Humans, the playwright Aristophanes argued, once had four arms, four legs, and two faces. Our current, more streamlined look—current in ancient Greece, and current, still, today—came about because of pride. Those extra-ancient, multi-limbed humans had become arrogant, Aristophanes had it, and the gods, being gods, resented that. Zeus wanted vengeance. So he came up with a plan that was devious in its elegance: He would cut humans in half. This would, he figured, not only instantly double the number of people paying tribute to him; it would also create a kind of permanent humility, forcing humans into a sad state of severance: two bodies, one soul. Joined, but disconnected. Permanently incomplete.
None of which, as Modern Romance presents it, is a revelation. The stuff explored in the book—the gender differences in approaches to online dating, the social effects of friends-with-benefits-ing, the psychological impact of a swipe-right economy—will feel familiar to anyone who reads magazines and/or is currently single. Ansari quotes all the experts (Michael Rosenfeld, Sherry Turkle, Natasha Schüll, Helen Fisher, Barry Schwartz) you’d expect to be quoted in a book like this. He cites exactly the research you’d expect to be cited. He sums it all up charmingly and winkily and am I rightily, with the same light snark he deploys in his standup. (Telling the story of Tim, an older gentleman who asked his future wife on a date in person, right after meeting her, Ansari points out: “That sounds infinitely cooler than texting back and forth with a girl for two weeks only to have her flake on a Sugar Ray concert.”)
Read the whole story: The Atlantic