Several years ago, when I was fresh out of high school, I stumbled across a website by a guy calling himself Dr. Don; he was giving advice to hapless guys on how to be good with women. At this point in my life, I needed all the help I could get: I thought I was funny, but I wore goofy clothes, had a bowl cut and Harry Potter glasses, and, well, you get the point. I needed help, and when I did an internet search, I found a universe of knowledge on the subject on the net.
After reading the odd 'pickup line', I didn't really do much with it. I tried to work out, practice meeting people in public, being more outgoing, (eg. small talk with the barista at Starbucks, etc), but that's pretty much it. When I was wrapping up my Economics degree, I was still chatting up girls by asking them if they'd bought the textbook for their new courses yet. I'm dead serious. But while I was occasionally trying out a few pickup lines I'd read online (and doing everything wrong), a community was blossoming: an of pickup artists and wannabes, better known as the Seduction Community.
You may have heard of these guys. They wouldn't just post 'pickup lines' online, they would post entire texts (known as field reports), recount entire dates, or entire relationships online, trying to figure out where they'd gone wrong. The goal, usually, was to figure out how to get laid, using what ever means they could, legal, ethical, or otherwise. This book is basically one huge field report. Neil recounts his outings, and his innermost thoughts.
[Note: Field reports are actually a great idea, as long as they don't a) hurt people and b) embarass people. As long as there's a certain degree of anonimity and real names are not used, they can be very useful. In fact, the idea of putting them online and having others critique them, has proven to be very helpful, especially when those commenting are more experienced than yourself.]
Around this time, Neil Strauss, a pretty well-known reporter for The Rolling Stone, was asked to write about the community, but after reading up on it, he wanted to go deeper. He considered himself, if not Harry Potter, a skinny balding dweeb. He needed help. And he was going to be one of the world's first paying pickup students. The teacher was a tall, Vladish egomaniac named Erik. But there would be no names, the dweebs would have to reinvent themselves'their clothes, their hairstyles, their language, even their names. Everyone came up with their own PUA names. And Erik's was Mystery.
This book tells the story of Neil Struass' real life account of meeting Mystery, and going from 'average frustrated chump' to the world's best pickup artist (surpassing his teacher, according to some).
It struck me that while The Game has taken its share of arrows (namely, it's been demonized for the same things that Strauss demonizes the Community for in the book itself, ironically), it remains an extremely interesting account, a non-fiction wrapped in a great story with quirky characters that you won't soon forget. The last time I had anything close to that, was The Richest Man in Babylon, which I adored. Just think, why does Jon Stewart represent the best source of news for many Americans? Because on top of being smart and informative, he's actually super-funny and affable. And likewise, you can tune in to Jim Cramer's Mad Money, for some goofy, but very intelligent stock and investment advice.
You see? These days it's not just about being good, its about being good at marketing too.
But if we're going to demand that all non-fiction writers be super engaging and interesting, there's a risk, and that is, changing the content (or the facts) to make a more interesting story. In Neil's case, many have come out of the woodwork and argued that he characterizes certain people in this book (most of whose names you'll never hear, just PUA handles) unfairly, to make a more dramatic and hyperbolic story. In fact, Neil continues to run very expensive Pickup bootcamps to this day. Does that make him a hypocrite? Somewhat. Because if you ignore that fact, The Game is actually not a guide to picking up girls at all; it's actually a cautionary tale of what can go wrong when you try to fill your empty life (like an addict) with sex.
Like Neil, the best PUA's in the world are businessmen, they're entrepreneurs, selling largely the same skills that Mystery was hawking in online ads 10 years ago, making Neil Strauss' return on investment for the $500 weekend bootcamp about a billion percent.
So what's the moral of the story here? That girls are easy to manipulate if you know the right words? No way. The message is this: imitating someone who's interesting and has cool stories might work for a night, maybe a couple days but eventually as someone gets to know you more, meets your friends, they'll see who the real you is. And if they don't like what they see, they'll run. If you're going to put on a disguise, and pretend to be this 'zany goofy guy' with all these wild stories about stuff you never experienced, it's not really a shortcut to meeting women; it's work. Are we having fun yet?
Since The Game came out a few years ago, there's been a growing segment of the pickup Community called 'Natural Game'' that is.. instead of running around spouting rehearsed lines to every girl you meet (something that kids were doing in their training phase), you actually improvise on the spot, honestly and sincerely. Here's hoping you can talk about something more interesting than asking a girl about her textbooks.
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