Love & Sex

I Did It for Science: Pickup Lines

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I Did It For Science by Grant Stoddard


To test the winning entries from the Nerve Pickup Line Contest in the field.


State your hypothesis in the form of a prediction that can be verified by the results of the experiment.

I can be quite the charming fellow once I’ve been introduced to a girl through mutual friends. Using our friend-in-common as a neat segue into polite conversation, I make a few observational quips, throw out a couple of compliments, find out about what she does for a living, make a sly mention of my unorthodox day job, lube it all up with a few drinks and let my outrageous accent do the rest. It never fails. Well, it succeeds more than it fails, I guess.

But I always fail — quite miserably, I might add — at going in cold. Striking up a conversation from zero is daunting. But with ten winning lines in my pocket, and Nerve picking up my bar tab, I should be golden, right? Right?

Please list all the materials required for this experiment (including, if applicable, how they were obtained).

Pick-up lines (ten)
Sake (three flasks, warm)
Pinot Grigio (one glass, large)
Gin and tonics (four, strong)

In this portion of your report, you must describe, step-by-step, what you did in your lab. It should be specific enough that someone who has not seen the lab can follow the directions and recreate the same lab.

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“There actually is a party in my pants”.

I’ve never really used a pickup line before, mainly because I think they’re creepy. Regardless of how much booze I’ve downed, I’ve always thought that beer-burping, “How’d you like your eggs , scrambled or fertilized?” in a stranger’s ear at 3:15 a.m. is wrong. Wrong with a side of upsetting.

Why do people use pickup lines? As I was reviewing hundreds of contest entries, I found myself asking this question over and over. Here’s what I came up with: it’s a cruel world, and sauntering up to someone and saying, “Hello, I think you are very pretty, and based on that drunken appraisal, I’d like to buy you more alcohol and engage in some open-mouthed kissing before the bar staff turns on the lights and we realize we’re woefully different leagues” . . . well, it’s just too much information. The line is a quick, efficient, combination offense/defense mechanism. But couldn’t a line actually work? Our contest winners were picked for their absurdity, sure, but isn’t humor supposed to be attractive?

I asked my friend Brian, a seasoned philanderer, about pick-up lines and the dirtbags who wield them. He gave me these insights. “Look, here’s the deal. Whenever you’re approached by a complete stranger, you’re going to put your guard up. That’s what people do. The pick-up line is just a device to show that you’re comfortable with yourself and comfortable striking up conversation with total strangers. It’s a projection of positivity!”

Actually, it seemed more like a mental Riverdance, and I generally lose patience with that kind of shit. I’m not the only one. I once met a wily old Noo Yawk music executive who would hang out on a streetcorner in the ’50s and ask any woman who walked past, “D’ya wanna fuck?” He said that for every fifty women he propositioned, one would take him up on his crude offer. That, he said, was worth all the slaps.

To me, it’s ultimate proof that if you throw enough shit at the wall, something is bound to stick.

So I decided to give it a go. The parameters of the experiment were set. Instead of going to some dive bar at 2:30 a.m. , where I could try the lines out on someone who was so drunk that she wouldn’t remember anything the next morning anyway , it was decided that I would go to a Ford model party. That’s right. A gathering of scary, high-visibility, coke-fueled glamazons looking to network and be seen. Exactly where I should be cutting my teeth. Talk about being thrown in at the deep end.

A few hours before the party, I thought would be wise to try some of the lines out on Carrie. I readied a cheat sheet of the winning contest entries:

    1. “Look. I hope you won’t take this as any sort of ‘line,’ but there literally is a party in my pants, and you actually are invited. I know how it sounds . . . “
    2. “I’m going outside to make out: care to join me?”
    3. “I have a window office.”
    4. “I may not have gotten your virginity, but can I have the box it came in?”
    5. “You give me the hardest semi I’ve ever had.”
    6. “Hey baby, wanna go halfsies on a bastard child?”
    7. “Do you believe in sex before the first date?”
    8. “Honey, your dad doesn’t have a penis. He’s got a paintbrush!”
    9. “You are the most interesting piece of ass I’ve talked to all evening.”
    10. "So . . . when are you gonna let me up in them guts?"

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You are most interesting piece of ass”.

Brian volunteered to coach. While Carrie mimed smoking a cigarette and looking disinterested, I walked right up to her and stammered, “Er . . . Do . . . do . . . you believe in . . . er . . . sex before the first date?” “Time out!” screamed Brian. “Say it like that, and of course you’re going to get a bad reaction. Watch!” He swaggered up to Carrie, who lit up another imaginary Galouises. “Look at me. I’m approaching from the side. Don’t square off with a stranger; that connotes confrontation. Remember this: confrontation. You can lightly touch her elbow, you know. Now, it’s going to be loud in there, so you’re going to have to strike a balance between getting yourself heard and invading her personal space. Okay, space!”

With that, Brian used his hands to section off an area around Carrie’s head and torso. “Confident stance, deliver the line.” He turned to Carrie and, in the style of Kenickie from Grease, oozed,”Hey! [beat] Lemme ask you somethin’. [beat, beat] Do you believe in sex before the first date?”

Carrie, the cynical Manhattan native and scar-bearing bar veteran, damn near swooned. Within seconds, she was closing her imaginary bar tab and searching her pockets for the ticket for the imaginary coat check.

“SCENE!” said Brian, clapping his hands and looking smugger than ever before.

“That’s how it’s done, Grant,” offered Carrie, fanning her face.

I tried again. This time, all of my colleagues were yelling encouragement and criticism: “Stand up straight,” “Saunter!” “Lightly touch her elbow. You’re cutting off her circulation!” I tried to inject more life into the line, but I sounded like Oliver Twist asking for more gruel. Carrie looked as if she’d caught a whiff of something horrid. “No,” she said in answer to my question and turned her head.

I realized that I had to give this positivity thing a helping hand. An hour before the party, I met up with a friend for a light dinner of edamame washed down with a sumo-sized helping of sake. After a glass of white wine for the road, I was projecting positivity all over the place. In fact, I almost projectile-vomited all over Second Avenue.


Quantify the effects of the experiment.

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I’m going outside to make out. Care to join me?

The party was being held at Plaid, a downtown club that was formerly known as Spa and was immortalized in a Jay-Z song. Plaid is not mentioned in any songs that I’m aware of, however, Ol’ Dirty Bastard once played there, which elevated the rebranded venue’s status to “dope.” We got in and checked out the scene. It was a model party, all right: there was a crowd of women, average height five-eleven, all wearing four-inch heels. I’m five-eight. I felt like a jockey. “Don’t sweat it,” said Brian, putting a supportive hand on my shoulder. “It’s probably safe to say that hardly any of these guys have ten cue cards in their back pocket.”

I nodded, guzzled a good amount of gin and tonic and homed in on a trio of cover girls eight feet away. I sauntered over to the shortest one — who still towered above me — and was amazed that she threw her arms around me before I’d even had a chance to speak. Was my saunter that impressive? No, it was Viola, a former roommate of mine.

“Vhat are you doing here?” she yelled above the music in her Dutch accent.

“I’m here to pick up models with amusing one-liners. What are you doing here?” I countered.

“I’m a MODEL!” she replied.

“Oh, yeah. Well, check this out: honey, your dad doesn’t have a penis, he has a paintbrush!”

Viola spat out a huge arc of liquid, narrowly missing my shoulder. “Vhat? Vhat do you mean?”

I couldn’t tell if she was mad or stunned. “Well, I think it means that you’re so pretty that your father must be an artist of some description.”

I was clearly drunk at this point.

“Iz this a British thing?” she asked, eyeing me suspiciously.

“No, it’s not . . . mine . . .” I slurred.

“Well, you are going to have to do better than that.” She pulled over another member of her statuesque posse. “Daniela! Listen to him!”

At this point, I should mention that Daniela is stunning and incredibly tall. Well over six foot. She was there with her husband, who is an inch or two shorter than I am. “Daniela, you are the most interesting piece of ass I’ve spoken to all evening,” I deadpanned.

“Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!” she said before backing up four or five feet and landing a slap on my cheek. Her husband came up behind her and put his little hands on her hips, nuzzled his dainty face between her shoulder blades and beamed a shit-eating grin at me.

“It’s time to step it up,” said Brian.

At that moment a hot girl by the name of Juliet crossed my path, and I decided to kick my personal favorite line over to her. “Hey, I don’t want this to sound like a line or anything, but there actually is a party in my pants and you really are invited . . . I know how it sounds . . . ”

“Honey, that’s old," Juliet scoffed. "I heard that before. Like a million times. Party in my pants, sheesh!”

“I know!” I replied. “But did you like what I did with it? I rephrased as an admission of a supposed ‘real’ party going on in my pants. I’m using some irony here. We both know that there is no party. But I’m phrasing it as if we are both aware of the hackneyed line and this is a . . . ”

I trailed off as Juliet looked over my shoulder at something or someone much more interesting.

“Heard it like a million times, million times,” she said, avoiding eye contact.

“Okay,” I said, exasperated. “How about this: so . . . when you gonna let me up in them guts? ”

She raised her eyebrows, took a half-step back and sunk her chin into her neck. “Excuse me?” she asked, threatening now. I asked to Brian for help but he was too busy readying his camera to document me getting knocked the fuck out. “Well, it’s original, I’ll give you that.” She flashed me a smile. The line had worked.

Now she was awaiting my follow-up. I hadn’t anticipated things getting this far. The best I could come up with was, “So . . . you’re a model!” “Uh-huh,” she said, power-pouting and looking around the room. We swapped the usual demographic info. By “swap,” I mean that I asked questions to which she offered the briefest of answers. “Where are you from?” I yelled. “Austin,” she replied. “Oh, did you go to UT?” I asked.

“No.” She coolly picked an imaginary bit of fluff from her barely-there shirt. “I’m a MO-DEL.”

The conversation had seemingly run its course: I was not going to further Juliet’s burgeoning career. She obligingly posed for a few pictures before sashaying toward someone fairly important-looking.

I realized there was a problem with this experiment. First, a great deal of the women I was “propositioning” weren’t native English speakers. There was bound to be more confusion than hilarity when I likened their father’s genitalia to a paintbrush. Je ne comprends pas indeed. Secondly, these women would almost have to bend at the waist to position their ear anywhere near my mouth. They just couldn’t hear me up there.

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So when are you gonna let me up in them guts?

Next was a girl standing at the bar with some dude. She was all smiley, had platinum hair and looked just about ready for one of my zingers. “What’s your name?” I asked.

“Alison,” she said, already kind of giggling.

“Well, Alison, I’m going outside to make out, care to join me?”

“Sure!” she said. We linked arms and took a couple of paces before she stopped dead in her tracks. “You are kidding, right?

I continued to tug at her arm. “Sure I am. Ha ha ha ha!”

She extricated herself and returned to the bar.

Undeterred, I threw myself in front of a girl wearing a bedazzled Who t-shirt and dropped the “party in my pants line” with added gusto. She cracked up. Not only did she understand what I was trying to say, she actually requested to see the party, popping open the first button on my jeans. We started talking, but after a minute, I had one of those moments when you realize that you’re suffering from a case of verbal diarrhea and can’t stop, no matter how hard you try. After a minute or two, the Who girl made a vague hand gesture toward the center of the club, muttered something about having to meet up with someone and disappeared.

This is where everything got a bit hazy. By “hazy,” I mean that I completely blacked out , a new and terrifying experience. Only Brian’s pictures and various eyewitness accounts stand as evidence of what happened next. Apparently I was in rare form. I chatted with everyone, threw down mad dance moves with beautiful strangers and generally made a benign nuisance of myself. Then Brian and I started chatting up these two French girls. Apparently, he hit it off with one of them. I was chatting with her friend when I turned around in midsentence and decided that I had to leave immediately.

My memory resumes: Brian is mad at me. “What the fuck is wrong with you?” he asked. “You left her talking to herself! I’m trying to chat up her friend.”

“Let’s worry about it in the morning,” I stammered. After an altercation with the velvet rope (read: booby trap), I wove the six long blocks home.

Summarize your findings. Don’t forget to attempt to identify possible variables that could result in different findings for others trying to recreate your test results.

Well, the night was a success, if you can define “success” as not vomiting over a six-foot-two Slovakian goddess or being ejected and relieved of my kneecaps by a couple of bouncers named Sergei and Pietro.

In some ways, this was the riskiest experiment I’ve undertaken. There was the most to gain and the most to lose. And although nothing really “happened” , in fact, you might say this is a foregone conclusion , the evening made me think.

News flash: pickup lines don’t work. At least these ones didn’t work for me. If you’ve got enough confidence and wherewithal to tell somebody that you’re a defense lawyer and you’re trained to get them off, then why not just say, “Fuck it,” and let them know what you are really thinking?

The fact that I had to knock back several drinks before embarking on the experiment leads me to conclude that I’m nervous around women – and it probably shows. From now on, I’m resolved to be more honest and direct. In the past, when I’ve met women, it’s been through work or friends of friends. I even went on a several-month tear via Nerve personals. The problem is that when you date or hook up based upon who happens to be close to hand, you find that your circles rapidly shrink and become more incestuous. Worse, if you get into a pattern of meeting people through convenience, you really start to limit your dating pool. Striking out on your own requires a leap of faith, but the alternative is missing out on meeting some amazing people.

Do you have an idea for Grant’s next I Did It for Science? Let him know here.

 

© 2003 Grant Stoddard and Nerve.com, Inc.