“Hey, any idea what’s cool to do around here?”
The woman I’d just spoken to held her book closer to her chest, sidestepping away like a crab. No reply, no smile. In fact, she scrunched her face as if I smelled like goat droppings.
I still cringe at the memory of me talking up to random girls in the shopping mall, just because I’d gotten a copy of The Game during my young adulthood, and I thought it that it would be the key to my relationship problems.
Spoiler alert: it wasn’t.
To the uninitiated, The Game was a book written by Neil Strauss about his venture into the pickup community. And if you haven’t heard that term before, then let me basically say that it is to men what self-help gurus are to the unmotivated—a promise, a way out, hope.
Of course, if you’ve ever been involved in either of those, you’d probably know how creepy things can get. As someone who’s dabbled in both, I can say that I’ve had my fair share of Kool-Aid experiences.
But hey, every bad experience makes for a good story, and while I came out of both phases having learned nothing about what I actually wanted, I did at least learn some things about life itself.
It probably makes for a good blog post this week too, so break out your comfort drink, kick back, and enjoy the time I’d like to call my failed pickup artist phase.
You can’t fake real
Real recognises real, and sadly, real recognises fake as well. In my quest to become the smoothest stranger ever, I actually found myself wanting when it came to the ‘normal interaction with strangers’ department.
My disingenuousness was evident the time I tried dressing up to look cooler than I actually was, and it also reeked through my pores when I blurted my openers, as suggested by internet strangers.
“Do you floss before or after you brush your teeth?”
“Nice nails. Are they real?”
“Hey, I need a quick opinion on this debate I have with a friend…”
I know, I know, they sound stupid on paper. Let me assure you that it was that much worse once I delivered them. Drunk. In a club. Yelling over loud music.
You see, socialising is like a game of tennis. You serve the ball, then I play the return. We go back and forth, and if no one drops the ball, we have fun. But if someone who has no clue how tennis works steps into the court just because they’d heard it was one of the ways to get to Wimbledon, then everybody’s going to have a bad time.
I was that guy. I had zero idea how to play this metaphorical tennis. I wanted the prestige that came with playing such a fancy metaphorical sport, and I wanted to look cool in the process. But acting like I belonged was a tall order, especially when I didn’t know my way around the metaphorical racket.
Yeah, this is where I learned that I shouldn’t have been working on my pick-up lines. I should’ve been working on my life instead.
Many ways to skin a cat
And there were also many ways I could’ve met women. I could’ve, for instance, actually did something interesting. Things like rock climbing, martial arts, dancing—all which I’ve done later in life—could’ve been a great way to get better at something while making new friends.
They definitely would’ve been better alternatives than yelling my name in crowded clubs, drenched to the pits with sweat, and thinking that that made for an attractive introduction.
And you know what? This is where I learned that there’s no one way to approach life.
You don’t need to pursue a diploma just because you want a job. You don’t need to be ruthless to climb the corporate ladder. Heck, if my career is anything to go by, you don’t even need working experience to land your dream job.
Oftentimes we take these gurus’ word as gospel, and we think that there’s only one path towards our goals, but I’ve since realised that life isn’t that binary.
Listen to your consience
Don’t change unless it’s for yourself. A hackneyed phrase, that one. Yet it’s only after I’d tried changing myself for the world that I began to see just how true it was.
I never enjoyed the party life, I hated spending entire nights sucking at metaphorical tennis, and I didn’t enjoy spending money that I didn’t have.
But I kept buying new clothes, paid for bottle entries, and even feigned disinterest when I actually longed to see a girl again. All I got for my efforts was the reminder of how fake I could be.
You know what type of relationships you get when you base them off lies and pretence? Ones that crumble the moment your partner finds out who you really are. And it gets much worse when you fly off to another country to live with them before that happens.
And I was an insecure good-for-nothing whose main goal in life was just to look cool for the ladies.
One day you’ll find the one
You know what’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me during my pickup artist phase? I stayed single for a long time. As sad as that sounds, it’s actually one of the best things that’s ever happened to me.
Because like a monk that’d let go of their attachments, I too began forgoing the idea of being in a relationship. They say that from stillness comes clarity. And by my love life being as still as a century-old pine tree, I began to uncover who I really was on the inside.
I believe that life happens for me, so maybe the events of my life had to play out the way it did in order for me to meet Len. Because had I met her at any other point in my life, I probably wouldn’t have seen all the traits I look for in a partner.
Also, had I still been in pickup mode, I probably would’ve scared her away with my prowess of being a douchebag.
Be yourself, but better
In the end, when we find the right person, we won’t feel the need to change. The right person would encourage us to stay true to ourselves, yet they’d inspire us to be the best we could be.
That doesn’t mean that it’s easy. Relationships take work. But it feels right, and that’s the most important thing.
I guess what this all boils down to is that—cliche or not—you have to first work on yourself before you can share your life with someone else.