by Paige Phelps
At a Holiday Inn Express in Addison, I went to a $300 seminar that supposedly teaches men how the female mind works. Now I’m scared for women everywhere.
Asian playboy calls me on my work line.
“This is the guy you’ve been speaking to,” he says carefully, then pauses. I pause, too. I have no idea who it is.
He speaks again: “About the group I’m involved with? The seminar?”
Of course! Asian Playboy! I’d been communicating with him via e-mail for a few days, trying to convince him to allow me to attend his workshop. He runs an outfit for dateless men called Natural Attraction, teaching The Game, a step-by-step method for scoring with hot babes (or, in The Game’s parlance, HBs). These men aspire to become pickup artists (or PUAs, pronounced “pooh-ahs”), and they pay money to learn, supposedly, how the female mind works.
Online PUA communities, called seduction lairs, can be found from here to China, claiming millions of members. The Dallas chapter is small, but Asian Playboy says that under his able leadership, it has recently tripled in size, up to 128 members. Think of it as a lonely-hearts club with a Dungeons & Dragons twist.
For this phenomenon, we can thank Neil Strauss (aka Style, because everyone uses a pseudonym in Game circles), for unleashing the secrets of sex-seeking machines into the mainstream. His book The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Professional Pickup Artists, published in September 2005, spent six weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and told of his life inside the PUA Game, living in a grotto-like frat house called Project Hollywood under the tutelage of a man named Mystery, who claims to be the greatest pickup artist in the world. Mystery, like Asian Playboy, also teaches men how to score with women. His Las Vegas “special boot camp” costs $2,750.
I wanted to infiltrate the secret society, learn the lingo, see the technique at work in the field. Asian Playboy (APB for short) was calling to find out my angle, my level of interest, and, most of all, my sincerity.
“What about meeting in the morning?” I ask Asian Playboy, looking at my calendar.
He laughs. “I don’t wake up in the morning,” he says. He suggests we meet instead at happy hour at Chaucer’s in Addison.
“How will I know who you are?” I ask.
“Wear something pink,” he says. “I’ll find you.”
CHAUCER'S IS A STEAK AND SUSHI RESTAURANT DECORATED WITH PLASTER busts of Roman characters and fake ivy. Waitresses wear a Goth fem-bot uniform of black knee-high boots, black micro-minis, and tiny black tanks. I am way overdressed, wearing clothes.
I spot the only Asian man, in the bar outside on the patio.
“Are you Asian Playboy?” I ask timidly.
“It depends,” he says. “Who’s asking?”
It is him. I can tell by the voice.
There is a man sitting next to him, a man I will know only as Captain Jack. I nod my hellos.
“So you want to attend a PUA seminar?” Asian Playboy inquires. He is sipping raspberry sake. He says if I am allowed inside The Game, I will have to adhere to certain parameters. For instance, I will not be allowed to describe the distinctive jacket he is wearing, because “everyone” recognizes the jacket and would immediately know whom I was writing about.
I agree to this term, but I tell him that I have some ground rules, too. First, I need someone inside the lair to give me a real name. They tell me that Jason “Danger” Bailey is my man. A newbie who’s been gaming for less than a year, already he has real PUA potential.
“If I were a girl, I’d sleep with him,” Asian Playboy says. This is not a joke.
The two men allow me to advance to the next phase of my approval process, which essentially involves meeting Asian Playboy’s partner in Natural Attraction, a man named Prophet, and buying them many margaritas at Primo’s on McKinney. (A PUA cardinal rule is never, ever, under any circumstances whatsoever, buy a woman a drink when you first meet her.) Finally, it is decided that I can attend a PUA workshop, time and place TBD. I am instructed to look for an e-mail from Asian Playboy in the next week.
When it arrives, it says, “1) The first rule of Fight Club ... You do not talk about Fight Club! 2) The second rule of Fight Club ... You DO NOT talk about Fight Club! 3) If this is your first night in Fight Club ... you HAVE to fight.” I am to meet the lair at 4 pm at a Holiday Inn Express in Addison.
THE NATURAL ATTRACTION WORKSHOP INVOLVES FOUR HOURS of classroom time, followed by four hours of “field training” at a local club, plus individual follow-ups later that night at IHOP. The cost for the workshop is $300, alcohol and dinner at Chipotle not included.
I head to the inexplicably named Belmont Room at the Holiday Inn Express. Prophet stands at the head of the class, writing his course outline on an easel notepad. Eight guys, more than one wearing a t-shirt tucked into khakis, sit silently at the back of the room, which has a green floral carpet. Plastic cups filled with tap water sit on tables with pleated, mauve tablecloths.
“Before I teach you the basics, you’ve got to learn what it means to be human,” Prophet begins.
He asks us all to take out a piece of paper.
“I want you to write down three goals you guys have for yourself. One, what you want to do with these laws of attraction in 10 years. Two, where you want to be in one year. And, three, where you want to be tonight.”
As we write, Prophet passes out reference texts: Sexology, Why Men Love Bitches, and The Art of Seduction.
We are asked to read our goals aloud to the class. Captain Jack volunteers to go first.
Before the workshop, Captain Jack told me his story, how learning The Game transformed him. He sounded almost born-again. In the weeks and months after his divorce, he told me, he found himself lonely and unable to connect with women. “I would get all dressed up and go to bars and spend hours just drinking alone,” he said. “Later, driving home, I’d be almost in tears. I felt like such an outsider.” But today Captain Jack is a lair expert. Newbies look to him for tips on “peacocking,” an over-the-top dressing style used to attract women. Only the most confident of men are advised to attempt peacocking. Captain Jack prefers a loud shirt and an acid-washed cowboy hat.
In the workshop, he tells the class that in 10 years he hopes to be remarried, maybe adding to the kids he has from his first marriage. But, in the short term, he would really like a relationship with a bisexual woman who will pleasure him with hot threesomes.
A skinny Asian guy stands to read next. “In a year, I’d like to be where Captain Jack is now,” he tells the class.
Eventually, we get around to the basics, how The Game is actually played. Natural Attraction teaches a simple ABC process for seducing an HB: “A” stands for “approach”; “B” for “buying temperature”; “C,” “comfort”; “D,” “direct interest”; “E,” “escalate and extract”; and “F”—“F” you can imagine. APB and Captain Jack explain that it is simply a method to teach guys to be cool around women, to cut out any “creepy vibe” or “friend vibe” they may or may not know they give off.
“It’s about conveying your personality and understanding how women act and react by their body language and their responses,” Captain Jack says. “A lot of critics think we’re trying to pull the wool over women’s eyes, but that’s not it. It’s about getting to the same level of social skills as the women we are attracted to.”
“It’s not a science. It’s an art,” adds APB, smiling.
Our art lesson focuses on our night game. In other words, how to act in a nightclub to woo women: “how you chill” and how to dress, APB’s territory; how to bring a woman emotionally closer (hint: tell her a sad story involving your dead best friend), Prophet’s territory; and, most important, how to perfect the “sarge,” or how to hit on an HB. For this last one, each guy walks to the front of the class and demonstrates his opening line on me, the closest thing around to an HB.
Captain Jack tells the class that a great opener is ,“Your tits are cute.”
I frown. “There’s no way that will work,” I tell the boys.
“It worked last night,” Captain Jack says.
The guys look at me, then at Captain Jack, and without a doubt the room tilts in his favor.
I am the only woman in the Belmont Room, and no one wants my opinion on how to approach women. The irony appears lost on everyone.
The lesson continues: at stage F, a man must determine whether his conquest is an ONS (one-night stand) or LTR (long-term relationship). This stage is very tricky. That’s why Prophet teaches ways to avoid LMRs (last-minute resistances), excuses a woman has for avoiding sex. LMRs are also referred to as ASD (anti-slut defense), which is what lair Fast Seduction defines as “chick logic, to relieve the guilt from having sex too quickly with a man.”
The men in the class are silent. They are busy taking notes. After dinner at Chipotle, it will be time to change into our “sexy night-game clothes” for field training. The tension is palpable. I am scared for women everywhere.
IMAGINE A 13-YEAR-OLD BOY'S VERSION OF A GROWN-UP BAR, AND YOU'VE got a good idea of what Carsons Live in North Dallas is like. There’s music, loud and lots of it, all styles. And themed rooms and chicken wings and champagne and sexy women in miniscule outfits who dance on the bars whenever the urge strikes.
This is the setting for our field training. Asian Playboy secured in advance a VIP table for us inside the Vortex, Carsons’ dance club that spins techno remixes of “Jesse’s Girl.” I order a drink (the first of many, none of which is paid for by any PUA). Asian Playboy tells us not to hit on the waitresses because he was working that scene and has already slept with two of them and is, in fact, working on a third.
The PUAs-in-training dressed themselves. One donned an all-black suit with a banana-yellow Batman tie. Another wore a sweater that Bill Cosby wouldn’t touch.
Prophet sits beside me in a booth and points out a guy through the window separating us from the pizza-parlor part of Carsons. The obvious non-PUA is attempting to hit on the beer-cooler girl, an unseasonably tan woman with a tiny outfit so badly ripped and torn that one might assume she headed to work directly after a bear attack.
“I would try and close her, but you can’t,” Prophet says. “The club has bodyguards watching her. Anytime a guy talks to her for too long, they send a bouncer in to run him off. There’s not enough time to Game her.”
Meanwhile the newbies are going crazy. They pounce from set to set (groups of girls) with the energy of hyperglycemic junior high students, opening and closing as quickly as they can. They never sit down to chill, as they were taught.
“We don’t use lines,” Asian Playboy says. “Lines don’t work.”
Instead, the guys use openers. Asian Playboy demonstrates for me.
“Okay,” he says to a set of girls by the dance floor. “Settle a bet for me. My friend and I were just arguing about who would win in a fight, James Bond or Indiana Jones. I say James Bond.”
The set of three girls giggle outrageously, as if it is the funniest thing they have ever heard.
“Hey, that really worked,” I tell him later, amazed.
“Yeah, but those girls were dogs,” he says. “I only used them as a warm-up.”
Meanwhile I spy our 21-year-old college student newbie walking with the grace of a Storm Trooper across the room. His opener goes something like this: “Who lies more? Men or women?” When he says it, he moves his arm up and down stiffly, like an action figure. We tried to work on this during the seminar. His colleague, an Asian newbie who had driven in from Houston to learn The Game, preferred the opener, “If a girl kisses another girl, is that cheating?”
On the opposite side of the room, a Russian guy (The Vigo) isn’t having much luck and quickly becomes distraught. When Prophet returns to our table escorted by a couple of girls with bad boob jobs, I really think The Vigo might cry. I feel sorry for the guy. So I give him the pep talk of his life, telling him he is awesome and he could get any girl he wants, including the ones with boob jobs.
I grab The Vigo’s hand. “Come on,” I command. “Let’s go sarge some women.”
I take him to a table filled with girls and overhear one say the words “happy birthday.” Bingo. I tell The Vigo to give me one second to warm them up. When I give the signal, he will walk over and sing “Happy Birthday” to them. He nods, and I go to work. I speak quickly to the girl at the end of the table.
“Listen, can you just help me out?” I say. “My friend, he’s been a family friend forever, and he just sucks with girls. Can you act happy when he sings ‘Happy Birthday’? Please? It’ll make his whole night.”
When The Vigo scuttles over and squeaks out the most uncomfortable version of “Happy Birthday” I have ever heard, the nice girl smiles and claps and pretends to be charmed. And when it is over, I drag The Vigo the hell out of there. But, man, the look on his face, he is glowing. A girl smiled at him.
God bless that girl.
“Go, Vigo, go!” I think as I watch him recount the hilarious story of his conquest to his peers.
Because, look, I don’t loathe these guys. I feel sorry for them. None of them is evil, just confused. If one of them would just take up a co-ed sport, maybe get a haircut or a new pair of jeans, he’d be fine. Instead, out of desperation and loneliness, each has spent $300 to learn a bunch of acronyms.
Later in the night, as the rush of the sarge begins to wear off and the spin of alcohol sets in, Asian Playboy plops down in the red corner booth and puts his head on my shoulder. He tells me all about Prophet’s girlfriend troubles. (Yes, Prophet has a girlfriend.) Asian Playboy says the girlfriend doesn’t like Prophet to sarge, but he won’t stop. Asian Playboy says she doesn’t think they’ll last, which is sad because Prophet really believes she’s “the one.”
That’s when he starts piteously whining about his own troubles with The Game.
“I’ll never find a girl,” he tells me. “Every time I meet one, I know exactly what she’s going to do and say next.” He’s rolling his head back and forth, clearly oiled. “The Game is just too good."