Thursday Link: Soulmate Math

Enpey sent me today’s link ages ago.  It’s a rather bizarre xkcd post about soulmates. It takes a few leaps of logic that don’t strike me as very logical. All in the name of proving that the whole soulmate idea is kinda ridiculous.  Too bad the agenda is too obvious to permit the post to be credible.

I didn’t post it because I wanted to do the math for frum Jews. Calculate how many Jews there are in the world. Where they live. How likely you are to meet them. How many you’d have to meet to find your soulmate.

But somehow, more interesting things kept getting in the way – like trying a new carrot ginger soup recipe, or attending a kayaking club meeting.

But a quick google right now brings up an estimate of 1.6-1.8 million Orthodox Jews worldwide. Maybe 500,000 of those are chasidim. Probably an equal number are modern orthodox, yeshivish, heimish, Mizrachi, or some other group you’d be able to share a life with in a million years. So take off 1 million.

There are about 550k in Israel and 120k in the rest of the world outside the USA. Let’s assume that most of those are in countries that don’t speak your language and who you’d be highly unlikely to communicate with. Nix another 600,ooo.

Let’s say about a third of the population is too young for you and a third too old for you. Divide by three.  That leaves 133,333 people that you’d have to date to find your soulmate.

If you have 15 years or so for dating (on the assumption that when you hit 35, if you don’t add “froze my eggs” to your profile, you won’t get any more dates), that would be 8,889 guys per year.  If you freeze your eggs or find open-minded guys, that’s 5,333 guys per year.

Wow. I am so behind.


I Could Have Gotten Married but I Didn’t Want To

NEFs are weird creatures. Their brains go through bizarre metamorphoses similar to that of someone who’s been inducted into a cult. First, they completely forget what it’s like to be single. This includes everything they disliked about it, such as dating, shadchanim, and especially, NEFs. Next, they become completely unaware of life outside their cul–bubble. Everything revolves around their swami–er, chosson–and the upcoming wedding. Finally, with their neurons rearranging and short-circulations connections so rapidly that their brains look like a synchronized swimming team, they sometimes come to strange conclusions.

Such as, “I could have gotten married plenty of times before, but I guess I just didn’t really want to.”

Really. So, you went out with, say, 50 guys. And you’re saying you probably could have married five of them if you hadn’t dumped them for dumb reasons. So…

This raises a number of questions. The smallest is the implication that if she hadn’t said no to her previous dates, a number of them would have asked for her hand in marriage. It’s a teeny bit arrogant, but I guess a new bride is entitled to feel highly desired.

The most obvious and troublesome implication – to me at least – is the denial of bashert. If you can marry any of a number of people without issue, then how can you say that one is your soulmate? Or, since presumably one can marry someone who isn’t their soulmate, how can someone ever know who is their bashert? How do you know to marry this guy, instead of trying to marry one of those previous possibilities? For that matter, aren’t you a little anxious that your current chosson might be the wrong one?

Everyone in our community talks about bashert. But when it comes down to it, who really believes in it? What does it mean to us?

This reminds me of the advice people like giving single people. “Don’t sound so smart,” or “smile more” or “don’t be so opinionated.” Whenever they say something like that they are essentially saying, “This is the big thing standing between you and marriage. You could have been married already if you’d have just smiled more.”

This also troubles me on multiple levels. But mostly: the idea that you can miss your bashert simply by not smiling enough at him. That somehow, two halves of a whole soul can fail to notice that they fit simply due to one being shy or solemn or opinionated or smart. Somehow, it would seem to me, that if two people click, something so small and easily remedied shouldn’t stand between them. Or else God, who is supposed to occupy his time with matchmaking, could bother himself to intervene and inform the parties about the importance of appearing dumb, tractable, and cheerful before they split up. I mean, there’s a lot at stake here – if we believe in bashert.

Or we could just admit that, as a society, we don’t believe in bashert as much as we’d like to. Bashert is like the Jewish fairy tale. That happily-ever-after we all dream about. It gives us hope because it insists that out there, somewhere, is someone who will be perfect for us. It comforts us by insisting that the forces-that-be in the universe are drawing the couple together, slowly perhaps, but inexorably. So we talk about it, and believe in it the way we believe in Prince Charmings: not really, but as a cognitive shortcut. Because we know that there are no perfect Prince Charmings out there, and we know that the marriage market is a loud, noisy shuk with rapid and often sloppy trading and measuring going on, and it’s all chance and chaos and luck of the draw…


It’s not.

It can’t be.

It appears random, sporadic, and messy, but it’s really just a complex pattern, no more random than the traffic at the Swindon Magic Roundabout.  And this I choose to believe.

If you had images enabled, this would show you Swindon's Magic Roundabout