Chat-up guru can’t help my inner creep

By Paul Lester, April 20, 2009

My New Year’s resolution this year was to make more effort, to go out more, to be more proactive with regard to meeting women because, let’s face it, they don’t just turn up unannounced at your front door — unless you count the haggard care-in-the-community type who tried to sell me kitchen appliances before Christmas. So last week I bought some new clothes — well, a woolly hat and a hoodie — and I snapped into action… before deciding it was too cold to leave the house and slumping in front of the telly. Again.

But at least I watched a programme that might be useful in my bid to improve my love life in 2009. VH1’s The Pick-up Artist is a reality TV show from America starring a bloke called Mystery — his real name’s Erik — who offers masterclasses in the fine art of seduction to a bunch of nebbish losers. What do you mean, ring any bells?! I’ll have you know I once convinced a shop assistant in Borehamwood Ryman’s to go on a date with me using a skilled blend of begging and pleading.

The Pick-up Artist teaches you how to ditch your inner creep by employing a series of complex strategies and techniques such as “negging”, a form of backhanded compliment designed to telegraph a lack of interest and encourage your potential mate (or “target”) to prove her worth (“qualify”) — for example, “Nice eyelashes. Are they real?” Of course, a Jewish woman, for whom the synthetic is a sign of luxury, will take this as straight praise and this particular tactic won’t work.

Other concepts unveiled on The Pick-up Artist include “sets” (a group of two or more women), “peacocking” (dressing outlandishly to attract female attention) and “the three-second rule” (you must boldly approach your target within three seconds otherwise she’ll see you staring and assume you’re a lecherous sociopath).

After watching two series’ worth of this stuff over the holidays I decided to try some of it out. So one afternoon last week, I put on my new hat-and-hoodie affair, wrapped round my neck a black feather boa bought for me by my fellow Pick-up Artist alumnus Darren, got another friend to paint my fingernails black because that’s what Mystery does and he’s my new hero, and went to my local corner shop.

This is known in the pick-up community as “day-game”, a safer option than “night game”. Going into “the field” — one of many quasi-military terms used by PUAs — at night takes a higher level of commitment and involves spending money, to which I have a phobic reaction. Besides, if it all went wrong I could pretend I was really only there to get a copy of Disney’s Princess magazine for my daughter (all right, I’m lying — I love colouring in. So sue me).

I immediately spied a “two-set” by the cold-meat counter — not kosher, but I wasn’t buying. Remembering the three-second rule, I strode over, my feather boa swishing elegantly and my goth-style nails glowing dramatically under the fluorescent strip-lights. Mystery recommends isolating your target, but I didn’t have to because at this point the less appealing of the two women, rather older than the other and very possibly her mother, bent down to inspect the bacon.

Mystery recommends more original conversation “openers” than the usual “do you come here often?” so I hit the girl with a mystical poser, apparently a sure-fire way to elicit a positive response and the sort of thing known in the urban lexicon as “chick crack”. “Er, what’s your star-sign?” I stammered as she turned to look at me, frozen slab of ham in hand. “Aries,” she replied, her interest rather less piqued than I might have liked. “Why, what’s it to you?” And with a look of utter disdain, she wiped her damp frozen-ham hand on my boa, signalled to her mother, and left. Maybe she was just negging me.

Last updated: 3:42pm, April 20 2009