Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Inspired by This American Life - Valentine's Day

My boss is an entertaining guy that I admire and get along with really well (a sentiment that is true and has nothing to do with the fact that he'll probably end up reading this.)  So, when he started talking about the Valentine's episode of This American Life, I listened, expecting another humorous diversion.  

What he actually presented was almost depressing.  A very intelligent man had been on the program, talking about how he had calculated the probability that he would find a suitable girlfriend.  Now, I haven't double-checked his numbers, and granted there's some fuzziness in the statistics, but he ended up with an incredibly small number.  

My face wrinkled as I thought about how small my number would be.  For Pete's sake, I just turned down a second guy because his spelling sucked!  Out of curiosity, I decided to have the guys in my office help me try to do my own number crunching. 

Well, the first thing the guy did was take the population of his dating area.  In his case, Boston.  I live in Eugene, but I think I'd be willing to consider going as far as Portland to meet someone that had the potential to be my lifelong partner.  Then, I thought, it depends on what we mean here.  Because two hours is a stretch if it's just a dating possibility, but if I knew that he was my soulmate - and he would love me as much as I loved him - then what would I consider too far?  In that case, I narrowed it down to America.  Okay, now we have two sets of numbers to work with. Other than that, I'll use the same statistics that he used.

Set # 1:  Probability of finding someone I enjoy dating

1.  Population of Oregon  -  3,701,000
2. Only about half are guys (50%) - 1,850,500
3. Within 10 years of my age (35%) - 647,675
4. College Graduates (25%) - 161,918
5.  SINGLE (50%) - 80,959
6.  Attractive to me (20%) - 16,192

The numbers get narrowed down really fast before we even take into account things like party affiliation, culture and sense of humor.   By this formula, I would consider a first date with 1 out of every 125 guys.  

Now, for the bigger question.  How many people in America have a good chance of being my soulmate?  Even if we expand to the population of America, we have to take in to consideration my additional criteria - intelligence, class, humor, kindness, democrat, non-smoker, clean and not fanatically religious - is there anyone left?  Then, of those, which find me appealing with all of my idiosyncrasies and minuses?  Who would consider me the woman of their dreams, even as a divorcee with 2 kids?

This turned out to be a frightening little exercise, but it did effectively open my eyes to realize that when I find that bond, I'm going to cherish it for the rest of my life  ;)

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