The Formula

A week or so after creating my ridiculous dating profile, I got a message from a handsome fella who works in mental health, (so he knew which kind of CBT I meant).

From his photos, he looked just the right level of attractiveness. Beautiful brown eyes like a dairy cow, cheekbones like razorblades. But slightly sticky out ears, so hopefully he wouldn’t be arrogant.

We exchanged lots of messages over the next few days, and I liked the cut of his gib. He seemed very funny, with a dry sense of humour, and also seemed really nice and caring, and managed to say profound things without seeming overly earnest.

I sent him a message on the Friday morning of that week, and he didn’t reply. Up until then, I hadn’t really been keeping track of who was replying when, but was faintly aware I tended to take longer. We’d been texting each other throughout the day, every few hours, so a whole day with nothing seemed different.

All day at work, it really bothered me that he hadn’t replied. Every time I came out of a session, I thought ‘an hour has gone by since I last checked, surely he’s replied now!’ and then the rush of grey disappointment, when the only thing my phone was displaying was the time.

After work, I drove up to Barnsley, because I was going to a wedding that weekend. Obviously I was not checking my phone whilst driving, but I knew he probably still hadn’t replied as I would’ve heard my phone.

What is wrong with me? Why is this bothering me so much! I wondered as I made my way up the M1. It almost felt like I was falling for him, which would have been absolutely ridiculous, as I had never met him and had only exchanged a few days’ worth of messages with the man. One of the problems with internet dating is that when you start out knowing so little about someone, you can tend to the fill in the gaps with your dream partner, and the real person can’t possibly live up to that.

I realised the strength of my feelings for him probably said more about the fact I had just come out of a long-term relationship, and where I was with that, than it did about how good or right for me that he was.

When I got to the Ibis Styles Hotel on Friday night, I met up with lots of my friends from University, who were all there for own friend’s wedding. It was great to see them and took my mind off Cheekbones.

On the Saturday morning, still no reply.

Did he definitely get my message? Could he have texted me, and I didn’t get it?

These may sound like the thoughts of a desperate woman, who is losing her grip on reality.

And that’s because they are.

However, I have had problems in the past where people haven’t received my messages, or I haven’t received theirs. One budding friendship with a work colleague was nearly scuppered when both of us thought we were being ignored by the other, because one of my messages hadn’t got through. Another time my mum was fairly certain I’d been in an accident on my way to visit them, as she hadn’t got my ‘just at the services’ text.

As I started getting ready for the wedding, I decided to grasp the nettle, and sent a follow-up message, apologising for bombarding him with messages but checking no messages had gone astray as that had happened with my phone before.


Finally, at a moment when I genuinely had stopped thinking about him, because I was trying to work out how many people were going to have to fit into my Nissan Micra to get to the church, and whether that meant all the shoes in my car needed to be moved into the boot, he texted me back. He apologised for not replying sooner but he had a reasonably good reason, and he gently mocked me, saying ‘I quite liked the idea of you becoming obsessed with me, but then you explained about the problem with your phone’.

Throughout the rest of the weekend, I felt like I had the power back, because it was me that was taking longer to reply again, mainly because I was busy with the wedding and spending time with my friends. I felt good, had a fabulous weekend and the horrible ‘why hasn’t he texted’ feelings went away.

On the Sunday evening, I sent one message and he replied 25 minutes later, and at the end he said “I actually read this 20 minutes ago, but I thought I’d make you wait and twist the knife into your vulnerable, feminine heart” (is that actually a bit sinister, on reflection?).

The Monday, he took all day to reply, and I lost the plot again, having to put my phone on airplane mode so I’d stop checking it and actually get work done.

This is ridiculous. I need to take the power back.
I’m going to use mathematics to take the power back. 

And that’s when the idea for The Formula came to me.

I decided that every time he sent me a message, I’d work out how long he took to reply, multiply it by 1.5, and that’s how long I would take before writing back.

So for example, if he replied 10 minutes after I sent my message, I’d leave it at least 15 minutes before replying. If he took an hour to reply, I’d take an hour and a half. If he took a day to reply, I’d take a day and a half.

There are two reasons I think this is a good idea.

  1. We always want what we can’t have.

I read ‘The Rules’ when I was a young teenager. There are lots of things I don’t agree with in that book, but one of the fundamental principles is that we always want what we can’t have. If you know you can have something easily, you kind of want it less. Or at least, you don’t even get the chance to think about how much you want it. It’s just there, and can be taken for granted. If I’m always taking longer to reply than he is, he may not notice or care, of course. But he might. He might just be starting to think ‘hmm, she hasn’t replied yet. Is she going to?’. If someone replies really quickly, you don’t have time to think about how much you like them, and whether you’d be disappointed if they didn’t reply. I’m not saying that The Formula can trick someone into liking you if they naturally wouldn’t, but it could nudge someone slightly closer to realising how much they like you.

2. The time you spend when you’ve had a message, but you’re taking a while to reply, is nicer than the time you spend when you’ve sent a message, but you’re waiting for a reply.

In the first one, you’re pleased you’ve got a reply, you’re calm, you’re cracking on with your day, you’re letting the odd idea form, of something good to say in your next message. In the second, there may be excitement, as you wait, but there may be worry, there may be regret (‘maybe I shouldn’t have said…’ ‘would he definitely have got my joke?’).

So it makes sense for there to be more of the first one. 1.5 times more of the first one.

It can be fiddly to implement The Formula. For example, this evening I sent a message at 5.48pm, and got a reply at 7.17pm. So I had to work out in my head, one hour later would take him to 6.48, then 7.17 is (12+17= 29) 29 minutes after 6.48. So it took him 1 hour and 29 minutes to reply.

It works better if you use the formula in minutes, because otherwise, you’re suddenly trying to work out what time it will be in 1.125 hours.

So after I’d worked out it took him 1 hour and 29 minutes, I broke that down to 60+29=89 minutes. I multiplied 89 x 1.5 = 133.5 minutes. Then I put that back into hours: 2 hours and 13.5 minutes. I could reply at 9.31pm. So I did. And he replied at 9.32pm.

You might want to make up your own variations. For example, if you text someone at 11.30pm and they reply at 7.00am, and you know they’ve been asleep most of that time, you might not want to make them wait too long for your next message.

If you’re about to meet someone and they text you saying “I’m at the Regent Street tube exit, where are you?” obviously you don’t want to think “well, that took an hour, see you in 90 minutes pal”.

If you’re using an app like WhatsApp, you might want to change your privacy settings so they can’t see when you were last online or when you read their messages, so they think “she’s probably off socialising and doing cool things, and hasn’t even read my message yet” rather than them knowing full well you read it straight away and are dicking about with your calculator.

If one of you has only sent an emoji in response to the last message, the ball is still in the emoji-sender’s court to send a proper reply.


I started implementing The Formula with Cheekbones, and within 24 hours, it went from seeming like he might be losing interest, to him asking me out 🙂




3 thoughts on “The Formula

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