Kiss Me Quick?
This weekend I’m in Brighton for the Southern heats of the British Street Food Awards. But the last time I was in town, I was attending a ‘Seduction Bootcamp’….
Bob – or Bob the Hat, as he likes to call himself – was married. Twice. Before he met a French girl who was into swinging. “And she left me too”. So, at the age of 52, Bob was left wondering what to do with the rest of his life. “Everything I read suggested that men aren’t biologically predisposed to lifelong monogamy”– so Bob decided to pay £300 up front for Seduction Bootcamp. That’s how he ended up in a bar, in Brighton, wearing a flowery shirt and love beads. He – and six six strangers – are about to become ‘pick-up artists’.
Bob signed up for the bootcamp after watching Eric Von Markovic (aka Mystery) in The Pick Up Artist on VH1 – a simple, step-by-step system for attracting women. Nowadays everyone is a guru with a system, whether it’s The Four Killer Statements, The Five “Cut and Paste” Compliments or The Six Simple Steps To Reducing All Human Problems To An Over-Generalized Formula. But it’s bringing in big bucks for gurus like Asian Playboy, Matador and Gunwitch. Kezia (above), however, is the only pick-up guru who’s female.
She used to be a recording artist. Fermez Les Yeux was all about her writing a letter in her pants. Which were too tight to be comfortable. And In The Mood was all about her being blindfolded. She had a large following on You Tube. But then she was approached, in a bar, to help run seduction bootcamps for a pick-up guru called Gambler. “To begin with” says Kezia, “I thought ‘The chemistry’s either there or it isn’t. You can’t force it.’ But I was wrong. The techniques work. You can turn a frog into a prince. It’s like science. I ended up running bootcamps on my own.”
Kezia arrives at the bar wearing a tiny little lace top and high heels. “Whatever I’m wearing, the important thing is that I don’t talk psychobabble” she says. “I’m not geeky and scientific.” But pick-up is a science – some would say a pseudo-science. It’s a mix of psychology, with your basic evolutionary biology and neuro-linguistic programming. It’s the ‘mathematics’ behind sexual selection. What Kezia offers the trainees is straight-talking from a woman’s perspective. The fact that she wraps it up in a pretty package doesn’t hurt.
The trainees are all surprisingly handsome and well-dressed. They have high fashion shoes. But they look nervous. “Don’t be nervous” says Kezia. “You look weak. Like Beta males. Take up space. Think ‘This is my castle’.” The room collectively rearranges itself. “Stand up” she says, pointing to Bob. “Approach me. And, as you do it, one arm should hang by your side. Like it’s dead.” Bob tries, but the whole ‘dead-arm’ thing isn’t happening. He just looks like he’s had a stroke. Clearly, he will be one of Kezia’s special projects.
She wants to see the trainees in action – on the streets of Brighton. In broad daylight. Douglas is used to negotiating deals on behalf of an engineering business. “Huge deals” he says. “All over Europe. And I jump out of planes. But talking to some random woman on the street? Much harder.” And talking is, genuinely, all that Douglas is interested in – to begin with. “There’s a certain kind of woman that I just won’t approach. And that pisses me off. Maybe I’ve got no chance anyway. But if I don’t buy a ticket I won’t win the raffle.”
At the age of 45, Douglas is divorced with two children. He’s planning the next stage in his life. “My father spent his entire married life thinking how lucky he was being married to my mother. I love that. It’s secret of a happy marriage. That’s what I want. But I’ve got this feeling that I could do a lot better than I’m doing right now. So, rather than just thinking, ‘Wow, that secretary in accounts is cute’, I want to put the effort in and up my game a bit. That’s why I’m here. I don’t want to ‘settle’ for the next 20 years of my life.”
As a way of gaining the confidence to approach a woman on the street, Kezia recommends giving her a mark out of 10. Just think of three ways she could improve herself. Then play ‘blowout game’. “Go up to a girl and speak in a foreign language” says Kezia. “Five times. Or use the worst opener you can think of. ‘I’ve got a breast phobia – can you help me conquer it?’ That sort of thing. Confront the anxiety, and fail dismally. And then move on. Five times. You’ve wasted five seconds of your life. So what? Next!”
Kezia sends a team of trainers onto the streets to work with the trainees. Ali, for instance, is a life coach, a club promoter and an old-fashioned charmer. He’ll hide his watch, run up to a woman, and ask her the time – just to engage her in conversation. “Anything too smooth and they go ‘Are we on camera?’”. But the charmer isn’t having much luck on the streets of Brighton. He can’t find a perfect 10. “Loads of 5s” says Ali, with a smile. “And I’m not averse to a 5 – you don’t feel self-conscious, and can do anything you want. But, if I’m honest, I do prefer a 10.”
Yal and Ali like to pick-up together – Yal is Ali’s “wingman”. But Yal only started to learn pick-up six months ago. “I was at the end of a relationship. And I thought ‘Why is it always the girls that get to choose me? I want to choose them.” Now – as he pushes his way through the crowds of shopping bags and baby buggies – he texts a girl he met only this morning. The message is funny, and all about getting a response. ‘Me and you?’ it reads. ‘The engagement’s off. You take the car. I’ll take the dog’. A pick-up artist should never sound needy. “But” says Yal, “I’ll be screwing her later.”
Ali and Yal are supervising the work of Bob and Craig. Bob has a motto – feel the fear and do it anyway. That’s why he’s just rushed up to a group of 10 girls at a bus stop. He used the first line he could think of (“Hi – how are you?”), and his mouth went dry. “Then I started sweating” says Bob. “So I baled out”. What happened to Bob is known in the pick-up community as ‘premature eject-ulation’. If he had been properly schooled, it might have been different. That’s why he signed up for bootcamp in the first place. Bob wants to end ‘premature eject-ulation’ forever.
Bob stands on the pavement, running through his ‘openers’ – or what used to be called chat-up lines. “You always have a couple of openers to use if you freeze” says Bob. “I haven’t used them for some time, but I do quite like ‘Hi I’m just completing a project to overcome my fear of approaching women I find attractive. Thanks for participating. My name is Bob.’ And ‘You remind me of….um…..um…..someone I should meet’.” Luckily for Bob, it’s not the quality of the openers that counts – it’s how you deliver them. And Bob delivers them with real charm.
Craig, who is a 32, isn’t as natural as Bob. So when a pretty young girl outside Primark is happy to let him talk and talk, he’s delighted. “But then she pointed to her hearing aid” says Craig. “Turned out she was profoundly deaf.” Ali and Yal also noticed that Craig was approaching women the wrong way – from behind. Which could be perceived as threatening. The way he gestured with his cigarette was aggressive. And his posture made him look like a pushy car salesman. But, as a teacher, Craig is intent on learning.
Kezia is disappointed – not a single one of her trainees got a girl’s telephone number. And back in the bar, she unleashes her Ten Hook Lead system. It’s all about keeping the conversation going. The trainees need to have at their fingertips a short story of epic proportions and some facts about 15 countries – everyone loves a fact. And they need to make sure to mention their female friends. “The girl needs to know you’re popular” she says. “Make people up if you need to. Anything beginning with an L. Layla is good. Or Candy. It raises your value. Just stay away from Margaret.”
Kezia believes that the art of seduction can be learned. You should ‘open’, or start a conversation with, a woman whilst making sure to focus the attention on yourself. Say something positive before you say something negative – ‘Talking to you is like pulling teeth’ for instance. Pretend like you don’t want to be there, and then point out one of her imperfections – maybe ‘Are those nails real? Oh. They’re still nice’. And finally, come in with a ‘false time restraint’. A prior appointment. The fact you’ve got to be somewhere else will arouse a woman because women love a challenge.
It’s not nice. The positive/negative validation technique is controversial, but it seems to work. “That’s where you really start breaking her down” says Kezia, with a smile. “Say to her ‘Where are you going on holidays?’ She says ‘Magaluf’. Silence. She says ‘What’s the matter?’ You say ‘Nothing. Forget it. All right – do you promise not to sulk? Because I hate that in women. Shagaluf? It’s just not what I expected. Everything else about you is so elegant. Can we change the subject?’ She will start qualifying herself. It’s the ultimate form of push pull. You’ve got her hooked.”
Then it’s a time to get physical. The pick-up guru Gambler is especially big on physical contact – of any variety. On a first introduction he’ll hold a girl’s hand longer than strictly necessary. And then ask her ‘Can I take your pulse? Ah. I knew it – you’re attracted to me’. He even uses a technique called ‘boob kino’. Go to hold the girl’s hand, miss, and touch her boob. In my day it was called ‘copping a feel’, and would result in a slap to the face. Let’s see how successful he is when he loses his hair.
All that leaves is ‘the close’ – ideally, a kiss. And there is, of course, a technique. It’s the triangular gaze – moving slowly from the girl’s left eye, to the right eye, and then ending up on her lips. For four seconds. Kezia has invented a shorter version, called ‘dipping’, which ends up on the lips for two seconds. If the girl doesn’t pull back, it’s a signal that she wants to kiss you. “Women don’t want a massage on the first night” says Kezia. “The first night is all about passion. Fucking me really hard. You can show me you understand that with a couple of seconds of dipping.”
While Bob stocks up on chewing gum for the night’s adventures, Johnny combs his hair. Johnny is Bob’s wingman for the evening. He’s tall and willowy. And very handsome. “But there are a lot of blokes out there with good looks” he says. “But there’s nothing up top. And that is really frustrating for women. I have always been able to attract beautiful women but I just couldn’t keep it going. I couldn’t sexually escalate them.” Then he discovered pick-up. He watched the videos, read the e-books, and started getting the results he deserved. Which included working for Kezia.
We head to The Lanes – Brighton’s oldest quarter. Bob identifies a couple of good looking women – sat under a tv – in a pub. The tv is showing football highlights. Bob goes in with a statement. “I can’t stand football”. Johnny – Bob’s wingman – checks out the eye contact, and picks up on an interest in the blonde girl. So he goes in to occupy the brunette. When the timing is right, Kezia goes in to pull Johnny out with ‘Darling, are you ready?’, leaving Bob to seal the deal. “I would have given up if you two hadn’t come over” says Bob. Instead, he leaves with the girl’s number.
Browns is full of hen parties and stag nights. But there are lots of men on their own. Men who look just like I looked when I last went on the pull – predatory. They’re standing in a line, with their backs against the wall and their drinks against their chest, and staring at any woman who happens to walk by. But Bob walks in like he owns the joint. He’s got Johnny, with Kezia following behind. And he’s more attractive by association. The men look jealous. The women look interested. And Bob leaves with yet another number.
Craig wasn’t quite so lucky. “The bootcamp has made me more self-conscious of these things when I’m talking to people” he says. “But practice makes perfect.” Just ask Mehmet. By following Ali’s theories about threesomes (expounded in his e-book) he got two girls kissing each other. “They got all intimate for few more minutes” says Ali, “but Mehmet ejected and came over towards me. I was baffled as to why he didn’t close. He said ‘Ali, I can do better than those two’. They are great girls but I don’t find them super hot’.”
I’m not a prude. I don’t think casual sex and one-night stands are necessarily damaging. But it can’t be good for a man to think of a woman as a target or a score out of 10 rather than a person or a partner. It’s not reasonable model for human interaction. If you use the pick-up material with big wooden spoonfuls of irony, well, maybe it can help. It can give a shy man confidence. But using lines, techniques and methods isn’t a sign of strength – it’s actually a sign of weakness. It just means you are afraid to show your real self.
According to Douglas, I am missing the point. It’s about redressing the gender balance. “Women don’t like it when we tell them we’re doing [a seduction bootcamp]. They think we are manipulating them. But I point out that wearing push-up bras and make-up is manipulating us. The guys I have met doing this bootcamp tend to be professional middle-class guys who just can’t get the girl because they’re being too PC. They are apologising for being a man. Pick-up is just providing us with the tools to step-up and be a contender in the mating game.”