The Odds of Finding "The (LGBT) One"
My partner and I know that we're flawed. In fact, we welcome and openly discuss the fact all the time. This, we believe, makes us more open to improvement, allows us to grow together -- and of course leaves plenty of room to extract entertainment value from our shortcomings.
This openness leads us to do strange things, such as sharing research and articles with each other on how we can improve our relationship, or offering each other excessive, awkward similes about how we navigate the occasional squabble:
...relationships are like the troubled waters of a tepid south Pacific squall...wait, maybe not...does the south Pacific have squalls??
In one of our more coherent quasi-academic moments, we discussed an article from The New York Post entitled "The Science of Happily Ever After". The author, Susannah Cahalen, lays out relationship expert Ty Tashiro's research, in which he argues that the odds of finding even mediocrity in a partner are slim.
Imagine you have a room of 100 men. If you choose mediocrity -- the trifecta of average income, looks and height -- you'll have, statistically, only 13 suitors out of 100 to choose from. Increase your criteria to an attractive man at least 6-feet tall who makes $87,000, and you're left with only one (Cahalan 2014)
1 in 100 isn't so bad! Oh wait...
Add another trait -- funny, kind, even a political affiliation -- and it becomes statistically impossible to find him out of 100 men.(Cahalan 2014)
Oh, right. So this "irrational" world of dating, as Tashiro calls it, leaves me worried. Why? Well, the world of dating when 90 percent+ people are of the same sexual orientation is one thing. What happens when we divide those odds by 10?!
So instead of those cushy 13 percent odds of finding a mediocre man making a decent salary in the room, you're now down to 1.3 percent if you're gay or a lesbian. Make him or her funny, and that statistical impossibility becomes 10x more impossible! These are scary odds for the LGBT community.
LGBT meeting places increase the odds, but at best you're back to a straight person's odds -- still, again, statistically impossible if you're extremely "picky".
And herein lies the woe.
High Standards, Low Odds, and A Long List of Demands
We were with a friend of ours last week, discussing his dating life, when as he often does, he bemoaned with complete exasperation his inability to find anybody suitable to date in this tiny town of 8.7 million inhabitants.
The conversation moved to standards, as it often does, and he had this simple list of demands:
- taller than him (he is 5'10")
- cute face
- "quite fit"
- decent job
- shares similar interests in the arts
- not overtly fem
- dresses well
This list probably doesn't look so bad at first glance. But in the context of Tashiro's research, this list suddenly reduces search results tremendously! Let's quickly do the math.
Tashiro says that to find a man over 6'0" who makes an above average salary and is good-looking reduces a straight person's odds to 1 percent. So that's 8.7 million in the city, assuming 50 percent are men, and a generous 10 percent are gay. That leaves us with 435,000 gay men here in a city of 8.7 million people. So far, plenty of fish in the sea.
But only 1 in 100 will have the trifecta of high income, good looks, and above average height. So we multiply our figure by 1 percent, and we come to 4,350 fish still swimming in the sea of 8.7 million. Uh oh.
Now, let's assume that 50 percent of the gay men in London are quite interested in the arts, that 50 percent would pass his "not overtly fem" test, and that 30 percent he would consider to "dress well". 326.
So with our back-of-the-envelope mathematics here, we've come to 326 eligible men (assuming they're still single...) for our friend to date within this sprawling city of 8.7 million.
Fine, I'll say it. Those odds are horrendous (actually, 0.00375 percent, minus the coupled ones).
Working on It
Oh, and no Asians, and certainly no chubs. Wait, what?
The qualifiers are endless. In fact, my partner and I both had our own qualifiers in the back (ok, front) of our heads when we first met -- and, presumably, up until then.
When he and I met, we didn't meet each other's standards. He was young and had few family ties, and I was less stable in my location and living in the wrong place. But we met because we chatted online for what seemed like forever, and I finally came through town on business. We met and it was fun, but not necessarily an earth-shattering first date.
We didn't go home telling all of our friends about this amazing guy I just met -- that came later as we really got to know each other. Early on, it was just pretty good.
Then a week later, I came back through town in the opposite direction. And then three weeks later I was 4 hours away for a conference. And then we decided to give long-distance a go, and we vacationed together in Europe for nine days.
Yes, we are lucky. But we also lowered our standards. We let go of the basic pre-qualifiers, and not because we're just smart and did the math.
No, we lowered our standards because we each saw in each other a desire to get to know each other, and I thought he was nice. The first message that he sent me in response to my three paragraphs was 5 paragraphs long, and he had clearly taken an interest in my profile.
In my first conversation about him with my parents, they asked why I liked him. The first thing I said? "He likes who I am, and he's really nice." Expecting the concretes of good job, ambitious, great family, and sharing similar interest, they were verbally concerned that I was "settling" rather than weighing all the factors. We agreed to disagree over a few more glasses of wine.
The Nice Guy
The New York Post article reports Tashiro's conclusion as this:
So what is the best personality indicator for sustaining a loving relationship? The answer is . . . drum roll, please . . . agreeableness, a. k. a. "the nice guy."(Cahalan 2014)
Cue cheesy commentary on nice guys finishing first. But that's not the point. The point is this: a list of pre-qualifiers drastically limit choices, and seem to have more to do with a night of fun than a long-term relationship.
Had my partner and I not "lowered our standards" to see past them and into elements that, we've learned, matter a lot more, we would probably still be hunting among the 8.7 million. We also learned that we develop and grow more in a meaningful, kindness-driven relationship than we ever did in past relationships or as single people. This means, very simply put, that we actually grow to higher standards because we're together.
My fear, of course, is that our friend will continue among the ranks of standards-driven daters, handicapping his own growth and overlooking what Tashiro calls "the best personality indicator for sustaining a loving relationship".
And while Tinder, Grindr, OKCupid, and a variety of other apps are excellent at helping the LGBT community to find each other, they are standards-driven platforms unless we choose to use them differently, get past the first picture, read (as well as write) a meaningful profile, and dedicate the time to open conversation with people who want to do the same.
Who knows, maybe my partner and I really are just lucky. It's hard to overlook the possibility, however, that lowering the typical pre-qualification standards may just be the key to finding the highest-quality Mr. or Ms. Right in the world of LGBT dating.