The Numbers Just Don’t Add Up

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Session 1:

“Welcome Doctor.  Please take a seat and we’ll get our first session started.  Please try to be as forthcoming as possible.  No detail is too small.  I would like to focus on the last six months or so and talk about what has led to your visiting me today.”

“Well, as you aware, I was recommended to speak with you due to the incompetence of my former attorney and the presiding judge.”

“Yes, the court order calls for ten sessions.  I also believe the University has a right to increase it to twenty in regards to your situation with them.”

“I imagine ten will be sufficient.  Of course, as you know, I am on temporary leave from the University to pursue other research interests; in fact, I have been revisiting a multitude of theorems I developed long ago as a student and am, without doubt, on the cusp of…”

“I am glad to hear that you are keeping busy.  I am sure the past six months have been very trying for you and your family.  How about we go back to the day when your wife let you know she was seeking a divorce?”

“I have indeed been keeping busy.  Despite already having long ago established myself as the leading authority in the international differential calculus community, I am currently conducting multiple research projects that will completely transform the field.”

“That’s all well and good.  A busy brain is a healthy brain, in most cases.  Now, back to your learning of your wife’s decision to end the marriage, could you please give me a little more detail?”

“She lacks the mental fortitude and tenacity required to problem solve.  I am willing, to this day, and certainly more than able to solve this problem.  A rational, results-driven individual can clearly consult the supporting data and see that the solution is really quite simple.  She has let her emotions enter the equation.  I remain, as always, an objective researcher, whose solutions are not skewed by emotion.”

“While I respect your objectivity as a researcher in the mathematical arena, I would venture to say that emotion, rightfully so, is integral to a successful marriage.  Again, I would appreciate it if you could walk me through the conversation that you two had.”

“There was no conversation.  Of course, in her passive aggressive way, she used a letter to end our marriage, from what I remember it read.”

“I cannot and will not do this anymore.  Your participation in this marriage has been reduced to that of a silent partner.  I have given you ample opportunities to improve our marriage and you have failed.  I feel neglected, unloved, taken for granted, disrespected, undesired as a woman and generally INVISIBLE in your presence.  

These are divorce papers.  I have already signed them and trust that you will do the same and not draw this out.  All that is required to finalize the contract is your signature and the stamp of a notary public. The kids (remember our children?) and I are going to my parents’ house.  Don’t bother lecturing me on the mistake I am making.  I have run the numbers, and they just don’t work. I hope your trip to “Russia” was worth it.”

“Quite the welcome home from my 2-week trip to Russia, a trip she declined to attend despite her parents’ offer to watch the children.  I was being honored at the famed St. Petersburg Institute for Applied Mathematics for my latest breakthrough work.  One might think that my supposed “champion” would find this worthy of making the trip.  Well, anyways, I do not do my work for awards and honors, which have always come quite easily to me.  In brief, I was honored on this occasion for applying a set of my differential equations to artic crabbing to drastically increase fishing success rates while conterminously reducing the inherently high danger rate to the crew.  Don’t worry, I will send you a Lehman’s version, as I do for all of my friends outside of the field.  Of course, I don’t expect you to understand it, but perhaps it will be a nice piece of respected research to show to your colleagues.”

“Ok, I look forward to it, how about we continue on with how this letter made you feel?”

“Do you know the percentage of U.S marriages that result in divorce?”

“Yes, 56%.  I do not consider that to be a meaningful statistic though.  Every situation is different.  Statistics can serve as quite the convenient scapegoat.  I realize that may be blasphemous statement in the ears of a mathematician.”

“I happen to place full faith in statistics and empirical data.  I will share a personal creed of mine with you: “opinion is derivation of the present but data is the child of history and the father of the future.”  That being said, a lesser known statistic is that women file for 78% of these divorces.  Given their inherent emotional fragility, this is not surprising.  What is more interesting though is that women with children are seven times more likely to file for divorce than women without children, this data has been age and marriage tenure adjusted to negate any duration bias.  So you see my point, they take what they need from the man, primely his seed, reproduce, and then remain supported by seizing half of what is rightfully his, what he procured through the means of his own superior abilities and…”

“Ok, Doctor, those are some interesting theories.  I will say that I have not heard that data before in my 25 years in divorce therapy and would be interested in seeing the studies.”

“These are proprietary figures, but I will share them with you.  You can then share the research with your colleagues who are also unaware I suspect.  I could probably even carve out some time to make myself available for a lecture on the topic which would no doubt be highly beneficial for…”

“Doctor, let’s keep in mind that I am no longer a student and, in fact, keep quite busy with my own research projects.  Now, let’s revisit your emotional reaction to the letter, which must have been somewhat surprising despite your knowledge of the data.  I know this may be difficult to talk about as the emotions, no doubt, run quite deep, but please tell me what you can.”

“Knowing the data as I do, I cannot say that the letter I received was wholly unexpected; in fact, it was the statistically probable thing to happen.  It was the terseness and lack of quantitative mettle that was so surprising; it was as if it was written on a whim.  It seemed so emotional and lacking in empirical wherewithal, so very unlike her.   Although, I suppose I had noticed this gradual change in her since she had left the field to care for the children.  Nevertheless, it really struck me here, and I was taken aback.  This was not the mathematician I had married.”

“It was the last sentence that really stung.  “I have run the numbers, and they just don’t work”.  I had run the numbers too, far more rigorously I might add, and was aware of the situation.  This is what I get for marrying a fellow mathematician, well, realistically speaking, a former mathematician.  She has not published meaningful research since the birth of child one, approximately a decade ago now.  I suspect this was a driving factor in her growing envy towards me.”

“Let’s discuss the significance of the letter’s last sentence for a minute.  A non-mathematician may read it as being facetious in nature.  In effect, your wife telling you that she is done with the numbers.  Possibly her well being and happiness in life, and that of her family as well, depend on more than just numbers.”

“Are you aware that facetious is the only word in the English language with all five vowels in sequential order?  The spelling is F-A-C-E-T-IOU-S.”

“That is certainly an interesting piece of what many would deem useless information, but this is not my point.  It seems as if…”

“Well, actually most people just assume incorrectly that it is the only word with such a unique characteristic, a single point of tangency to lyrical genius if you will.  In fact, I have coined several words in my research that are equally substantially more impressive in their vowel linearity: ganterious, nalembivotun, and yaeiously, just to name a few.”

“Doctor, my point is that your wife was poking you in the eye with this statement.  To her, the statistical analysis is null and void.  To her, this was a marriage, not an equation.”

“Her filing was her way of one-upping me, asserting the superiority of her analysis of our marriage, her attempt to prove to me that she is still relevant in the field.  I can guarantee you that her divorce analysis will never be published.  Mine, on the other hand, is already well established, and I am currently in consultations with my new attorney on releasing the analysis I conducted on my prenuptial agreement.”

“I would certainly appreciate hearing how you arrived at this nonsensical conclusion.”

“Despite our being peers, so to speak, in the highly competitive field of differential calculus, we were always each others’ champions; at least we claimed we were, both to each other and to the outside world.  I was sincere in my wishes for her success and recognition.   I rewrote much of her research for her, without her even having to ask me.  Additionally, our matrimony itself and her concurrent privilege of assuming my last name gave a seal of credibility to her work.”

“I didn’t feel that she ever truly appreciated what I did for her professionally.  I now realize it as an inherent jealousy.  I am not one to employ hindsight bias, but all data guide me to the absolutely certain conclusion that she was jealous from day one.”  I have discussed this with colleagues and shown them my supporting analyses; they are all in agreement with me.”

“Hmmm, I see, so the key drivers of this divorce were her jealousy of your mathematical accomplishments and her ingratitude to your role in furthering her position in the field?”

“Primarily, but there were other intervening factors.”

“Ok, well I’m glad you acknowledge that.  Please expand on that for me.”

“As you are aware, mathematics needs me.  As such, I am a mathematician above all; it is my calling and, thus, my duty.  To her credit, she too realized this; of course, it would have been impossible not to.  Yet, realization and acceptance are not always complementary.  She could not accept it and it destroyed her marriage and frankly any chance she had of re-establishing herself in the field.”

“So, it sounds like your responsibilities as a husband and father took a back seat to your professional endeavors.  How do you think this made your wife and children feel?”

“Obviously her reaction was jealousy and an unwillingness to compromise.  The children are, as you would expect, very proud of their father.  They have been photographed in the newspaper with me, and I present them with a piece of my research on their birthdays each year.  I have already committed to each of them that I will assist in their University placements when they are of age.  I suspect that we will grow closer as they age and truly realize all that I have done for them.”

“Ok, Doctor, our time is up.  Given how we ended this session, I would like to talk some more about your relationship with your children next week.  We will also delve further into the relationship you and your wife used to share as well as the events that led to your dismissal from the University.”

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