Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Published at asiancemagazine.com

One good reason to be at a university is the opportunity to meet, perhaps eventually marry, someone with whom you are compatible, somewhat similar to you, but different enough to be interesting. Even when this does not happen, dating is instructive.

In my book, Ting and I, the dating and mating process was modeled as follows:

“It occurs to me that during the dating phase of our lives we get to know well, say, a dozen potential spouses, more or less. We hope to pick one and mate for life.

Enjoying modeling things, as I do, the model I have for this is as follows: A deck of cards is shuffled. We are dealt a dozen cards in a single pile, face down. Dating is picking a card. If you get to know the person pretty well, you have turned over the card and seen its value, from deuce to ace. You can discard it and continue through the pile, but once you decide to hold a card, to marry it, you do not get to see the rest of the cards in your pile.

If the first card you pick is a deuce, you know you’ll surely do better with a subsequent pick. If it is an ace, you have won, as there will be no higher card. What if it’s a king or a queen or a jack? Nice cards, not necessarily the best in the pile, but each might be. If one of these is the next-to-last card in the pile, which is to say your future dating opportunities are very limited–– your biological clock is ticking, perhaps–– you’ll probably pick it, knowing that it is unlikely that the last card is higher, though it might be. To be kind, we won’t show you the last card. Well, sometimes life does later show you that last card, the person who is even better than the person you married, so the model might have to adjust for that. You might ‘divorce’ that first pick and try to ‘marry’ that higher card. The costs of doing that can be very high.

I know people who discarded a high card, then settled for a lower one as the pile of opportunities ran low. I nearly did this myself. They might have been satisfied with that lower card if they had never held the higher one.

Others misread the cards, mistaking a 6 for a 9 or a jack for a king. I did this myself.

Some refuse to play the mating game at all, which is a shame.

Unfortunately, the stakes in the real mating game are very high, and the opportunities for fooling ourselves or being fooled are very great.

Sometimes you win, and winning is wonderful.”

We hope to win at the mating game. Even when we do not, we learn about ourselves and others– – valuable lessons, worthwhile memories.

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