Imagine for a moment if you went against your natural reaction grain with a razor called experimentation all in the name of self improvement. What would be the auto-response answer that you’re prone to — yet hasn’t always served you well — that you’d like to try and change? Now boil that down. I’d bet, in its simplest iteration, it falls under one of these three categories: Yes, Maybe or No.
Haley, Leandra and I bucked our own natural inclinations and said “yes,” “maybe” and “no,” respectively, to basically everything for a three-day-long assignment that would culminate in this very diet. The idea was for each of us to break out of our comfort zones and say the thing we were least-used to saying. We’d be better people after, we figured. We hypothesized that we’d realize that not all invites are life-sucking energy drainers, not all questions need to be answered with finite decisions, not all requests need to be met.
That’s kind of what happened, right?
Maybe. Yes and no. I don’t know. We made Haley go first since she had to say yes.
Haley tried the Yes Diet
It’s the opposite of a secret that I’m in need of a Yes diet. See: my laments about staying in, my revelry in canceled plans, my need for fair plan-warning and my glorification of introversion. Do you think it’s a coincidence I have this meme on my desktop at all times?
But I’m not a shut-in! Should I clarify that? I ran into Verena on a recent Saturday, told her I was hungover and she said, “Hey, you went out! Good for you!” I laughed like, “Oh god, what have I done?” Maybe I deserve this reputation though, because it’s true I’m unnecessarily particular about what I say “yes” to and I know it’s to my detriment. I do love being home and no one’s ever called me spontaneous. So Leandra and Amelia put my job on the line and forced me out of my zone of comfort. And I said yes. A lot.
On the first day of my diet, my brother tossed out a last-minute invite to have dinner at his house and watch a movie. It was an I’m-doing-it-either-way kind of invite and one that would be easy enough to pass up in favor of hitting my pending deadlines. Instead I said yes and just worked from his couch for a bit. A worth-it evening commenced.
The next day Krista threw out the idea of ordering Acai bowls for breakfast. It’s the kind of thing we’d normally chuckle about and be like “We wish,” but instead I was like, “YES!” They then took 90 minutes to arrive and kind of sucked. Sad. A few hours later Krista chats me: “Alright, I’m heading out to get tacos and then going home. You’re free to come if you want!”
I was like, “KRISTA I HAVE DEADLINES YOU KNOW I’M ON THE YES DIET!!!!” She apologized profusely but also refused to rescind her invite so I went. And it was great. And then I got back to work. See, self? That wasn’t so bad!
That night my roommates wanted to go dancing at……HOUSE OF YES. I said yes. They said, “Want a tequila shot?” I said yes. They asked again and I said yes again, which I wouldn’t be proud of if it wasn’t somehow a manifestation of “doing my job.” We danced until 2:30 a.m. because my mouth kept saying it wanted to stay. I’ll admit, though, that it was true.
The next morning someone asked me to coffee. I was tired. I said yes. Then my sister asked if I wanted to get a mani-pedi with her and her friend. I was like, YES. Then my brother said “I have to go to this thing 100% out of obligation. You should come HAHA,” and I was like “I HATE YOU BUT YES.”
By now my siblings had figured out I was on a yes diet and were exploiting it. My sister asked if I’d join her in volunteering at a sanitation plant before a quick trip to the post office and IKEA. I’m never telling them anything ever again.
That evening I had dinner with an angel by the name of Harling, which was more than a pleasure. We finished around midnight. I’d been out since 9 a.m. because of the diet and thought I might tip over if the wind blew too hard. “Want to come meet up with my friends?” She asked. My heart said OF COURSE, my brittle bones said I’M TOO TIRED, my mouth said YES.
The following day I didn’t get out of bed until 2 p.m. like a puppy after playing too long. But I had to admit, it had been one of my favorite weekends in New York so far.
Amelia tried the No Diet
Shonda Rhimes might have written the Year of Yes but I have lived it for 28. Make no mistake: I am not some free-wheeling experimental hippie untethered to societal constraints. In Shonda’s world, when you make a calculated decision to say “yes” for a year, as she did — when you make everything a positive affirmation, an adventure, an opportunity and a leap away from fear — the world, it seems, opens up its arms to help you along the way.
But when your adulthood feels like a series of “sure” — sure, I’ll have another drink, go to that party, accept the date, accept the meeting, let not-really-friends sleep on my couch, visit someone’s weirdo cousin to be nice, take on the work, agree to dinners despite bank account status and agree to this diet — you’re mostly just always tired.
“Yes” is a bad habit of mine that I’ve been meaning to break.
I looked forward to the now-past few days because I was eager to have an excuse to say, “No.” To offer up, “Sorry, I can’t” without it being “my fault.” Because that is what “no” feels like to me! Like I’m doing something wrong and someone or everyone will be mad at me. So I said no with trepidation at first: “No thank you…Or, actually…yeah, no…That’s fine, right???”
Then I declined six industry events, three dinners, a date and a friendship manicure/pedicure. At the office, Verena reminded me a few times that I shouldn’t accept an assignment unless I could actually fit it in to my schedule. Last night I had to RSVP no to a party that I really wanted to attend — guys, it’s Lilly Pulitzer-themed — because I already have two non-negotiable things scheduled for the same evening, and I’m bummed, but now I won’t be running around like a neon-paisley patterned chicken with my head cut off trying fit in too many cross, up, and downtown things.
These hard-no’s were good and probably important for my sanity.
But I still said yes a ton. I ordered a drink when the waitress asked even though five minutes before I told my friends I wasn’t drinking. I made plans even though I said I’d keep my calendar empty, kept a date when the guy followed up and went yes-rogue at a sale, which will be hilarious when I get the bill. THE THING IS, without sounding platitudinal, that when I said yes to these things, it felt like a positive choice as opposed to an apathetic, well-I-have-no-choice-anyway-so-whatever-sure. Saying “no” reminded me that I can, which meant that when I said yes, I meant it.
Holy shit, Shonda. No wonder they say you’re a genius.
Leandra tried the Maybe Diet.
Sorry if this is anti-climactic, but it must be said. Executing the “maybe” diet was ridiculous. Partially because you are literally beholden to standing still if you are forced to say maybe every time something is asked of you. Want lunch? Maybe. Do you have a minute for a quick chat? Maybe. You have no choice but to exist in precisely the kind of limbo that gives me terrible anxiety — neither here nor there, this nor that. By answering “maybe” every time a request is imposed upon you, whether by one’s self or a second-party inquirer, you leave yourself no choice but to refuse an answer. Like you’re standing on a balance beam in the middle of the ocean and there are sharks who love human flesh below you, but only eat when they’re hungry. Above you is a helicopter, which has been known to save said human flesh from the precise balance beam on which you stand. The caveat is that your mother-in-law is steering the chopper. She hates you. And you really have to pee — . So what do you do? Where do you go?
The emotional minefield of Maybe.
If you’re curious about the particulars of the 48 hours I spent retorting “maybe,” I should let you know here and now that I waved the white flag only 37 minutes into the challenge, when the following exchange occurred.
Me: Hey! I’ll have an iced coffee with almond milk, please.
Barista: …Is that a yes or a no?
Me: It’s a maybe.
Barista: Okay? Are you trying to be cute with me?
Me: …Maybe…(I was nodding no!)
Barista: I have a boyfriend
Me: No sugar. Just the almond milk.
What I could have done is simply said, “Just the almond milk,” but I am not quick on my toes, particularly when people assume I am flirting with them, which is especially uncomfortable given that just a moment earlier the woman standing to my right informed me of how much she had appreciated the Monocycle podcast episode I’d recorded with my husband. Now I was an infidel.
I tried to get back on the horse and assume regular programming but just two hours into the work day following the coffee fiasco, it occurred to me that until I could be convicted in my yes’s and my no’s, nothing — NOTHING — would get done. The fridge would remain a biodegradable landfill, a swimwear shoot would go un-styled, my political views would remain as wishy-washy as a damp towel enduring its second round of laundering (not the money kind), and most importantly, I’d have to leave my dinner plans up to Amelia. And do you know what leaving a decision in the hands of Amelia yields?
A big fat maybe.
Photographed by Krista Anna Lewis.