Whether it’s where I’m eating, where I’m traveling or, God forbid, something I’m buying, like a lot of people in my generation—those in their 20s and 30s—I feel compelled to do a ton of research to make sure I’m getting every option and then making the best choice.
If this mentality pervades our decisionmaking in so many realms, is it also affecting how we choose a romantic partner?
I quizzed the crowds at my stand-up comedy shows about their own love lives.
People even let me into the private world of their phones to read their romantic texts aloud onstage.
I learned of the phenomenon of “good enough” marriage, a term social anthropologists use to describe marriages that were less about finding the perfect match than a suitable candidate whom the family approved of for the couple to embark on adulthood And along with the sociologist Eric Klinenberg, co-author of my new book, I conducted focus groups with hundreds of people across the country and around the world, grilling participants on the most intimate details of how they look for love and why they’ve had trouble finding it.
Eric and I weren’t digging into singledom—we were trying to chip away at the changing state of love.
I asked my dad about this experience, and here’s how he described it: he told his parents he was ready to get married, so his family arranged meetings with three neighboring families. That’s how my dad decided on the person with whom he was going to spend the rest of his life.
I am perpetually indecisive about even the most mundane things, and I couldn’t imagine navigating such a huge life decision so quickly. Happily so—and probably more so than most people I know who had nonarranged marriages.
But that doesn’t mean that men end up standing alone in the corner of the online bar. Take Derek, a regular user of Ok Cupid who lives in New York City.If he walked into a bar, you’d probably go, “Oh, there’s a white guy.” At our focus group on online dating in Manhattan, Derek got on Ok Cupid and let us watch as he went through his options.These were women whom Ok Cupid had selected as potential matches for him based on his profile and the site’s algorithm.If she were at a bar and smiled at him, Derek of 1993 would have melted.He wouldn’t have walked up and said, “Oh, wait, you like the Red Sox?! ” before putting his hand in her face and turning away.