As I sat on the overcrowded bus traveling through the jagged, mountainous road in the Philippines, the voices of Aziz Ansari and Tina Fey (Tom Haverford and Liz Lemon respectively) kept running through my mind. Literally. I had both their books on tape (excuse me, CD (excuse me, audiobook)). From Tina Fey’s BossyPants, I was learning about successful improve comedy techniques. From Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance, I was learning more about dating in today’s culture and what I’ve been doing wrong. For being one of the most uncomfortable rides I’d ever been on (there was a slaughtered pig on the roof bleeding through the bus onto me), it was one of the most insightful rides I’d been on. I took that time to look at myself and my relationships with others—mostly because it was an 8-hour ride and there was nothing else to do.
I feel like my life is one big improvisational sketch—I don’t plan things. Besides going to work every day and remembering the leftover tacos I plan to eat later, I make everything else up as I go. To have a successful improve sketch, Tina Fey says that two things are essential. I have found that these steps can also apply towards our communication with others:
Always agree and say yes. This doesn’t mean to become like Jim Carrey’s Always agree and say yes. This doesn’t mean to become like Jim Carrey’s Yes Man and potentially find yourself in compromising situations. Tina Fey says for example, “If we’re improvising and I say, “Freeze, I have a gun,” and you say, “That’s not a gun. It’s your finger. You’re pointing your finger at me,” our improvised scene has come to a halt. But if I say “Freeze, I have a gun!” and you say, “The gun I gave you for Christmas! You nerfherder!” then we have started a scene because we have AGREED that my finger is in fact a Christmas gun.”
The lesson here is respecting what others have created. The benefit of “agreement” is an open mind, an environment where ideas can thrive and innovation is welcome.
- Not Only Say Yes…Say Yes And…
Add something of your own. Have you ever tried to carry a conversation with someone who seemed to stifle all conversation with responses such as:
If you asked a question that merited a one-word response, then that’s your own fault. But it is difficult to keep a conversation going when one side refuses to contribute. Tina Fey once again gives the example: “If I start a scene with “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you just say, “Yeah…” we’re kind of at a standstill. But if I say . . . “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you say, “I told you we shouldn’t have crawled into this dog’s mouth,” now we’re getting somewhere.”
Whether texting or speaking in person. Don’t let a conversation fizzle.* Take what you have been given and add something to it.
Unlike Tina Fey, who unknowingly gave me insight by talking about her own life, Aziz Ansari was speaking directly to me and my generation (commonly known as millennials) in his book about dating and love. As he covered areas such as online dating, texting, and the waiting game, I squirmed in my seat (figuratively and literally—I really had to pee and there were 3 hours left on the bus), realizing that much of what Aziz was saying was on point and I had been in many of those situations.
Before, when people wanted to find love, they would take out a personal in the newspaper. This transitioned to paying for an online dating account, to downloading an app and having unlimited, free access to hundreds of single people in your area. With all these options, we have become increasingly less satisfied with who we may be dating because there may be someone better out there we haven’t met yet. Using the Tinder app, people match with dozens of people. In fact, with over 2 billion swipes, 12 million matches are made daily! How were you supposed to meet dozens of new people before through mutual attraction?
However, even with all of these choices, we feel like we can’t settle with just one person due to the fear of missing out with a potentially better person and find nitpicky flaws: “She’s a cat person, it’ll never work,” “I could never be with someone who loves the Red Sox,” or “she’s taller than me, no way.” Ultimately, these factors really don’t matter (unless you have a cat allergy, or your girlfriend keeps stepping on you), and we need to decide the factors that we really value most.
Did you know in a day, Americans average about 444 minutes in front of a screen? Whether it be a tablet, phone, or personal computer. We have edged away from personal communication in favor of sending electronic messages to each other. When communicating with someone, it is easier to text due to the lack of emotion involved and you have time to think of responses. Aziz says that when we want to begin a conversation, we will commonly send the generic “hey” text. This can come in the form of:
“Hey, what’s going on?”
Sending the “hey” text serially can come off as dull, lazy, and making the recipient seem as if they’re not very special. Calling back to Tina Fey, remember rule #2? Say yes and…. Add something to the conversation!
One thing that most people are prone to do is overanalyze a situation. This can occur in a number of situations such as the post-date text, likes on social media, and not hearing back from someone you have texted. Have you been in a situation where you have sent the other person a message, you know they have seen it (like on messenger), but they don’t respond?!! Or you are in the middle of a conversation with someone when all of a sudden they stop responding. How about when we are texting? If I respond right away, it seems like I am over-eager and have nothing better to do. I can’t wait too long because then the conversation will go nowhere. BTW, the average wait time between texts is 2 minutes.
Who sends the post-date text? How long should I wait to send it? Does that mean she likes me? Should I respond? She liked my picture 30 seconds after I posted it, she’s into me right? Should I like her stuff? What do my roommates think?
I don’t know the answer to these questions. But reading them all and realizing how often I have considered these things, it makes our generation seem like a bunch of overanxious worriers. I think the best solution is to get some courage, be a little vulnerable, and put yourself out there. Have REAL conversations in person. And if the person says no? Well then you’re no worse off than when you started, just more knowledgeable.
These topics barely touch the surface of Modern Romance. Maybe you are already the perfect dater and don’t need it. Regardless, I believe there is timeless advice which can help hapless millennials navigate the treacherous waters of relationships and survive their decade of decisions.
*If the person is creepy and awkward, get out of there STAT!