The Year of Yes

by on January 19, 2006 at 6:30 am in Books | Permalink

As a student at New York University in the late ’90s, she [Maria Dahvana Headley] applied that advice to her love life, turning down most men who asked her out and dating only intellectual, literary types. Frustrated by those guys, she reversed course, resolving to spend one year responding positively to all flirting and saying yes to literally anyone who asked her out. The ensuing 150 dates included a homeless man, several non-English speakers, 10 taxi drivers, two lesbians and a mime.

Headley’s memoir of the experience, "The Year of Yes," is now in bookstores, and Hollywood’s already calling. She urges other people to say yes more often, despite some horrible dates. (One guy took her to a bar that, it became clear, was a strip club–and that’s a tame example.) "Lots of women are pretty set in what they think they have to have in order to be happy, but it doesn’t hurt to date people who are not that," she says. It worked for her: during her dating spree, she met a playwright who was divorced and 25 years older and had two children–baggage that would have ordinarily nixed his chances. They married in 2003; now 28, Headley lives in Seattle with two teenage stepchildren. "It’s something I never would have picked, but it’s turned out to be this kind of amazing experience," she says.

Here is the link, courtesy of http://kottke.org

In general I favor approaches which shake us up, and force us to overcome our preconceptions and status quo biases.  If you are at a very good restaurant, you often do best by ordering the course you think you are least likely to enjoy.  I do not, however, recommend going to the restaurant you think you are least likely to enjoy.  The trick is to keep part of your filter steady and strong, while, at the same time, inverting some portions of your expectations.  I’ve never gardened, or wanted to garden, but the best book on gardening in Borders still might be worth my while.  Or pick a genre of music you dislike — the more rabidly the better — and go buy what is supposed to be the best CD from that genre.

Here is a skeptical take on Maria’s decision.  Might this surfeit of choice make a suboptimal candidate look better than he ought to?  If nothing else, marriage would allow you to bring the oppressive experiment to an end.  Here is an informal interview with the author.

Microeconomists are encouraged to ponder what model is required to generate "don’t ask anyone out but say yes to all who ask you" as optimum search behavior.  And does Maria’s decision impose negative or positive externalities on men?  (On other women?)  Imagine if all women always said "yes" to all proposed dates…

1 odograph January 19, 2006 at 9:05 am

I believe, as guys, we should promote this book/movie as much as possible.

2 EclectEcon January 19, 2006 at 10:07 am

Thanks for the link to Leviathon, but I think I’ll pass. That music is, indeed, something I dislike rabidly; fortunately, Amazon.com makes snippets available as samples, so I didn’t have to buy it to try it.

3 Jeff Brown January 19, 2006 at 12:55 pm

I totally endorse the best-of-worst-of search trick, at least for music. I did that for awhile, and every genre I tried had at least a few albums that were astoundingly good.

4 Joe January 19, 2006 at 2:28 pm

Re the best-of-worst-of, I agree with Jeff as regards to music especially, as well as many other things. However, as one of the world’s pickiest eaters, I could never do it as Tyler suggests with food. When it comes to that, I just want my favorite meal at my favorite restaurant 🙂

5 J January 19, 2006 at 4:19 pm

“My name is George. I’m unemployed and I live with my parents”.

-George Costanza

6 patrick January 20, 2006 at 9:29 am

Who’s paying for these dates? What about the opportunity costs? We also have to factor into the analysis the mens’ expectations about the strategy she is playing… there something tricky about a player of zero mass saying yes to everyone, while the mass 1 of womankind is, presumably, doing some sort of screening. This sort of strategy might work well as a deviation, but the General Equilibrium will (likely) be extremely sub-optimal.

7 odograph January 20, 2006 at 10:21 am

LOL (again), it stikes me that 10,000 years ago “common interests” primariliy involved “finding food” and “staying alive.”

8 Derby March 18, 2006 at 6:59 am

One thing is to say yes to all proposed dates and another thing is to say no to the same quantity of people when you understand that it’s not your tipe. Once you say yes they begin to hope and may be hurt a lot when dismissed.

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