Is Freakonomics an Anti-Aphrodisiac?

Freakonomics is apparently something of a black cat. It’s gotten students thrown out of class. It’s gotten a tech consultant thrown off his job. But now the news is even worse: Freakonomics has thwarted love.

Here’s the story, in an e-mail we received recently from a guy named Phil:


I was recently dating a girl. Nothing serious, but I thought it was going okay. We had just seen a movie, and were on our way back to her place, when she noticed I was carrying around Freakonomics (I was reading it on the subway). Suddenly, she said “we have to talk,” and we were no longer headed back to her place. Turns out, she just met another guy who was also reading Freakonomics. That one coincidence was enough to weird her out, and she now needed to sort herself out. First of all, thanks for nothing. Second, is there anything to be learned from this (like what are the odds of this happening)? Someone might as well benefit from this.

Poor Phil! Here’s what I wrote back to him:

Oh, man. That’s sad. First of all: sorry. Second of all: was she weirded out because she thinks that someone who reads that book is a loser, or because the coincidence was just too much to bear? And third of all: I guess next time, you should carry around a softy romantic novel on your dates.

To which Phil replied:

I don’t know if the coincidence was “too much to bear,” but I guess it was part of a series of coincidences that were leading up to her re-examining her situation with this other guy. I didn’t dig too deep.

All I know is that I debated whether I should bring the book with me and have to carry it around with me all night, and decided there was no reason not to. Just trying to figure out how “risk=hazard+outrage” applies to this.

Any advice for Phil?

mr winston

Maybe Phil should be the first of the two to send her a copy? Maybe you could get the authors to autograph it for her?




She totally deserves an autographed copy.

Aside from that, consider yourself lucky IMO. Maybe we just don't have the whole story, but it sounds to me like she's a few sandwiches short of a picnic.


If she's so weirded out by the coincidence of two male acquaintances reading one of the best selling non-fiction books in recent memory (How many copies in print now, guys?), then this breakup or what-have-you was all probably for the best.


Phil, standing up, look at her eyes. Have a trash can near. Any street corner should be fine.

Tell her the exact number of book copies sold and gently hint that's the number of people she can't be with, if she thinks the coincidence means anything.

Then say something like "but to be with you, I am willing to change". Throw the book on the trash can, grab her by the waist and kiss her.


Phil - she probably just didn't like you, and used the book as a very, very lame excuse.


Do a little economics experiment on her. Cut off supply, and see how it affects the “worth” of going out with you. Here's how you do it. Tell her that if she needs to "sort things out," then fine. But you're not waiting around for her. Then go out with a different girl. Demand for=2; supply of Phil=1. Consequently, the “willingness to pay” or “worth” of going out with Phil goes up. Try it out and see how it works.

Besides, worst case scenario, you go out with some other girl instead. It sounds like this one might have emotional problems anyway.

Dossy Shiobara

Clearly, Phil should invest in a FlapArt dust jacket for whatever book he decides to carry around:

It might be the best $6 investment he could make towards his dating activities.


Just play brick on your ipod on the subway and you'll avoid the situation all together.


I wonder if my girlfriend is getting annoyed by my constant references of Freakonomics that show up in daily life.

I just asked her... she said "I don't care"


Anti-aphrodesiac? Your book did this guy a favor. What kind of marital sex is Phil going to get with a nutjob that changes her mind about who she dates depending their literary preference? I mean seriously, 5 years from now they'd be married and he'd be hiding his copy of Field and Stream because he's hoping to get some. Say THANK YOU Phil!


To some degree I agree with the sentiment expressed in comment #11. Phil, if you think she still has some merit after reading all these comments then ask her to a> read the book, b> read this blog entry and comments, and then c> get back to you with an opinion she is willing to justify in 'reasonable' terms (NB there is quite some latitude with what constitutes 'reasonable' when it comes to "hoping to get some") or just plainly assert if you like women with attitude. Good luck! :-)


Cover the book in a plain brown paper wrapper? That should go over well.


This girl sounds like a flake, which Phil obviously knew on some level, or he wouldn't have self-sabatoged by bringing a book--ANY book--on a date with him.


Dude, she's crazy...

That is all.


As a woman, I'd say:
1. She's not all that into you.
2. She's a flake.
3. Better she leaves now.

It's probably not JUST the book choice. Let her go reassess herself and be happy if she never comes back. If she's that easily spooked, she'll be leaving you next week anyway over the type of cornflakes you prefer...


Over whether to bring a book on a date:
I'm female and an incessant reader. I fully understand a man carrying around reading material, especially if he was taking the subway to meet me for a date. One of the things I appreciate about my husband is that he is the same as me. Our tastes in reading material differ, but not the NEED to have something to read.

If I'm trapped somewhere waiting in a line, riding public transportation, eating alone, etc. I HAVE to have something to read. It's probably as bad as nicotine addiction.

Now, dude, if you whipped out the book and started reading it DURING the date, that would definitely be a no-no. You're supposed to talk to her. At least until you reach that point in the relationship where two incessant readers BOTH bring reading material along on the evening out.


It sounds to me like this woman never got over her last relationship, whether she wants to or not. It's probably the culmination of a lot of 'coincidences' she's noticing between Phil and the old flame. I say kudos to her for realizing she's subconsciously chosen a boyfriend similar to the old one and giving the guy another chance.

But I'll also say I'm empathetic to Phil's situation - she should realize he's a smart guy if he's reading Freakonomics.



You should send her a link to these replies. If nothing else, it will eat at her for the rest of her life that all these people think she's the nut-job!

Adding to the point that comment #5 raises about the number of people reading the book, and therefore off-limits to her, you'll be able to comfort yourself knowing she'll probably end up alone...well, except for the cats. Hundreds of cats all named, Steven, Stephen (she's crazy so don't worry, she'll know the difference) Levitt and Dubner!!!


Andy Martini


I've known these types...getting wierded out by coincidences, superstitions, etc. I'd say Phil is better off as it sounds like a piece of the larger puzzle. A funny happenstance that is did revolve around the book however.