User talk:Boo

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A relatively new technique (or paradigm, if you prefer) in western combinatorics is to try randomisation when deterministic approaches get you nowhere. In South Asia, this has been known for a long time, and goes by the name of arranged marriage.

One reason deterministic approaches get you nowhere is a subconscious acceptance of such monsters as the Gale-Shapley algorithm. While this great idea is applied in all sorts of places, I think the time has come to give it the boot in the context of marriage. Something isn't right about some of the underlying assumptions, I feel. Allow me to explain.

Assumption 1 is that when woman W turns down man M, she has someone else in mind. More often than not, what happens is simply that M has failed to clear W's three-sigma bar, only because W messed up her parametric estimates by a factor of two. Nothing personal. Everybody gets turned down for three years or so, except possibly some genuine doofus who manages to come across as cute. And what is M to do while W is waiting for Godroit? Professors Gale and Shapley say, "Move on!" So much for love, and so much for patience.

Assumption 2, which has surprisingly wide currency, claims that changes of the female mind are acyclic. Granted, there is a great deal of resistance towards taking a step that might portray one as a flip-flop, for both men and women. But women fall for "to thine own self be true", and "if not now maybe never" all the time. Have you watched option prices as they head towards expiry? That's what I'm talking about. Let Father Time and Father-in-law About Time do the pressuring. You just wait.

Assumption 3, the one I find the most offensive, is the one that posits a change of hands when a chap who got turned down by every milkmaid and cow in country interrupts a long-standing alliance established in the first round. People who know better should correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think it works that way. I think rankings are not static, and women, even the dumb ones, have plenty of God-given dignity and self-respect.

So here is my stable marriage algorithm for South Asian men: look around and look around and look around till you find someone you think you can stand for fifty years or so. Talk to her and see if she can stand you for fifty days. And if she can, don't give up (but do let up!) till commitment puts you together and/or does you part. There will always be the arranged variant, and it's pretty stable, most of the time. That's one reason why most girls look away in the first place.

(The author recently received an excellent postdoc offer and has to respond in a few days. So far, he has heard from only one of the three or four places that might tempt him to switch.)