Modern Romance, Pt. 1: CHOOSING

Aziz Ansari is one of my comedy heroes. He’s dry – which I think is a must when watching comedy as a British person – a Feminist (“You’re a feminist if you go to a Jay Z and Beyoncé concert, and you’re not like, mmm, I feel like Beyoncé should get 23 percent less than Jay Z“) and hilarious. I first caught him playing small parts in a couple of my favourite films (Get Him To The Greek, Funny People) but he properly arrived for me in Parks and Recreation. As a bonus he was the special guest comedian at my favourite ever comedy venue, The Comedy Cellar, the last time I was in NYC. I would like to be best buddies with Aziz Ansari.

AZIZ ANSARI HAS WRITTEN A BOOK! And it’s not one of those memoir things that all comedians seem to write about their struggles with drugs/drink/strawberry laces, but is an actual interesting book that’s completely relevant to the lives of the people who will want to read it. Called Modern Romance and co-written with the Sociologist Erik Klinenberg it’s a witty tome that examines the pitfalls of modern dating.

Aziz Ansari Modern Romance

As a Modern person who is interested in both Romance (HI!) and Aziz Ansari I picked up the book as soon as I could.

I’ll be honest; I’ve been single for 2 and a half years and I kind of thought I’d be shacked up with someone by now. Having been in a relationship for such a long time previously I assumed I was that kind of person, the kind of person who found comfort in being with someone and who always liked to be in a relationship. Imagine my surprise when I realised how much fun it is to be single!

Saying that, I do really enjoy the company of a man. One of my greatest pleasures in life used to be naughty weekends away at lovely hotels – weekends you’d spend in bed, eating and drinking too much in gorgeous surroundings. Go on one of these alone and you’re just a greedy loner alcoholic who spends too much time in bed. Yep, life is just a tiny bit more fun when you’re in the company of a rip-roaringly fun bloke who looks amazing and can hold an intelligent conversation.

Is that too much to ask for?

And so I go on dates. Some good, some bad, some weird. I go into them all with an open mind, looking forward to learning something, hoping I’ll make a new friend but really not expecting anything. It can be fun, or awkward, or funny, or boring. Or all of those things. Whatever happens I know I’ll come out with either a funny anecdote or a warm feeling after a pleasant evening.

Which is why I am approaching Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance from a very interested point of view. As someone who would like to be in a relationship at some point in the future but is totally in no rush to get there, will reading a book about finding love shed any light on my past, present and future experiences?

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The first chapter kind of did. It was all about the choice – who we choose, how we choose and why we choose them. When I fell in love with my ex-husband at the age of 18 choice wasn’t even a THING: I followed my hormones and heart with absolutely no rational thought beyond what felt good. Now, with the age of dating apps and websites, we are able to make so many more decisions about a person before we’ve even met them. Crucially before we see how this person’s chemistry makes us feel – which for me is always the most important factor when it comes to initial attraction.

Because of my situation of single parent (and how easy it is to nip on Tinder or Happn) it’s very rare I meet anyone for the first time out in ‘the real world’ so the criteria I follow when initially checking someone out online has become well-honed. I wrote about doing away with the ‘man shopping list‘ a year and a half ago but really there are some fundamentals that I just can’t get past. Height, humour, ambition, fitness, location, culture, shoes. Really high-brow stuff.

According to research we have much higher expectations of relationships in modern times so we expect a lot more from a potential partner; in the 50s and 60s we might look to a man to be a ‘good’ provider and husband as the most important thing (and similarly a man would be on the hunt for a ‘good’ wife and mother) with true love as a secondary. Now in the age of Tinder we won’t settle for less than soulmate and we can reject future partners as easily as a swipe of your finger.

AND THIS IS TRUE.

I have rejected men on Tinder because the state of their bedrooms in the background, a badly judged tattoo or a penchant for selfies with tigers. After meeting men who have got past the first stage of the screening process I have refused to give up my single status for anything that hasn’t felt 100% perfect: sometimes I wonder whether or not this is the right thing to do. Everyone has their flaws, so should I be a bit more forgiving when it comes to dating? Or is it actually OK to stop seeing someone when they become a bit arrogant/annoying/needy? Or when it just doesn’t feel right?

Annoyingly the more independent I find I become the more difficult it is to bend and flex around another person. If I feel we aren’t a total match then I don’t really want to pursue a relationship – after all, I know it’s less hassle to be on my own and that way I don’t have to deal with anyone else’s crap taste in TV. But I can’t help thinking this is a fairly brutal way of looking at relationships. I’m not deluded enough to think you can bend a man’s personality to your will but partnerships are give and take… this should perhaps factor more to me.

I’m trying to be a bit more flexible with the type of people I date and this has been backed up with experience; one of the best dates I’ve been on this year was with someone who hadn’t met one of my top ‘criteria’. Don’t worry, they weren’t a selfie aficionado, but it really did prove that you can’t judge a book by a (Tinder) cover.

So crucially, as a 30 year old woman with children to consider, there are always going to be more practical factors to consider when going to a relationship other than “he gives me butterflies”. I wonder what I would think about my ex-husband if we met now?!

10 Comments
  1. I think you’re right to be selective or less flexible – you and your kids shouldn’t settle. For now, I think you should carry on enjoying your freedom and independence as well as your precious time with your littlies. We don’t need to be in a relationship to be happy, it’s just a nice bonus when you do find the right fella ;) xx

  2. Interesting observations there. I met my partner via an email list and I remember being thrilled to discover that this person I loved talking to was good looking too. But our friendship came first – is that a route closed off to us to some extent now?

    1. Of course not! I’d love to be friends with someone first… but saying that I find it quite hard to make friends. Not because I’m a horrible person ;) but moreso because all my male friends are married and I just don’t encounter many blokes in my day-to-day. Saying that if you know any dishy men looking for friendship please send ’em my way!

  3. I find it so interesting to read about this kind of thing, I have never even been on a date as I got with Mr C when I was 19 and had known him since I was 13. I think by this stage in your life it becomes much more important to find the right person and I think it’s amazing that you can find out so much about people before even going on a first date these days. It definitely cuts out a lot of the hard work! x

  4. “Go on one of these alone and you’re just a greedy loner alcoholic who spends too much time in bed. ” <— This made me laugh so hard!!

    I have been exactly where you are, and had the same thoughts you've had about possibly being "too particular". Sometimes it made me force myself to be a little lax, and it's resulted in some pretty interesting dates with unlikely partners…but ultimately the relationships didn't work out, because the things I were particular about must mean something to me, right?

    If it's any consolation, I met my now-husband on holiday, when I wasn't expecting to meet anyone at all. What should've been a fling has turned into the best relationship of my life with a man that fits all my "criteria" – lovely with the kids, patient with me, and really really funny. Totally worth the wait! Maybe luck or fate or some strange universal hiccup caused it to happen, but I like to think the fact that neither of us were expecting anything was a major factor in things happening the way they did.

  5. As you know, I’m in the dating game too, except just that ‘little’ bit older and you’re asking the same questions I’ve been asking myself for years. Should I just settle? Am I too fussy? And you know what’s annoying? People who are already in a relationship saying, “Don’t try so hard. It’ll happen when you least expect it.” Well that’s great advice, as you sit next to your husband/wife. My point is, there’s nothing wrong with being proactive and there’s nothing wrong with being ‘fussy’ because it’s not fussy to want the best. We know we can compromise on height/shoes if the right man came along, but why should we compromise on arrogance/lack of humour/morals? This next sentence isn’t meant in a patronising way at all, I promise, but you’re still really young and you have lots of time to just enjoy the ride (so to speak) … the journey is the best bit! I don’t really know where I’m going with this ramble, other than to say you’re not alone x

    1. Yay! Glad to hear you’re fussy too, and god YES at the ‘helpful’ advice from the very happily settled down people. Yes, it happened once when I least expected it, but then I got divorced and so I’m leaving less to chance this time ;)

      I will happily enjoy the ride (ooer), as much as it would be nice to settle down one of these days I also love the process of learning about myself as I date. I could stand less weirdos though x

      1. I think you’re completely right to be fussy. I’m not looking to date at the moment, but I won’t settle for anything or anyone that could mean drama, tears or upset. Not with a child to consider!

        It’s different when you have just yourself to think about, you can dive head first into whatever adventure comes your way, but I would hate for Amy to get upset along the way. I guess the best situation is when love comes your way without you expecting it…

  6. And yet, still, with two kids and a husband the idea of going to a hotel and lying in bed with food and booze IS SO APPEALING even if I do get a loser- alco name for myself ????
    Loved this post, gawd I would be SNAPPING YOU UP if I was a fella with your comedy and gorgeousness- mind you it wouldn’t be reciprocal as the mess in my bedroom is immense! And my shoes are always muddy :/

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