A series of coincidental events: My 2022 in review (kind of)
It's the last day of the year, and I have some thoughts on coincidences, conspiracy theories, being alone, a Knicks game, and Kanye.
There was a roughly 24-hour period this week during which it was widely believed that Greta Thunberg sent Andrew Tate to jail.
You’ve seen the tweets and the Instagram stories and the Reddit posts.
This teen who has sparred with Trump is now making fun of Tate’s obviously tiny penis! And, get this, their Twitter fight led to his arrest, all thanks to the pizza box in a video he posted.
Oh, and he was able to have this Twitter conversation because Elon Musk unbanned him from the platform.
After the vile misogynist’s viral Twitter interactions with the teenage climate activist — Thunberg’s tweet shitting on Tate is now reportedly among the top-10 most-liked tweets of all time — he was arrested on charges of human sex-trafficking in Romania.
Only that wasn’t really how it happened.
Romanian authorities told NBC News that the pizza box was not actually what led to his arrest.
The timing seemed to be a coincidence.
I’ve been thinking a lot about coincidences lately, because they keep happening to me.
This may or may not be coincidental in and of itself, according to my cursory research into the science of coincidences.
As it turns out, it’s pretty normal to be surprised by when seemingly unconnected things happen at once.
Journalist Julie Beck wrote in a 2016 Atlantic piece that statisticians don’t find coincidences to be quite special at all, actually:
From a purely statistical point of view, these events are random, not meaningfully related, and they shouldn’t be that surprising because they happen all the time. “Extremely improbable events are commonplace,” as the statistician David Hand says in his book The Improbability Principle.
I live in New York City, which my mom often calls “the center of the universe.” She is right, or at least partially right, because it is very much the center of our universe. It’s a tiny city in a small world, after all. And I’ve been running into people everywhere.
This fall, a man took me to a Knicks game on a second date.
It was raining. We met at Madison Square Garden, both soaking wet, each of us having forgotten umbrellas.
We had fourth row seats. My date, a FAANG employee (excuse me, “MAANG”), bought them from a co-worker.
(Just to avoid burying the lede, I will note here that we did not continue seeing each other after this, because he said he did not feel a romantic connection, which is fine, because the world has too many people for all of us to go around having crushes on each other all the time.)
We struck up a conversation with a nice middle-aged man sitting next to us. He tells us he’s a producer, here on business with his assistant, who took him to see the Knicks for his birthday.
As it turned out, this producer grew up in my hometown and went to my high school. We talked about which synagogues our parents went to, whether we’d be in Blueback Center during the week of Thanksgiving.
At the game, I chatted with the producer for a while longer. We talked about “Don’t Worry Darling,” the last film I’d seen in theaters at the time. It was awful, of course, though I enjoyed the first chunk. The producer’s assistant agreed that Harry Styles wasn’t right for the role. I made another jab at Styles.
“She’s tough,” the producer said to my date. “You must be a good one.”
That he is, I thought. “Well, it’s our second date, so we’ll see,” I said aloud.
Minutes later, another couple appeared.
We were in their seats, having misread the numbers. We weren’t supposed to be sitting next to that man in the first place.
Later, I told this story to my dad. He took out his iPad to write an email. “I know his father and brother very well!”
I had a boyfriend in the spring.
Many months before the Knicks game, a previous Hinge match seemed promising. Our first date was at a spot called Art Bar in the West Village.
It was going so well that I felt upset to interrupt us to use the bathroom. “That must be a good sign,” I said, sharing aloud to this stranger the thoughts written in this paragraph. The night ended with a make-out on a bench overlooking the Hudson River.
Our second date, lunch, became dinner, which became a sleepover, which became him being my boyfriend.
One day, I was visiting my grandma and couldn’t stop talking about him. “You’ve only been together one month,” she said, urging me not to get too invested just yet.
“Yeah, but in 5 months, it will have been 6 months,” I said.
Well, we didn’t make it that far, despite the absolute lunacy of my aforementioned soon-it-will-have-been-a-long-time logic. He stopped being nice to me just as quickly as the courtship began.
Before we reached a total of two months, he came over for dinner, looking despondent and exhausted. I asked what was wrong, reaching out to hug him. With my arms half around his back, he exclaimed in one breath: “I’m breaking up with you.” He didn’t actually like me that much, it turned out.
It hit me like a ton of bricks that night just how wrong I’d been about this relationship. My own revelation of the artifice of Oz.
I would say that this is what your 20s are for, but Carrie Bradshaw was 33 in the “Sex and the City” pilot, so let’s not place an expiration date on figuring this shit out.
The day after the Knicks game, my childhood best friend was in town.
Alyssa and I walked around the East Village and Flatiron, sipping coffee and laughing and talking as best friends do on a sunny day in Manhattan. I told her all about my date. We agreed that he seemed obsessed with me, a word I often misuse and think I should eradicate from my vocabulary in 2023.
We weren’t sure where to walk; we had nowhere to be.
She asked where my ex from the spring lived, whether I’d ever run into him.
“No, I haven’t,” I said. “I don’t really think I ever will, for some reason.”
We turned the corner and walked a few more blocks before we saw him.
He was waiting at a stop-light, wearing a shearling-lined denim jacket and a small backpack, his hair bleached like a community-theater Rolf Gruber.
Was it a sign? It had to mean something, right?
Recently, a very nice guy and I were texting, planning a date in the West Village. He had previously mentioned a bar he wanted to go to, but couldn’t recall its name. He finally remembered what it was, he said.
A coincidence is an improbable event with no apparent causal connection. Attempts at uncovering a causal connection therein is a gateway to conspiratorial thinking.
Multiple studies have indicated that “conspiracy belief is driven by readiness to draw implausible causal connections even when events are not random, but instead conform to an objective pattern.”
I have spent some time researching and writing about conspiratorial thinking, focusing on the QAnon conspiracy theory and its lore in my reporting and editing. I understand the instinct to find deeper meaning in random events we may or may not consider coincidental.
Conspiracy theories are a perfect antidote to our suspicions; They offer explanations for all that’s wrong in our lives. Kanye West is clearly not immune to them.
To be clear, though, the Venn diagram of bigotry and conspiratorial thinking tends to look like a circle. Confusion and anger are easily mitigated when there’s a boogeyman towards whom to throw stones. Unsurprisingly, Tate and his representatives have repeatedly said, in press statements and on social media, that his arrest has something to do with the “matrix” (??).
If you view the world like you’re a video game character, things are pretty much black-and-white. Life is simpler to process; decisions are made for you. The people you think are bad do the bad things, and the people you think are good do the good things. Nothing else can be true.
This lens is a distortion of reality.
Still, there’s a reason we like believing things that seem simple and easily explainable. We’re all just floating pieces of dust without that, or so it can feel.
“A coincidence itself is in the eye of the beholder,” a professor and expert on coincidences told Beck in her 2016 Atlantic article.
As a writer, I think my eyes are trained to find connections, to piece together a picture that was once invisible.But in the absence of causation, as coincidences are, these events are actually just random.
That can be a letdown, though.
We all look for meaning in our own ways. We seek answers to existentialism, rules for being alive, reasons to keep going. That’s why religion exists. That’s why everything exists, actually, I think, but don’t quote me on that, because I’m not sure I agree with myself.
I will not feign immunity to the powers of things seeming important when they’re not. Of course, the Knicks game situation gave me an inflated sense of stakes with that guy.
What are the chances of this coincidence? I kept asking myself.
But the truth is, it doesn’t matter what the chances are. Or maybe they’re just pretty fucking high. I’m not good at math.
I will leave you with this.
I spent the first minutes of 2022 with two close friends, Sam and Libby, and their boyfriends.
Earlier that day, my little sister and I texted about our respective New Year’s Eve plans. “Awkward that you’re fifth-wheeling,” she joked. (She is very funny and cool, both of which she obviously gets from me.)
That evening was actually perfect, I told her.
Because when you’re on your own, floating without a partner, you have only yourself to deal with — and if you like yourself, it is often enough.
Today, in the final minutes of 2022, this is still how I feel. I’m grateful to be who I am, to love whom I love, and to be loved by those who love me, today and next year — good dates, bad dates, coincidences and all.
It was a good year.
This story was written by my friends Kalhan Rosenblatt and Kat Tenbarge! They are so talented! (Welcome to my footnotes.)
NOTE: This part is true.
What I mean is that I read an article in The Atlantic and I also read the Wikipedia page for the probability theory of events.
You can Google this, IDK, I’m not explaining it to you.
You probably enjoy this, too, if you liked “White Lotus,” or “Knives Out,” or “Wednesday,” or “Only Murders in the Building,” or “Bodies Bodies Bodies,” or any Shonda Rhimes property, or true-crime podcasts, or Ted Bundy media, etc.
Unlike the fact that Tanya saw the photo of [REDACTED] before [REDACTED] that guy in [REDACTED]. That was actually not a coincidence!