mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Pickup Artists, or is the way to a women's heart through being a jerk?

A few weeks ago, economics blogger Megan McCardle had posts here and here on pickup artists - people who claim to have distilled picking up women at bars to a method. Even more interesting than the articles themselves are the comments, which run from "this stuff is crap" to "there are some legitimate stuff in here, but also some crap" to "pickup artists are gods we should all imitate".

Since madanthony has never had much luck with the opposite sex, I'm pretty interested in the idea. So I decided to pick up a copy of the book that the comments mentioned was the original in the genre - Neil Strauss's The Game. I figured I'd read it more as an anthropological study than as a how-to book.

Which turned out to be a good idea, because it's not really a how-to book. It profiles the author's entry into the world of pickup artists who spend their free time picking up women in bars and bedding them.

In a way, the book confirms what every AFC (Average F*cking Chump, the book's term for nice guys who finish last) like myself has known but doesn't want to admit - that the way to attract women is to be a douchebag. Techniques include "the neg" (pointing out something unattractive about the women you are hitting on), the freeze-out (ignoring the targeted woman and pretending you aren't interested in her), and bringing lint with you so you can put it on said women, and then pick it off.

The thing is that the author at one point admits that while these are great for picking up women in bars, they are not so great if you are trying to build a long-term relationship, because lying and being a douchebag aren't really good things to build a relationship on. The other thing to keep in mind is these are designed for picking up women in bars - if you are after the kind of women who doesn't hang out in bars waiting to be picked up, your mileage may vary. Megan makes fun in one of her posts of Mystery's outfit - but the outfit was designed to attract women in bars, where standing out is necessary if you want to, well, stand out.

The other thing is that much of this rests on how much time you can put into it - the author mentions that at one point he was spending 18 hours a day doing everything from reading and working out to learning magic tricks to prowling bars to getting tanning and teeth whitening to taking dance and posture lessons to improve himself. Which works if you are a writer, but for those of us with real jobs, not so much. And it's not exactly shocking that if you put enough time into something you can succeed at it.

At the same time, it is interesting that social interaction can be learned and refined, even if it's shallow interaction designed to bed aspiring models. Personally, I've always wondered how I've been successful at some things in my life, including things that many people struggle with, like losing weight and keeping it off - while being a complete failure at relationships, something most people seem to have at least some short-term success with. I've generally ascribed this to the fact that weight loss is internal, completely under my control - if I watch what I eat and put in enough time at the gym, then I can continue to fit into my pants. But if I want to get into some girl's pants, I need her to do something. The lesson is that it isn't external - that you can change enough about yourself and the way you interact with people to change your success interacting with them.

Of course, that gets into doing exactly what I hate doing - interacting with strangers. But it does give some interesting advice - if you are approaching people, it works better if you have some idea of what you are going to say, and if you have something interesting to say - a question, a request for an opinion, a magic trick. They also suggest walking to a shopping center and just saying "hi" to every woman you encounter as a way of building confidence - which is an interesting idea, if I can get the confidence to do it.

I think the other interesting thing about the book is that, if you are a dating failure like me, it makes you realize that you aren't the only one. It also had a quote from one of the original pickup artists from the '70's commenting that one thing to remember is that everyone else is as scared of approaching people as you - which I think is probably true, and good advice. As I get older, I realize that a lot of the people I'd always assumed knew everything - doctors, coworkers, parents - didn't always know everything. The same is true about being confident.

So while I don't plan on walking up to random women in bars and asking them to picture a cube - or for that matter, spending lots of time in bars - I do need to make a point to try to engage more random people in conversation, to remember that other people have the same feelings I do, and to try to do things that put me in touch with people. Although I'm not sure what those things are.


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