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August 11, 2009

Ask-o-logy: Who taketh away

And now, the final ask-o-logy installment:

Hopefully you've already taken the quiz from the previous post. It will shed deep insights on your identity, your subconscious proclivities for or aversions to gravlax, and predict within a 99.9 percent correct probability when and where you'll have your next celebrity sighting.

Backup plan: At the end of today's post, you might be able to figure out a little more about why you answered like you did, and what your attitude is toward... Women Who Ask.

Haven't taken the quiz? Click here!!


So, today I want to look at an issue I contemplated throughout this experiment. It's something that gets to the heart of what I was trying to find out. I didn't realize this when I set out, but over time it was a question that gnawed at my thoughts over and over again.

The greed question.

More like questions, actually.

1. There are the obvious questions-that-were-on-many-people's-minds-including-me: Was La Roxy greedy? Asking for herself 365 whole days? In a row??? That chick's got some nerve! People can't pay their rent and she's scoring deals, bargaining when merchants are clearly floundering, exploiting Craigslisters and even a dead sociology professor. Asking waiters for special treatment. Courting favors and exceptions left and right. Just cuz she thinks she's entitled or something. What if we all did that? Wouldn't society go haywire? Where's your sense of decency, Goody Roxy!??

2. Then there are the counter questions: What's wrong with asking, or with feeling entitled to opportunities, instead of apologetic about seeking them? Or with checking boundaries and then pushing them, every so often? So she asked. So she dug up discounts. It's a free country. The other parties could all have walked away. In many circumstances, even when she was denied a discount or privilege, she still bought the product, consumed in that establishment or interacted with that party. No barrels to temples here. And hey, if it helped her practice for a salary negotiation that many women apparently miss out on, if she's calibrating the greed-o-meter to make sure she falls on the side of empowered rather than push-over, what's there to condemn?

3. Then there are the questions about the questions: Why would we characterize someone who asks every day as greedy? What is it about the self-centeredness of this pursuit that might make us -- perhaps even the asker herself -- potentially cringe? How do we define greediness, egotism, generosity? Even when she asked for someone else, on behalf of someone else, wasn't it for her blog? So how can we label anything as either/or?

Also: Are any of our attitudes shaped by the fact that she is a woman? If a guy barged into a restaurant and stated -- not even asked, but stated -- he wants the best table in the house for his brother's last minute birthday fiesta, would we think, "How hot -- look how he takes charge" Or "Moron." What if a guy boasted to his friend, as I heard yesterday, "I'm going to demand a raise -- and they better give it to me, or I'm out of there. They'll have to hire two people to do my job." Do we think, "My, what confidence!" or "Glad you're not working for me." What if rather than a brash young man or woman, someone with broken English asked instead? Or a beloved local business leader? Or is it how you ask (requesting versus demanding, pressuring savvily versus aggressively), rather than who's doing the asking, the deciding factor in our judgment?

4. And then there are the questions behind all those questions: To what extent should we even be trying to measure altruism or egoism? Of course the asker was self-centered. She asked a lot more often than any normal person does with the goal of becoming a better advocate for her wants and needs. That was the point of the experiment.

Before you keep reading, I'm curious: where do you fit? Which of these views most closely matches your own? Let me know in a comment, please! And thank you. ;)

And now, the the final data:

Now that I've sufficiently muddled the waters about a seemingly straightforward question ("Was Roxy greedy?"), here are the three final charts.

1) How often did I ask for myself, for someone else, and for us both?

There were 406 requests, if you recall.

The way I explain this:

"Myself" means I was the reason and recipient. A better parking space when I was alone. A discount on a skirt. And so on.

"Someone else," it means I had nothing to gain. I tried to help someone. My only benefit was making someone else's day a little better (and completing the day's request). For example: asking a guy to move his truck so my grandma would have access to the sidewalk. Or asking a man in a parking lot if he needed a jump start. That sort of thing. All car related. Hmm.

I asked for "Both" in social situations. Mr. A and I were hoping for a reduced hotel rate, La Sorella and I ventured into Seattle's frat houses.

To break this down a little further, let's examine the "myself" category:

So looks like I'm one greeday beeyatch.

Or am I? Wait for it... wait for it...

2) Did I have better chance at scoring stuff for myself or on behalf of other people?

Before looking at the data, I could have seen this swinging either way: either I'd ask more successfully for myself, since I can make a compelling case about what I need/want and why. Or, I ask better for others, because asking for oneself is seen as selfish (so less frequently rewarded), while asking for another is seen as nice and generous (so more frequently rewarded).

(You can click on this to zoom in)

Apparently, asking for myself for non-money was the surest bet, with a solid 80% success rate. Asking for money for myself or someone else were pretty close. I had the worst chances asking for financial discounts for myself and another party.

Beyond the graph's extremes, which are kind of just sitting there and but don't say much, here's what I find most captivating about this graph: I'm a far better asker when I advocate for myself.


So I really am one greedy motherfudger of a beeyatch.

3) But maybe I have one more shot at generosity: For whom did I score the biggest wins -- myself, others, or a combo?

Overall, I gained the most: $2,162.04. For other people, I snagged $669.75. And when we both benefited, the total gained was $1,748.50.

That's fine and dandy, but not as meaningful as understanding how much I gained per request. Because I asked a lot more often for myself -- so of course that total is grand. Let's see what happens when we divide these totals by the frequency, to get an average:

Looks like though I aimed for financial gains for people around me more rarely, and I was rarely succesful, when it did work out, the winnings were juicy.

So based on the kinds of requests I made for myself and others, and the potential payoffs, I'm far more generous with others than with myself. For me, I sought free cookies. For La Sorella, I snagged free internet for 9 months. That kind of thing.

Thus I pursued my own interests most often, but asked most ambitiously, and with by far the biggest average gains, for others.


Am I greedy?


But wait. Wasn't the point of today's discussion to question the assumptions that women shouldn't ask? Wasn't that the point of this project? Do I dare say it's a fine thing that I'm finally focused on asking for myself, after years of not asking?

What about you...

How did you view the pictures from the previous quiz?

Giddy or greedy? Giving or taking? Stealing or saving?

How do you view them now?

And, more importantly, how do you view yourself when you speak up or extend an open hand, and ask?
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