One vs. Many

Do you believe in true love?

In the idea that there is one person in all the world that is your perfect fit, your soul mate. This was the topic of the last This American Life’s radio show “Somewhere Out There”. I’ve been thinking about love for several weeks now because I have found something unexpected in myself – fear.

I am afraid of being alone for the rest of my life.


I am afraid of committing myself to a single person for the rest of my life.

Quite a quandary.

On the one hand I keep seeing all these happy couples, all these people forming bonds and building lives together and I am jealous. On the other hand I see all of the compromises people make to have a relationship that continues over time and I don’t want to compromise.

Then there is the fact that good men are scarce and every requirement you add to the mix makes them scarcer. I thought that I would repeat the math David Kestelbaum did during the show last weekend, adding in some of my own requirements, and see what my odds are.

So I took the population of the Portland Metro Area, where I live, and the population of the United States. Then I limited the percent based on the following criteria – Single men between the ages of 35 – 55 who have professional careers and some college, are non smokers and who exercise.

Stats Percent  Portland Metro  USA
Est. Total Population   2,000,000 304,059,724
% Male 49% 982,000 149,293,324
% males between 35-55 15% 147,300 22,393,999
% single 46% 67,758 10,301,239
% some college 28% 18,972 2,884,347
% professional career 12% 2,277 346,122
% non smoking 77% 1,753 266,514
% who exercise 72% 1,262 191,890


Which leave a possible 1,262 men who meet my criteria in the Portland Metro Area.

My US stats are much better – 191,890 men but then I don’t travel as much anymore so my odds of meeting anyone out of my area is slim these days.

Here is the kicker though – we haven’t even gotten in to political bend, religion, hobbies, or interests. In fact if I limit it to politically aware, religiously tolerant men who are interested in some of the same things I am, I might be getting close to 0.  

So is there only one Mr. Right out there for me?

After all we are looking at less than 1% of the population of any given area, 0.063% of the population to be exact. And although I might be interested in them, will they be interested in me?

Now that we’ve mathematically proven that love is hard to find we need to think about timing. Timing is everything. It can mean the difference between a glance and a date, a date and a relationship, a relationship and a marriage. If the timing is wrong – everything else is thrown out of balance.

So what do I do?

Do I play the number’s game and keep searching? I’m not really much of a gambler and I think my odds are even slimmer because I’ve found him once so what are the odds I’ll find someone again? I’ve also had two close calls – men who were so close that if the stars had aligned differently I wonder if they would have been perfect.

I don’t know… but I’m not liking my odds and I can’t tell if this exercise was informative or depressing.


~ Tess Anderson



Filed under Random

6 responses to “One vs. Many

  1. I can see how the resulting stats would be depressing. I did not find the future Mrs. until I stopped trying for awhile. Then my Springer Spaniel intervened, found her for me, and that was 13 years ago.

    I hope you find your right.

    • Thanks! If I don’t (and I don’t think my cat Minerva will bring anyone home for me) I can always say it wasn’t in the cards. After ten years of dating (after ten years with my ex-husband) finding the energy to keep looking is difficult.

      By the way… love From the Bomb Squad to Tactial Corsets… that is the most difficult thing for people and corporatations… keeping these things going.

      ~ Tess

  2. knowles

    I don’t believe in “one true love”. I believe that there’s a continuum of compatibility; that it’s a bell curve, not a single point. Even physics, formerly the most concrete of the sciences, has gone all fuzzy. So your 0.063% is probably more like 1%. Or 5%! Just depends how many standard deviants you’re willing to accept. So to speak.

    But I also try to follow the Buddhist philosophy: Accept what I have, rather than gnashing my teeth over what I don’t. I’ll probably end up in the same place, just with lower blood pressure. Mind you, I haven’t succeeded very well at that acceptance. But I do try… And I can accept that.


  3. What is your source for the percentage for each criteria you listed? I’m guessing there are very large correlations you aren’t taking into account that would throw off the percentages by quite a lot.

    For example is it really true that 72% of all non-smoking, professional, college-educated, single men between 35-55 exercise?
    Or does that 72% apply to some different subset (e.g. 72% of ALL single males, whether or not the smoke or attended college, etc…)?

    Unless your source for these percentage numbers derived them taking into account the exact same sequence of criteria you are using, simply accumulating possibly correlated percentages would render the results completely inaccurate…

    …so maybe your chances are better than you thought =)

    • Actually you are right – I was using general percentages so x% of all men exercise, x% of all men are nonsmokers. So yes… possibly a larger group. But then…not all men listed as “single” are – since I used US demographic data there is no category for “committed but not married” so that number should be smaller.

      I also didn’t account for the fact that this is a continually changing group of individuals so that makes the number bigger. (My calculus is poor at best) But I also couldn’t provide all of my criteria – only the basics – well read, sense of humor, and big nose were not criteria I could account for statistically.

      … my odds are slim but I’m not feeling hopeless. I just liked image the math created concerning how unlikely it is that we ever pair up at all.

      ~ Tess

  4. Darcie

    Here’s another mathematical take on this. I know you love xkcd 🙂

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