Some of you might have heard of or read Neil Strauss’ The Game, a fawning book about a silver tongued Casanova who goes by the mysterious code-name Mystery. Probably many more of you have seen ridiculously dressed beanpole Mystery tutor his homoerotic boy-cult on Vh1′s reality show “The Pick-Up Artist.” Is it just me or does he look like cross between a Las Vegas magician and a Dr. Seuss character? What you don’t know is if you know a guy who’s signed up for a class in picking up women (like New York’s “The Art of Charm”) or sloppily employed the social tools taught in these classes, written about in books, or demonstrated on television shows.
I wager people who read this site will agree there’s something about the pickup artist social fad that’s desperate, creepy, and straight out pathetic. Women roll their eyes at these slimeball tactics and profess to be invulnerable to such arcane manipulations. Men, for the most part, regard pickup artists as less than men; real men aren’t scared of women and don’t need the security blanket of rehearsed repartee or purchased charisma.
It’s easy to mock the wannabe pickup artists, with their clownish fashion flourishes and well-taught penchant for playing hard to get when chatting up the la-a-adies. But some measure of sympathy for them is in order. Isn’t it? What does this phenomenon say about modern hook-up rituals, that some dudes seek the macho, if sensitive, affirmation of self-esteem coaches?
And what does it say about women that these cheeseball techniques appear to work more often than not? Were any of you aware of how difficult it can be to talk to some of you? Many of you say there are no good guys who seem to be into you. Is there anything wrong on your end, perhaps? If there are millions to be made teaching women how to be picked up, I’ll write them and continue with this column from my tropical island compound.
The other day, I’m sitting down for a couple few beers with a good friend. He’s a smart guy, funny, honest, the type of dude you want wielding a chainsaw and watching your back as you fight off the zombie hordes.
We’re talking about what men talk about — Wolverine, the New York Jets, Ana Paquin in “True Blood” — when in walk four women wearing the frazzled look of New York tourists, shaking off jet lag and the shock of having arrived on a huge piece of overly populated, perforated concrete. They are attractive, chatty. I could care less. I’m having bro time, quaffing and discussing important bro topics, like farting and Haruki Murakami.
The woman are sitting close enough that we can hear each other’s conversations. A hint of a foreign accent wafts over to our table. My friend, without warning, leans over to their table and says, “My friend and I have a bet that you’re either from England or Ireland. Which is it?”
We do? I bet money on that?
Giggles, nose crinkles, answers. “England.”
Sweet Zeus, my pal just “opened a set.” Just like how Mystery teaches you to do! My friend and I were insinuating ourselves into a conversation and pouring on the charm. It was all very friendly, and they were in town for a week. But I wanted to drink and catch up with a bro, not go vagina hunting. Still, I was impressed with my friend’s poise and confidence, and I eventually retreated from my attentive funny guy mode to my default setting: cranky old bastard.
I watched as he made these girls light up! I went for a cigarette. When I returned, the love-in had ended. I asked if he’d gotten digits, he said no, and I wondered what the point was. They’re in town for a week. Surely, young female tourists have an appetite for consequence-free sex. He didn’t get the digits, but the point was simple. Talking to pretty ladies can be fun.
And it can be scary. It can also be a pain in the ass. But for a lot of dudes, it’s straight up intimidating. I’ve written for men’s magazines and websites for years, and what never ceases to amaze me is the number of guys who want to know how to approach women. And these men weren’t the emotionally deformed dorks from Vh1. They were confident, career-oriented, some of them manly.
Some social dynamics don’t change. It’s still the man’s job to approach, to hunt. The Pick-Up Artist game isn’t really about silly buzzwords like “negging,” where dudes are taught to be coy and aloof because people pursue the one who retreats. Surely, you ladies know something of this; it’s one of your oldest tricks. And let’s not forget “indicators of interest,” which teaches men to identify when a woman is into you. Think about that: Some guys don’t even know when you’re interested. Man, pity the pick-up artist and his prey.
No, this game is really about self-esteem. It’s about two guys imbuing each other with enough confidence to chat up women. Pick-up artistry is nothing more than training wheels for the courage deficient. Because nothing good comes in this world without taking a risk. Without leaping on faith. The heart, after all, is bouncy, not brittle. Hearts don’t break, they dent.
For sure, there are douchebags who employ pick-up artist techniques, but chances are they were douchebags before they learned the choreography. Likewise, I’m sure being a pick-up artist inspires a measure of misogyny, but that hate was probably there to begin with.
I mean, the best way to meet women, to sleep with women, to date women, is to like them.