People love to quote Hemmingway in times like these, who wrote, “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” While I personally consider “My favorite writer is Hemmingway” to be the #1 red flag in a potential partner (he’s either just saying it to “sound smart” or – worse – he actually means it), I DO agree that this complete breakdown of normal life could end up making many of our relationships stronger. Why? Because of astrophysics and shopping. (Really.)
Back in the 60’s, a bunch of guys searching for signs of intelligent life-partners in the universe developed a little list called the Drake Equation (no relation to our current Drake). They listed all the factors necessary for a close encounter with alien kind, and those of us searching for contact closer to home can learn one very important thing from their work: it’s short.
Too many of us have lists to rival Santa’s when it comes to a life partner. We want a certain height, basic income, education level… but if you spend your entire life waiting specifically for Doctor Who, you won’t notice the glowing heart of E.T. when he’s right there holding flowers. And if online dating has taught us anything, it’s that even when we shop for partners as precisely as groceries, we still end up with bruised fruit and rotten eggs.
So, since things like jobs, and income, and education, and even sanity don’t really exist during this crisis, it is a great opportunity for us to throw out those useless lists and focus on what really matters: PIE. Yes, literally – stress baking/eating are keeping a lot of us sane – but mostly figuratively: P.I.E. represents the only three elements we really need for love.
In the Drake Equation, after the foundational work of calculating how many planets there are out there that can host aliens (or in our case, how many people in the world are the right age, gender, and orientation to host our love), it basically comes down to three things: Does that planet have life? Is that life intelligent? Can that intelligent life reach out and touch somebody’s hand? For a relationship, that’s all we need as well: Physical life, Intellectual stimulation, Emotional connection (P.I.E.). Everything else is just decoration.
Normally, we discover these three ingredients in order when dating. Comedians refer to the “rule of threes” in joke writing, but I find it’s true in dating as well: it takes about 3 seconds to know if we’re physically attracted to someone, about 3 minutes to know if that attraction is mutual, if you’re still talking after 3 hours they are interesting enough to date, after 3 dates you know if they are worth dating exclusively, and somewhere around 3 months is when emotional red flags start popping up. (“I’m not really looking for commitment.” “Can’t we just keep this fun?” “I’ve already named our babies!” You know the signs.)
This has been the way, but it is a way that leads to a lot of heartbreak, because when you already have the “P” and the “I” it is devastating to learn that your potential partner is an “E”-motional child or completely devoid of Empathy. This is where a global pandemic can be good for us!
A lot of people were in new relationships when forced to retreat inside or were single and now have only cyber options for dating, and if that’s you, then it is E’s time to shine! We are collectively traumatized; many of us are experiencing life-altering events daily (employment changes, illness, loss…the little things). We are all going to find out real quick how capable our partners are of adult conversation. This means a lot of potential heartbreak is going to be nipped in the Emotional bud.
As for dating, don’t worry about being unable to meet your potential someone face-to-face. Instead, see this as the opportunity to get a very real idea of how capable they are of keeping you interested and supported. Talk, text, video chat; send each other fun facts and articles; play games and make up titles for quarantined-themes rom coms. (“A White-Cell Christmas,” anyone?) Make each other laugh and support each other’s crying, and when this is all over – and it will be over – I guarantee that the I. and the E. you’ve found in your isolation will lead to some serious P. when you’re finally together.
By K.S. Wiswell, went into Harvard to become a cryptographer and came out with a degree in English Literature. Along the way, she studied physics, statistics, philosophy, mythology, and marching band. After three years in the corporate world, she escaped to Los Angeles and joined the Second City, because improv is cheaper than therapy. She remains an overeducated comedy writer who teaches logic to balance the insanity. Over the years, she has been told by serious men that she is “pretty smart for a girl,” “pretty funny for a girl,” and once (after a disastrous Mary Lou Retton-inspired haircut) “pretty cute for a boy.” All of which is pretty dumb for a society, so she has made it her mission to promote the fact that Smart Is Sexy.author of Full-Frontal Nerdity: Lessons in Loving and Living with Your Brain