I have a scientific theory. It’s scientific in the sense that I once took a science class, and it’s a theory in the sense that it’s not based on any sort of fact or experience. Kind of like Scientology.
The theory is that everyone in life has thirteen people that they could potentially fall in love with (this theory is exclusive to romantic love, we’re not talking about the love that mothers have for their children or the unrequited love I have for the Cincinnati Begnals). This might sound contradictory coming from someone who’s a self-proclaimed “hopeless romantic”, so let me break it down for you:
Out of the (roughly) six billion people in the world, let’s say about half of them are male, half of them are female, and two of them are Jamie Lee Curtis and Lady Gaga (it’s a hermaphrodite joke. If you don’t know that word, please don’t google it). So depending on your preference, you have either three billion women or three billion men to choose from.
According to some incredibly sketchy, potentially incorrect math that this random Canadian guy did, the average person will meet about 50,000 people in their lifetime (if they live to be 70 years old, not counting people you met when you were either too young or too old to be cognizant of meeting them). Again assuming half are male, half are female, and you’re not Lindsay Lohan (it’s a bisexual joke. If you don’t know that word, please don’t google it), that gives you about 70 years to meet about 25,000 people from the gender you’re attracted to. That breaks down to meeting about 357 women per year. Note: for simplicity reasons, I’ll be using women as my example group from here on out, because that’s the group I prefer, but the numbers apply the same to either gender, so keep that in mind.
So how do we get from 25,000 down to 13? Well if you’re meeting 357 of these potential loves every year you’re old enough to be aware of meeting people (we’ll say that’s about five years old for the average person, because that’s about as far back as I can recall meeting people), we have to take away the years where you’re meeting them, but you’re too young to notice or care. From five to fifteen years old, I don’t care what you think or what you feel or what they tell you on tv, you simply aren’t mentally/emotionally mature enough to really distinguish true romantic love. Example: I had a crush on a girl named Amy when I was in first grade (she was a second grader…this would mark the last time I was attracted to a woman older than I am), but just because I had a crush on her doesn’t mean that I was ready (or able) to sit down and decipher whether it was true love, and if I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her or not. If I still knew her today, maybe that’d be a different story and I’d be able to analyze my feelings for her more effectively, and we’d be married with a son named Maximus Vader Heveron and a daughter named Sarah-Katie-Emily-Generic-Girl-Name Heveron on the way. I don’t know, but maybe. If any of you know an Amy who went to Anasazi Elementary School in the early 90’s, lemme know and maybe we’ll invite you to the wedding. But I digress. So we subtract for all those women you meet when you’re just too young to care. So 357 times 10 is 3,570 women gone right off the bat, bringing the number of possible loves down to 21,430.
Now don’t judge me too much for the next part, but this whole exercise is useless if we’re not being honest with ourselves; love is too important to be dishonest about. That said, I’m probably not going to be attracted to a girl who’s anything lower than a 7.5 on the traditional 10-point scale. Again, that probably sounds shallow as hell coming from a “hopeless romantic”, but anyone who says the visual/physical component doesn’t play a major part in attraction/relationships is straight up delusional. The good news about that is that everyone’s opinion/definition of attractiveness is different, so a 4 to me might be a 9 to someone else. So don’t fret if you’re not conventionally attractive. Perfect example: I think Gwen Stefani is downright unattractive, but my good friend Jason maintains that she is the hottest woman ever — and because our opinions don’t have to line up, that’s ok. He can marry Gwen Stefani, I can marry Gwen Paltrow and we’ll see who gets sick of his wife singing “Great Escape” around the house first.
Assuming that there are an equal number of women at each echelon of attractiveness (i.e. there’s the same number of women who are 1’s as 5’s as 10’s…which there probably aren’t, it’s likely that there are very few 1’s and very few 10’s, a great deal of 4’s, 5’s, and 6’s, but it all evens out), eliminating everyone below a 7.5 effectively takes away the lowest 75% of the remaining women you’ll meet. So that brings our number of 21,430 down to 5,357.5 (and we’ll go ahead and round that up to 5,358 since we’re not discriminating against half-women like Janet Reno).
Of those 5,358 who pass the first visual test, there’s the 50% of them who you write off as soon as they open their mouths (“Oh my God, I looooove Ashlee Simpson! She’s such a great musician” or anyone who knows more about MTV/VH1 programming than they know about quality literature, for example). That drops the number down to 2,679.
Now at this point we should eliminate all the crazy women out there, but that would bring our number down to an even zero (because all women are crazy, but that’s a post for another time), so we’ll skip this one and just assume that at some point scientists will find the cure for crazy and distribute it in chocolate form so women around the world won’t be able to resist it.
Okay so at this point we have a decent sized bank of attractive, intelligent women who pass the basic tests, but now we’re going beyond basic physical and mental attractiveness and we have to start eliminating for things such as being too old or too young (I don’t care what anyone says, anything more than 20-ish years between spouses is too much), having/not-having common interests, relational availability (I’m not into married/engaged chicks, but if you are, more power to you and see you on Maury in a few years), her reciprocating your feelings, irreconcilable differences (religious, political, career choices, whether or not to have kids, whether or not they even want to get married, etc.), proximity (it’s hard to marry someone who wants to move to Spain if you want to move to Iceland), musical tastes, and a host of other things that each person can only know for themselves.
That drops our number down to thirteen, because “theory of thirteen” sounds better than “theory of eleven”.
Of those thirteen women whom you could fall in love with, and would fall in love with you back, at least one will “get away” (often referred to as “the one that got away”) because you guys dated too early in life or something like that (remaining women: 12). Another several will never reach that “true love” level due to normal relational issues like guys messing things up, or bad timing, or life-problems pulling you apart (remaining women: six). Of these six, about half will find and partner with someone on their list of thirteen before they find you (remaining women: three).
That leaves us with three women over the course of roughly 60 years (average life being 75 years, with the first 15 not counting) that you could meet, date, fall madly in love with, marry (if that’s a priority for you, it definitely is for me) and live happily ever after with.
However, we live in a broken world, and though I’d never wish it on anyone, that marriage might end in early death; or divorce could result from any of number of things not related directly to a couples’ feelings for each other. I pray that you don’t experience that in your own life, and that the first of those three loves you meet is the one you end up spending the rest of your days with, but at the same time, if you passed, wouldn’t you take comfort in knowing that your love might someday be able to move on and find a new person to share their later years with? I’m truly not sure if I would or not, but I’d like to think that I’ll be that unselfish someday.
The most important thing I can leave you with is this: if you haven’t met one of your three yet, don’t fret; sixty years is a lot of time to find and connect with just one of three possible people, and trying to force that connection just because you’re worried about turning 20 or 30 or 50 or 90 is just going to bring you more heartache in the long run.
And remember: it’s fun to theorize and debate and joke and try and quantify true love, but the beauty of that truest of true loves is that it isn’t bound by numbers or timelines or checklists; it is beyond all of those earthly entrapments because love in its truest form is a gift from God, given as a blessing like sunshine, oxygen, a starry night, or an ocean-view sunset. We can’t control it, predict it, clone it, or manufacture it (and would you really want to if you could?) — but we don’t have to; our only job is to sit back and savor it with the perfectly imperfect person who’s been gifted to enjoy it with us. I believe that to be true in the same unabashedly-inarguable way in which I believe the sun will rise tomorrow and the moon will shine down tonight.
And that’s the part that makes me a hopeless romantic.