Girl Game

A world-famous pickup artist tried to teach single women to attract decent guys in S.F. It was harder than he thought.

He then touched on many of the same points he does with his male students. Too many people believe love should be left to the fates, he said, which is "a bullshit notion." He believes that naturally shy people — like himself — can be taught certain skills to manipulate the odds of success in their love lives. "Why should it be any different than finding a job?" he asked.

Lin was nodding. Having been in relationships all her adult life with men from her circle of friends who had pursued her, she wanted to try being the chooser rather than the chosen. She felt inexperienced at meeting strangers, having never sat at a bar, looked around, and said, "I want him."

Sometimes, that can be an elusive experience for a woman, Pattee pointed out. "I'm kind of looking around this bar, and there's nobody I'd want to bone with," she said. "Or flirt with. Or get with. ... Maybe I'm being too critical."

Valencia, who is active in the local art and design scenes, said she often meets men in whom she could be interested, but has trouble filtering them. "I get myself in the dirtbag ho cycle," she said, a joking reference to promiscuous men. When she isn't wasting her time with those, she's playing mom to guys who are "superneedy and in my face" or just "fucked up."

"If I wanted to be on Jerry Springer, I would have gone on Jerry Springer," she said. "I don't need your circus."

Stevenson's story is a bit different. She's from a small town near Seattle, and until she moved to San Francisco, she always knew everything about the people she was dating. Here, that's not the case, so sometimes after seeing a guy for a week or two, she realizes he irritates her. Other times, a man she likes will suddenly, inexplicably opt out. (Valencia refers to this as "fragging," as in, "I was totally ready to frag him but he fragged me first.")

Walters, as it happens, recently fragged a PUA dating coach. He picked her up at a wine bar several weeks ago, and it wasn't until they were on their first date that he mentioned his job. After she declined a second date, she found details of their interaction posted on the Internet. Still, she's intrigued by how pickup artistry works, and has even read Neil Straus' 2005 book, The Game (essentially a bible for PUAs). "I'm not going to knock it," she said. "There's nothing wrong with using strategy to get to know someone you want to get to know. I'd just like to understand it a bit more and be on the in instead of the outside."

That was Soul's cue to explain his plan for the women. The thrust of his advice was that they should forgo aggression, and instead create a "window of opportunity" for men to initiate a connection. This can be as simple as using eye contact, body language, or, if absolutely necessary, starting a "functional" conversation. For instance, "How was your week?"

The women were sort of miffed by this. Weren't they here to learn how to approach men? Why couldn't they show off their intelligence or sense of humor right away?

Soul changed gears, and asked the women how they usually initiated interactions. "You eye-fuck them," Walters offered, and Soul asked her to describe how this works.

"You look intensely at them and try to catch their eye across the bar," she said. "If they respond, you kinda go in."

Soul approved. "Okay, eye-fuck Aaron," he said.

"I don't think that's happening," Walters said, and the circle of women roared.

Soul moved on to another way of opening a window of opportunity. Just standing near a guy can work, he said. Although he doesn't get hit on a lot, he admitted, when it does happen the woman has usually started some kind of "functional" conversation. "This isn't necessarily a woman I saw and said, 'I want that woman,'" he said. "But maybe she's pretty cute, and she's showed some interest. For a man, attraction does begin with physicality. But it doesn't end there."

He encouraged us to try out some functional lines. "Do you have the time?" Or, "Hey, are you French?" (This is good, Soul says, because a man can jump and say, "Ah, oui!")

The women were starting to catch on. And make jokes.

"How about, 'Do you have jumper cables?'" Pattee offered. "Can I have $10?" Stevenson deadpanned.

Bored with their material, the women demanded to know what lines Soul, Starlight, and Whim use. Tell the fun ones, they demanded.

After a brief hesitation, Whim admitted that when he's really feeling whimsical, he'll sometimes walk up and say, "I like salad." Pause. "With croutons." Pause. "But no anchovies." He doesn't recommend this for anything other than self-amusement.

A better one, he said, is to approach and say, "I have a rule where I have to flirt with the most attractive woman in the bar." He pauses for effect. "Can you introduce me to her?" (In PUA language, this is referred to as a "neg," or a subtle and playful stab meant to suggest to a woman that a man may not be interested.)

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