[OPINION | Dash of SAS] Pickup artist today, dirty old man tomorrow

This was supposed to be the meetup place for a Pick Up Artist boot camp?!? I thought to myself. 

It was circa 2008 or 2009, my memory is fuzzy now. I was writing a sex column for a now defunct men’s magazine, and my editor assigned me to do a story about a group of guys who proclaimed themselves “pick up artists.”

I was expecting something more...debonair. 

Instead I found myself in a classroom full of maybe 30 to 50 young men listening with rapt attention.

I sat at the back and listened, too, but unlike the men in attendance who lapped up the “lessons” taking notes and asking questions, I felt growing incredulity and annoyance. The lectures used jargon and scientific-sounding terms like “neuro linguistic programming” to teach the boys how to talk to women, get them to give you their number and sleep with you. It sounded like twisted deceitful Jedi mind tricks.

The only other girl in the room was one of lecturers (she was supposed to give the woman’s point of view) and girlfriend of one of the organizers. She sat beside me at one point, and I no longer remember the exact conversation, but I asked her something along the lines of: “Is this stuff for real? C’mon, as a woman, you can’t believe that this stuff works, right?”

She shifted uncomfortably in her seat and said something like: “’Pag tiningnan mo naman sila, hindi sila kaguwapuhan. Ito ’yung kailangan nila para ma-boost ’yung confidence nila.” (If you look at them, they aren’t that good-looking. They need this to boost their confidence.)

As it turns out, the facade of the nondescript building that served as their venue could stand in as a metaphor for the young men in attendance. 

I took a closer look at them and, though their backs were turned to me, I could see that most of them looked like they threw on the first ill-fitting shirt-and-jeans that presented itself to them. They were also suffering from the curse that befalls many straight men: they were wearing shoes that were worn down and dirty. Their shoulders drooped, they slouched in their chairs, even the soles of their shoes looked sad. Some needed a proper haircut and needed to be acquainted with the wonders of conditioner. 

These guys were hanging onto the boot camp promise that they could go from zero to stud hero by listening to “experts,” whose only advantage over them was their better hair, shoes, and clothes –superficial body armor that gave them a veneer of self-confidence.

“Can’t they just get a job?” I asked myself. A job with a promise of becoming a career would give them the purpose and confidence they needed. That would make them someone a woman would like to get to know. 

Social media scorn

Apparently, these pickup artists are still going strong. Before they were shut down, they had a social media presence that had more than 20,000 followers. Some eagerly shared field reports, annotations filled with graphic detail about how many women they got to sleep with them.

Apparently, their digs also got an upgrade. According to this link, they had a sold-out boot camp session in Boracay last January and have another one coming up in October, also in Boracay.

Sadly, the men can’t seem to step up their game. When this group of pickup artists and their duplicitous and unlawful exploits were exposed on Facebook, there were a barrage of comments to justify their existence. 

One guy said that pickup artist strategies are meant to level the playing field for men who didn’t get lucky with the genetic lottery or have the trappings of the social hierarchy like a car and money.  

That just sounds like a bitter, vengeful dude who wants to crawl out of the lowest levels of the social totem pole and get back at the world for all those years of being ignored by women and treated like a doormat. 

Game over

By now, we know that these pickup artists got their inspiration from Neil Strauss, who wrote the techniques they now spread as their gospel truth in the book The Game. Like these men, Strauss describes his younger self as someone with low self-confidence but high libido. As a teenager, Strauss says, he was obsessed with getting laid. He finally got at the age of 21, and, “not knowing when it would happen again,” stayed in a relationship with the girl for a few years. 

Strauss went on to become a music writer for Rolling Stone, discovered the ways of pickup artists, and enshrined words like “negging” and “peacocking” into dating lingo. His book turned into a dating bible for clueless socially-awkward men.

The Game became a bestseller and Strauss became rich by breeding men whose main accomplishment was shagging the most number of women in the least amount of time even if you don’t look like Tom Cruise’s thrice-removed cousin. 

I get it. It’s no fun to be invisible while all the other guys seemingly get all the girls. 

But I’ve got news for you, buddy. What was true circa 2008 is true today: get a job. 

That’ll give you the means to get a better haircut and better shoes. 

Make the neighborhood tailor your best bud. Clothes need not be expensive, but they need to fit well. 

Always look and smell like you just took a bath even if you didn’t. 

Build your credentials and make yourself someone with potential. 

Be kind. Learn to listen more than talk.  

Get NetFlix and binge watch the entire season of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy instead of wasting your money on pickup artist strategies. 

That makes you relationship material.

Sound like fluff that only nice guys would believe?

Think for a minute. 

Strauss pretty much disavowed everything he wrote in The Game, calling it a “shallow path of self esteem.”

“There’s nothing wrong with having lots of sex if you enjoy it, but there is something wrong with having a lot of sex and using it as a lie, as a band-aid for self-esteem, or to avoid emotions or intimacy,” said Strauss about the juvenile drivel that made him famous.

Strauss, now married and a father, wrote a book called The Truth. In it, he talks about the rarity of love. GQ called it his attempt at redemption.

Begrudingly, even Strauss admitted that a pickup artist boot camp can’t make a man go from zero to stud hero. It will only set them up for a life trajectory of becoming dirty old men who never die because they become a forlorn cliché that lives on forever in bar jokes and internet memes. – Rappler.com