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Urban Tribes: A Generation Redefines Friendship, Family, and Commitment Hardcover – 1 Oct 2003
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
While the title concept is appealing and has some promise--I can think of "urban tribes" that I know of--it's the execution of this concept that is disappointing. While the book is entertaining at times, it's not based on much. And, sadly, the author seems to buy in to the notion that singles in their 20's and 30's are just biding their time until the inevitable: marriage. He pays almost no attention to people who don't desire marriage, or to gays and lesbians who may want to get married but can't.
Although the phrase "urban tribe" conveys a certain cutting-edge hipness, Watters' underlying premises are about as square as they come. How sad to think that time with friends is just a means of marking time until one gets married, or that being single in one's late 20's or 30's should be a cause for desparation or angst. I'd like to think that marriages/serious partnerships and meaningful, lifelong friendships can co-exist more harmoniously than Watters implies.
The second half of the book descends into personal narrative. Although I did find it quite amusing, Ethan's exploration of male/female relationships as they pertained mostly to himself and his friends did not as I saw it further the message of the earlier part of the book. I laughed as Ethan attempted to navigate various pop-psychology theories about mating, particularly when he tried to convince his friends that evolutionary psychology should dictate the rules of the game. Then there is his analysis of the latest dating advice books, such as The Rules. I hadn't realized that anyone had taken them seriously, but there was an astonishing amount of articles pressuring women to marry. It is all very entertaining.
At the end, as Ethan describes his happy marriage and the transition from tribe-life to married-life, I felt dissatisfied. If this was to be a book about the Urban Tribe, it should not have become a book about marriage. If this was a book about marriage, why muddy it with the concept of Urban Tribes? In the beginning, he takes great care to describe how the "never-marrieds" of his generation are much more than single people, and how they are forging a new type of life for the coming century. However, his ending reveals that he too believes that marriage is the eventual goal for all people. I don't have a problem with marriage, but I think he lost his way on his own argument.
In summary, this book contains a great introduction to the Urban Tribes concept, followed by a very funny personal narrative about dating, and ends with an analysis of marriage in our times. I cannot say it was a good book, but if I had read each of its parts individually, I would have said I enjoyed them all.