Kevin and I were at a bar in New York City’s Financial District when a girl caught our attention: tan skin, tight white dress, surrounded by friends. “She’s out of our league,” I said and didn’t think about her again. The next morning, Kevin texted me saying they hooked up after I left. I asked how he pulled it off and found out that for the past few years he’s been using techniques he learned online to attract women.
“You mean like peacocking?” I asked, thinking back to Neil Strauss’ book on pickup artists, The Game.
“That’s so ten years ago,” responded Kevin (I changed his real name to not ruin his game). He explained that today’s pickup artists – although he doesn’t use that term – are nothing like Mystery, the subject of Strauss’ book and star of the brief VH1 reality show, The Pickup Artist. Those guys used things like magic tricks and big hats to bait women. My friend’s techniques, on the other hand, are subtler. He learns them from blogs like The Badger Hut, which offers “Game” advice, and The Rational Male, which focuses on “intergender dynamics,” and the Roosh V Forum, which has been helping dudes score since 2002.
Kevin invited me out to see his techniques in action, I accepted. What’s the worst that would happen? I’d get better at picking up ladies?
We went to a bar a few blocks from where he lives in Jersey City. “The goal isn’t to sleep with anyone tonight,” he said. “It’s just to talk to as many girls as possible.” He walked in like he owned the place and got big hellos from the bouncer, bartender, and coat check girl. For the next four hours he was a patient teacher and I was an eager student, trying to absorb as much as I could.
Arrive early and get a good spot at the bar. Order a drink that won’t get you too drunk, like vodka soda. Make friends with the bartender so he can act as a wingman. Hold your drink at your side so you don’t appear closed-off. Lean casually against the bar.
A girl comes over. “Can I squeeze in?” she asks. Don’t say anything, but offer her a little space. The bartender tells her the drink is on your tab and that she has to hear the story you just told him. You tell her the story and keep the conversation going. You get her number. You call her next week and maybe you meet up and bang.
I was amazed at how calculated everything was, but nothing seemed phony or manipulative. The techniques simply offered an opportunity to talk to these girls. It was up to me (or him or you) to keep them interested.
Around midnight I felt like I knew enough to try the techniques on my own. I left my friend, busy talking to a girl who had told us earlier that she was getting married the following week. (“Is the lucky man here tonight?” he had asked her, and when she said no, it was game on.)
After a few false starts, I went up to someone and used my friend’s default line: “You look like you’re having the most fun here.” To my surprise, it worked. The girl and I had a nice conversation, danced a little, and ended up making out. When she left the bar, I tried the line a few more times. It worked again and again. I realized that everyone was just there to have fun, and they might as well have a little bit more fun together.
Kevin and I went out together about five more times. It wasn’t until I moved to France for a few months that I realized the full effect of my time as a pickup apprentice. In a city where I knew no one, I soon figured out that many of my friend’s techniques were applicable to meeting people in general, not just girls. Later, when I moved back to New York City and started freelance reporting, I used some of the techniques when dealing with sources. Vodka soda wasn’t involved, but knowing how to approach strangers and strike up a conversation was. It wasn’t the dynamics that were different, just what I wanted to get out of our interaction.
Though I’m still using my newfound skills for all sorts of things, I haven’t returned to the pickup scene. But judging from Kevin’s Facebook photos, it seems to be a good match for him.