Ever since the publication of “The Game” by Niall Strauss in 2005, the term “pickup” has become a dirty word. I don’t blame society for associating the term with a skeevy underbelly of humanity. What else were they supposed to make of the weirdos who purposefully dressed in silly clothing and went out trying to fuck anything with a hole between their legs by saying mean things to them?
This crass imagery has persisted for the last decade, and it’s unlikely to leave us any time soon. But, if for nothing more than wanting to play devil’s advocate and for the benefit of my limited audience, I’d like to come to the pickup community’s defence. I, among possibly millions of others, was also introduced to the idea of being able to approach women anywhere because of that book.
The novel, far from the harassment manual it’s purported to be, is a man’s story of how he’s introduced to the community and how he develops within it. Ultimately, the characters in the novel either mature and evolve to a new life stage after having mastered this area of their lives, or they crash and burn spectacularly. It’s biased to the extreme in its retelling of events, and mildly hypocritical considering that Niall Strauss kept making a fortune out of teaching the techniques and lifestyle he vehemently disavowed by the book’s end.
Be that as it may, despite the fact that it suggests a bunch of silly things, and sends its fair share of mixed messages, I believe it has primarily persisted in the public’s imagination for one reason: it makes it very clear that socialising and learning how to be good with women is a skill like any other. Hence, since it’s a skill rather than an immutable personality trait, it’s something that can be learned and improved on.
On first glance, this might seem like a silly observation, after all we call them “people skills”. Yet in spite of this linguistic quirk, society operates by lumping you into certain categories and telling you to go fuck yourself, as soon as you even consider leaving your assigned spot. The ray of hope instilled by the simple realization that you can learn this, and move up the social totem pole, should not be underestimated. I quite remember feeling awestruck when I read about this man’s adventures.
I can also remember how I waited with bated breath what new knowledge the next chapter might bring. Now, looking back with some experience under my belt (both in the figurative and literal sense), I can see that the wisdom that it teaches is at best a pair of training wheels, and at worst a dead end. After all is said and done, you might be able to fool one or two women into thinking you’re amazing by using flashy gimmicks, but the second you run out of canned material, your success will collapse faster than my desire to do work on a Monday morning. The tricks you learn in the book are the male equivalent of makeup – you can apply as many layers of paint as you’d like, but underneath it all you’re still an undesirable son of a bitch, if you don’t work on yourself.
Much like in dieting, people want the quick solution. They want the magic formula that will instantaneously solve their life problems with zero effort or life changes. After all, according to them, none of their problems are of their own doing. It’s much easier to play the victim instead of the hero. People will thus naturally hover round the charlatans that offer the rewards, with none of the effort.
Men don’t usually willingly decide to take the first step in improving this area of their lives, until they consciously realise how mediocre their results in the dating area are, when compared with the rest. They notice this whilst thinking that the issue is that they don’t know the magic phrase or gesture that everyone else miraculously knows. It almost feels as if they just happened to miss that day in school and everyone else attended that class…
The pursuit of this phrase or gesture ultimately blinds them from understanding that there’s probably a reason that they weren’t getting laid in the first place. It may indeed be a marketing problem, in that one’s not adequately conveying the benefits of the product they have on offer, but it’s still a problem that needs fixing. The vast majority will simply choose to ignore their troubles and try the magic pills instead of changing their underlying emotional baggage.
So, after learning a handful of gimmicks from Youtube, they venture off into the streets or club with all the grace of a gazelle in a meat grinder. This is precisely why pickup has a bad reputation.The results are quite predictable from there. Their reach far exceeds their grasp, and they try to do things they’re woefully inadequately equipped to deal with. Their pathetic assortment of gimmicks, which they thrust at people like the social equivalent of a wank doll, proves insufficient and ultimately leads them to uncomfortable situations. Unsurprisingly, there’s an insanely high attrition rate in the guys who try this skill set, as everyone but a select few, suffer car crash after car crash for months, or years, on end.
From the perspective of an outside observer looking in, you could thus be quick to judge that the community as a whole is irredeemable. I mean, if you saw someone slam their head against the wall a couple of times, you’d quickly think of them as insane. Then you have these people, who are voluntarily and repeatedly putting themselves into uncomfortable situations and might even make people uneasy in doing so, for seemingly little to no payoff. Surely these people must have mental problems and are beyond help.
Fundamentally speaking, I do think that most people who start in this area are broken in one sense or another. Perhaps it was the fact that they had an odd family life, perhaps it was that they were bullied at school, perhaps they never had a chance to truly learn who they were, perhaps they don’t have the self worth to pull it off, perhaps it’s a bit from all columns. Point being that something wasn’t quite right when they decided to tackle this area of their life.
You can often see this in someone’s behaviour when they’re starting out. On more than one occasion, I’ve had a beer with someone who’s just beginning to learn, and I’ve regretted it. Not all of them, but some, have genuinely put me on edge. I get the same uneasy feeling with them that you get with a teenager who pretends to be a grownup by just scowling all the time. You know for a fact that they’re wearing a mask, and they’re not showing their true thoughts or desires, which lead to you to just feel uneasy whilst second-guessing every word and deed of theirs. It’s all an act, and a bad one at that, as it ultimately stems from insecurity and unwillingness to just let the chips fall as they may, and have people judge you for who you are.
At the risk of beating a dead horse in saying this on this blog, the problem is that the traditional advice of “just be yourself” does not work. “Being yourself” evidently does not work when taken at face value, otherwise the community would not have come into existence. I mean, how can anyone truly fail at being themselves? What the phrase actually means is “be yourself, without the bits that freak people out, and don’t make it seem like you’re actually putting any effort in doing so,” but it takes time and a lot of awkwardness to learn how to hammer out the kinks.
In robotics there is something called “the Uncanny Valley” in respect to how humans perceive robots. As a rule of thumb, the closer an automaton resembles a human being, the more we like it … until a certain point. Think of R2-D2 in Star Wars, or Wall-E, or any other number of machines with human-like characteristics. They’re very clearly non-human but they also have some of our quirks and values, despite this. We thus think their attempts at “humanness” are endearing, rather than threatening.
The circumstance is quite different when they get close enough at seeming human on a casual inspection, but are alien once you actually get a good look at them. You can see this happening nowadays when androids in Japanese trade shows look human but something just seems off with them: their movements are too jittery, their facial muscles don’t quite behave how they ought to, etc. Your brain, not quite knowing what to make out of this input of mixed signals, just gives up and issues a threat warning. So, seemingly without a coherent reason, you feel ill at ease even looking at videos of them.
The only way to get to the other side of the Uncanny Valley is to perfect the technology to such a point that the behavioural difference between humans and automatons is all but negligible and within the variance of expected normal behaviour for a person. I do believe we’ll get to it within our lifetimes, but we have a long ways to go before that happens.
Either way, I digress, a very similar phenomena happens when you’re trying to perfect your social skills. A person may start so far off the mark, that when they adopt any novel socially calibrated behaviour (that makes them seem remotely normal), they’re welcomed with open arms. In their current state they will never be considered as a viable sexual partner, but they’ll frequently receive a pat on the back and be told they’re “cute”, or “brave”, or any such vapid conciliatory praise, for having attempted to talk to a woman.
This is not to say that if one received this behaviour on one occasion then it necessarily means one’s socially maladjusted. Sometimes it may well be how girls are genuinely reacting to the situations, and what I say has little to no bearing to those particular occasions. In fact, you may be one of the fair few who really only needed the permission to go talk to someone randomly on the street, and have no problems whatsoever in succeeding with whomever catches their fancy. What is far more interesting is the general trend, rather than the isolated incident. If one’s only ever having pleasant ten minute conversations and with little to show for it, then that means there’s a lot of work to be done.
Sooner, or later, if one shows signs of improvement one might reach a different obstacle altogether. Quite rapidly, in fact, one will fall down the cliff of the uncanny valley. At a certain point, everything seemed like smiles and rainbows and then on the next day, by supposedly doing the exact same thing, one can see that people are reacting horribly to oneself.
The gimmicks that had brought one this far have lost their lustre. It would almost seem that overnight the whole female population has been replaced by demure bitches. Nothing of the sort has happened. Here’s the thing, the girls did not change, you did. The mild conversational skills you acquired, and the signs of encouragement that you got, quickly went to your head.
With this new confidence that you have acquired, you probably started acting bolder and taking more risks. The problem is that, whilst you may now actually try something that could lead to sex, you are still somewhat off the mark. As such, you’re sending so many mixed signals that the only sensible response on their end is to put their guard up. It’s nothing personal, just a normal human response to one’s bizarre behaviour.
The people on this particular point in their journey are the vast majority of those in the pickup community. They are seemingly doing everything that the theory says is supposed to get them laid. But the devil’s in the details. The gimmicks aren’t magical in and of themselves, they’re tools that serve to push certain buttons. If you know and understand what they’re for, they become all but useless and cumbersome.
Contrary to what you’ll hear in the media, “game” is amoral. It is a tool, much like a knife. The intentions of the user are far more important than the tool itself, when it comes to assessing potential ethical dilemmas. At the end of the day, “game” is merely the formalisation, study and conscious application of the rules that govern human sexuality, as they were shaped by millions of years through evolution. What you do with them is your own business.
Main problem is that this knowledge is not something that can magically be imparted, you somewhat need the training wheels and the gimmicks. Much like you can see someone play the piano masterfully, and understand what they’re doing, but still be unable to replicate it without practising. One has to try and fail hundreds of time before learning how to do it properly. The issue is that practising involves shoehorning your way into hundreds, if not thousands, of lives. This is one of the main things people object to, but I find it hypocritical. Everyone wants to eat sausage, but they don’t want to know how the sausage is made. Or put in a less punny and phallic way: everyone likes to hang out with cool people, but they don’t want to meet a work in progress.
This is precisely why I think society’s much too hard on the wannabe Casanova. Despite having genuinely met people who made my skin crawl, I don’t think the vast majority of them are bad people. Neither do I also believe the propaganda that is usually espoused, about them being misogynists who only care about getting their dick wet at all costs. If they truly, genuinely, did not care for a woman’s feelings they would just take the easy route and get prostitutes until hell froze over. This would be the sensible thing to do, if we consider it from a purely economical standpoint, and think of the massive opportunity cost that they incur in “lost” man hours.
Instead, we have them trawling through the streets for hours on end, trying to produce genuine desire in women. They do so because they know that it’s not just about having sex but it’s about the quality thereof. Yes, you can quickly point to me to the ugly exceptions, where guys will do anything to get laid, and I do agree that they exist. Nevertheless, there are bad eggs in any community. I don’t think the vast majority wants to deceive their way into women’s beds.
At least, to me, it would seem to contradict the general direction the community has been heading in for the last decade. If you analyse the material that is given nowadays as the underlying framework, you’ll see what I mean. Sure, as with any sales pitch, it has to have a structure and hit certain notes to be successful, but canned material tends to be frowned upon. What is stressed, over and over, is that you ought to learn how to present yourself in your best light; the community just teaches you how to do it in the most efficient way possible. Game, as a skill, is a value delivery system. If you have nothing of value on offer, you’ll have nothing to give.
I think that might be the reason for why some of the most extraordinary people I’ve met in my life have been associated with this community. If you have the strength of character to climb through the Uncanny Valley, to dig deep into yourself, find the diamond in the rough, and chisel through the unseemly muck and inner demons to shape it into a beautiful form, then you’re someone worth knowing in my book.
Most people do not know what they stand for, they’re too afraid to look for what they truly desire, as they fear what others might say. This is not the case with those within the community. Perhaps it might seem like a crass goal that can be oversimplified to “PUSSY!”, but I believe there’s far more to it than that. We want to be admired for who we are, we want to be the ones who can make a girl feel things she has never felt before, we want to be able to rise up to life’s challenges, and as any healthy man, we obviously want sex with as little bullshit attached to it as possible. But most importantly, we want to live life on our own terms, rather than the one we’re told we ought to want. If wanting freedom and happiness is enough to raise the ire of some special snowflakes, then so be it. I am who I am, nothing more, nothing less.