While reading this book, the only thing that disturbed me more than how scripted these spiels were was the fact that I knew I'd be a sucker for them.
Last night, I met a living, breathing pick-up artist.
And, of course, his name was Dave.
(And no, I did not feel like Molly Ringwald.)
I was at an industry event with a friend, Pretty Polly. These events are mildly fun and are good for honing my networking skills, but the last place I expect to meet a potential hook-up.
I don't remember if Dave was introduced to our group or came over himself, but as soon as I saw his name tag, I knew he'd be trouble (for those playing along, this is now the fourth Dave that has crossed my path in less than a month). Naturally, I was immediately attracted to him. After all, he fit the profile: tall, sandy hair, blue eyes, looked like he had lots of issues. Plus, within minutes of meeting me, he was giving me shit.
I love it when guys try to get a rise out of me. It's pretty easy to get me on the defensive and I love nothing more than to spark up a playful argument or play devil's advocate. There's a thin line between lust and pseudo-hate (for reference, watch some movies starring Kate Hepburn opposite Spencer Tracy or Cary Grant; that's the kind of chemistry no Meg Ryan or Tom Hanks can manufacture on-screen today).
PUA Dave was on my case immediately, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't start it. As soon as I saw his hand-made (as opposed to printed out) name tag, I accused him of crashing the industry event, and grilled him on his credentials for being there. At first he played passive to my aggressive, acting surprised at my boldness and asking Polly,
"Is she always like this?"
"Yes, and that's why we love her. It's endearing. You find it endearing, too."
"No, actually, I find it annoying."
The game was on.
It took me a little while to figure out that Dave was a PUA. I kept grilling him, which was an obvious IOI (indicator of interest) on my part. In fact, initially I was acting more like the PUA than he was, doing the cocky-funny act that is so widely recommended in the pick-up network. Cocky equals confident and confidence can be very sexy.
PUA Dave turned the tables on me in no time. He asked if my hair color was real. I laughed, showed him my roots, and said, "what do you think?" He called me mean. I didn't catch it right away, but what he was doing was "negging" me. This is the term for when a PUA says something negative to cut a girl down and put her on the defensive. He does this playfully, to create a charged (but not hostile) atmosphere. Look at it this way: beautiful girls are used to being hit on in a direct, hey-baby kind of way. They get told how attractive they are all the time as well as being given slew of other compliments (not that we don't love it). Or, they don't get hit on much at all, because guys get intimidated by them. The guy who has guts to approach a woman and challenge her instead of giving her a line about how hot she is is going to get her attention. Think of it as slightly more sophisticated playground hair-pulling.
Yep, PUA Dave had me at, "are you always this obnoxious?"
I decided to fool him by asking how long he thought Pretty Polly and I were friends (we have known each other for less than a couple of months but people have mistaken us for sisters).
He said, "Let me give you the best friends test."
My eyes widened and jaw dropped open. "You're a pick-up artist!"
PUA tried to play it cool and of course denied it.
"I know what the best friends test is," I continued. "It's one of the tricks pick-up artists use."
"What's the best friends test?" asked Polly (she had read the book, but only parts of it).
"PUA Dave asks us if we use the same shampoo. We look at each other and then say we don't know. He says it doesn't matter, because what counts is that we looked at each other before answering, which shows a close bond. The whole thing is part of a routine."
PUA Dave smirked and said he didn't need any routines.
I shook my head, heady on the knowledge that I knew what he was. "All that making fun of me before was part of it, too."
"You mean negging?"
"Ha! You even know the lingo! You are totally part of the pick-up network."
"He is a PUA!" Polly joined in. "Which means he used to be an AFC!"
(That's another acronym they use, which stands for 'average frustrated chump'.)
PUA Dave tried to deny it, but then decided to play along, negging me again by asking if my nails were real. I laughed, enjoying every second of this twisted scenario.
"See, you're having a good a time and liking the vibe that's being created here. And when this event is over, you and I are going to go out for coffee."
I laughed again, and kept laughing. Then I blushed, because I was attracted to him, even before he began his psycho-manipulation game. He knew he had me.
I gave him my business card ("only if you write your cell phone number on it") asking if he was going to add it to the big manila folder of other girls' numbers he collected.
"I'm not like that."
Yeah fucking right.
I mingled some more with my fellow industry professionals, even exclaiming to one about how we had a real pick-up artist in our midst. Even as I was denouncing PUA Dave, my eyes kept following him around the room. He came over a couple of times, touching my arm, my back, establishing a tactile intimacy even as he told me that's what he was doing and I rolled my eyes saying, "I know. I read the book." I asked how old he was and he said 32, which I knew was a lie (he looked older).
While in the middle of talking to the industry guy and Polly, PUA Dave came back around, took my arm, and said, "we're leaving now."
I know what you're thinking. I should have told this creep to fuck off. Instead, I waved good-bye and let him help me into my coat. (This is one area where PUA Dave gets points: he had some excellent gentleman-like tendencies. Boys, when's the last time you helped a lady into her coat?)
Once outside, I was ready for a mini-adventure, but also a little scared, because I didn't know who the hell this guy was and, despite my strong physical attraction, did not feel safe with him. I said we should walk west, which was in the direction of my subway line.
He made me walk at a slow pace (I normally walk fast) and talked in this calm, lulling tone of voice (some PUAs employ mild hypnosis techniques, and I felt like that's what he was doing to me).
At one point, he stopped walking and faced me. He pushed me against the Plexiglas wall of a bus stop and kissed me. Oh man. It was so arousing. He was a very sensual kisser, dominant yet gentle (which could describe his whole persona, actually). I had to keep swearing to myself I wouldn't sleep with him. I was crazy enough to leave the bar with this guy; I'd have to be straightjacket-bound to fuck him.
I was hoping he'd take me to some dimly-lit bar where we could make out some more and I could continue to fight the urge to tear his clothes off. However, a little later, when he pressed me against a light post and passionately kissed me again, I knew this "date" would be over soon. (Oh, that's another goal in the world of PUAs, to separate the girl from her friends and take her on an instant date.)
PUA Dave took me to a cheap, brightly-lit cafe. It was about as romantic as a dentist's office.
I asked him about his family and he talked about his mother's journals and mentioned one of them was from 1963, the year he was born.
I got quiet. I did the math.
"Yeah, I'm 42, not 32."
It was like someone snapped their fingers in front of my face, breaking the spell. I cancelled my order and we walked out of the cafe.
He walked with me to the subway, trying to explain, apologize. I had nothing more to say to him.
PUAs can use all the tricks and techniques they want/need to. In the same way that a good con artist is to be admired for his skill, despicable as his deeds may be, a pick-up artist is a talented individual. But a liar is a liar.
I'll play with a PUA, but I won't play with a liar.