‘Modern Romance’ and the Age-Old Anxieties of Dating

By Elijah Harris

Comedian Aziz Ansari, with and sociologist Eric Klinenberg, examine how the ways of dating have changed over the last five decades in Modern Romance.

Book Cover

Focus group responses

Ansari explains his interest on the subject of dating throughout those generations in the introduction:

“I got fascinated by the questions of how why so many people have become so perplexed by the challenge of doing something that people have always done quite efficiently: finding romance,” says Ansari. who wonders whether he should text a girl named Tanya again, but ends examining how dating has changed throughout the years:

“Okay, maybe she’s busy with work. No big deal. A fucking day goes by. A FULL DAY! Now my thoughts get crazier: What has happened?! I know she held my words in her hand!! Did Tanya’s phone fall into a river/trash compactor/volcano? Did Tanya fall into a river/trash compactor/volcano? Oh no, Tanya has died, and I’m selfishly worried about our date. I’m a bad person.”

That gives you an idea of how this book goes.

Ansari and Klinenberg interview everyone from senior citizens to millennials about how dating has changed. He then begins to demonstrate the changes in meeting a mate through the years. After “bribing” the senior citizens with doughnuts in exchange for their stories, Ansari writes, “It was remarkable. In total, fourteen of the thirty-six seniors I spoke with had ended up marrying people who lived with distance of their childhood home.”

The book flows well and entertains the reader in a sense of how dating was once, and how it has evolved over the years. At the same time, Ansari is adding comic relief.

“Wouldn’t it be cool to be single in a bygone era? I take a girl to a drive-in movie, we go have a cheeseburger and a malt, and then we make out under the stars in my old-times convertible. Granted, this might have been tough in the fifties given my brown skin-tone and racial tensions at the time, but in my fantasy, racial harmony is also a part of the deal;”

Or “I was never allowed to go out with my friends. My father wouldn’t allow it. He was that strict. So I tell my granddaughters, ‘Enjoy yourself. Enjoy yourself. Then get married.'”

Of course, Klineberg’s more measured assistance does help in cogently developing what was being sought after in the study groups where the two authors gathered their information. These study groups ranged from younger to older to even single and married couples.

One of the study groups that stood out the most involved consisted of both parents and their children. They split the group in two sides that then go back and forth about how dating has changed over the years. The platforms we’ve now have, of course, make meeting new people and/or finding a soulmate less inconvenient. “I once met someone who found his wife by using Match.com and searching–- and this is a direct quote– ‘Jewish and my zip code’,” Ansari says. “That’s how I would go about finding a Wendy’s,”

Obviously, the surge in technology, social media and means of connecting with strangers have changed dramatically. For those my age, the ability to relate to the new ideas of dating could be very relatable, and at the same time questionable. “As a public figure, I have never considered doing any online dating. I always figured there was a chance someone who was a stalker type would use it as an opportunity to kidnap and murder me,” as Ansari notes.

Those in their middle age or even older might question the means in which this younger generation meet new people or find romance, but might wish they had access to the same technology. They might consider doing things different. “Even Victoria, who had been married for 48 years to the man who grew up in the apartment above her, agreed,” says Ansari. “She emphasized that she loved her husband dearly but hinted that, given another chance, she might have done something else.”

How people met their significant others in 1995



Ansari’s worrying over a girl not responding to his text demonstrates how the younger generation deals with trying to get to know people on an intimate level. “How do we figure out when to call, when to text, and when to just drop everything, stand outside someone’s window, and serenade them with your favorite nineties R&B tune, perhaps ‘All My Life’ by K-Ci & JoJo?'” Ansari wonders.


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