Five years ago I downloaded an ebook called “Double Your Dating,” by a guy named David DeAngelo, who explained his patented “cocky-funny” technique for picking up women. He said a man should be simultaneously cocky and (you guessed it) funny when approaching women. This state conveys to women carefree confidence. A cocky funny man can make fun of himself, because he has nothing to prove. He can make fun of a girl, because he doesn’t need to impress. He does all of this with a shit-eating grin, and suddenly becomes very desirable.
I was working DeAngelo’s game to good effect for a few weeks when Neil Strauss’ book “The Game” came out. Strauss, a longtime investigative journalist went on a mission to infiltrate the pickup artist subculture, only to find himself one its gurus a couple years later. The book chronicled his journey.
Both books opened my eyes for different reasons. DeAngelo’s book was helpful in giving general information about how to conduct oneself in specific situations. Taking his advice took the seriousness out of going out. I started having fun flirting with women for the first time in my life. Strauss’ book included techniques and general information like DeAngelo, but also told the story of how an AFC like me (average frustrated chump. The pickup culture is filled with acronyms), with training and perseverance became a mPUA (master pickup artist). What both books did was change my internal narrative from “whether” I could have more success with women to “how.”
Now before you judge me, please ask yourself, whether you are man, woman, straight, gay, bi, transgender, whatever, have you ever had problems meeting a romantic partner? Have you ever had difficulties communicating to a potential partner? Have you ever felt unlucky in love? If you haven’t felt these ways, please, judge me at your pleasure. If you have felt this way, you know why I turned to this questionable counsel.
Most of my romantic life up to that point was comprised of “easy-kills”–courtship without effort. It started with Liz Healy when I was fourteen. She was tall and gangly. I was tall and gangly. She asked me to the turnabout dance. I said yes. Somehow this represented a connection. Then there was Shana and Shannon and a handful of other girls who made their interest in me so overt, I knew failure was nearly impossible. In romance, I took what I could get rather than got what I wanted.
The final “take-what-you-can-get-relationship” happened when I was twenty-five. Kimberly was a sultry, 5’10”, busty blonde. She was also ten years my senior, a career stripper for twelve years and brought an adolescent child in tow. Kimberly, like Liz and Shana and Sara and Teresa and a handful of others, made her affection for me transparent—excessive grinning, touching, sidling alongside me. I couldn’t fail.
Kimberly also represented an archetype l never felt confident enough to approach. She was a popular girl. In high school, they were cheerleaders and got elected Homecoming Queen (Kimberly was both). Popular girls didn’t pay attention to unpopular guys like me. My relationships with them never extended beyond remote sexual fantasies.
My picking her up was not an unqualified achievement however. Even though she was a popular girl, I still felt like I wasn’t getting what I wanted. Kimberly was (pardon my crassness) an outgoing-model popular girl. She was past her prime and I knew it. She probably knew it too. She was still clubbing and going out, despite being a mom pushing forty. But I was willing to put up with this compromise because, to my mind, this might be my only chance with a popular girl.
Kimberly’s over-the-hill-popular girl status was the least of my problems it turned out. Kimberly and I had nothing in common. I had traveled extensively through my teens and twenties. She didn’t have a passport. I came from a politically minded, intellectual-household. She came from the same Detroit neighborhood as Eminem. Our conversations rarely extended outside of pillow talk.
One time we went out with some of my friends. We were having some stuffy discourse on the latest Todd Solenz film. Kimberly let forth her lone comment, sounding like a child who had just graduated to the adult table, “That’s an independent film, right?”
I don’t mean to criticize Kimberly. Kimberly was who she was and she was fine that way. I was the jackass who pursued a relationship with someone I knew I was incompatible with. I was able to withstand our incompatibility because I was intoxicated with the idea that I had bagged a popular chick, but eventually the buzz wore off and I got present to how hollow our bond was. It was started on a foundation of opportunism and adolescent, reactionary ideals. It was ended with head-on collision with reality.
After a beleaguered breakup that involved Kimberly spitting on my face, I was single again. I vowed to myself, “Never again. Never again would I settle. Never again would I sell myself out for a fantasy and an approximation of what I wanted.”
After wiping Kimberly’s phlegm off my face, I had to concede something to myself: I knew virtually nothing about meeting or communicating with women. I didn’t even know what I wanted necessarily. This is the first step in recovery: admit defeat. Most guys won’t do this (women are hardly better). We try out ideas taken from fathers, brothers, Magnum PI, or, like me, their mothers (women are usually the worst people to ask about what women want). We hold onto those ideas, doing the same things over and over again without success. We are too proud to admit we don’t know what we are doing. We think we should know a priori what to do with women. We don’t. Your dad doesn’t. Your brother doesn’t. Your mom definitely doesn’t. And Magnum is in Hawaii.
When I read DeAngelo and Strauss, I saw hope. Here were guys illuminating the path. They presented specific instructions about how to get the woman I wanted, not take the ones given to me. I read and set about transforming my romantic fortunes.
I tried to re-read “The Game” a year ago and I couldn’t stomach it. It was painfully sleazy. In the book, Strauss and his main running buddy “Mystery” travel the world bagging bimbos with verbal manipulation, magic tricks (they carried a bag of props with them) and various other contrivances.
But when I first read the book, the concepts and techniques were revelatory: kino (touching), three-second rule, indicator of interest (IOI), demonstrate high value (DHV), frame control and much more. It showed clear things I could to do to improve my success meeting women.
What was great about pickup artistry was I could read the books and put their techniques to work immediately. Living in NYC, there was no shortage of women with whom I could test my game.
Frame control was my favorite concept. At the time I was most into pickup, I was twenty-nine and had gone back to school to finish my undergraduate degree. I also worked for a catering company as a head-waiter. I wasn’t so eager to share either of these details. If a girl asked me what I did, I would fumble an over-explained answer like, “Well, I’m in school, but I’m finishing my undergrad. You see I dropped out when I was in my early twenties and I wanted to get closure on that part of my life. I also work in catering. I’m like a manager. I set up the parties and manage the staff. It’s really interesting. I get to go to a lot of cool places most people don’t see. And the money is not half bad….” These types of verbal ejaculations guaranteed a woman’s indifference.
Frame control, a concept taken from a non-pickup behavioral system called neural-linguistic programming (NLP), basically says that you can choose what you want to talk about. If someone asked me what I did for work, they were establishing a very conventional conversational frame. This frame says that who you are is what you do for a living. But every time I talked about work, I sounded like a spineless idiot, and no one wants to date a spineless idiot (not even other spineless idiots). I wanted to convey that I was more than what I did for money.
Frame control said I didn’t have to talk about what other people thought was important. By controlling the frame, I could direct conversation in ways that accentuated my best self. I could talk about spirituality, personal development, history—things I found interesting. And when I talked about things I found interesting, I became animated and engaging, in short, attractive. I would often refuse to say what I did for work. In fact, I did this with a girl I dated for two years. Our first conversation concerned the difference between compassion and empathy. I did not tell her what I did for a living. She later said she thought I was being a prick. However, I was a prick she kissed the same night she met me and a prick she spent the next two years with.
But eventually technique got boring. It was fun and exciting when I was doing it. I dated a lot of women. I felt like I was starting to exercise personal choice. But it also felt shortsighted. The minute there wasn’t a woman around, I would get bored or lonely. I looked at the world predatorily, looking for my next diversion. I also had tons of first and second dates, but few thirds. I knew technique was addressing symptoms of a larger malady.
I revisited David DeAngelo, who was turning away from technique and addressing the underlying issues that hold men back from the things they want—including, but hardly limited to, women. I wanted to have healthy, open, honest relationships with women. I wanted to have a rewarding career, doing something I loved. I wanted to have supportive male friends. But insofar as those things were not present, there was a block that wasn’t being addressed with technique. What DeAngelo insinuated was that it wasn’t what I was doing, it was who I was being.
In most philosophic, spiritual and religious systems, there is a split between doing and being. Doing is the formal, technique-based aspect of a system. It tells you how to pray, how to take communion, how to make hand mudras, where to touch a girl’s arm to elicit titillation, etc.
For example, most self-help is about doing: “Seven Habits of Highly Successful People,” “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” “The Four Hour Work Week,” “The Secret,” and so on. They give things do to improve yourself.
But there’s a catch with doing. Doing often does little to address our underlying beliefs about the self we are trying to improve. I can do things to win friends, but it might not change the underlying belief that people don’t like me.
Then there is being. Being focuses on what lies beneath the doing. What is the truth of self? Who is it that is doing the things? What is the truth of self? The truth of self is the unchanging part of oneself. When one is connected with that truth, he won’t worry about what to do, because the truth is un-improvable.
In Christianity they call it faith. If you have real faith, ritual becomes secondary, since all of your actions flow from your faith, or as St. Augustine said, “Love God and do as you please.” In Buddhism, there are the doing-based Sutra teachings, which focus on practices like following your spiritual guide and treating all living beings as your mother. Then there is the being-focused Tantra, which focuses on the empty nature of reality. When you realize emptiness, when you see things as they really exist, the technique is the natural byproduct. You don’t have to try to be Buddha-like, you are a Buddha.
The being aspect of pickup is called “inner game.” When you have inner game, you don’t have to micromanage your behavior because your actions emanate from your true being. You don’t have to remember to talk to a girl in three seconds, because you are already being spontaneous. You don’t have to do attractive things, because you are attractive.
Doing is appealing because it points to specific actions to take, not general principles to embody. Like a magazine that claims it will tell you what to do to “Lose 10 Pounds in 10 Days,” things are comprehensible in the world of doing. The comfort of doing is also why people get so hung up on religious ritual and doctrine. It’s comforting to have specific direction. Faith is risky.
Being is not as comforting. It does not tell you what to do. Being asks us to connect with our truths, independent of our doings. This means freeing ourselves from non-truth. For most of us that means completely dismantling our lives. For example, my relationship with Kimberly was based on a non-truth (a lie if you will). I wanted something, not because I truly wanted it, but because I thought that was what I should want. Everyone else wants to be with the popular girl, so I probably should too.
Being also asks us, “What would we be without the the things we do?” This is a scary proposition for most of us.
It was during the time I was focusing on inner game that I attracted compassion girl. I picked her up on an airplane. She wasn’t even sitting next to me.
While she was a vast improvement on Kimberly, there was still a reactionary component to my courting her. Having let go of the popular girl archetype, I created a new archetype, called “not-Kimberly.” The “not-Kimberly” archetype wasn’t a stripper, didn’t have a child, had a passport and had used it extensively, was educated, was close to my age and didn’t spit on me. Unfortunately, connections aren’t the byproducts of checklists. Compassion girl was not Kimberly, but she was not what I truly wanted or needed either.
After a phlegm-free breakup two years later with compassion girl, I found myself single again. I knew that in order to create a relationship that wasn’t some permutation on gangly Liz Healy, I had to do some deep inner work. I knew I had to move beyond technique. Technique is a process of addition—we are adding new behaviors onto our old selves. The logical flaw with this plan is that the old self is still the old self. I could not recognize what I wanted because my desires were shaped by avoidance of the past. Until we divest ourselves of the painful parts of that old self, we are forever putting frosting on horse-shit and calling it cake.
After clearing up some messes from past relationships and getting straight about some issues I was holding onto regarding my mom, I got a lot clearer. I started having inner game. I felt like I could make choices divorced from the past, free from archetypes rooted in my mom and past relationships. In that state of being, I was able to start a relationship that felt unlike any other I’ve been in, one where I didn’t have to focus on doing the right thing, because I was being myself.
In this space of truth, I am living a life unlike I have lived before, one not predetermined by the past. One where I’m not tiptoeing around my life, waiting to do the wrong thing.
The thing I finally realized was that nothing was wrong. It’s like a quote I came across from “A Course in Miracles”:
The separated ones have invented many “cures” for what they believe to be “the ills of the world.” But the one thing they do not do is to question the reality of the problem. Yet its effects cannot be cured because the problem is not real.
Fixing problems with techniques never works in the long run because we affirm a problem’s existence when we fix it. Only broken things need to be fixed. It takes work to figure this out. It takes unraveling narratives to see that all of our pain, and all of our pain management, stems from idea that something is wrong with us. When I was free from that idea, I was able to work on a clean canvas. I stopped reacting to reality—to my memories and mistaken notions about who I was—and started creating.
But I also see that I couldn’t have gotten to that place without doing certain things. All the sophomoric pick-up stuff really helped. It got me out of a state of hopelessness. Even though I was eating horse-shit cake, it nourished me enough until I got my next meal.