The Must-Read Manual for Dating

When I first heard that comedian Aziz Ansari had written a book called Modern Romance, I assumed it would be a droll, sweetly-cynical rehash of his stand-up, maybe with a heavy focus on dating foibles. Books-by-comedians is not a go-to reading genre of mine anyway, and it just didn't pique my interest. I was surprised when I started hearing, "Aziz's book is apparently really good," but I had no serious intentions of buying it.

Until I got desperate.

You see, I got abruptly dumped by a guy a little while back. We'd been in a relationship for almost four years, and it was the kind of relationship (and the kind of break-up) that made me sign up for OKCupid less than an hour after we got off the phone (yes, it happened over the phone--I know how to pick 'em). Let's just say there wasn't a lot of mourning going on.

At first, online dating was wildly entertaining. It was like shopping for men! At, like, Nordstrom Rack. Every so often I'd stumble across a real gem, but the majority were swipe-lefts. Like this guy, who posted 11 selfies that were simply variations on a theme:

And this guy, who not only offered "enjoyment" but also vague promises of career advancement:

Identity protected because...honestly, it just seemed like the right thing to do? But this is a totally public dating website so he's clearly not embarrassed about it being out in the world.

Identity protected because...honestly, it just seemed like the right thing to do? But this is a totally public dating website so he's clearly not embarrassed about it being out in the world.

I went on several dates, and they ranged from fine to downright horrifying. My experiences left me with one overwhelming question:

Online dating really seemed like it SHOULD work....WHY DIDN'T IT?!

I mean, these sites seem to be designed to take all the guess-work out of dating. You have access to literally THOUSANDS of singles in one of the largest cities in the world, and before you even commit to meeting them, you know what the person looks like, how old they are, where they're from, what they like, and if you're on OKCupid, you probably know more about your potential date than his or her psychologist does.

So, with a wide-open ocean and a very high-tech net, why did I keep finding myself with fish I couldn't wait to throw back?

My frustration led me to two action steps--I decided to start a podcast about dating with a friend of mine (more on that coming soon!), and I bought Modern Romance.

BEST. DECISION. EVER. (Buying the book, I mean--we'll see how the podcast goes.)

Ansari wrote this book with Eric Klinenberg, a sociology professor at NYU, and they did ACTUAL SOCIOLOGICAL RESEARCH on dating and relationships in the modern era. This is not just some comedian spouting off on love and dating and how much it all sucks and girls nag a lot! They deliberately used Ansari's stand-up shows to collect data (data, in this instance, being actual text conversations between potential mates), as well as conducted interviews, studied focus groups, and collected even more anecdotal stories from Reddit to investigate how dating has evolved since our grandparents' day. They even cite loads of other research (actual, serious, academic research) in their quest to analyze modern dating trends.

All this hard work is made palatable by Ansari's charming and undeniably hilarious delivery (SIDENOTE: I listened to the audiobook, which I highly recommend, but I bet his writing is just as good). Maybe he's not your favorite comic, but he certainly makes a sociological inquiry into relationship-building entertaining and relatable. It's not dry at all--I inhaled the book in maaaaaybe two days.

Among their conclusions is an easy, practical, scientifically-tested suggestion for how to have more success with online dating.

SPOILER ALERT.

I'm only half-joking.

You really wanna know?

Stop trading texts on Tinder and meet in real life.

DO NOT SCOFF AND STOP READING THIS POST. I KNOW IT SOUNDS OBVIOUS. But the authors do a really great job of building to this conclusion to demonstrate HOW and WHY this is true.

Essentially, Ansari/Klinenberg make the point that online dating has made it too easy for us to dismiss each other without meeting each other. While this tip can't help you if you're on a date with someone who's simply not The One, it CAN help ensure that you're not swiping left on The One too quickly.

The rest of the book is full of interesting insights and perspective-challenging points, all delivered with Ansari's affable self-deprecation. But really, the best part is that IT GAVE ME HOPE IN DATING AGAIN. I mean, I had pretty much resolved to die alone, but Modern Romance really does a great job of making the idea of finding a partner seem manageable...even fun. And I think that even if you DON'T want to pursue online dating at all, but are still trying to navigate the dating game in real life, you'll still find much of Modern Romance helpful.

If nothing else, I think the part on what photos work best on online dating profiles would really help this guy. If he's a friend of yours, you might wanna get him a copy.

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Have you read Modern Romance? Did it help or hurt your romantic endeavors? Leave us a note in the comments below!