Saturday, August 15, 2015

Thoughtful & Hilarious, Which Is What I Always Wanted School To Be Like: Thoughts on Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari

I guess Aziz Ansari is mostly known for his work in the entertainment industry, but for his book Modern Romance he took his comedy skills and used them to comment on dissertation level research he did with the help of a sociologist. They collected mass amounts of field data from different countries about dating, in a time where texting and social networking technology is so prolifically intertwined in our lives. It's thoughtful and hilarious, which is what I always wanted school to be like.

He draws some conclusions about modern dating based on his data, so there's some good advice about dating. And even though I'm married and am not looking into dating, nor would I consider an open marriage, I can still appreciate this book; you don't have to be the representative sample of the research to enjoy its results. Also, it made me think about the fact that I didn't grow up or date in an age where much of my own communication was done via texts (I got married in 2002), so it was pretty eye-opening to see how that type of technology configures into dating now.

There are two really good quotes I enjoyed in this book.

This first one is in regards to the shift away from "companionate" marriage (such as arranged marriages where you might learn to love the person, or perhaps just finding a decent person to start a family with) to the soul mate marriage (marrying someone because you love them and they're what you consider to be your "soul mate"), (page 24):

"We want something that's very passionate, or boiling, from the get-go. In the past, people weren't looking for something boiling; they just needed some water. Once they found it and committed to a life together, they did their best to heat things up. Now, if things aren't boiling, committing to marriage seems premature."

It's pretty Fiddler On the Roof-y, all like, you know, the first time I met you was on our wedding day, for twenty-five years I've cooked your meals, milked the cow, given you children, I suppose I love you -- you sort of learn to love the spouse you end up with.

Sidenote: Has anyone made a drug called "Fiddler on the Roofie" and what would it do?

But honestly, I think if you meet someone and the water is boiling right away, even if you're extremely compatible, there are moments where the water is not boiling, or if it is, sometimes it's boiling with anger. After all, people are people, and even if they're "soul mates," arguments are still going to happen. It reminds me of something John Lydon wrote in Anger Is an Energy, about his wife, who is the love of his life. They have a deep intimacy and intense love, but they also have some crazy arguments. Lydon wrote about their relationship, "When you really love someone, you can practice hate in an enjoyable kind of a way," as if to say that when your bond is strong enough, you can power on through the arguments in a constructive or even enjoyable kind of a way.

Along the same lines of cultivating a deeper relationship, I also enjoyed another quote in Modern Romance (pg 247). It's advice about getting to know someone by properly investing in a person, giving a potential mate a fair chance before moving on to someone else, as is particularly common in on-line dating:

"Think about it in terms of the music of Flo Rida. When you hear his latest song, at first you think, Goddamn it, Flo Rida. You're just doing the same thing again, song after song. This song is nothing special at all. And by the tenth time you hear it, you're like FLO!!! YOU'VE DONE IT AGAIN! THIS IS A HIT, BABY!!!

In a sense we are all like that Flo Rida song: The more time you spend with us, the more you see how special we are. Social scientists refer to this as the Flo Rida Theory of Acquired Likability Through Repitition."

I can appreciate this. There are certainly songs, movies and albums that have taken a while to grow on me. I think music is a good way of talking about acquired likability. Sometimes I need to hear a something a few times just to make sense of it, especially if it has really complex or jarring harmonies. I think the acquired likability in terms of people is not that far removed from the "devil you know" theory; even the jerk you know is better than the person you don't know. That's why on Angel Wesley Wyndam-Pryce hired Harmony Kendall to be Angel's personal secretary, even though Harmony is clearly the enemy. Even the vampire you know is better than the unknown job applicant for a supernatural detective agency that you don't know. Why is that the example I came up with? I have no good answer for this.

Why is it that my two favorite quotes in the book have to do with heating up things over time? Good question! Well, one of the points Ansari makes based on his research is that a good way to develop a relationship is investing time in a person before writing them off, which seems like wise advice to me. However, I must admit that there is the smart ass voice in my head that says "Get to know someone so you can have adequate confidence that you've made the right decision in writing them off." Perhaps it's worse when someone dumps you after they get to know you because they have a fully informed opinion of your loserness. It's almost like that voice in my head is saying this:

If someone spends 5 minutes with you and writes you off, you can say they're the asshole. If someone spends 5 years with you and writes you off, you can say you're the asshole. They have their evidence to build the case of your assholery. They have legitmately gotten to know the real you and are able to fully judge you. That smarts!

I'm a little embarrassed that this is rapidly turning into what sounds like an entry in Bridget Jones Diary.

Now, rationally I understand relationships are two way streets, and sometimes they don't work out, and it's not all one person's fault. I used to go to a therapist who did a lot of couples counseling, and she said that she thought the three things that cause stress in marriages tend to be time, money and sex. So those things can obviously figure in to relationships as well, and they're complicated topics. One thing I took away from that was that it's a good idea, when people get married, to have one joint account for things they share, like rent, groceries, utilities, dining out with each other. Each partner though, should have their own bank account for personal expenses, like clothes, gifts, music, luxury items, etc. That way there's no arguing about finances. To this day my husband and I do this and it has always worked out for us. I advise everybody to do this as well.

Aren't you glad you read this? Because I'm sure you were really tuning in to hear about how my husband and I organize our finances. My credit history! One for the ages.

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