(Warning: the following assumes a rudimentary acquaintance with analytical geometry and trigonometry.)
I’ve done my share of tap-dances with women over the years.
The vast majority of them have been, during their duration, largely frustrating at best, at worst emotionally shattering. In any of these I don’t necessarily blame my ‘other’ for this state of affairs – although I would not hold her blameless – but rather my own illusions projected onto that ‘other’, and my childish assumptions that what she said she meant, that words signified concretely, that we spoke the same language with a vocabulary that conveyed generally agreed-upon meanings. The few times that I got a chance to analyze the relationship with the woman, long after it was all over, I learned that she invariably had quite similar takes on what had happened, imputing roughly the same defects to my end of the relationship as I had to hers.
The constant in most of these erotic entanglements was the seeming inability of each of us to come to any general agreement about what we wanted to do and when. Only rarely did our anatine line-up meet in the same row, as it were, so that we could get together and truly enjoy each other without the usual bickering and the sullen sense of grievance and mutual victimization at the hands of a cold and uncaring partner.
Why, I wondered, was the unfolding of the relationship so predictably uncertain. When I ignored her as she had asked (“Please don’t call me again!”) she would send a furious e-mail to me (“Why haven’t you called me?”). When she wanted me no longer to come around (“I don’t want you coming near my apartment anymore!”) and I heeded her request, she would call and charge me with abandonment (“I didn’t think you’d take it seriously when I told you to stay away!”). Thanks for the heads-up, honey!
I grew exhausted trying to accommodate these yoyo encounters. I simply gave up. I walked out. It was too much work – and for what? More recriminations, further misunderstandings, additional displeasure. I’m sure you have all been there, women as well as men, and you know all too painfully what I am talking about.
Having once again sworn off women and their impossible ways for the rest of my life, I was brooding late one night over a cup of cold java in a sleazy diner and trying to make some kind of sense of the senseless, find some meaning in the meaningless, discover a pattern in these patternless affairs. Why did there have to be so much bitterness and so little sweetness in these relationships? Why was it that we were almost always so far apart and only rarely could meet at the same point and take our truly intense joy and deep physical pleasure in each other?
Then, a huge, a really huge, insight, as sudden and dazzling as a flash of lightning!
I was doodling on a paper napkin, and for some reason I had drawn the typical grid of a Cartesian coördinate system, and began to put in a sine-wave, starting at the origin and carrying it out to minus 2π and to plus 2π. I jotted down the equation: y = sin x. It is a beautiful curve — smooth, sinuous, symmetrical about all axes. I looked at it. Then I superimposed on it another curve, namely y = cos x. “Eureka! That’s it!” I realized.
I am y = sin x (solid red below) and she is y = cos x (dotted black below)!
I now had a series of mathematical equations that described with amazing accuracy the nature of my unsynchronized relationships with women and theirs with me. Each curve mirrored the other precisely – but, but were out of phase by a mere π/2 radians. My love problems were at bottom nothing more than a phase shift problem — nothing more, nothing less!
My frustrating love affairs now had the certitude of mathematics, and even a cursory glance (see graphs below) at the mapping of y = cos x on y = sin x demonstrated so cleanly why things rarely lined up for us. Only twice a cycle, at x = π/4 and x = 5 π/4, did the two curves intersect at approximately y = +/- 0.707 units respectively, and at all other times they were either moving away from each other (the relationship was headed for hell), paralleling each other (the relationship was going nowhere), or moving toward each other (the relationship was headed for heaven). It all suddenly made such satisfying, logical sense to me, and it was, I admit, a massive relief finally to have a handle on why these love relationships must, mathematically speaking, behave in the way they did.
A love of mathematics describes a mathematics of love!
[Now go read all about one of those rare y = cos x chicks who turned now into y = 1.0001 and now into y = 0.9999 as my y = sin x turned into a steady y = 1.0000 – and all on the interval (-∞ ≤ x ≥ ∞) – and how hyper-honeyed was that! Get it? Well, that would be Jennifer.]