I was just a few months shy of graduating from university, and without realizing it I’d turned into a "no" person.
“Do you want to go out tonight?” my housemates would ask.
“No,” I’d say. “I’ve got to finish this essay.”
“Fancy coming to see a play with us?” someone off my course might say.
“No,” I’d reply. “That theatre’s too far away, and it’s raining.”
“How about a drink sometime?” a drunk stranger in the nightclub where I worked would slur at me. I was the cloakroom girl, and had quickly discovered that sitting on my own in a small, lit-up room until 3 am each night attracted dickheads like moths to a flame.
“No.” This accompanied by no explanation, just a hard stare until they stumbled away.
I was getting into a rut -- that much I could see. The pressures of my final year were beginning to weigh down on me, and there’s nothing like seeing a nightclub through sober eyes to put you off both drinking and pulling in equal measure. Still, something had to change. I was only 22.
It was while rifling through second-hand books in a charity shop one morning that I came across Yes Man. It’s a memoir by Danny Wallace, recounting his six-month social experiment of saying "yes" to anything and everything. I hadn’t seen the film it inspired (the one starring Jim Carrey), but I was familiar with the premise. It sounded like a fun read, so I bought the dog-eared copy without much thought.
I ended up ploughing through the entire thing that very afternoon. Danny Wallace made me laugh with his stories of trolling spammers and inappropriately accepting invitations that were clearly only meant to be polite – but I was also impressed by his commitment to the project. Could he help someone with a favour? Hell yes. Would he like to come into work on a Saturday? Of course! Sign up to save the whales? Why not?
OK, admittedly by jettisoning the word "no" from his vocabulary for half a year he got into a ton of credit card debt – but he also got a promotion, had loads of interesting experiences and ended up getting together with his future wife.
I could get on board with this, I thought to myself. Should I set myself a similar challenge?
There could only be one answer: yes.
I didn’t have to wait long to put my plan into action. The next day was Valentine’s Day, and I got a text from a colleague asking if I could cover her shift in the cloakroom. I didn’t want to – a night in with the Twin Peaks box set beckoned – but reluctantly texted back saying sure. I even threw in a smiley face for good measure.
That night, I didn’t think too much of it when a boy came up to me and asked where the smoking area was. He seemed polite and, unusually, sober, but the club was busy and it was hard to hear what he was saying. I gave him directions, and when he held out something for me to take I assumed he was handing in a bankcard or ID he’d found on the dance floor and automatically accepted it.
Only when I looked down did I see that it was a piece of paper with his name and phone number scribbled on it. By the time I looked up again, he’d already disappeared.
I couldn’t even remember what he’d looked like. All I had was the vague recollection that he was tall, and had seemed about my age. Ordinarily I’d have thrown the number away, but this time I didn’t.
After all, I realised, I had no reason not to contact him. Here was a complete stranger – a walking opportunity – and this was the perfect chance to test out my new, positive attitude.
“Hahaha, very smooth,” I texted him, and signed it, “Leah from the cloakroom.” He hadn’t even asked my name.
That text turned into a string of texts, and it didn’t take long for "Mystery Michael" (as I’d dubbed him in my phone address book, and which he remains to this day) to ask me out for a drink.
This made me pause. It would be a blind date in the realest sense; at least when you’re fixed up by a mutual friend or meet someone online, you have something to go on, word of mouth or a profile. All I knew about this guy was his name, that he typed text messages using the correct grammar and spelling (a plus) but also apparently frequented questionable nightclubs like the one I worked for (a minus). Still, I had no reason not to, so I said, “Yes.” The date was set.
One date turned into two, and two turned into three. I soon discovered that Michael and I had a lot in common. We were both students, had both traveled a fair bit, and had both never been in a serious relationship before.
When I went in for a hug at the end of our first date, I noticed I’d been right about him being tall: at 6 feet 6 inches, he had almost a foot on me. Another plus.
The morning after Michael first spent the night at mine, my housemate Jon inadvertently invited him to come away with a small group of us to Wales for a week. It was only later, after Michael had left, that Jon turned to me and asked, “Should I have invited him? Was that OK?”
“Sure,” I said, thinking to myself, Well, I guess a week in each other’s company will let us know either way. Saying yes had brought me this far; why not follow it one step further?
That was three years ago now. Since then, a lot has happened with Michael and I. We’ve gotten jobs, lost jobs, done long-distance and moved in together. We’ve even adopted an overweight tabby cat called Holly.
The other day I was reorganising our combined book collection when I came upon my copy of Yes Man, and I noticed something that I hadn’t seen before. On the blurb on the cover is a quote from the San Francisco Bay Guardian, promising that Yes Man is, “One of those rare books that actually has the potential to change your life.”
Usually I’d dismiss such a claim as cheesy at best, but in this case I had to begrudgingly let it have that one.