Ever Heard of 'The Taxi Cab Theory'? (And Could it Be the Reason You're Still Single?)

It was the night before Valentine’s Day when my friend Sophie FaceTimed me on her walk home from (yet another) mediocre Hinge date: “I just didn’t feel that spark,” she said breathlessly. “I feel like I’m just waiting for [my person] to knock on the door and be like, ‘hey I’m here. I’m your guy.’” Clearly; the chocolate hearts and bodega roses had gotten to her. “What is it that you’re looking for, exactly?” I asked, trying to identify the source of said missing spark. “That’s the problem,” she deduced. “I’ll know it’s my guy when I see him.” And in that moment, I had to wonder: When did dating become so preclusive? 

Before the era of gym selfies and generic, monosyllabic Hinge prompts, there was an emphasis on really getting to know someone. The school of thought was ‘never judge a book by its cover’—and at the very least, you’d allow a potential suitor to buy you a drink before sending them to the island of misfit dates. Yet today, it seems, that the oversaturated, digital dating market has decimated our ability to hop on a good stock when we see one. The dating app boom has led to a collective, ‘grass is always greener’ mentality—giving us access to every fish in the sea—while cultivating an impending sense of doom that we’ll never find “the one.” (Or worse; we’ll eventually be forced to "settle”). But in a time where the dump-to-date ratio is higher than ever, it’s worth asking: How much does “settling” have to do with “settling down”?

And thanks to Sex and The City’s resident lawyer, Miranda Hobbs, there’s a hypothesis that aims to answer that exact question: The Taxi Cab Theory. 

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What is The Taxi Cab Theory?

Basically, it’s the idea that love has nothing to do with commitment; it’s all about timing (or reaching a point where you’re too exhausted to go on another bad first date). But before I get into the nitty-gritty, let’s start with the SATC episode where the theory originated. First, we have Charlotte—a hopeless romantic who clings to the idea of ‘true love’ like a puppy with its chew toy. Two weeks after meeting Trey, her soon-to-be groom, she gushes: “Sometimes you just know, it’s like, magic, it’s fate.” And this is when Miranda sardonically introduces the Taxi Cab Theory: “It’s not fate, his light is on—that’s all,” she says. “Men are like cabs; when they’re available, their light goes on. They wake up one day and decide they’re ready to settle down, have babies, (whatever), and they turn their light on. [The] next woman they pickup, boom! That’s the one they’ll marry. It’s not fate, it’s dumb luck. 

In the simplest terms, the theory stems from the idea that commitment is incongruent with compatibility. It’s not that finding the perfect partner is impossible, per se, but it values settling on someone who’s generally pleasant to be around—or at the bare minimum, someone who won’t make you cringe when they laugh or slurp soup (read: 'The Ick'). 

What’s most interesting, however, is how the Taxi Cab Theory (circa 2000) echos today’s swipe-right to settle lifespan. At first, the promise of downloading a dating app—and having access to infinite potential—affects a preconceived notion that your soulmate (gag) has to be on there. Eventually, however, the apps start to lose their luster. Dating soon becomes droomscrolling, and before you know it, you’ve forgotten how to deliberately, consciously, swipe to find a match. What’s more, after months (or years) of going on glorified blind dates (who shove their tongue down your throat after making you split the bill), it’s easy to start viewing “settling” and “commitment” as one in the same. 

Which brings us to the roots of the theory itself: Choosing a partner becomes less about is this person right for me, and more about, is this person right for me, *right now*?

But What Does This Theory Have to Do with Being Single?

It’s not lost on me that Miranda’s perspective is extreme (and somewhat jaded). Call me a hopeless romantic, but I refuse to believe that love and commitment are mutually exclusive. That said, it’s worth acknowledging two important themes from the theory: timing and tolerance. Now more than ever, finding someone compatible (or someone who’s *not* an obvious sociopath) requires an open mind. While dating apps are a phenomenal way to meet people outside of your usual crowd, it also leads us to believe that five pictures and three prompts are enough to form an opinion about someone’s character. Which is exactly why you can use the Taxi Cab Theory to your advantage.

If “settling” is already a foregone conclusion to being single, why spend so much time [preemptively] rejecting potential matches? While intentional dating is all the rage, I say to hell with it. Why not agree to drinks with a guy who likes country music when you prefer R&B? Or what’s the harm in going to a movie with a self-proclaimed cat person (aka a dog lover's worst nightmare)? In the worst-case scenario, you leave the date knowing you’ll never see their face again. And the best-case scenario? You find that *spark* with someone when you weren’t even looking for it.

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Associate Editor

Sydney Meister is PureWow's Associate Editor, covering everything from dating trends and relationship advice (here's looking at you, 'soonicorns') to interior design, beauty...