Copyright John T. Reed 2015

The 2/14/15 (Valentine’s Day) Wall Street Journal had a long feature article titled “To Find a Romantic Match, Try Some Love Math.” Google that title to read it on line.

Necessity was the mother of invention

As students at, and graduates of, an isolated in upstate New York, rural, all-male college that was operated like a minimum security prison—West Point—one of my roommates and I decided we needed to take extraordinary measures to date appropriate females. I wrote about that extensively at my web article “Should you go to, or stay at, West Point?”

The System

We succeeded. We called what we did “The System.” It ought to have been a TV series. About the only easily-accessible, detailed description of it is the “Spouse Choice” chapter in my book Succeeding.

Engineering approach to dating

We studied a lot of engineering at West Point. So we took an engineering approach to the problem of meeting suitable women while at West Point and while stationed at various military bases in the U.S. after West Point.

During four years as an Army officer, I was transferred to a different base seven different times. One of those was a tour in Vietnam. So we not only had trouble meeting women because we had moved to a totally new area, we had to meet them again and again in many totally new areas. The System was designed to have us meeting a new, college grad, attractive woman who lived within 60 minutes drive of our apartment every weekend—for lunch—and to get us up to speed as far as having three evening dates per weekend in about one or two months after arriving at a new base.

So we went through similar arithmetic to what is described in the Journal article.

Only 171 girls in the Philadelphia area

The Journal article basically says that if you multiply the number of opposite-sex, single persons who are college grads and in your age group by the percentage you find attractive and the percentage who find you attractive, you end up with surprisingly small numbers like 171 in the Philadelphia area. They said an episode of the TV sitcom Big Bang Theory was based on this arithmetic. One of the main characters on that show is an engineer; the other three, physicists.

As it happens, I used The System in that exact Philadelphia area after I got out of the Army and returned home to my South Jersey origins. I met my wife of 39 years and counting there.

Another example in the Journal article says a bachelor in London found the formula meant there were only 26 such women for him there.

Pre-qualified only, and lunch

We only invited pre-qualified women out to lunch: we had seen their pictures and knew they graduated from college. So we found the percentage whom we liked and who liked us was about 25%, not the way overly pessimistic 10% x 10% = 1% munual attraction assumed in the Journal article. Here are the four possible results from each lunch:

A. mutual attraction

B. mutual repulsion

C. boy likes girl; girl does not like boy

D. girl likes boy; boy does not like girl

We found each category was about 25%. Only “A” lunches resulted in second dates. We further found that there was a sort of half life with regard to second and third and fourth and so on dates. The number of girls we had third dates with was less than the number of girls we had second dates with and so on.

Too many girls in the rotation

I forget the ratios but we ended up with too many girls who were due for a subsequent date each weekend. Since there are only three date nights—Friday, Saturday, and Sunday—we had to cut girls whom we actually wanted to see again from the rotation for lack of nights. If I had it to do over, I would have cut back on the lunches—skip a week or two whenever my weekend calendar was full—so I never had to stop seeing a girl I liked and wanted to see again for lack of weekend nights in which to see them.

Only 40 first dates needed

I also found that you only need to have first dates with about 40 properly-qualified women to find a suitable spouse (top 1 ÷ 40 = 2.5% of the first dates). So the 171 in the Philadelphia area calculated above was actually four times the number needed. The trick, back when I did this in the early 1970s, was to find and contact them. With The System, we did find them and contact them. About half of the eligible (single, still in area) ones said no to the lunch invitation. Presumably, those who rejected the lunch invitation would include many in the 171.

I am skeptical about the notion that London only has 26 suitable, college-educated women who would be in the “A” group after a lunch first date for a 31-year old American. One of my readers was a divorced, Chinese, London lawyer in his 40s. He applied my System there and found it worked great. I don’t know the final story of what eventually happened to him there.

Our initial application of arithmetic was crude. We were sitting home on Saturday night in a rural Army base community where we knew no one. I said to my roommate, “This is ridiculous. There have to be dozens, probably hundreds, of attractive women whom we would like to date and who would like to date us within 60 minutes drive of this apartment. What we need to do is identify them then come up with a good way to meet them.”

And that is exactly what we did.

Whatever-it-takes determination

But we also had a whatever-it-takes determination—after being locked away at West Point, ranger school, Vietnam, and at various rural Confederacy Army bases, we were pissed.

Nowadays, with and and “It’s Just Lunch” and all that, I would expect it’s far easier. But I have no experience with those new approaches. I would supplement them with another, whatever-it-took approach if necessary if I were single again.

And before people get discouraged by those numbers like 26 in London and 171 in Philadelphia, remember that about 70% to 80% of all Americans get married by age 40. True, about half of marriages end in divorce, but many of those, older and wiser, remarry. So if it’s so hard to find a suitable spouse in the Philadelphia area, how come millions there have?

‘Everybody’s somebody’s baby’

In my Succeeding book, I quote the great philosopher Connie Francis on this subject. It was she who said “Everybody’s somebody’s baby.”

My mom said during World War II there was a joke about a guy who got drafted into the Army then spent his entire time in the Army, sort of like M*A*S*H “Corporal Max Klinger,” picking up pieces of paper off the ground and saying, “That’s not it.”

Finally, they discharged him for being crazy. When they handed him his discharge, he said, “That’s it.”

Our approach to dating back in the day was to take one attractive, college-grad girl after another to lunch almost every weekend of the year, ultimately observing “That’s not her” regarding all but one.

‘More than one metro area in the sea’

Forget these daunting numbers like 26 in all of the London area and 171 in all of the Philadelphia area. For one thing, when you have exhausted Philadelphia, you can move on to New York or Chicago or Los Angeles. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Faint heart never won fair lady. And remember you only need about 40 first dates with 40 suitably qualified candidates to find a spouse for a successful marriage.

Not enough candidates in Podunk

One lesson you should learn from the Journal arithmetic is that Podunk ain’t the place to achieve these ratios. I lived in a town of 1,900 when I was in middle school. I, and everyone else in that town, literally knew the names and personalities of all the potential eligible, opposite-gender candidates. There were NOT 40, “qualified as I described above” candidates for me, or anyone else, in that town. Our motto on finding a spouse was “E pluribus unum,” which is the Latin “one from many” slogan on the U.S. one-dollar bill. The problem with Podunk is lack of “many.”

As a professional, full-time writer, I could literally live in every major metro area in the U.S. if necessary, sequentially, looking for “Ms. Right.” And I could do the same in other countries, too, if necessary. Anyone who did that would find that there are, indeed, as your mom told you, “a lot of fish in the sea.” You need to have lunch with, or some other similar, one-on-one, quiet, well-lighted opportunity to get to know for about at hour, forty likely candidates.

Don’t let meeting happen; make them happen

The situation is not as bleak as the Wall Street Journal Valentine’s Day article depicted. But part of the article is right and a big point I make in my book: just waiting for Mr. or Ms. Right to “come along” is total bull. Yes, you let love happen, you don’t make it happen. But that is absolutely NOT true of meeting potential loves. That, you must MAKE happen.

For more details, see my Succeeding book.

John T. Reed