Since I’m house-hunting yet again, a friend who has a head for these things told me about the 37% rule. She said that if I fixed the mindset that I would only check out 100 flats, right around the 37th one was when I would say “Yes”. Or, more honestly, “Okay”. Statistically, that’s when people cave and decide the search is over. As I have no such mathematical sense at all, my only immediate deduction was “Oh god, I have to see 37 flats?!” The scary part was whether it’s even possible to find 37 landlords in this city who don’t mind single women, non-vegetarians and people who refuse to live in spaces painted in lurid “vaastu colours”. 37 chill, tasteful landlords? May their numbers flourish, whether I can keep count or not.

My friend went on to say something that I couldn’t shrug off, however: the 37% rule also works in romantic relationships. If one decides when they start dating that they will see ten people, the third or fourth suitor will be the one they decide to settle down with. I could see how this might apply to someone with a goalpost in mind. For instance, someone entering the arranged marriage market could, based on hearsay and practicality, decide that they’d choose or stop trying after ten birth chart appraisals. They’d arrive at their tipping point motivated by the need to close the deal.

Except, those kinds of numbers had long vanished into the distant past for both my friend and I, and if someone had told us right at the start that we needed to set a target, we would have said – with all our hearts – just one, please.

The 37% rule, despite being percentage-based, does also yield a dramatic number. The age of 26 is the optimal age to marry, according to this rule. As a Business Insider article put it: “[It’s] the point at which we can stop looking and start taking those big leaps of faith.” I had to concede that I’d already known this about myself: had the opportunity been available to me at 26, that’s absolutely when I would have entered my (first, anyway) marriage. How had this seemingly arbitrary theory so accurately deduced when I’d been most earnest, most in alignment, most adequately-experienced-but-not-yet-cynical and most set to benefit? If it was true for me, it was surely true for many.

I did take a leap of faith at that age, on the smouldering comet-tail of two messily overlapping relationships. I gave everything I had to a creative project instead, lost myself somewhere in the plummet, and surfaced a few years later strong and with something substantial to show. Some of my friends who married at the time experienced parallel trajectories of passion-collapse-growth, and after vastly different journeys we now find ourselves back on similar quests. For partners, for places to live, for something to call home. No equation is going to tell us when, or where or how. But at least we recognise now who needs to be #1 – after all this time, its ourselves we must trust again to be enough to come home to.

An edited version appeared in The New Indian Express on October 3rd 2019. “The Venus Flytrap” appears  in Chennai’s City Express supplement.