Earlier this week, I had the privilege of attending an intimate afternoon tea with Aziz Ansari to learn more about the Parks and Recs actor (and famous standup comic) and his new book, Modern Romance.
A lot of people expected this book to be laced with the humor that Aziz is so well known for, and it is—but it's also full of sociological studies and supplemented by charts and graphs that took months of hard research to create. It's an in-depth look at the dating world today and how much it has changed since our parents' and grandparents' day and age.
Aziz explores the role that technology plays in our evolving romantic landscape, along with how the concept of relationships and marriage has changed over time. Using information gathered from hundreds of focus groups across not only the country but the world, he provides an analysis of modern romance (there's where the title comes in—ta-da!) and a few guidelines for those currently navigating through sticky romantic situations.
Surrounded by tiny cucumber sandwiches, Aziz chatted about a few topics, from finding love to texting habits to monster truck rallies. Here's what I learned from him during our time together.
College students are way more concerned about texting than older people
Not super surprising, right? But Aziz noticed a trend after interviewing people from varying age groups. "Someone my age—I'm 32—if they don't get a text back in a couple of hours, they're like, 'What's going on?'" Aziz said. "But if someone in college doesn't get a text back in like, a minute, they're like, 'WHAT THE F***? NOOOOO!'"
Aziz mentioned that the older people in his focus groups didn't place all of their perceptions about their relationship with a person on how quickly that person did or did not respond to their text messages. Sounds a bit healthier, don't you think?
College students also DO NOT want to talk on the phone
Think about the last time that you spoke to somebody on the phone rather than via text, Facebook Chat, or Snapchat. That person was probably either a) a relative or b) somebody that you were very close with. Aziz noted that college-aged people were not comfortable with the idea of casually chatting on the phone with a potential love interest.
"When we asked people my age, 'What if a guy called you?' they're like, 'Oh, I think that would be really refreshing,''That would be really thoughtful,''I would appreciate that,'" Aziz said. "When we asked younger women, 'What if a guy called you?' they'd be like, 'I don't know what I would say!''That would be terrifying!''Why would they do that? Why would they call me?''It would have to be an emergency!''No, I wouldn't want that!'" Aziz added that it was interesting to see how different things were just based on age. "Point being: younger people are crazy," he concluded.
People definitely judge one another based on text messages
Aziz talked about how he's got a few friends that think, "If the person likes you, they like you. It doesn't matter how you text." He was very quick to mention that he absolutely doesn't buy into that theory. You could be at a party and meet a person that you really like, but if they text you a message that reads something like "Wsup grl u wanna get 2gether?" then chances are that your interest levels would decrease. "Now you kind of have your 'real self' and your 'phone self,'" Aziz said. "Your 'phone self' is shaped by what you say in these messages, and it leads to people making judgements on who you are and what your personality is." He said it can also lead to people losing interest in you.
At the end of his book, Aziz also mentions this and reminds readers to treat the people they're texting like people rather than like bubbles on a screen. He urges readers to be respectful and treat the other person the same way that they would in person.
To get excited by somebody, you need to do exciting things...
Aziz talked about how people go on these dates that are almost set up to fail: dinner, coffee, drinks. These dates force you to sit across from the person that you're interested in, probably not touching, and have almost a resume-type exchange about who you are. From Aziz's point of view, these dates are hardly ever going to get you to know one another on a deeper level that makes either of you feel that spark that you might otherwise totally have for this person sitting across from you drinking a smoothie.
"If you do something a little more interesting and push yourself to come up with a more interesting thing, you end up really increasing your chance of having a fun date," Aziz said. He added that a few people he spoke to used to take the women they were interested in to monster truck rallies just to do something different and exciting, so that they'd have the chance to relax, laugh, and get to know each other better.
...But also, it's awesome to do nothing together
Aziz is currently in a committed relationship with a beautiful chef in Los Angeles, and though he mentioned that he still loves to go on fun and exciting dates with her, he also admitted that he loves to relax and just be with her. "A great part of being in a relationship is that you can stay home and do nothing," Aziz said. He and his girlfriend stay in and cook dinner together, watch movies and just enjoy one another's presence. There's always a balance to strike in a relationship between relaxing together and doing adventurous things, and it seems that Aziz has found that balance with his new boo.
Don't be so quick to move on to the next thing
At this point, we've all got so many options at any given moment that it's almost impressive that we ever get anything done. Right this second, you could be watching OITNB on Netflix or Googling funny interviews on Conan or reading Channing Tatum's Wikipedia page or doing a million other things with just a few clicks. Aziz thinks that always having a million other options (aside from leading to serious FOMO from time to time) has made us all maximizers. We want to know that what we're getting is the absolute best thing possible, and we're quick to drop whatever we think isn't good enough.
Aziz talked about how he thinks that this carries over to dating, too. "When you go on a date with someone, I feel like now our expectations are really high. You want this 'Oh my god," amazing thing, and not every date will have that," Aziz said. "We're quick to move on and be like, 'Let's try someone else,' because we have more options than anyone has ever had before. And it's kind of a big mistake, I think, because people are amazing. People have so much more to show you than they can show you in one session of drinks."
Men and women are worried about the same things, relationship-wise
Often romance books are geared toward one gender over the other—there will be a guide for guys about how to get with girls, and a guide for women about how to lock down a man. Aziz made sure that this book (and that nothing he said at tea) was like that. This book explores how both genders deal with the issue at hand: modern romance. Aziz doesn't think that one gender is more worried about gender than the other. "For every guy that's nervous about what to text a girl, there's a girl on the other end that's nervous about what to respond," Aziz said. The idea is that we all need to relax and be ourselves in order to get to know one another. But you can read more about that in the book.
However, guys aren't always the best at texting
When asked what texting pattern he saw most when he spoke to so many different groups across the world, Aziz had a surprising answer. "It's just saying nothing. Saying 'Hey. What are you doing? What's going on tonight? What are you up to?' That kind of stuff is so prevalent, and if you're a guy sending it to some person you've met, then it doesn't seem that bad," Aziz said. "But when you interview hundreds of women and you see it from their end, it's like, 'Yeah, there are all these guys just texting me 'hey' or 'what are you doing' and it's nothing!'"
Women aren't looking for vague conversations that don't go anywhere—so what are they looking for? "When we broke it down, the things women most respond to by far is just the basic idea of inviting someone to a specific thing at a specific time," Aziz said. "Which seems like such common sense, but so few guys do it!"
Most importantly: we're all in the same boat
When it comes to dating, we're not all that different from one another. "My positive takeaway [from writing this book] was that we're all in it together. Everyone is sitting there staring at their screens in a dilemma that seems totally their own and very unique to them, but in a way, everyone is dealing with the same nonsense," Aziz said.
There you have it! The nuggets of knowledge passed along to me from Aziz Ansari. For more words of wisdom on the dating world today, pick up a copy of Modern Romance and read for yourself what this hilarious love expert has to say.