A Math Nerd’s Dating Manifesto: The Four Man Plan (Book Review)

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In the annals of crazy-pants things to do with your time, our church’s decision to have a sermon series on God and dating feels up there. For one thing, the Bible has no advice whatsoever about dating, although my husband did notice that wells seem to be a good place to meet your future spouse (Zipporah) or your future spouse’s marriage broker (Rebecca). Also, dating seems to be the kind of topic about which you can talk endlessly and come to very few solid conclusions or universal recommendations. There are too many variables at work: individual temperament, family history, cultural zeitgeist, shifts in gender roles and expectations, not to mention “the economy, stupid.” (Poor economic conditions discourage people from getting married, particularly women.)

Let’s get real: if there were a surefire way to find lasting romantic love, it would already be free to Prime members. (And the rest of us would have to save up our order for weeks or throw in extra q-tips until we reached the free shipping threshold, not that I’m bitter or anything.)

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Still, in the interest of research for said sermon series (and not at all for the pure entertainment), I’ve been reading books about dating. I’ll share my thoughts about some of them here in the next few weeks.

First up is The Four Man Plan: A Romantic Science, by Cindy Lu.

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First of all, Cindy Lu is an awesome name that reminds me of that time when the Grinch gave back Christmas. Just because of that, I’m tempted to believe anything she says.

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The Four-Man Plan is billed as THE BEST HOW-TO-DATE-BOOK EVER, which given the author’s wicked sense of humor, has to be at least somewhat of a joke, along the lines of “THE MOST DRAMATIC ROSE CEREMONY EVER” or “THE MOST PEOPLE AT ANY INAUGURATION EVER.”

Important to know: This book is only for heterosexual women. Women, according to Cindy’s own story and the case studies in her book, can successfully use the Four-Man Plan to date up to 16 men at a time on their way to finding their Three-and-a-Half man, or, in Cindy’s math, THE ONE. (You really have to read the book to understand the calculations.) Men, of course, have never needed much encouragement to spread themselves around. (See: All the Biblical patriarchs.)

The gist: Cindy says that by assigning men mathematical values (from 1/4 to 3 1/2) and keeping track of them on a grid with 16 squares, the odds for finding a fulfilling relationship are ever in your favor. In practice I can’t imagine having time for that many men – When would you sleep? Go to work? Binge-watch Netflix? – so it’s good to know that 16 is a ceiling, not a goal.

Snow White’s 4MP grid (from the book and website)

By juggling suitors, all of whom are fully aware of your actions (no being a Sneaky Susie), and never sleeping with more than one at a time (the math won’t allow it), you will spur men’s innate competitive nature, which means they will invest more energy and thought in pursuing you; you will open yourself up to becoming simultaneously a more adventurous and more patient dater (because you will not be fixated on getting any one person to put a ring on it); you will not be ruled by your fickle and, frankly, not very bright, hormones; and by virtue of having lots of guys to compare to each other, you will begin to understand better both yourself and the kind of guy that will fit with you.

My husband’s response: This seems very empowering for women. But I don’t have the same opinions about what motivates men or what men are looking for as Cindy does.

My response: If I ever had to date again, I might try this method. It sounds like a way to reduce a lot of the angst and pressure, particularly for Christian singles who are feeling anxious about marriage. I’m all for formulas, and this one almost makes dating sound fun and confidence-building and not like something I would maybe do as an alternative to getting my bunions shaved.

The takeaway for church folk: Not written from a Christian perspective – or any particular ideological or theological bent – but from a practical one. Cindy is concerned not with how we think men should be, but with how she has experienced them to be, which is why I think my husband had trouble relating to her portrayal of men. There are definitely Christian men who – like my husband was – are only looking to date one woman at a time with an eye towards marriage. The plan actually accommodates those men; it just instructs the woman to let the man initiate that discussion, not bring it up on her own.  (This aspect of the plan seems practical and smart and also kind of icky and disempowering, all at the same time. I’m not fond of it, but I can see why it might work.) Cindy also mentions that singles who are planning on abstinence til marriage can still use the plan. In fact, that person will have more space available on her grid for potential dates (because in Cindy’s schema, a sexual partner has a higher “value” and thus takes up more space).

Resources: You can go to Cindy’s website to find testimonials, blog posts, and (if you buy the book) a private Facebook group with 4MP coaches. Or join Vineyard One NYC on Sunday mornings at 10:30 am EST on Facebook Live to check out our sermon series, “Biblical Dating in the Digital Age: How Would Jesus Swipe.” (I’ll let you in on a little secret: The subtitle is a big misdirect. Jesus would totally be a Coffee Meets Bagel guy.)


‘Tis a Gift to be Simple . . . and Sugary: My Son’s Vacation from the Food Pyramid

Day 29 of my 30-day writing challenge

My son is made happy by two very simple things: sugar and toys. When he was five, we took him to Disney World. He enjoyed the day, no question, but the thing that made him happiest? A Mickey-Mouse ear-shaped balloon inside another balloon. He was semi-anxious the whole day until we bought it, and as soon as we did, he was content.

Six years later, you might think his tastes had grown more sophisticated.

You’d be wrong.

He had very little pocket money to bring with him on our vacation, because he spent it all in the last two weeks on cheap motorized cars, fidget spinners, and a lollipop the size of his head. He is, however, very sweet and generous with his money. He shared his cars with his godfather, and he gave one of the fidget spinners and a foot-long unicorn pop to his little sister. (Because when you’re sharing the love, you might as well share the tooth decay, too.)

Yesterday, the teens at our church conference — all 500 of them —  went to a local water park. Because the trip was so poorly organized, my son only rode one waterslide the entire day. I thought he’d be devastated, but he was pleased with how the day had gone. As he explained, he’d brought a bag of gumballs along with him. He sold gumballs for 10 cents each, making $2. He also sold a free tee-shirt he’d won that morning for $3. He made enough money to buy something he’d been coveting all week. It was a can of blue soda! That lights up! And, he had two dollars left over!

He also came home with two tubes of squeezable SlushPuppie sour cherry candy, one won in a game, and one given to him for no reason. You can see why it was a good day.

I should explain that my son that the instincts to be a killer entrepreneur. He had a nice side business going at his school this year. He bought fidget spinners, sold them for a profit, and then bought more fidget spinners and sold those. Just as the fidget spinner craze was dying down, his package of fidget cubes arrived from China, and he also made a profit off of those.


I should probably have been upset that he was selling items that were banned from school in school, but I was too busy being relieved that someone in my family was showing some business sense. Between the two of us, my husband and I have a pile of degrees in ministry and the humanities, and (clearly) not a lick of financial acumen. It’s nice to know that our son will be able to take care of us in our dotage.

This afternoon, Grammy and her husband took my son and I to the movies. He brought his two tubes of sour candy, but didn’t feel like that was enough. So he talked Grammy into buying him a theater-sized box of watermelon SourPatches.

By the time Spiderman: Homecoming was over, every last bite and squeeze was gone. (Full disclosure: I did eat several of his sour watermelon candies. After the first one overloaded all the sour taste receptors on my tongue, the next seven or eight were surprisingly good.)

In summation, let us count the sweets that my son consumed this past week:

Friday (on the plane): Five mint chocolate Oreos. A bag of chocolate chip graham crackers shaped like bunnies. The caramel-flavored tea cookies the flight attendant handed out.

Saturday: (Brunch buffet) Mini muffins in chocolate, blueberry and banana nut. Waffles with syrup. A mini s’mores cake. A chocolate croissant. A fruit turnover. Later in the afternoon, a scoop of rainbow sorbet in a sugar cone.

Sunday: (At Grammy and her husband’s anniversary party) Chocolate cake with chocolate and white chocolate mousse filling. Fun-sized Hershey bars.

Monday: Pancakes with high fructose corn syrup maple syrup substitute. Two scoops of Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie, plus bites of Cherry Garcia and Berry Berry Sorbet. Leftover chocolate cake.

Tuesday: French toast with high fructose corn syrup maple syrup substitute. Three kinds of frozen yogurt — pineapple guava, watermelon, and mango — topped with gummy worms and mango boba balls (juice filled-gelatin spheres that pop and squish).


Today: Part of a chocolate doughnut for breakfast. Two tubes of sour gel and a box of SourPatch watermelon. A can of light-up soda. (It turned out to be flavored like a Cherry Sprite.)

Oh, and I hardly ever let my kids have soda. This week, because we ate at so many fast food places, I relaxed my restrictions. In for a penny, in for the Gross National Product of China, right? I would not be surprised to learn my son is running on root beer instead of oxygen and hemoglobin.

At least we decided not to stop at Krispy Kreme on the way home from the movies. That might have been the only restraint we showed all week.



image credit: Dad’s Guide to Disney World

Sleeping With Bread: Adapting the Ignatian Examen for Children and Small Groups

Day 3 of my 30-day writing challenge.

Friday night is Bible study night at the Myers house, and has been for over a decade now. Tonight’s study featured friends of more than 10 years and a friend of less than 1. We’ve almost always started with dinner (Pre-made lasagna tonight, plus the transcendently crispy wings and buttery garlic knots from the small Italian place one block over) and informal conversation before moving to the study portion, but in the last few months, we’ve started by asking people to share their “highs” and “lows” for the week.

This routine is something we first learned about from friends. Their family would go around the dinner table every night, giving every person a chance to say the best and worst thing about their day. We loved the way it gave everyone, no matter their age, a chance to reflect, speak, listen, and connect, and we started doing the same thing with our family.

Recently, we revived this practice again, after I read about it in Sleeping with Bread: Holding What Gives You Life. Its dreamy watercolors make it look like a children’s bedtime story, and one of its aims is in fact to make the Ignatian examen accessible to children, as well as to anyone looking for a basic, gentle approach to this practice.

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The examen is a way to review your day – how God was present, and how he might be inviting you to move forward – by asking yourself, “For what today was I most grateful? For what I was least grateful? Over time, paying attention to where in your days you find grace and life, and where you experience pain and resistance, points you towards how God might be moving and guiding you. It builds awareness and discernment, hope and faith.

For children, authors Dennis, Sheila Fabricant and Matthew Linn simplify the examen questions to precisely the ones we learned from our friends: “What was your high today? What was your low?” These are concepts children can easily understand – our five year old answers them quite vocally. We’ve also found them to be helpful in our small groups. They are non-threatening enough that most people don’t mind answering them, even visitors and new members. People can provide answers as detailed or as vague as they choose, sharing small ups and downs or deep joys and sorrows. Finally, the questions are easily explainable to English language learners; that’s an important criteria in our church, which was started specifically to welcome immigrants and internationals and to foster diversity.

Our group continues to gradually learn more and more about each other – what each person cares about, what they are going through, the unique ways they relate to God. And if we are good listeners, then each person has a chance to feel heard, valued, and loved.

Around the room tonight, the group’s highs and lows were predictably varied. My twelve-year old’s high was that there was no school on Monday; My kindergartener was excited that her graduation cap and gown were delivered today. There were a lot of lows pertaining to work – finding work, the wrong work, conflicts at work.

After completing our group examen – although we never actually use that term – we read Psalm 8 together. Psalm 8 juxtaposes God’s glory and the vast universe he’s made with his intimate care for all of his creatures, down to the very smallest. Verse two says “You have taught children and infants to tell of your strength.” Sleeping with Bread and the examen can help parents do just that – partner with God in teaching their children to be aware of both God’s majesty and his daily involvement in their lives. And it’s good for the adults too.