Learning The Lines: A Weekend With The Pick-Up Artists

By Fraser Lockerbie

There is no one line and no one way to go about it. Picking up is art and a valuable one to learn.

If someone asked you to put a quantitative value on love what would you say? Would you offer the blossomy poet’s response with a Beatles-esque drum? Or the cynic’s reply of an algorithm based on years times happiness, divided by wage and expounded by acts of human infidelity and error? What could you possibly say to a question so bare?

How about 3000 dollars? It’s a nice enough number. For a sought after commodity like love it seems affordable. A bargain even. Certainly a well-tailored price for those of us still hampered and perplexed by the awkward human rituals that accompany dating.

Now what if I told you I wasn’t offering you a one-off shot at love but rather a method, tools by which one, any one, could attain love? Does 3000 dollars still seem reasonable? Are you still interested?

You’re skepticism is warranted. Mine was full bore until I experienced it. Offered a chance to attend a LoveSystems bootcamp, a weekend-long dating seminar put on by what we might call pick-up artists, I was hesitant. As if a single line or a movement sold at a price could work. “For six easy installments of $499.99 you TOO can live happily ever after.” I found the idea, on the whole, to be unbelievable.

Prior to this weekend the pick-up artist culture was not one of which I would say I was highly informed and am still not. Walking into a half full conference room at a downtown hotel I found myself in the scenario I thought I would: men, ranging in age and demeanor all looking anxious, nauseous or awestruck. Some seemed in the Darwinian sense of the phrase, suitable mating partners while others may have been defined in terms of a lion pack as the lesser of the pride. Still all seemed attentive and unassuming. All were there for the same reason and had little to hide. The opposite sex had, up until this point, confounded them and they sought refuge and advice from an outside source.

I sat down and stared, examining the room, but was greeted by nothing more than shifting seats and silence. At the front stood a far cry from a popped collared, slick-haired Adonis I had imagined would be leading us all to the light. At 5’8” and scruffy, bearded and maybe big-nosed, Cajun was what one might find as standard fare on college campuses across America. He was neither broad nor muscle-bound, his shirt unbuttoned to Saturday Night Fever levels, he was ragged.

His partner, TenMagnet, though clean-shaven with perhaps a little less of a definitive look, was equally unassumingly. Slightly taller with shorter hair, he exhibited no signs of laborious care. No products styled his hair, no tan tinted his skin. These were two guys, as average as you or I who intended to lead the lost with claims of astounding success despite or in spite of any overt physical advantage.

The seminar started as most would, with names offered and explanations exchanged. Despite some minor discrepancies everyone’s story seemed to be the same; anxiety and approach were the prevailing problems. Dave (we’ll call him Dave) for instance found it difficult to transition the friendships he’d formed into romantic relationships. Jake, a student, found himself at a loss once introductions were made and Steve, a successful lawyer and by far the oldest in the group, found approaching women at a bar too forward an enterprise. All seemed at a loss with what to do next, whether next was taking bar conversation somewhere else or initiating the conversation altogether. And so they settled seamlessly into talk about women and I waited intently to hear the golden line, that one simple trick to an easy lay and sure fire game. But it never came. No quick fixes were offered or even suggested but some revelation was being put forth because the once quiet audience had stirred, found caught on the edge of their seats and hanging on every word.

It wasn’t clear at first what was being offered. A lot of highly technical talk about opening, transitioning, qualification and comfort. Some sort of structure was being built but for the time being it was intangible, just pieces of a puzzle lying in disarray. What did all these carefully carved but unclear steps mean on the whole?

And then it hit me. There was no mystery method, no magic beans to be bought, bartered and sold. They were teaching them to talk, plain and simple. Offering a start to finish guide to conversation, broken down into an invisible checklist that when repeated with rigor would become automatic and free. Casual and compelling. Nothing was explicitly said of this step-by-step guide but it was clear they were giving them the building blocks, the fall back plans, all the ins and the outs and everything else in between. No specific lines or language, not yet, but a logistical roadmap to adopt and alleviate the fear and anxiety of approaching the opposite sex.

It extended well beyond your standard “yes, no, hello, goodbye.” They were handing down the blueprint of a relaxed, perfectly in place individual: a comfortable, confident and ultimately ‘cool’ guy. Of course in the beginning it would be rehearsed, stiff, and brought down by the mental stumble through the steps. But in time and with practice the performance part would fade; like learning to play a song, the actions at first clumsy would become natural, a matter of reflex and muscle memory.

They broke for dinner without ever saying what they had just done but with plans to put into action what had been recorded on paper. All the ‘technical’ jargon that had been applied to so simple a concept as conversation would be put to the test, with each recruit charged with playing out several “sets” to their logical conclusion (a set, another technical term, being the approaching of a woman and all that that entails thereafter).

By now I was curious. With all the attention that had been paid, I needed to know whether what had been taught would translate when tested. Could a gangly group of men, ranging in age and awkwardness and quietly conspiring in a corner attract the highly coveted attention of the opposite sex? Was it really as simple as dressing up the time honored saying of “just talk to her” with instructional steps?

They were told that a bit of crashing and burning was to be expected, that getting ‘blown out’ as they called it came with territory and was habitual even among the most skilled of their kind. More than a few ventures took no more than seconds before the subject returned, head hung low, wondering exactly what went wrong and why. In a particularly fruitless effort our friend Steve was found standing beside of group of girls, completely speechless and being giving a wide-eyed and sideways look from the flock. He had approached but once there had said nothing and had probably deserved the reaction he received. In another, Dave approached a group, opened well but was asked directly whether he thought his approach had worked. He had no response and the encounter concluded with giggles and with Dave lost for words.

Reassembled, the group was reminded that this wasn’t a trick or a trap, it was an art and like all arts it required patience and practice. More sets were done, more corrections were made and by the end of the night and with a fair share of awkward attempts, numbers and names were exchanged. More than a few highfaluting women had been wooed and with the promise of return tomorrow night, spirits were high.

It carried over to the session the next day. The mood had shifted. The group had gone from wading in the shallow end to being thrown head first into the deep and the water suited them. The day addressed specific problems, proposed specific solutions and offered some tried and true advice that can only come from years of being blown out by women and learning from those mistakes.

That night proved better than the previous, with less prodding, more producing and a profound sense that something had been accomplished, some barrier had been broken. Ask any of the ten men that signed on that weekend and they’ll tell you 3000 dollars was a small price to pay for what they had been given.


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