Modern Romance

In an effort to read more this year, I've been, well, reading more this year.  Last week I finished reading Aziz Ansari's book, Modern Romance, and WHEW do I have some thoughts.

First off, this book was like a swoosh of fresh air gently blowing my hair in my face because I forgot a hair tie as I sit forlornly at the side of a rather dismal duck pond and watch the couples and families traipse about being happy and cute, wearing matching jackets and pushing strollers and being so generally pleasant in their togetherness with each other while I look on, jealous and pathetic, forever alone in my perpetually single state.  OR it was like the middle setting, 2, on an electric fan, blowing my swishy circle skirt as I twirl through an abandoned warehouse with lots of natural light, dancing out my feelings to a Chicago song that would have great meaning if it was about or dedicated to someone specific, but because I'm forever alone, I might as well be dancing in front of a mirror, singing to myself.

Either way: it was refreshing, but still a little sad.

Sometimes I have difficulty explaining to my married friends and family just how difficult and infuriating and frustrating dating is these days, predominantly because so much of those interactions are on the internet, through our individual "phone worlds," and not conducted in real life.  In this book, I felt Aziz validating my annoyance with the shift that dating has taken now that it is so heavily reliant on technology.

One section of the book discussed the transition from companionate marriage approximately 50-60 years ago (two people who were compatible, often married out of convenience) to our current society's focus on soul mate marriage (finding the one person you so desperately love, without whom you would be rendered incomplete, the person who is your best friend and confidante and with whom you feel that fiery passion from the get-go) and the various pros and cons to both approaches.

Enmeshed in this consuming search for your other half is the mentality that we all deserve and therefore are entitled to THE BEST.  When it comes to an electronic toothbrush or a new vacuum, I admit that I'm right there on Amazon, comparing prices and customer reviews, wanting to make the best purchase, the most economically sound decision to get the most use out of the product for what I'm paying.  Removing the concept of money and the utilitarian approach from this analogy, I agree that I (and other millenials) often have this attitude towards dating.  Despite our veiled protestations that soul mates don't exist, aren't we all still looking for that perfect idealized person who aligns with everything we're looking for in a potential partner? Aren't we still looking for THE BEST possible match for us, the unrealistic amalgamation of qualities that would make a companion the most logically sound choice for us to spend the rest of forever in love with? Deny it if you want, but I probably won't believe you. Now, I'm not reasoning that it is improbable to find a genuine spark and connection with someone who complements your personality traits and makes you a better person, someone who may seem as if he were destined to be with you.  Maybe some people do find their soul mate - I'm not contesting that.  The problem here is our approach to dating, that when people do not immediately tick all the boxes on our checklist or they do things we don't find attractive or they have qualities that may be contrary or dissimilar to what we're looking for in a spouse, we quickly write them off and deem them not a good fit.

After all, if he was THE BEST fit for me, he wouldn't use such bad punctuation or chew with his mouth open or be gay or ignore my existence, right?

As if dating wasn't complicated enough, the element of texting only adds another undesirable patina to an already delicate and complex dance.  Blech.  How long are you supposed to wait between receiving a text and then responding to it? If you respond too soon, you run the risk of coming off as over-eager and desperate.  Some people go by the rule that however long it takes the other party to respond to you, you should double that wait time before you write back.  Or at least wait his response time x 1.25.  (Eye roll.) But the way Aziz explained it was that if receiving a text is akin to receiving a reward, when we text back immediately, we lower our value as the reward to the other person.  In theory, we see something as more desirable when it is less available.  Therefore, by texting someone less frequently, you are creating a scarcity of yourself, which in turn, makes you appear more attractive.

Like in the case of this particular gentleman, who took SIX MONTHS to respond, and then did so in an accusatory fashion without using words that made sense.

I figure he meant "disappear" or something to that effect, given that "dissipate," when used as a verb without an object means "to become scattered or dispersed" and doesn't logically make sense in this context.

There's also a weird and annoying transfer of power in texting, where the last person to receive a text, in choosing not to respond, somehow ends up WINNING the conversation.  It's annoying but true.

Something else that this book pointed out was how markedly different calling to talk to people on the phone is/was from texting.  There's a personable sense of intimacy in talking on the phone that you lose when messaging from behind a screen, a loss that empowers people to say things that they normally wouldn't say to strangers they had just barely met.

Like: gross guys who want to know if you're down with Dom, which no, does not stand for Dirty Old Men, like that would be any better.

Or guys who, in the first five minutes of your conversation, want to unload on you why their marriage failed and then ask you about your butterfly kisses in the same breath.  Ugh.

Or guys like Chocolate Boy Steven, whom you've never met and repeatedly ask you for the physical nourishment of cuddling.  Gross.  (So to be clear: I hadn't met him when he was asking me this and I definitely did not meet him afterwards.)

Or guys who are weirdly condescending about things for no apparent reason that aren't even true?

Also, because I can't just let this one go, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary:

apology (n.) Look up apology at Dictionary.com
early 15c., "defense, justification," from Late Latin apologia, from Greek apologia "a speech in defense," from apologeisthai "to speak in one's defense," from apologos "an account, story," from apo "away from, off" (see apo-) + logos "speech" (see lecture (n.)).

The original English sense of "self-justification" yielded a meaning "frank expression of regret for wrong done," first recorded 1590s, but this was not the main sense until 18c. The old sense has tended to shift to the Latin form apologia (1784).

And this is particularly great - a guy who can't even deign to have a generic introductory conversation with me wants me to add him on Snapchat.  Um hey Dougiespoonzz, riddle me this: if you're not even going to talk to me, why in the world would I give a care what you're snapping about? Cool.  

A new particularly irksome development is the facade of setting up tentative plans that never actually come to fulfillment, like we're reading off scripts, knowing that we're saying one thing but are going to do (or, correction, not do) something else.

Sure we can go "play tennis." Spoiler alert: we didn't play tennis. Sure, I'll "go with you to the Open over the weekend." (I made up an excuse not to go.) Yeah, totally, I'll help you "look for a piano when we go on our date on Saturday night." He never spoke to me again.

In the words of Aziz, "There can still be a social stigma with online dating sites, and people are sometimes afraid to admit that's how they met their partner.  Their fear is that using an online site means they were somehow not attractive or desirable enough to meet people through traditional means, but in recent years this concern seems to be declining."

As I explain to my lucky married friends and family, what with the increase in/pervasiveness of dating apps these days, online dating isn't quite as stigmatized or as "desperate" as it was previously perceived, and it provides all of us YSAs with an endless supply of people who are also single and looking to date.  It provides us users with the tools and filters to find what we're looking for, we don't need a 3rd party to facilitate an introduction, and it's constantly available for us to engage with at our leisure.

My friend Michelle made this silly video as a spoof on an online dating profile, and is using it in her variety show in a couple weeks.  It was mostly all improv, which is why I talk about crop rotation.

 Oh, and happy Valentine's Day this week.  I hope a cute boy kisses you on the mouth.


  1. Katherine...you are too much! Your insight and perspective as dictated in this blog is precious. I very much look forward to meeting (and approving) the very lucky man who wins your heart. Keep shining brightly...meanwhile, I will continue to knock the heads around of men who can't get out from behind their phones/Xbox/Nintendo, etc.

  2. I loved reading this--you are so articulate! My two cents as a married-at-age-20 millenial with three kids is this: all of the lasting relationships that we hear about and swoon over are the kind that are built over time. I loved my husband when we got married ten years ago, but when I look back on how I felt that day now, my feelings seem so two dimensional compared to the depth that they have become over the past ten years. I'm not sure that true love can really start out on that deeper level, kind of like you said. There is meaning in shared experiences and that is something that seems to be lost on the social media world. We are so secure behind our screens. You have such a good perspective and I love your wit and grammar. Keep on keeping on!

  3. I am so in love with your blog and your writing! I should post a link to this on my dating apps... <3 You're spot on with everything and it's the best.