Many of us make plans, resolutions, or goals at this time of year. This has led to a mathematical conversation chez fibermom. Namely, if your goal for the year is to marry (or to find a suitable candidate for marriage), can you usefully calculate your chances of success?
This all started when The Empress, The Princess, and I were giving Pokey some advice on choosing guys to date. After giving our advice some thought, Pokey complained that — if she applied our criteria to all possible candidates — there would be no one good enough for her and she would have to remain a spinster. She might have been objecting to our criteria, but we were right, so I reject that thought.
Instead, I did some calculations for her, and determined that she could expect 2% of the population to meet her criteria. She did not find my calculations convincing. She thought, in fact, that the whole idea of using simple arithmetical calculations for this purpose was bogus.
I took the question back to the ladies. The Empress and I are married, The Princess has a steady beau, and Pokey is too young to marry, so this is an entirely abstract discussion. We have not consulted any men, or any mathematicians, either. But we would like to have your opinion on the subject.
Begin with 100 men. If you go to school, attend a church, work in public, or are otherwise out there in the world, then you probably know 100 single guys in your age range, and it makes the math easier. Pokey knows that there are more than 100 men in her year at her college (in fact, she has twice that many in her Facebook Friends), so we are using this number.
Start with the superficial things that would cause you to eliminate someone or make an effort to get to know him: appearance and self-presentation. We figured, for Pokey, that 50% of the guys in America would meet her initial criteria. She attends a conservative, not to say strict, school, so that 50 would be reduced only about 10% by her insistence that the candidate be sober, non-smoking, and honorable. She still has 45 fellows to choose from.
Since they are college students, we estimate that at least half the guys will be intelligent enough for her. 23 left. We think she should date fellows from stable family backgrounds, which we figure reduces her numbers to 11. They must themselves be emotionally and mentally stable as well, we feel, since Pokey is not restful. She does not suffer from stress, she says — she is a carrier. Still, knowing that only 6.5% of American men are diagnosed with mental illness, we figure that should still leave her at least half the remaining pool: 6.
Suppose that half the guys are willing to date her. This seems like a good conservative estimate. As I recall, young men are generally willing to date almost anyone, and we know that Pokey is cute and fun. In fact, here is a quote from an online dating service on the likelihood that a girl in her twenties will be able to find a date: “When you were in your 20s, you were sitting in the catbird seat. Men were plentiful and hormone-driven so all you had to do was show up and beat them off with a stick.” So we should be safe in assuming that three of those guys will be willing to date Pokey. Eliminate one on the grounds that some guys will be philosophically or politically beyond the pale for Pokey, or for some other unforeseen reason ineligible.
Pokey still has 2 — 2% — to choose from. We extrapolate from this to assume that the total population of single men is sufficient to ensure that Pokey — who only needs one over the long term — is practically guaranteed to find a suitable husband, even if she insists on the high standards we have proposed for her.
(We are, incidentally, assuming that any attachments in this age group will be fleeting. We do not consider, therefore, whether these guys are dating anyone. We figure that the suitable candidates, unless actually engaged, will be heartfree at some point in the next few years. Pokey disagrees with this.)
In order to make our calculations more useful, we could check statistics on things like the percentages of young men who are drug addicts, the likelihood of growing up in a stable family, and the incidence of neuroses. We could also try to be more exact in our figures, rather than just going with one-half most of the time.
But before we do this research, we must consider: is this a useful calculation at all? Will more data make our figures more reliable, or is there no point to it because, as Pokey avers, such things cannot be calculated?