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Turning sentimental value into cold, hard cash: Haley McGee on The Ex-Boyfriend Yard Sale

[Photo Credit: Mat Peberdy]

The Ex-Boyfriend Yard Sale | Trailer from Haley McGee on Vimeo.

Internationally acclaimed writer, performer and ‘fearless, raw talent’ (CBC Radio), Haley McGee, has a new show about the cost of love … or what love costs us. Playing from 20 Nov - 8 December at Camden People’s Theatre, ‘The Ex-Boyfriend Yard Sale’ takes a mathematical approach to our failed romances and asks was it worth it?

This ‘refreshingly unshowy’ (The Stage) solo smashes together recorded interviews with Haley’s real ex-boyfriends, personal divulgences, expert advice from economists to psychoanalysts, and a brand new mathematical formula in a quest to determine what our relationships are actually worth.

From a mid-sized city in Canada to the big smoke, Haley’s disarming, playful and feminist work takes on big, uncomfortable questions with humour and guts. Haley talks to Run Riot about her new solo show ‘The Ex-Boyfriend Yard Sale’.

A couple years ago I was in debt. I found myself on the phone with my credit card company promising to pay off my bill. I blurted out ‘I’m gonna sell some things! I’m gonna have a yard sale!’  As I said this, I looked around my apartment and realised the only things I own, that have financial value, are all gifts from my ex-boyfriends. 

As I began to pack up the objects to sell, I started to wonder what they were really worth, given all the ways we invest (or don’t) in our romantic relationships.  And all the ways that our romantic relationships cost us.


[Photo Credit: Gary Street]

For instance, what if, one time, during a long distance relationship, on your way to visit your partner, you accidentally sat on a razor blade that is wedged between two seats on the bus, cutting your (new) jeans and your bum? Would this flesh wound increase or decrease the value of the necklace they gave you for your birthday?

And what about all the time you invested in the relationship?
Was the time well spent?
Was it more fun than misery?  
How long did it take to get over?
Did they ever betray you?  
Did you ever betray them?
Was there ever unspeakable bliss?
Are you still friends now?

How can we determine a price for the objects we’re left with after a relationship ends? A price that accounts for all of the time, emotion and money we invested in the relationship? 

I became so obsessed with these questions, I realised I had to make a show about them. And then I went down a research rabbit hole…

I contacted the best mathematical minds I know.
I posted the objects on gumtree for market research.
I visited the Museum of Broken Relationships and The Criterian Auction House.
I reached out to my exes for “interviews about their objects” but really I wanted to hear their cost-benefit analyses of the time they spent with me.

The more I worked on the show, the more I had to find out.  Was my stuff worthless junk or priceless artifacts?!

I researched the history of yard sales. I met with a physicist who studies time and an AI specialist who studies how narrative and sentimentality affect the economy. I crowdsourced the songs that have been most valuable to people while getting over a broken heart (listen here!)


[Photo Credit: Haley McGee]

After being ghosted by a few mathematicians, I found Melanie Phillips, who agreed to collaborate on the show. Mel has a first class honours degree in Mathematics from Edinburgh University; she’s won an award for her excellence in physics, and she signed up for the long haul with me. 

Over the last year, we have created a mathematical formula for the cost of love. This formula determines an accurate price for the material things we’re left with after a break up. The formula takes into account 52 variables (from market value to who broke up with who), weighs them, and turns your sentimental value into cold, hard cash.


[Photo Credit: Sophie le Roux]

The Ex-Boyfriend Yard Sale is a show for anyone who's ever come out of a break up wondering . . . was the love worth the pain?  Was the investment of time worth the cost? Does this mean I’m back to zero?  Was it worth it?

‘The Ex-Boyfriend Yard Sale’ by Haley McGee
20 Nov - 8 Dec
Camden People’s Theatre
Info & tickets: www.cptheatre.co.uk

Haley McGee
www.haleymcgee.ca | www.costoflove.uk | instagram.com/yeshaleymcgee | @yeshaleymcgee


[Photo Credit: Sophie le Roux]