When you go out to the club, chances are you aren’t thinking about “peacocking” and “throwing ‘negs.’” But what if that guy chatting you up is? If you’ve never even heard of this phenomenon, read on, and be prepared to be disturbed.
by Frank Morgan
Something I noticed a few years back always stuck with me, but not in a good way. It was that whole pickup artist thing, and here follows my attempt to reconcile myself with it.
I first heard of pickup artists in a magazine, I’m pretty sure it was the New Yorker. The writer took an introductory pickup class. He did bios of the people teaching the class, the participants, and what they learned. Being young and impressionable (and at that point, pretty shitty with women) I thought it would be worth reading.
The first thing I learned about was peacocking. Peacocking is wearing really, obnoxiously flashy or noticeable accessories/clothing/costumes to get people (women) to stare at you. Things like black nail polish, a Jersey Shore haircut, or two goddamn Lacoste shirts. The idea is that any attention is good attention, and the more she focuses on you, the less she focuses on other guys. Being in my anarchist/screw-you-society phase, I thought that was stupid. I was gonna dress how I wanted, if that made a girl hate me, too bad for her. So that was out.
Next was the psychological aspect. This is where it got weird. The article talked about “throwing negs” (flat out telling a girl she’s ugly, or her hair sucks, or whatever), but never throwing too hard. The idea was that if you can make her insecure about herself, just a little, in the back of her mind she’ll want to impress you. If you rip on her too hard, she’ll get rightfully pissed and leave. It then went on to say the best way to start a conversation was to ask for advice, and to just talk to women, don’t try to flirt. I actually felt guilty about agreeing with the conversation part. The whole idea that I had to trick women, using psychology, into thinking that I was worth dating almost convinced me I wasn’t. Whatever happened to having fun with someone? The conversation stuff didn’t seem so bad, but the rest of it was straight Hannibal Lector. So that was out, too.
A few years passed and the pickup artist thing seemed to go away (except for a few d-list celebrities). Dating never turned into some psychological arms-race, with people taking new and novel approaches to twist the psyche of the opposite sex into something they could screw. No more than usual, anyway.
Fast forward to a few days ago. I’m lost in the downtown of a major US city with a German guy from work. It’s raining, and he wants to go to some “discos.” Damp from the rain, walking towards the nearest club, he asked me about wingmen, and what that word meant. Then he wanted to know how I picked up women at clubs, and he asked me if I read the book. I told him I wasn’t really into the club scene, then paused. This seemed familiar. As realization dawned, he told me the name of a German variation of the pickup artist book. He told me, in broken English, pretty much the same stuff above, but also to be mindful of my posture. My posture and body language should always tell women I was doing them a favor, because in the back of her mind, she’ll want to impress me more. I wasn’t sure if I should laugh or claw out my eyeballs. The problem is, he’s a nice guy. Could I legitimately hate someone because they took advice I disagree with? I’m not really sure. Even worse, it worked. He was wearing women like scarves.
So, as I clatter away on this keyboard, sipping leftover St. Patrick’s whiskey, I gotta be honest with myself. We all use cheap tricks to convince people to pay attention to us. Makeup, cologne, the artfully-angled Facebook picture, all of that’s a subtle attempt to screw with perceptions. Pickup artists may be sleazier, yes, but thinking I’m any better than them because I don’t throw negs is hypocrisy. Do I hate the idea of psychologists coming up with strategies to get douchebags laid? Yes. Do I think women should read these books, so they know what to watch out for? Dear God, yes. Can I get up on my high horse, middle fingers raised to pickup artists everywhere? Not really. And that’s a sobering thought.