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What's in a Number?

What's in a Number?

With Autumn's question, "just how many women have you dated," still ringing in my ears, I decided to find out.  Autumn is a very easy-going person, but that doesn't mean she let's things go easily.  The question had been tabled for the time being, but it was neither gone nor soon to be forgotten.  I knew I hadn't dated  anywhere near 10,000 or even 1,000 women, since I'm not a rock star or professional basketball player.  Still, I had a feeling it would be close to 100, and I was right; it was 99.  I came up with this number the way I approach answers to all things mathematical: I asked a nerd. 

My best nerd friend in Chicago is Jor-El Jones.  This is his real name, by the way.  His parents met, and he was apparently conceived at a Comic-Con Convention in San Diego.  I found him at his favorite Starbucks, sipping the dregs of a cold cup of coffee while running about seven different electronic devices through a power strip.  "It's just my small way of redistributing corporate wealth," he explained.  I bought him a fresh cup of joe and he agreed to tackle my problem.

"So, you say you don't keep a journal.  How about an electronic calendar, like on Outlook?" Jor-El asked me.

"I thought of that, but I realized that a lot of people I met didn't start out as official dates, so they wouldn't be written down."

"Hmmm, so we'll have to estimate," he said, pulling up a blank Excel spreadsheet on one of the three computers he had on the table in front of him. 

"Why do you have three...?" 

"Duh, Linux, Windows 7, and OS X!  OK, so how many years have you been actively dating" 

I counted my years in college, living in San Francisco, and my one year in Chicago and told him, eight. 

"So, excluding family holidays and general down times, that'll be about 400 weekends.  Would you say that you had a date with a new person at least every other weekend." 

"I wish!  More like one month."

"OK, so we'll estimate about 25%... add 3% to cover the margin of error and your wild college years... and we come up with 98." 

"Did you include Autumn?" I asked him.

"Statistically, but not specifically...." 

"From now on, I want to be very specific," I said.  That's how we came up with 99. 

I thanked Jor-El, treated him to a raisin scone, and I left feeling really good and a lot less slutty and whorish than I had when I'd first approached the question.  As soon as I got outside I rang up Autumn. 

"Ninety-nine?  Wow, that's a lot!"  Autumn said.

"What do you mean?" I asked.  "That's only about one new person a month. And it's not like I slept with all or even most of the women I dated." 

"Still, it seems like a lot to me." 

"Really?  Well how many women have you dated?" I asked her. 

"Five."

"Oh."