Not a member? Sign up now
I spent the next fifteen minutes taking mental notes about how they treated me. Finally over it, I shook his friend's hand and thanked him for the cigarette. Wingman looked at me and said, "I don't like that handshake. What's that all about?"
"I'm sorry," I said, "should I have humped him?" I checked to see if my bitch shield was showing.
He cocked an eyebrow and smirked, "Oh, I see what you're doing." He was negging me! I had been negged! And I guess it sort of made me want to fuck them, if by "fuck" you really mean "punch in the nose."
Being attuned to other folk's game had an unanticipated side effect. I noticed how my targets (mostly dudes, some ladies) responded when they realized that they were in the vicinity of sexy times. When I acted as the female sexual conquistador, almost invariably they started working their own game double-time, and whatever control I was supposed to have over the situation dissipated. I felt more like prey than predator. As a young woman with a pulse, this feeling isn't unfamiliar. But just because it's familiar doesn't mean it's comfortable.
One night, exhausted from weeks of uncharacteristically talking up strangers like it was my job (which I suppose it was), I half-heartedly peacocked and went to a new bar. The prospect of acting my way through another conversation made me want to cry, so I sat at the end of the bar with my wing woman (in violation of the game's rules about body language and approachability), made brief eye contact and whatnot, but largely kept to myself and my liquor.
The game had worn me down; it was time to rock my normal, standoffish behavior and unwind.
And I ended up with a cute woman's face between my boobs on the dance floor, in what was empirically my most successful evening to date. Go figure.
I suffered an existential crisis about identity and authenticity every time I went on a sex-quest. Instead of a smooth master of the romantical arts, these methods had turned me into a character composed of equal parts Manic Pixie Dream Girl and creepy meanster. I tried to tell myself, it's not lying, it's flirting!, a refrain from one of my reference texts. But every time I gave someone a name that wasn't the one on my birth certificate, every time I told someone I was a professional basket weaver — even though it was all done with a wink and a smile — I felt queasy, and expected to be outed as the lying weirdo I'd become.
I'll always be a proponent of safe, casual sex; there's nothing wrong with going out with bangin' on the brain, and working to convince someone that you're worth fucking. But pick-up artistry's put-downs, militaristic jargon, and conquistador approach to relationships invalidates so much of the purported emphasis on self-improvement. Fronting, straight-up lying, and acting cocky just made me feel like a jerk.
Here's the real problem behind all things that promise to magically transform the current (presumably unsuccessful) you into a better, shinier, sexier you: people can be charmed, minds and bodies conquered, if briefly. But eventually the eyeliner has to come off, the big hats and feather boas hung up, the prefab conversations retired for the night. And you're still whoever you were before you started trying to convince strangers that you are grand, mythic and studly — the same person with the same hang-ups and human foibles. Just with more silly hats.
Read more I Did It For Science here.
©2009 Kate Ray and Nerve.com