I finally read Neil Strauss’ The Game this past weekend on the plane ride home from New York.
Amazing book. Nearly 400 pages that went down as if they were 100.
If you’re not familiar with this New York Times Bestseller, it’s a non-fiction tale of a bright but nerdy writer who, in investigating the world of underground “pick-up” artists, becomes the Master of all of them. Taught by another self-invented guru named “Mystery,” Strauss renames himself “Style” and seduces hundreds of women around the world.
In a bit of random happenstance, I was out with a friend at a bar a few weeks ago. He was telling me about the show “The Pick-Up Artist” on VH1, starring the aforementioned “Mystery.” My friend said it was thoroughly entertaining television and that it was amazing seeing this formerly awkward guys develop the confidence and social skills to be able to approach women. As we were leaving the bar, we looked over and saw “Mystery,” all 6’5″ of him, adorned in an ostentatious hat and a big gold heart shaped locket, waiting at the valet. Next to him was Neil Strauss, who had to be about 5’5″ and 130 pounds soaking wet. Although I hadn’t yet read The Game I had to introduce myself. Neil was extremely gracious and soft-spoken and he gave me his assistant’s email address. A week later, I was at a party at his house for the finale of “The Pick-Up Artist.”
I asked if I could bring my best guy friend, but was told to either come alone or with a woman. Fair enough. So at the last minute, I invited my friend, Lauren Frances, who is more than enough woman to bring to any party.
The scene was surreal. The first three guys I saw were slightly pasty, average looking guys wearing pirate hats and turbans. These were the apprentice pick-up artists and they were, to use the language of the community, peacocking – wearing outlandish outfits to attract attention and arouse interest. These guys comprised the majority of the party’s population when we arrived. Slowly the room started filling up with young Hollywood types. Everyone was well-put-together and put a lot more thought into their wardrobe than I probably did. After all, it’s all about making a good first impression.
I fell into some lovely conversations. One, with a smart single woman who worked at Vivid Video who was dating one of the apprentice PUA’s (pick-up artists) who got his education on the TV show. Another, with a young Jewish actress from Texas who was dating the guy who won “The Pick-Up Artist.” It seemed that apart from Neil, Mystery, Lauren and myself, everyone at the party was 25 years old, or at least acting that way.
And so I vowed to read the book that spawned this entire community. I wanted to be able to accurately parse whether this is useful information or misogynist trash. I’m somewhat dismayed to report that it’s useful information….
Women will find it distasteful but fascinating. Men will find it fascinating but distasteful. Strauss ultimately arrived at the same conclusion in the book. Eventually, he sees how inhuman being a pick-up artist is, and removes himself from the community that he has helped to create. Sort of. I have no doubt that Strauss has seen the downside of treating women like objects. By the same token, he’s continuing to make a mint off it. I don’t blame him in the least.
Truth is, anything taken to the extreme can be dangerous. Going to Vegas once a year to blow off steam is fun. Blowing your 401-K at the poker tables and strip clubs is quite another story. So while being a PUA as a lifestyle is shallow, hollow, and soulless, the transformation of these nerds is nothing short of remarkable. Pick-up artists have turned this into a science, a science that is based in some very real psychology. And while one can certainly quibble with some of the methods and motivations, I was quite surprised that they were teaching some of the same things that I, as a dating coach, teach to both men AND women.
Then again, if something works, it should be no shock if multiple people arrive at the same conclusion independent of each other. In this case, Strauss and company have merely given things rules and names to make it into a profitable system.
I’m not going to give away any of the points of the book, but I would encourage you to pick it up and judge for yourself.