LOVE CALCULATIONS AND PAPER FORTUNE-TELLERS
When we were young and the future was still wide open, our favourite past-time was to colour it in with fantasies. Scientifically supported fantasies, mind you. The one that drew most on an ability I could actually use later in life, was calculating the percentage of love or the mathematical compatibility between you and another person, preferably your love interest of that particular week. With a bit of plain old math you’d know within minutes whether it was worth chasing the boy or girl of your dreams.
For those of you who’ve never indulged in this widely respected practice, here’s how it works. Write down your name and the name of the person you fancy, then count how many times you see the letters L O V E S. You will end up with a five-digit number – one digit for each letter. Then simply add up the first and second, the second and third, the third and fourth, and the fourth and fifth. Rinse and repeat until you end up with a two-digit percentage representing the chance of romantic success.
Now, these were binding percentages: if the result was anywhere below 50 percent, you might as well break up immediately as you’d be doomed to fail anyway. Fortunately, pre-teen girls are both helpless romantics and conniving little monsters. We were not going to let cold, hard science steal our dreams and soon found ways to manipulate the results. You could either add last names or leave them out, or include or exclude the letters L O V E S when it came to counting, and simply pick your favourite result. For example, I’ve just calculated the compatibility percentage for the man who recently asked me to marry him (unfortunately, I said yes before even thinking of checking whether science agreed) and the four trustworthy percentages my little research resulted in were 26, 42, 68 and 94 – you can guess which one I’m sticking with for now.
However much fun math is, the absolute favourite fortune-telling technique was the chatterbox, or cootie-catcher. In these days of Xboxes, iPads, the Internet and trashy-but-addictive reality TV shows, it’s almost unimaginable that once-upon-a-time young girls could actually enjoy themselves for hours with just one silly sheet of paper. Even though we probably should have cared more about our professional futures, recycling and the ozone layer, all our hormone-ridden brains wanted to know was when and whom we would marry, how many kids we’d have and what their names would be.
Moreover, it seemed of vital importance to avoid getting imaginarily hitched to the class nerd or have children named Silly ans Billy. After all, one’s ‘destiny’ was dependent upon the number of switches and the choice of arbitrary colours. We would spend hours giggling producing them, and all breaks were filled with hysterical pre-teen laughter. It didn’t really matter what the results were, any outcome was hilarious. Perhaps we were simply craving the nosy, slightly worried looks the boys threw us while we let faith decide on their destiny. How about that for feminism?
By the time we expanded our spouse search beyond the playground and decorated our bedroom walls with posters of the heartthrobs-du-moment, they too were included in the chatterbox. One lucky morning, destiny told me I would marry Leonardo DiCaprio after he’d asked me at to the local supermarket and I would give birth to twins named Ann and Rose. I decided then and there that I would just omit the supermarket bit when I would retell the story to the 27 grandchildren me and Leo would have, according to the chatterbox.
If only we could trust a simple piece of origami or adding up some numbers when it comes to today’s bigger life questions. What job shall I look for? Where should I live? Should I buy these shoes and eat noodles all month? I’ve already nicked a sheet of paper from the office printer, and am folding my future as we speak. Anyone want to marry both Ant and Dec?
By Janneke de Jong