I’ll give you 90% odds that you’ll enjoy Adam Strassberg’s story about a married couple who use a twenty-sided dice for their decision-making.
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Martin and Mari married the year after graduation. Martin was a tall thin white man with black glasses, Mari was a short fat black woman with white glasses. It was a mixed marriage – sort of – they both majored in mathematics, however Martin minored in statistics, whereas Mari minored in accounting.
They had a remarkable romance – they had never had a fight, not even a small one, never a disagreement, nor even raised their voices to one another. They were committed to absolute fairness and equality in all aspects of their relationship. It was a match made in heaven, or at least the Euclidean domain equivalent of such.
Martin trained as an actuary, Mari as a CPA. They loved the small suburban starter home they purchased together soon after their wedding. It had a slate black roof with a white picket fence, enclosing a lush green yard with a lovely old apple tree in the center. Martin was a bit relieved to not be beholden to lifting Mari over the threshold. Rather, after they got the keys, they unlocked and opened the front door together, then held hands and jumped across the threshold simultaneously.
Martin and Mari were excited to set up their new bed, but both of them wanted to sleep on the left side. “Let’s toss an even coin for it,” Martin suggested, taking a nickel from his pocket. “It’s 50/50, so it’s fair.” He flipped the coin into the air, called heads, and won. Martin set his night table to the left side of the bed, Mari set hers to the right.
Later that night, when Martin kissed Mari, then tickled her in their usual prelude to coitus, Mari denied him, “I’m sorry Martin, I don’t know why, but I’m just not in the mood.”
“Let’s flip for it. It’s 50/50, so it’s fair.”
“How about we pass tonight, and instead I’ll give you 55/45 odds for this in the future?”
Two months later, their first car broke down and the repairs cost more than the vehicle. Martin wanted a new sporty convertible, Mari wanted a new practical minivan. She removed a coin from her purse, but before she flipped it, Martin interrupted, “How about we swap some odds? Let’s go with 40/60 odds for the new car type – convertible versus minivan – but let’s up it to 60/40 odds for intercourse each night?” Mari assented and Martin removed from his coat pocket his favorite icosahedron, a black metal twenty-sided Dungeons and Dragons game die. Mari rolled a success – “nat 20, critical hit” – and so they purchased a new minivan.
Martin hated the minivan, particularly the challenge of parking it in the supermarket lot. He remembered back to simpler times. He and Mari were so happy back in college. They lived on the same floor, in identical dorm suites right next door to one another. They met on the first day of orientation, bonding over their vision, their eyes. They were both nearly blind without their glasses, yet amazingly, they had the same prescription and could even wear each other’s frames. They were otherwise physically distinct, but so alike in every other way. They had the same major and so took most of the same classes. They had the same friends and enjoyed the same nerdy games. Their dorm took to nicknaming them the twins. By the end of the year, they alternately slept in each other’s bedrooms and their friends kept gifting them matching pajamas!
Martin returned with the groceries and Mari had finished picking this week’s apples from their big tree. It was seven years now – eleven from the year they first met – and they still had never had a fight. They had no conflict, just calculations, no arguments, just adjustments. Martin wanted to make applesauce, but Mari wanted to bake an apple pie. There were not enough fresh apples to do both. This was today’s conundrum.
Martin frowned, he really loved applesauce.
Mari kissed him on his forehead, “How about we up it to 25/75 for sauce versus pie in exchange for 75/25 for bedtime sex?”
Martin nodded his head and rolled the usual twenty-sided die from his pocket. It was decided. Mari later served him a slice of homemade hot apple pie with vanilla ice cream on top. He disliked this, but he ate it and it was utterly delicious.
The years passed faster and faster. By the time they had both entered their fifties, when most married couples had sex weekly, if at all, Martin and Mari coupled nightly – he had managed to negotiate the odds ratio up to 95/5 for each bedtime!
One night, after rolling the die, Martin kissed Mari but his erection did not follow. He had won the roll, but his libido seemed lost. And Mari was as sexy to him as the first day they had met, even more so!
Martin met with his doctor the next day and learned about erectile dysfunction and midlife andropause. There was so much that could be done, and Martin left hopeful with a Viagra prescription gripped tightly in his hands.
When Martin explained this solution to Mari, she disagreed with the plan. She loved him but there were risks to the medication – priapism, heart attacks, stroke, and even blindness. She was very concerned about Martin’s vision because, while hers improved over the years, his had only worsened. Martin sighed, then reluctantly took out the twenty-sided die from his pocket. He held it in his palm. The decades of so many daily rollings had abraded the many triangular faces of the icosahedron into a nearly smooth ball, but it still rolled true and fair. The digits from one to twenty embedded on each triangular face had faded, but they were still inked and legible. After thirty years of marriage, Martin had managed to trade up the odds for everything in Mari’s favor, all in exchange for that one particular thing most important to him and most men. Mari let Martin roll for the medication – but the odds of every other decision now were 5/95 in Mari’s favor – and so it was 5% for filling the prescription versus 95% against. Martin rolled – “nat 1, critical fail”. Maria took the prescription and fed it through their paper shredder.
Martin and Mari enjoyed a happy marriage to the end of their days. For Martin, it was indeed happy, but never again joyful. He drove Mari’s car, relaxed on Mari’s couch, ate Mari’s meals, watched Mari’s movies. Martin seemed just to live Mari’s life now, at least 95% of the time. He often puzzled over the same mystery, but try as he might, he just could not see it. How had their marriage, which had always been fair, somehow become so unequal? But then he would just roll his die and hope for the best.