Speak for yourself

September of 2005, Neil Strauss’ The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pick-up Artists becomes a New York Times best seller.

The book follows Strauss’s personal experiences in the underground world of the pick-up-artist. The Game details what to do and what not to do when attempting to pick up a woman from the bar. There are steps outlined in this book that will change your life, and there is a long list of readers more than willing to attest to this. Strauss himself was transformed from a regular dateless dude into the “best pick-up artist in the world.”

Strauss is five-foot-six, bald and a bit on the thin side. He has a charming smile, a slightly higher-than-usual pitched voice and is a smooth talker. At first glance, Strauss is spectacularly ordinary.

I want to hate Strauss on principle, but this article isn’t about him. I am more interested, if you can believe it, in why there is a market in our society for books like this. Why haven’t the harsh conditions of capitalism squashed this type of self-help book like a bug? Everyone can speak. Everyone speaks to men and women on a daily basis. So, why do we need a book explaining something we obviously already know how to do?

Why can’t we speak for ourselves?

The secret feminist in me wants to turn this inquisitive article into a furious rant about chauvinism. Penetrating the secret society of pick-up artists? Come on! This, however, is simply cynical, because the truth is many women are at the bars for the same reason as Strauss and his padawans. It is a free country after all.
The real question everyone should be asking — the bar stars, the pick-up artists, the geeks, the 25-year-old virgins, the average Joes, the plain Janes, the knock-outs and the Brad Pitt look-alikes — is why on earth do we need books like The Game to tell us how to talk to the opposite (or not so opposite) sex.

I reiterate: Why can’t we speak for ourselves?

Speaking (see what I did there) personally, I am terrified by the idea of trying to talk to a man I am interested in — I even cringed and blushed bashfully as I wrote that sentence! Where romance is concerned, I am out of commission before the game even begins. As far as I can tell, this is a big part of the problem. We revert to our second-grade-selves — girls have cooties and boys will run away from anything in hot pink. For better or worse, puberty came and went years ago and now we really want to try to talk to these girls/boys but are still unable to break the ice.

Books like The Game help people — mostly men — do just that. Guys, instead of relying on a recycled pick-up line, are able, with Strauss’s guide, to walk up to a group of girls and initiate an interesting conversation without immediate rejection. To be honest, I prefer this method to: “It’s a good thing that I have my library card. Why? Because I am totally checking you out!”

Regardless, I feel as if the steps detailed in this book, and thousands of others like it on the shelves of every bookstore in the country, cannot be enough. To use somebody else’s methods, somebody else’s style and somebody else’s words cannot work because you are being somebody else. If you want anything more than to pick someone up, eventually you are going to have to be yourself. The girl is going to have to like you, just you, without any help from Strauss.

There are many lines used to sell cars, up-sell customers — would you like to supersize your meal today? — and sign people up for credit cards. These prepackaged lines do sell product. Problem is, people aren’t merchandise; eventually, the car will break down, the massive amounts of greasy fast food will make you sick, and the credit card’s 30 per cent interest rate will almost kill you.
People are not mass-produced. They cannot be contained within, or exploited by, the 400 pages of a book. Picking up a girl is just the beginning. Eventually, we will all have to learn how to speak, and we will all have to learn to do it on our own.