Personal Column: 'For one year, I said yes to every man who asked me on a date'

Single and frustrated with seeing the same kind of man all the time, Maria Headley made a radical decision. She dated toads... and she dated princes
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The Independent Online

I am from a small town in Idaho called Marsing. Nothing much happens there and I was desperate to get out. I moved to New York to go to college thinking I would find someone amazing. Loads of really cool, intellectual types; there would be all these great, fascinating guys. But I kept on dating the same kind of guy and nobody was sweeping me off my feet.

So I thought, if there is something different out there, why not try it?

I kept on knocking back guys who I thought just weren't right for me. So I decided I'd start saying yes. Anyone who asked me out, got a date. It was pretty much anyone who was willing to interact with me. It was daunting.

My family were sort of horrified. I'm from a real rural, farming-tractor community. A lot of people there are terrified of New York. My mom thought I'd end up dating a serial killer. A lot of women think that if you talk to a stranger something terrible will happen.

Our nature, particularly among women, is to think the worst. Part of me thinks if something bad happens I won't be able to fight back. There are all these statistics about crime and violence. We are always thinking of the worst, never of joy. People should think about joy more often. There are no statistics on "something awesome happened to me today". So people worry that something bad will happen when it probably won't.

Obviously, I had some really bad dates. I went out with a bunch of taxi drivers, some didn't speak English. There was one guy who wanted me to "bite his equipment". That was weird. I said no, obviously. Then there was a millionaire who lived with his mom; he was very nice but had no social skills at all. One guy took me to a strip club. We got there and he disappeared with a lap-dancer to have a lap-dance. It was humiliating. There was a whole bunch of 14-year-old boys there doing their homework; it was their after-school hangout. They started asking me for a dance because they thought I was a stripper. It was horrible. I don't know what my date was thinking, but it certainly didn't work, no way.

But there were some great dates. I definitely had a lot of good ones.

There was a subway conductor who was lovely. He was a really positive person. He had an iguana named Stan which he took on the date with us. We went swimming in Coney Island in October. It was freezing but so beautiful. That was a fantastic date. He was peculiar, yeah, but joyful. He was a guy I never would have looked at before.

The best date is obvious. My husband. It could not have been better. He sort of knew what I was doing. When we met it was just as friends. He's a writer and I kind of idolised him, he was amazing.

I met him and we got talking about what I was doing. I said I was looking for a better class of man. He was married at the time but months later he was going through his divorce and he asked me out.

I didn't think of writing this book for years. When I told him I was thinking of it he thought it was great. He doesn't mind me talking about it. He didn't mind at all because he's the winner, he's chapter 12! He's a writer too, so he thought it was a great idea. He's fantastic, a genius, I'm the luckiest girl in the whole world!

Writing about our relationship was the hardest bit. It's so personal. I had told all the other stories before, you know, to friends, but this was different. It was really intense and personal. I'm glad I did it. It was great to tell it. Usually we talk about the bad things, not joy. I'm a great believer in talking about the good things in life.

Since the book has been published in the US I've had so many emails asking for advice. I get emails on everything you can imagine. It's funny because it's a memoir; it's not supposed to be a self-help book.

I think for guys it is harder. Women hardly ever ask guys out. If you think she's attractive, say so. Women don't hear that often. The best thing you can say to a woman is, "You look beautiful". Usually it's: "I've got a spare ticket for this show tonight, my friend couldn't come, would you like to join me?" You can't tell if they like you or not. It's so frustrating. Just be straightforward.

More women should say yes. It is great to do. You could be losing out on a guy who is fantastic just because you don't think he's your type. A couple of my friends have been doing it. All of them are at that point where if you are not settled down you are not satisfied.

One friend was asked out by this guy who was a lot younger than she was. Normally she would have said no. She wouldn't have even considered this guy, but because of this, she said yes. She went out with this guy for a few months and it was great. She really needed to do it. She'd had a bad relationship before and this one reaffirmed her faith in men. It was fantastic. It made her feel a lot better about herself.

Lots of women have an ideal type, you know, the right physical form, the job they do, what they dress like, all that. And then you date that guy over and over and over, convinced that is what you have to have. And all the time it's not working and you're turning down guys that could be perfect. You rule people out for stupid reasons. And you could lose out on this person who might be the one. All you need to do is say yes.

I have had lots of interest from film executives about the Year of Yes. It would be fantastic if it was made into a movie. We have been talking to a whole bunch of Hollywood types; it will definitely be a movie at some point. I'd love it if Maggie Gyllenhaal played me. Luckily, that's the name that keeps coming up, it's not just me. She would be fantastic.

Maria Headley was talking to Steve Bloomfield. 'The Year of Yes The Story of a Girl, a Few Hundred Dates, and Fate', is published by Thorsons, £9.99