I’m fortunate to have had good friends who really understand seduction. They save me time with posts like this.

If you haven’t read the second part of Tre Tre’s piece on why pickup techniques are bullshit, read it now. It’s really damned good. There were some valid counterarguments in the comments section, and Tre responds to those, too.

I’ve written about my disdain for technique in the past — my post on the White Stripes and imperfection comes to mind — but not recently. I spent the day at work gathering my own thoughts, and then I remembered an old friend from my Charisma Arts days: Dirk Manley.

Just before he was killed two years ago, Dirk wrote a post on this very subject called, “Why the Community is Wrong.” He said it better than I would have: that the problem isn’t whether the one-size-fits-all, universal techniques sold by seduction gurus work. Of course they can work.

“However,” Dirk said, “I think any company promoting how to make yourself “more attractive” or to “get ANY girl” still suffers from the same problems. The same problems being that women are all the same and react the same to the same things. To me, that is bullshit.”

So your average PUA guru would stop me here and say, “Dude! You’re just not using the material the right way. You need to keep practicing to get it right.”

And for my response, I’ll once again refer you to my friend Dirk:

Likewise, the only way you can get ANY girl you want is by assuming she is a video game, and if you press the right combination of buttons, you’ll get the reaction you want.

Again, bullshit. And when you read those messages like that, you realize why it is bullshit.

The techniques take us not only out of the moment, as Tre has said, but also out of our personalities. They turn women into a focus group where they’re always right and guys are trying to guess what they want. They try to convince us that if a girl rejected us, we fucked up and we need to learn the right maneuver to get her.

And now it’s my turn to say, bullshit.

Being rejected is among the best results that can happen to a guy. It can save him a lot of time and money, allowing him to meet girls who do laugh at his dirty jokes or find vintage Transformers cool (seriously, they exist).

I think about NBA player Rasheed Wallace, and his famous quote, “Ball don’t lie.” The same concept applies to women and rejection: Girl Don’t Lie. She’s either into you or she’s not. There’s not much benefit in depending on game to change her mind.

I also think about the slick, complex, shit-test-conquering field reports I used to read and try to emulate as a beginner, and in retrospect those guys sounded like contestants in the Hunger Games. Seduction might be challenging at times, but usually it should be easy and fun. It has been for me, at least.

Now, as Dirk says, it is possible for a guy to shape-shift his personality and try to find different punch-kick combinations to seduce different types of girls. Some guys get off on that, and they do it well. I am unattracted to most Marina girls, as they are unattracted to me. Yet Community guys in San Francisco chase them the most because Marina girls are considered to have the highest value, and some of those guys succeed. Good on them.

But I don’t want to alter my personality, and neither did most of the guys I coached. So I found that the less material I taught as an instructor — in some cases not teaching anything — the more confident they were and the less they chased girls away. It’s because they were able to let out their true selves, which was way more attractive than following some script.

Dirk’s death was a grim reminder about how short life is, and I learned years ago that I didn’t want to spend it as a homogenized pickup artist. Screw that. With the women I get and the women I lose, I do it on my terms. I hope guys who are new to this understand that they can do the same.

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You wanted him, you’ve got him. My good friend Tre Tre shared his considerable knowledge a year ago in Part I about why pickup techniques are overrated. Like any good sequel, Part II took some time, and unlike “Matrix Reloaded,” this one delivers the goods.

I’ve coached students often about the importance of detaching themselves from the outcome, and Tre does a superb job of explaining why that’s so crucial. His recommended exercise is great advice for any guy who’s struggling.

Tre: In my previous post I broke down why all those pickup techniques that focus on the tactics of seducing a woman are a recipe for failure.  Today I’m going to talk about how to do it. It really isn’t much about women at all. The focus is right at the heart of the matter: you.

I’m going to borrow heavily from a great book called “The Inner Game of Tennis.”  In fact, click on this link and buy it now.  Seriously.

Gallwey is a tennis coach. Over the years he noticed that giving people technical instruction on the mechanics of their swing was not getting them anywhere.  In fact, it was making things worse. The players were given knowledge about their swing, and they would attempt to play the game thinking about what they’ve been told they need to do.

Instead of looking up and feeling the game, they were stuck in their heads, getting worse and more frustrated with every stroke. They were ignorant and terrible before, but with their “knowledge” they were still terrible and now hopeless and broken.

He breaks the human psyche down to two Selves, which he calls “Self 1” and “Self 2.” Self 2 is the natural-learning self.  That self learned how to talk. It learned how to walk. It learned how to punch your baby brother in the head with a roundhouse when he steps on your Lego castle you spent all morning building while watching Bugs Bunny.

Self 2 is pretty awesome. Your brain and your body connection are connected with broadband at that age because you haven’t learned how to be self-conscious yet.  You didn’t get a set of technical instructions on how to talk, you just started doing it.  Granted, you sounded like a bumbling fool in the beginning compared with an orator like Martin Luther King or Howard Stern, but no one around cared because you were learning.

Enter your inner critic, Self 1. At some point in your life, Self 1 is the voice that starts to tell you how to do things.  Some of this is conditioned; now that you can talk and communicate, you’re told how to act, think and do things. Self 1 just speaks to you when you’re in situations. He’s there to tell you how things should be done.

Guess what? Self 1 is a judgmental asshole. If one of your friends talked to you the way that Self 1 talks to you, he’d be left in the desert on a long drive out of town.

But we listen to Self 1. He helps to justify and reinforce our bad behaviors, blame others for our shortcomings and suppress the Self 2 that is natural, quiet and waiting to be awakened.

Go read “The Inner Game of Tennis” for more, but I’m going to quote from a chapter called “Inner Game Off the Court” and talk about how you can go out and interact in life with Self 2 leading the way:

“Perhaps the most indispensable tool for human beings in modern times is the ability to remain calm in the midst of rapid and unsettling changes. The people who will best survive the present age are the ones Kipling described as ‘those who can keep their heads while all about are losing theirs.’ Inner stability is achieved not by burying one’s head in the sand at the sight of danger, but by acquiring the ability to see the true nature of what is happening and to respond appropriately. Then Self 1’s reaction to the situation is not able to disrupt your inner balance or clarity.

Instability, in contrast, is a condition of being in which we are more easily thrown off balance when Self 1 gets upset by an event or circumstance.  Self 1 tends to distort its perception of the event, prompting us to take misguided actions, which in turn leads to circumstances that further undermine our inner balance–the basic Self 1 vicious cycle.

The cause of most stress can be summed up by the word attachment. Self 1 gets so dependent upon things, situations, people and concepts within its experience that when change occurs or seems about to occur, it feels threatened. Freedom from stress does not necessarily involve giving up anything, but rather being able to let go of anything, when necessary, and know that one will still be all right. It comes from being more independent–not necessarily more solitary, but more reliant on one’s own inner resources for stability.”

Right now, it is highly likely that if you are reading this, you probably have a voice inside of you that says you talk to women badly and that you need to be good. So, your Self 1 has told you a million ways in which you are bad: awkward, uncool, not good looking enough to get out there and talk to someone you’re attracted to. You have this Self 2 inside of you that is creative, learns, adapts and has the ability to connect with other people. That Self doesn’t think you do things badly and that you need to do good things now. That Self just naturally learns and experiences the moment.

Guess what?  Most women have a Self 1, too. That self gets to hide behind an awesome rack, $200 haircut, eyeliner and high heels. When two very judgmental Self 1s collide, they amplify the discomfort and the lady gets uncomfortable and pulls the ripcord.  You’re left with Self 1 laying on the “I told you so’s” with his hands on the sweat gland and heartbeat controls. He physically makes you feel bad for “being bad” at talking to chicks.

Dick.

So, you have to learn to become calm. To become calm, you have to learn to quiet Self 1. You do that by (gulp) trusting in Self 2.  We ALL have Self 2, which wants to be liberated.  Self 2 “wants to enjoy, to learn, to understand, to appreciate, go for it, rest, be healthy, survive, be free to be what it is, express itself and make its unique contribution.

Self 2, more important, doesn’t need to be validated by anyone, let alone a woman you have a brief encounter with.

But Self 1 doesn’t give up easily. For the purposes of this blog entry, let’s just keep it simple, but there are volumes that can be written about why and the craftiness with which Self 1 tries to trick you into losing faith in yourself again.

Fight ClubHere’s an exercise to experience Self 2: This is similar to “Fight Club,” when Tyler Durden told his followers to get in a fight and lose.  You need to learn to detach from the outcome. When you detach, you’ll learn to trust yourself and then you will learn to be calm in the moment.

Your goal is to talk to 15 women, in a row, and you can’t get their phone number, kissed, blown, or peed on (if you are into that….I don’t judge).  If some lady gets so hot and heavy and you simply can’t control yourself and you get a phone number, you have to start over. Fifteen straight interactions with no end that results in you getting something positive from her other than a great interaction on your path to living as Self 2.

In the beginning, Self 1 is going to be SCREAMING IN YOUR EAR THAT YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG AND THAT YOU SHOULD GO BACK TO THE 4TH GRADE AND START OVER. With each subsequent, courageous reaction, you’ll learn to trust at little more.

Don’t worry about being charming, funny, sexy, seductive, “alpha,” how you’re standing, if you’re displaying dominant body language, etc.  Once the voice comes up, just acknowledge it and refuse to judge. Just hang in there and talk to your lady.  Experience being in the moment.  Be very careful: you might just go out and start enjoying yourself.

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Amid all my grandstanding in my two-part post on false dating narratives (Part I is here and Part II is here), I left out some facts that are worth mentioning. So here they are:

1. As Inigo Montoya might say, I don’t think the word “hookup” means what people think it means. The massive college student survey taken by Paula England found that only 40 percent of hookups involved sexual intercourse. Fifteen percent involved hand stimulation, and another 32 percent only involved kissing and non-genital touching.

According to those definitions, I hooked up in college more than I realized! Which is to say, with one girl.

2. It’s taken for granted that men want casual sex more than women, but Terri Conley’s data does much to question that. The dividing line came down to this common-sense question: how likely is the woman to have an orgasm?

People have repeatedly cited the 1989 study in which 70 percent of men agreed to a female stranger’s offer for sex, where 0 percent of the women accepted the same offer from a man. But Conley’s studies found some variables that were being ignored:

Gender differences in acceptance of heterosexual casual-sex proposals evaporated when participants considered sexual offers from very attractive or very unattractive famous individuals. Likewise, women and men were equally likely to accept offers of casual sex from close friends whom they perceived to have high sexual capabilities (i.e., whom they thought would “be a great lover” and would provide them with “a positive sexual experience”).

Across multiple studies, perceived sexual capabilities of sexual proposers most strongly predicted acceptance of casual-sex offers among both women and men. … women accepted fewer casual-sex offers from men than vice versa because male proposers were perceived to have relatively poorer sexual capabilities.”

I’ve seen this play out in real life, and it makes a lot of sense: why would a woman sleep with a stranger when he’s guaranteed to climax and she probably won’t? Yet for whatever reason, the lasting narrative in our culture is one of sexually reluctant women who just want sex when it can lead to love.

Men get used for sex all the time — sometimes even when we don’t want to be. The truth about that is only starting to get noticed.

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This is the follow-up to Part I of my post.

Let’s address the third and oldest narrative being pushed on us by the dating-trend-du-jour articles and books out there: that men want casual sex, women want serious relationships, and that men are coercing women to get the former out of them.

This is a narrative perpetuated by many sources: popular culture, news media, academics and even the seduction community I was once involved with (more on that later). It’s the opposite of the slutty-woman double standard, and no less harmful.

Shitting on men’s sexuality and their alleged player nature is an easy way to get noticed these days:

  • The book “Hooking Up” casts female college students as so desperate for relationships in a sea of commitment-averse guys that they’re willing to submit to one-night stands in the hope that it leads to more.
  • The New York Times’ recent article on the supposed end of courtship cites only anecdotes where the guy — never the woman — is either too horny, too careless or too broke to pursue a relationship.
  • I’ve already written about one writer’s confused attack on men’s supposed Peter Pan complex.
  • In the Atlantic’s much-discussed “All the Single Ladies,” our loveless heroine reduces men to “deadbeats or playboys” and claims that in her experience, “In many cases, the more successful a man is (or thinks he is), the less interested he is in commitment.” Even though she leads off the piece by explaining how she walked away from a seemingly great boyfriend.

There are more examples — worse ones, too — but you get my drift. Men want casual sex before love (if they want love at all), and women want love before sex. Right?

If only it were so simple. The onslaught of beer commercials, sitcoms and Maxim-like magazines make us seem as complex as a checkers board when we’re really a lot more like chess. Someone needs to write “The Masculine Mystique” to get the point across, apparently.

Fortunately, there is some emerging data to back this up:

  • The University of Michigan’s Terri Conley deals a karate chop to the men-are-dogs theory in a 2011 study. Among her team’s findings: when you seek the median rather than the average number of desired sexual partners over a 30-day period, men and women want the same number: one. Also, while men usually claim more sexual partners than women, that gap disappears when both sexes think they’re taking a polygraph test.
  • Sociologist Paula England led a wide survey of college campuses, where it’s supposedly Sodom and Gomorrah these days, and found not only that “hookup culture” is a media-created myth, but also that college men and women both want a mix of hookups and relationships. For instance, where 66 percent of the women said they hoped their most recent hookup would lead to something more, 58 percent of the guys said the same.
  • And despite at least one book’s scare tactics on sex-crazed teenage boys, the stats show that fewer teenagers are having sex and getting pregnant than their parents.

Also, not that all young women are in the mold of Karen “F-list” Owen, but there is data to show that women can be as active in enjoying sex and delaying commitment as men are. Academics Elizabeth A. Armstrong and Laura Hamilton found this to be true.

One young woman on the How About We blog said it well: “The hookup culture isn’t some sphere that we got trapped in because twenty-something guys and technology made it so. We, too, are opting for more freedom, more variety of experience, more sex in our twenties. It’s our hookup culture, too.”

If anything, we need more young guys gaining sexual experience so they can be prepared for relationships sooner. England’s college survey supports the theory that most of the sex is being had by about 20 percent of the students. About 25 percent of college students don’t hook up at all, and another 30 percent will hook up three times or less before they graduate. We can only speculate on how much of that abstinence is voluntary, but I’ll guess that much of it isn’t.

This brings us to my own experience. I have coached well over 100 guys on how to talk to women, and helped many more informally. Most of them had backgrounds similar to mine: they stayed inexperienced with women into their 20s or beyond, which left them frustrated and unprepared for a real relationship.

They, like me, were exposed to the same kind of rock-star playboy hype that was rampant in “The Game” and on the websites of countless PUA gurus. They, like me, wanted a taste of this lifestyle because it seemed infinitely more fun than masturbating to porn. Some never stopped to think whether they were even cut out for a life of sleeping with different women left and right. The hype suggested that this was simply what an “alpha male” did.

I like to think that I was above such exploitation as a coach and I’ve actively distanced myself from it, but as Rob Overman and I once discussed, I’m sure the hype got us some clientele too.

Once they were down the rabbit hole with me, though, I found most of the guys to be much like I once was: they wanted the variety because they’d never had it, but ultimately they wanted more than just casual flings.

It didn’t work out for all of them. But I’m proud to say that many of the guys I kept up with enjoyed both ends of the spectrum, from wild sexual breakthroughs to hard-earned courtships. To point out the complexity of men wanting some mix of sexual variety and commitment might not fit a convenient, Twitter-friendly headline, but it does get us much closer to the truth.

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We seem to love us an apocalypse — even a fake one. There’s a good reason why the Mayans got way more publicity in 2012 than, say, the Aztecs. So it is with sex and relationships in America.

My Twitter feed has been chock full of authors predicting the end times, whether it’s the end of monogamy, the end of courtship or the end of sex. Even, gasp, the end of men! (Will that make me a zombie? Cuz that would be cool.)

end of the worldTechnology, online dating and men’s wandering penises are especially getting blamed for our descent from the heaven of wedded monogamy into an infernal fire of hookup culture where we’ll ostensibly all be getting laid in dumpsters like alley cats. All that’s missing is some Carmina Burana playing in the background.

I’m disappointed that such high-minded publications as the Atlantic and New York Times are pushing this kind of Chicken Little hyperbole, and I’ll get into the details shortly. But times are changing, and these dating-trend-du-jour articles do at least start a conversation about where we’re at. Let’s look at some of the narratives:

Narrative No. 1: Internet dating is threatening monogamy

I’ll give the Atlantic credit for at least trying to cover up the stink from Dan Slater’s half-baked fart about online dating. They’ve since posted some very sensible follow-ups from other writers on this relevant, complex issue. I’ve enjoyed reading them.

I’m no cheerleader for online dating, and I’ve documented its limitations. I disliked the assembly-line effect it had on my own dating life and I’ve since abandoned it for my old-fashioned pickup roots. But the suggestion that monogamous relationships are threatened because meeting people online is so exciting? Let’s back away from that dating-industry hogwash.

It always helps in times of crisis to look at the facts. There is zero hard evidence to show that existing relationships are falling apart more in the online dating era. In fact, Census data show that our country’s divorce rate has steadily decreased before and since online dating.

The marriage rate is also down, but the factors at play — female empowerment, male underachievement, a bad economy, common sense — are almost too many to count.

Focusing on our football-loving, intimacy-avoiding Jacob character, Slater’s article ignores the legions of singles who seek love online in spite of what a joyless, time-consuming exercise it is. I know people who have left or want to leave San Francisco, specifically because after much online effort they’re dissatisfied with the dating pool here and think they’d have better chances at commitment elsewhere.

But I have also found successful anecdotes from online dating. I’ve been to weddings and witnessed serious relationships that were made possible by it. Former students of mine have told me of their fiancees or girlfriends.

We’re irrational like that — there are good biological and financial reasons to avoid monogamous cohabitation, but we seek it out anyway because it’s the best flawed system our society has. Despite its paradox of choice and many fruitless first dates, online dating won’t change that.

Narrative No. 2: Dating and courtship are dying at the hands of technology and hookup culture

Some more anecdote-driven, dartboard sociology was authored by the New York Times last week when it suggested the end of courtship among young singles. This is not to be confused with a New York Observer article from 2011 that declared technology was eliminating young people’s desire to hook up. Make up your mind, New York!

There’s another contradiction with the Times article: technology is supposedly eliminating the official date, but what about the rise of online dating? The word is right in there! Yes, there are fewer steak dinners right away, but in this economy that’s an antiquated expectation. (And drinks aren’t exactly cheap, either.) In fact, we’re dating more than ever. Maybe too much, even.

There’s plenty of data to show that these supposedly hookup-crazed 20-somethings are not getting laid so much (oral sex, but not intercourse), and when they are it’s usually with a committed partner. You’d think the Times would have referred to some of that.

I’m not sure what golden age of courtship we’re supposed to be getting back to here. Is it “Downton Abbey”-era arranged marriages? Is it the “Mad Men” repressed housewife years? The sexual revolution of the 1960s and 70s, when people thought condoms were yucky?

Who knows. Yes, courtship is changing as it always will change — men and women aren’t segregated in work and play the way they used to be, so of course they’re more casual around each other. But I don’t think we need to call the coroner yet. We might, however, considering calling the personal trainer. Which is essentially what I’ve been as a coach.

I’ll paraphrase what I said on Twitter earlier this week: tech doesn’t kill courtship. Courtship dies when people expect tech to do all the work. This is a problem with some people, especially in big cities like mine, but one that can be addressed by working out those neglected social-skills muscles and showing a little offline vulnerability.

Narrative No. 3: Men want lots of sex partners and are preying on women for casual sex

This last one hits the closest to home for me because of the work I’ve done, and I’m going to save it for my next post. Stay tuned.

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Gaining power through better body language

by GK on October 23, 2012

I’ve been busy wearing out my voice during the Giants’ World Series run (woo hoo!), but I’m going to interrupt that for a minute to share a video relating to body language that both educates and inspires.

My friend sent me a recent TED talk featuring social psychologist Amy Cuddy. A quick synopsis is that it makes a scientific case for faking it until you make it with your body language — the importance of which extends to  our social lives, careers and simply how we define ourselves as people.

 

Cuddy’s research found that by simply striking a “power pose” for two minutes, a person could raise his testosterone and lower his cortisol to levels maintained by confident, “alpha” people.  Striking a low-power pose, meanwhile, had the opposite effect and made them less likely to take risks.

The seduction community spends a lot of time on alpha postures, and I’ve seen it taken to comedic levels by amateur pickup artists. But the underlying message is correct. It’s why my mother used to correct my slouching in public, and why I corrected my students’ posture: people judge us almost instantly, and it has far more to do with our body language than the content of our words.

As Anna Draper’s niece told Don in Mad Men, “Nobody knows what’s wrong with them. And everyone else can see it right away.”

There’s also an emotional component to Cuddy’s research, because she herself had to learn how to “fake it” after being discouraged from college when she was in a severe car accident. You’ll see that in the video too.

I like her tweaking the expression to “fake it till you become it,” because it’s a more accurate description of a person’s growth. Rather than consider your “true” self a shrinking violet, why not stick your arms out wide and show the world how you were really a winner all along?

The Japanese expression says it best: “A man is whatever room he is in.” I distinctly remember the room I was in 10 years ago, back when I was first figuring out women (a little). It was an indie-rock dance club, and I was tearing up the floor with three female friends, oblivious to my usual insecurities and having a blast.

During a break in the action, I sat by myself with one of the very power poses shown during this TED talk. A bright-eyed blonde approached me, and I have no doubt that my body language helped trigger that. She ended up being my girlfriend for a year.

Now, if only the Giants can work on their power poses against the Tigers. They’re gonna need the extra testosterone.

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Mailbag: Being the single guy

by GK on October 15, 2012 · 5 comments

Our mailbag question comes to us from my friend B in Philly. Some context first: His close friend SW from Philly recently got into a relationship, which SW chronicled in his guest post on dating women who are busy.

“I’m turning 27 soon, and my friends who are all in the same age group are now more likely than not to have a serious girlfriend, fiancee, or to be married. In a way I knew it would happen, but it’s still strange to see it happen in real life.

Since you’ve met SW, he’s a perfect example. He’s a cool guy (and remains so), but the times of every Friday and Saturday night 9PM pregames, watching Swingers, hitting the bars, and reciting countless stories of what girl X and Y did or didn’t do all seem long gone. Instead, crazy pregames are shifting towards having dinner with other couples, trips to the beach are no longer ‘guys weekends’ … What happens when these friends of yours get married???! AHHHHH!

It would be also super cool to hear how you handle being the “Token Single Guy” as you approach 30 and beyond … my friend and I agreed that most guys in general, regardless of age, tend to settle for a woman who isn’t necessarily what they want, and it seems tough to explain to ‘regular people’ why you haven’t settled down yet once you’re in your late 20s or later.”

In some ways, I’m the wrong person to ask about this. Here in San Francisco, there’s really no such thing as the token single guy. The locals, frustrated by years of online dating, consider this the most commitment-phobic city in America, and with good reason. The latest Census showed that 82 percent of San Franciscans between 25 and 34 had never been married. No major city had a larger percentage.

So if all else fails, B, move to San Francisco! Distract yourself with single friends, yoga, mountain biking, skiing, world-class food and drinks, social media, casual hookups, start-up businesses and endless niche hobbies! That’s what most of us do.

Still, I’ve outgrown that Census stat: I’m 36 and have never married. I also know what you mean. In the last three years, I’ve seen most of my closest male friends and relatives get married or move in with girlfriends — even some fellow ex-Charisma Arts instructors, and we were the very spirit of bachelor adventure while we worked together.

celine dion all by myselfI too wistfully remember pre-gaming with my two regular wingmen and enjoying nights of wanton debauchery — until I was the last single man standing. I’m still friends with all these guys, but there’s no denying that the dynamic changes. And it should change, for the sake of their relationships. When guys like SW are truly happy with their women, I’m happy for them.

Finding other single friends is easy enough if you live in a big city — lots of guys (and girls) in your age range are seeing their friends settle down and are in your boat. You just need to get out of your comfort zone and meet some new people, much like dating again after a breakup. Yeah, it takes a while to create that kind of bond again, but I’ve made it happen.

As for your committed friends, their availability will vary, but until they have kids, some genuinely will want to hang out, even if their girlfriends must come along.

If she’s cool, she might even want to help you mingle. Lucky for me, one of my ex-wingmen is living with his girlfriend, but they happen to be swingers. So if we go to salsa class, we’re all looking to meet people and she has no shame about playing wingwoman.

As for the stigma of being single, just be thankful you’re a guy. The occasional woman will tease me when I tell her about my coaching or blogging, with some quip like “Why are YOU still single then?” But I’ve never heard a guy make such a remark. It’s because we don’t bear a woman’s social or biological burden to couple up, and we’re less likely to see bachelorhood as some kind of Loser Hell — purgatory maybe, but not hell.

As you said, however, there are still plenty of guys who settle. I always think of the poem by Charles Bukowski in the clip below from the documentary about him.

 

I cover some of this in my Peter Pan post, but anyone with half a cerebral cortex should know that in this age and this economy, marriage and kids can no longer be seen as the finish line to a successful life — even if you’re married with kids. There’s a Grand Canyon-sized gap between committing and committing well. And a man’s longer shelf life, if he takes care of himself, can keep him attractive to relationship-minded women well into his 40s or beyond.

Like you, B, if my life depended on having a serious girlfriend or wife, I’d have one by now. I could have had many, in fact. But chances are I’d probably be divorced or broken up, because I realized sooner or later that she wasn’t right for me in the long run, and I would have had to be someone I wasn’t to stay with her. I’m grateful that in some cases, she realized it first and cut me loose.

Explaining why you’re still single implies that you actually have something to explain. I go to bed every night, usually alone, with a clean conscience, fortunate with my place in the universe. I can’t say the same for those poor saps who sleep every night with a woman they wish they could do better than.

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I’ve watched “Swingers” countless times since I first saw it in 2000, back when I had a lot in common with Mikey — clueless with women, in a new city and yet to overcome a breakup that I initiated. Not until recently, though, did I hear the guy behind the guy talk about what exactly worked for Mikey in the end.

“Swingers” is up there with “Princess Bride” as my favorite all-time comedy; there are too many classic lines to mention here, including the NHL Live scene, which still makes me lose it.  But I wasn’t alone in treating the movie as a kind of tutorial on how to attract women in the bar scene — back then, it was the closest thing us guys had to “The Game” in the mainstream. I soon learned to limit puppy dogs and ice cream in my conversations.

Though I’ll be damned if some waitress doesn’t get my Age of Enlightenment references.

I was recently bedridden by a fever, and after all these years I finally watched the movie with the commentary provided by Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn. I strongly recommend you check it out in the collector’s edition if you haven’t already — it’s fun just to hear them riff, but they also give the Trent and Mikey characters some context some viewers might have missed.

As they’ll tell you, Trent and Mike were Vaughn and Favreau — right down to alpha-male Vaughn being the life of the party and ripping up women’s phone numbers, and beta-male Favreau struggling to adjust to life and ladies in L.A.

Trent instantly became the friend every male viewer wanted to be like or hang out with. He’s cooler than Mike in almost every way, and he’s also exceedingly loyal even while Mike takes his wet-blanket antics to some soggy depths, including cock-blocking Trent in Vegas and starring in the most wince-inducing, painful phone scene in film history.

But as much as Trent has been celebrated all these years, the film’s stars remind us that when Mike finally does pull it all together and gets the girl, he doesn’t do it Trent’s way. He does it his way, which is a lot more grownsed up:

  • Rather than pretend he was a producer a la Trent, Mike plays to his strength: swing dancing. It’s much easier to demonstrate higher value when you actually have value at it. “This was a great way to meet girls,” Favreau says of the swing scene he found in L.A. I can’t help but compare it to how I met lots of women dancing by avoiding the douchy clubs and going where I liked the music.
  • My one quibble with the movie for all this time was that Mike’s pickup of Heather Graham’s character seemed a bit too easy — smoking-hot women typically don’t go to clubs alone and ask men to dance with them, and we’re talking about Rollergirl here! — but after hearing Favreau explain his triumph, I appreciate it more. Graham was a female version of Mike: in a new city, off a breakup and a swing-dance nerd. Trent may have had the advantage with most women, but Mike had the advantage of meeting his type.
  • Mike isn’t smooth throughout, and Graham busts his balls a few times. But when it comes down to getting her number after their big dance, he does it without apology and like a boss. And the three-day rule already begins to show his obsolescence when she calls him first.

Trent, meanwhile, loses some of his luster near the end. He shows a little jealousy with his “My baby’s all grownsed up” act at the diner. And Favreau says in his commentary that in the final scene, when Trent gets clowned by the mom he thinks is hitting on him, Trent was doing it to impress Mike.

The beauty of “Swingers” is that you don’t need to remember it as a meditation on being yourself. It’s also just a really funny movie about guys going out and having a blast. But mack-daddy Vaughn himself cautions aspiring players not to take after Trent too much: “It was sort of celebrated after the movie in a way that was cool … But really it was exposing that stuff to be adolescent and a waste of time. That is the game that goes on. But the journey of the character in the movie is to a place that’s more enlightened than that.”

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