Sunday, December 7, 2014

A Quantifiable Analysis of Why I Am Still Single

I've had this conversation more times than I can count.

Me: Hey, hi! How are you!
Well-Intentioned Other: Oh, just fine. How about you?
Me: Just great!
W-I O: That's wonderful! So, are you seeing anyone?
Me: Nope.
W-I O: Well, how can that be?

There are some variations on this last line. Sometimes it is an expression of incredulity ("Oh, come on. That can't be true.") as though it's obvious that I must be going on dates; I'm clearly just too stupid to notice them when they happen. But often it's the question: Nobody's asking you out? What's wrong with you?

Laying aside the sub-surface rudeness of this question, it's counterproductive. Asking a person why no one will date her is like asking her what that thing is on the back of her head: the person you're asking is in the worst possible position to be able to answer the question for you. Ask almost anyone else, and you will get better information.

There are certain things that are Simply Not Done, even in our permissive modern society. One of these things is to inquire of a person, "Excuse me, but why are you not sexually attracted to me? If you could give me three or four specific reasons, that would be very helpful." This is Simply Not Done because there is no possible answer that could be considered polite, and we try not to force our friends into acts of breathtaking rudeness if we can avoid it.

But the question still haunts: what's wrong? If the normal, expected course of events is for a person to be actively pursued by at least a few others, then why is that not happening in (Person X's) case? The knowledge would be intensely helpful, either for making changes or for washing one's hands of things that cannot be changed, but it remains elusive.

Until now.

I've heard the joke tossed around many a time amongst single people: "Someone should just take a survey!" "I know, right?" This week, I decided to up'n'do it. The crucial obstacle to obtaining useful data (fear of being rude on the part of those surveyed) can be mitigated by the anonymity of the Internet. Accordingly, I wrote and distributed an anonymous survey. 

The survey was divided into two parts: What's Wrong With You?, including possible reasons a person might have for not dating me that have nothing to do with me, and What's Wrong With Her?, a list of my traits and perceived traits that might discourage a person from pursuing a romantic relationship with me. First, I will discuss the What's Wrong With You? data.

In this category, there were three clear leaders: persons of my acquaintance are not sexually attracted to women (a category including heterosexual women, homosexual men, asexual persons, and possibly demisexual persons who don't know any women very well), those who live too far away for a relationship to be feasible, and persons already in monogamous relationships. The 'monogamous relationship' response was easily the most popular, with 53 persons out of 98 total responses. Yes, well over half of those polled decline to pursue me because they already have spouses or partners. This finding, I think, adds significant strength to the idea that legalized gay marriage damages traditional (heterosexual couple + biological children) families, as the greatest obstacle between me and my future traditional family is clearly other people's marriages. The numbers don't lie.

Beyond criminalizing gay marriage, the only other actionable option in this category is that of living too far away. I may need to either move closer to most of the people that I know (which might be complicated, as some are in Korea, some in England, others in New Zealand, and at least two in west Africa) or invest heavily in a global public transportation network.

Of note is the rather dark horse category of "I have a dark and tortured past . . ." (indicated as "Byronic archetype" on the graph above). This category was much more popular than expected, with 14 responses. I evidently know more Byrons than I'd thought.

One further category of note is "She already has turned me down (indicated is "Previously rejected"). According to the prevailing theory that single women in their late twenties are "too picky," this category should be quite robust. Instead, it received only 3 responses. Moreover, these responses were 67% correlated with "I am in a monogamous relationship" responses. This would seem to indicate that of the persons whose advances I have spurned, fully two-thirds of them were already married/spoken for (in which case, good for me) or have since become so (in which case, my rejection clearly did them no lasting harm). (The remaining respondent also indicated that he/she was a Byronic archetype, so my rejection was probably wise, if not kind.)

The "What's Wrong With Her?" data was more difficult to analyze. At least one set of responses clearly indicate that the person surveyed (Respondent 5) was not taking this seriously. We know this for two reasons: 1. Respondent 5 indicated several pairs of self-contradictory options ("Too feminist," "Not feminist enough") and 2. Respondent 5 selected "Her breasts are too small." As this opinion is clearly untenable, I have chosen to disregard that person's input.

Dismissing Respondent 5 left several categories empty, including: "brunette," "too fat," "too thin," "breasts too large," "breasts too small," and "smells objectionable." These data (or lack thereof) clearly indicate that the entire beauty industry is a futile waste of effort and resources.

The chart below shows the results of the survey once Respondent 5's results were discounted, and the resulting empty categories dismissed from the analysis.

The data presents us with several problems of analysis. For example, "Too confident" and "Lack of self-esteem" each received 4 responses, despite being antithetical. Thus, I am unable to decide whether I should attempt to attract more suitors by being more confident or less so. "Taller" scored reasonably high (pardon the pun), but less than expected, tying with "Vegetarian" at 8 votes, and lagging behind such unexpected results as "Too physically attractive" (9 votes) and "I think she is a witch" (11 votes).

Other high-scorers included "Too feminist" and "Too Mormon", though these responses were almost entirely mutually exclusive (the only exception, Respondent 49, also indicated "I don't know who she is or remember how she got on my Facebook," so we will not lend too much credence to his/her input). This may indicate that in attempting to please everyone, I have ended up pleasing no one, or possibly that Mormon feminists in general are just caught between the proverbial rock and hard place when it comes to dating.

"I don't know who she is or remember how she got on my Facebook" gained unexpectedly high marks (13) indicating that I don't know enough of the people that I know, which shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who knows me.

"She is smarter than me" and "I think she is straight" also performed well, at 17 and 19, respectively. The latter concern is not terribly helpful, since to the best of my knowledge I was born straight and will continue to be so at least until scholars conclusively determine the fundamental nature of human sexuality (which may take a while). The "she is smarter than me" problem might be more easily rectified, either through determined acting or the judicious use of inhaled cleaning solvents, but I fear that in this case the cure may be worse than the disease.

The two most telling results, though, are these: "I can't articulate why, but I'm just not physically attracted to her" (15) and "Other" (the clear leader at 22). These responses imply that the impenetrable fog that surrounds human attraction may not be entirely due to our desire to be polite; it may simply be that we don't know what attracts us to other people. Uncovering motivations below the level of the conscious mind, while a fascinating prospect, is beyond the scope of this study.

In any case, the next time a kindly, well-intentioned person demands to know how it can possibly be that I am not currently the object of anyone's sexual desire, I'll certainly have plenty to say on the subject.

The research team would like to thank Respondents 1-4 and 6-98, Google Forms, Google Spreadheets, and the National Science Foundation for their invaluable assistance with this project.