza?”  “Should I go out with this girl even though she listed Combos as one of her favorite food snacks?  Combos?!”  “My girlfriend just got a message from some dude named Nathan.  Who’s Nathan?  Did he just send her a picture of his penis?  Should I check just to be sure?”

But the transformation of our romantic lives can’t be explained by technology alone.  In a short period of time, the whole culture of finding love has changed dramatically.  A few decades ago people would find a decent person who lived in their neighborhood.  Their families would meet and, after deciding neither party seemed like a murderer, they would get married and soon have a kid–all by the time they were twenty-four.  Today, people marry later than ever and spend years of their lives on a quest to find the perfect person, a soul mate.

For years, Aziz Ansari has been aiming his comic insight at modern romance, but for Modern Romance, the book, he decided to take things to another level.  He teamed up with NYU sociologist Eric Klinenberg and designed a massive research project, including hundreds of interviews and focus groups conducted everywhere from Tokyo to Buenos Aires to Wichita.  They analyzed behavioral data and surveys and created their own online research forum on Reddit, which drew thousands of messages.  They enlisted the world’s leading social scientists, including Andrew Cherlin, Eli Finkel, Helen Fisher, Sheena Iyengar, Barry Schwartz, Sherry Turkle, and Robb Willer.  The result is Modern Romance, a marriage of cutting-edge social science and razor-sharp humor to form an assessment of our new romantic world that is as funny as it is groundbreaking.

Release Date:  June 2015

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StumbleUpon Sunday (17)

StumbleUpon is a great way to lose hours of your life.  Luckily, I braved the Internet vortex so you don’t have to.  This week I found these especially interesting websites:

  1. 15 Things Worth Knowing About Coffee
    For a person who drinks so much coffee, I know surprisingly little about it.  Until I read this funny infographic, anyway!
  2. 25 Genius Hacks That Make Having a Dog So Much Easier
    These are so simple and, like the title boasts, genius!  I especially like the tip to play fetch downhill so your dog will get tired faster.
  3. 15 Amazing Places You Can Tour on Google Maps
    Don’t have the money to travel?  Staring wistfully at your computer screen is the next best thing!  I toured the Coliseum, and it was pretty cool.
  4. The 11 People to Unfollow on Facebook
    Hahahaha, yesssss.
  5. 15 Super Cute Hand-Sized Baby Animals
    Everything is cute when it’s tiny!  They snuck three baby foxes into the list, and I am so okay with that.
  6. 22 of the Most Secluded Hotels in the World
    A traveling introvert’s DREAM.
  7. 3 Leadership Lessons Learned from Jon Stewart
    Good TV host, great leader.
  8. 100 Disposable Cameras Were Given to Homeless People
    This is a really cool art project!
  9. 20 Great Escapes that Will Make You Feel Small
    Beautiful photography.
  10. My DIY Coffee Pot Terrarium
    I don’t usually like Pinterest-y craft projects, but I think this coffee pot terrarium is super cute.

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

I heard this was a good biography, and I like Apple products, so I gave it a chance.  Actually, I got it at the library with three other massive books (this one clocks in at 570 pages) and I chose to read it first because I assumed I wouldn’t get past the first page.  I WAS SO WRONG.  I loved Jobs’ biography, for two main reasons.

Steve Jobs was a fascinating man.  Isaacson makes sure to let the readers know Jobs’ passion often turned into screaming fights and insulting appraisals of people’s work.  And yet…despite his frequent moments as a jerk, I wound up loving the man.  He was intense, brilliant, and focused.  When he saw something inadequate, in himself or in others, he did everything in his power to improve it.  Although this cost him some relational intimacy, those exact same qualities led him to revolutionize technology, not once or twice, but in every major technological division: personal computers, music, tablets, storefronts, phones, entertainment.  He was hard to work for, but 90% of his employees were proud to be on his team because he brought out excellence they never knew they had.   Continue reading