Life or Something Like It
The 50 percent rule
Published Thursday, 04-Dec-2008 in issue 1093
Several months ago I was on a perfect first date. She and I met through friends on a night out at Urban Mo’s, and after a bit of text and e-mail banter we decided to get together for lunch. Although I couldn’t quite pinpoint the moment it happened, by the time we left the table I was sure of one thing: sometime between arriving and finishing our meal, I’d become 100 percent smitten.
As I drove (floated) back to work, we continued flirting via text message.
”Ha!” she wrote. “Where did I get you?”
I took a moment to carefully plan my response and ended up relying on the all-too famous line from Jerry Maguire – which, unbeknownst to me at the time, was a flirtation faux pas.
“You had me at hello. ;)”
That is where our banter flat-lined. I felt like the biggest idiot on the planet for thinking quoting a movie line would make me seem cool, cute and witty. Two agonizing hours of silence later I decided to call my gay boyfriend in a bleak attempt to make myself feel better about the situation. What he told me changed my life. He and his friends had devised something called the 50 percent rule.
“The next time you see her, pretend like it never happened,” he said. “If at least 50 percent of the people involved in any given situation deny the situation happened, then it never happened. That’s a new rule.”
If at least 50 percent of the people involved in any given situation deny the situation happened, then it never happened.
It was simple. It was brilliant. It was exactly what I needed to hear. In adopting the 50 percent rule, I could be afforded a do-over. The situation could be entirely erased from the record, as if it never happened. If I’d known about the rule earlier, I could have saved myself a lot of anguish and embarrassment.
Case in point: the unfortunate incident I had a few months back when I accidentally deflowered a 30-year-old virgin. The 50 percent rule sure would have come in handy then!
There are some situations in which the 50 percent rule can be easily applied. Perhaps you tried to strip your own hair and instead of blond it wound up a hideous shade of Crayola orange. Or maybe you found yourself gushing your appreciation for a newfound friend (aka a complete stranger) after partaking in a few too many free margaritas at the Baja Betty’s four-year anniversary party. The accidental text, the awkward phone message, the blatant coming on to a friend you’d never in a million years dream of hitting on before happy hour – it can all be erased with the 50 percent rule.
I got to wondering what the world would be like if we could erase that bad business meeting, or the fight had with a partner over something so ridiculous you’re still not sure how it started; a world where we could get 50 percent of Californians to deny that Proposition 8 ever made it onto the ballot; or a world where the past eight years of the Bush administration could be struck from the record.
Although there are tons of things I’m sure we’d all like to erase, I’m hard pressed to imagine a reality that is 100 percent smooth sailing all the time. Sitcoms would be rendered irrelevant, reality television producers would be jobless and tabloids would go out of business altogether.
The 50 percent rule, I’ve concluded, is like a weapon of mass destruction, safe only in the hands of those who appreciate the true awesomeness of its power and those who understand that it must only be applied in the most necessary of situations – like denying you ever called your ex last night, begging her to get back together; or after finding yourself talking to the be-all-end-all girl of all girls only to realize you’ve managed to stick your foot so far in your mouth your big toe has lodged itself in your lower intestine. Yes, these are the things for which the 50 percent rule was designed.
For those of you who may find yourself adopting this superpower, take heed of this advice: we wouldn’t learn and we wouldn’t grow without making a few mistakes. But sometimes, while we’re embracing learning opportunities, being able to wipe out the night where you trailed a three-foot piece of toilet paper around on the back of your shoe for an hour before you realized it was there might not be such a bad thing after all.