Patrick Skene-Catling

The new rules of dating

Stand-up comedian Aziz Ansari reveals some very unromantic modern mating practices in Modern Romance

An American stand-up comedian Aziz Ansari, who usually performs in Los Angeles and New York, has found time to conduct an international investigation of the mating habits of the young in the digital age. Like most other stand-up comedians, male and female, Ansari evidently bases his act on nationalistic, ethnic and sexual misanthropy, expressed with facetious cynicism. The first words of his introduction are ‘OH, SHIT!’, which seem to promise streetwise modernity but nothing romantic. Is the book only some kind of wise-guy scam? No, it’s not that simple.

Born 32 years ago in Bennettsville, a small town in South Carolina, Ansari apparently felt restricted by what he calls his ‘brown skin tone’ until he moved up to the less racist north. In the bachelorhood of his twenties and the freedom from inhibition of his career in comedy, he felt well able to explore the amorous adventurism of his contemporaries, and a publisher encouraged him to record his findings in print. Before undertaking ‘a massive research project’, he decided to collaborate with Eric Klinenberg, a New York University sociologist, who helped to set up focus groups and hundreds of interviews, almost entirely with middle-class heterosexuals, and to present the results in generalisations of academic probity, with graphs and pie charts exhibiting slices of statistical percentages. To save his target readership from the danger of ennui, however, Ansari spices his prose with naughty informality.

For comparative purposes, a preliminary focus group was assembled in a retirement community on the Lower East Side of New York. The researchers provided Dunkin’ Donuts and coffee, which

the staff had said would be key to convincing the old folks to speak with us. Sure enough, when the seniors caught a whiff of doughnuts, they were quick to pull up chairs and start answering our questions.

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