We are here to Sarge. (Sarge- verb: to pick up women, or to go out to try and meet women). It’s Friday night and the bar starts to fill up at about 9.30. There are four other students and me. We look with nervous anticipation at our two pick-up instructors (PUA’s), Ozzie from Spain and Saad from New York. They sit appropriately at the head of the table. For the next 48 hours, these guys own our manhood.
Ozzie scrolls the table making eye contact with each of us, one by one, and then starts. If I tell any of you to approach any girls, don’t question me. I don’t want to hear excuses; they’re too hot, they’re too ugly; too fat, out of your league, got a boyfriend, they have a scary older brother with them. I have done hundreds of these boot camps all over the world and I have heard thousands of excuses. Just so we are clear, I don’t care!
Do what I say when I say or…, Ozzie says motioning to the far corner of the bistro, …there’s the fucking door! If you don’t want to go with me 110 per cent, now is your opportunity to leave.
No one stands.
Good, says Ozzie. Now if you approach a girl and she ignores you, don’t bail out. If she says that she has a boyfriend, don’t bail out. If you come back to Saad or myself and say, she didn’t really talk to me so I left, we will both say one thing to you, ‘Get the fuck back in there!’
I can feel my left foot shake under the table and I desperately hope that the other guys don’t see it. Ozzie continues, The only acceptable situation in which you can bail out is either the girl tells you to fuck off or she threatens to call security. Club owners hate us. We come to their clubs early so we don’t have to pay admission, we don’t buy any drinks and then we leave with their women. PUA’s are bad for business. If we get exposed, we always get kicked out immediately.
Everyone here has paid $2000 Australian dollars to participate in this training weekend. Real Social Dynamics (RSD), the American pick-up training company teaching us its secrets allowed me in for free on the basis that I write a good story for them. Last night I was at an orientation seminar in the function room of a four-star hotel in Melbourne. With me were about 60 guys (and one girl) eager to learn how to be master seducers. Some of the guys in the audience were quite confident and considered picking up a sport. But most were just shy and socially awkward, looking the way I imagine John Howard, Bob Carr or Bill Gates looked in their 20s.
Although terrified and exhausted after my flight back to Sydney, I feel very lucky to be here. The world of pick-up artistry has interested me since watching Tom Cruise play one of these masters in the 1999 movie Magnolia. Shortly after that film’s release, Master PUA Neil Strauss wrote his international hit memoir The Game and since then, the concept of gaming or sarging women has become almost mainstream. There’s now a whole army of RSD boys who are flown to about 60 capital cities all over the world to run these pick-up weekends. They work Monday to Saturday recruiting, promoting and instructing. But once Sunday rolls around, the boys relax by hitting the clubs to embark on their own personal pick-up assignments. Despite having such cool jobs, Ozzie and Saad seem very stern and humourless.
Ozzie notices that I’m onto my third beer. No more alcohol! he says. You will notice tonight that 90 per cent of the guys here, drink beer and sit at the bar looking at girls but never having the nerve to approach them. We are not like that. We don’t need beer. Don’t buy for yourself and especially don’t buy drinks for any girls. They can buy for you but under no circumstance can you buy for them! Keep your money in your pockets tonight fellas. When I go out I only ever order one beer and most nights I don’t even get half way through it.
I am terrified about what may happen tonight; the rejection, the public humiliation I have always admired guys who could approach girls effortlessly in clubs but I was never one of them myself. What lies in store for me tonight? Will I get slapped? Will I get thrown out? Can you get arrested for doing this? Or worse, what if a friend of my girlfriend catches me here having a drink thrown in my face by some drunken Veronicas-lookalike?
Simon, I feel a hand on my left shoulder. It was Saad. Will is going to open that four set, he says pointing at four girls sitting down in the beer garden about five metres from us. Give him about 20 seconds then you are going to go in as his wingman and neutralize the girl on the left, separating her from the pack while Will games the brunette at the back.
No problem, I say, writing down my instructions.
And put that fucking notebook away. I don’t care if you’re a journalist, you’re gonna give us all away!
Will is a really confident guy and not nearly as geeky as the other three in our group. He has neatly cropped ginger hair and wears a long-sleeved shirt with the sleeves rolled half way up his quite sizeable biceps. His shirt is tucked into tight blue jeans exposing a silver belt buckle about the size of a VHS cassette. He grasps his buckle as he strolls around the club and it glistens under the strobes like metallic fire. Look at that guy strut, I hear someone in the background say.
Will also has a voice that booms like James Earl Jones in a tunnel. Personally, I don’t think he needs much help with girls. He told me before that he is merely here to up his game. An already frequent blogger, he has written of many of his experiences in the field on various international PUA websites. Online, he has met a few random guys from his hometown of Brisbane. This allowed him to generate successful wingman relationships for regular sarging adventures in the Sunshine State.
Ozzie told me in confidence that one of the guys in our group is married. I have a feeling he’s referring to Ted, a sweetly shy guy in his late thirties. He has short sandy blonde hair and has a very big build, like a pre-skinny Mikey Robbins. This is Ted’s second boot-camp and his main goal, he told us, is to be able to walk into a club and be able to get any girl that he wants.
Bryan is a nice guy too. He wears a faded blue surf t-shirt with jeans and sand-shoes. His thinning hair is loosely parted over his crown. I’d guess him to be in his mid-thirties. He tells us that he has a lot of girls who are friends but he has trouble progressing the next step towards intimacy. Basically, like everyone else here, he wants to get laid heaps more.
Will easily permeates the table of girls. I have my brunette in target but there was one thing that I am unsure about, What should I say when I get in there? I ask Saad.
Don’t ask questions! Just get the fuck in there! he says.
I move in between my target on the left and the blonde on the right, who I fear may be a potential sniper girl. (Sniper Girl- n. Girl who shoots down the actions of a PUA; acts as a protective shield for her friends in social situations). Will is already engrossed in conversation with the other brunette across the table.
I gulp. Do you guys know what time this place closes tonight?
My target looks at me, smiles and says, I don’t know; about two or maybe three. She is quite pretty, like a young Jana Wendt with big, brown beautiful, balsamic eyes.
I see you have met my friend Will, I say. Do you mind if I sit down as well. It’s just that I don’t really know anyone else here?
Sure, she says, moving along. I like your jacket… I start to engage in conversation just as Louis, the remaining member of our group comes up from behind, instantly sitting next to the blonde sniper on the left.
Hi, I’m German. I have never been to Australia before. Can you tell me something about Sydney? Oh my god, Sniper Girl is about to blow him out of the water. Louis is a very nice guy but he seems ultra naïve and innocent. Louis is what Tobey MacGuire would have turned out like if he was born in Hamburg. I heard Louis practicing his line about being new in Sydney to the instructors before over near the bar. I smirked at the time thinking about the hostile reaction such an opener would receive.
Why sure, the blonde says. What would you like to know? I can’t believe it - he’s in. He is accepted. She even moves over to make room for him, allowing him to relax a bit more. As she explains this and that about NSW, employing her left arm in the story-telling, she put her right arm around him, drawing him close so that he wouldn’t lose the smallest bit of info of her tales. Louis is the king!
My target is amazingly cool as well. While Will and his brunette are laughing on the other side of the table, my target (I forget her name now) and I speak about … actually, I can’t remember what we spoke about. But I do remember that her tongue was bright red from drinking raspberry Smirnoff Black vodkas all night.
Our conversation is going great until her fiancé shows up and I know that I have to abandon ship. Ozzie and Saad jump me as soon as I leave the table. That was good, says Ozzie. I think she was really into you. If we had more time I could show you how to pick up a girl right in front of the boyfriend or husband. But for a first attempt that was very impressive. One thing though. Don’t open with the line: What time does this club close? It’s lame.
Well, what should I say?
How about, ‘Hi, my ’s Simon. How are you tonight?
I can’t use that! The girls will tell me to get lost straight away.
See that two-set over there, he says pointing to two blonde girls sitting by themselves under one of the pub’s heaters. Open them right now. Use that line!
I make my way over, preparing for the onslaught of rejection. I just can’t say the line so I stand at the girl’s table until they are forced to notice my presence, stop their conversation and look up at me.
Can we help you? says the blonde on the right.
Um… here goes, My name’s Simon. How are you girls tonight? I feel like an aristocrat or the participant in an arranged marriage. This must be how Prince Philip courted the Queen.
I am very well, says the girl on the left. Would you like to sit down with us?
What, are you serious? Yeah, if that is ok with you guys, I say.
Where’s your beer, Simon? asks the girl on the right. Aren’t you drinking tonight?
It’s a long story, I say. And you wouldn’t believe me if I told you.
The girls turn out to be sisters and we hang out with another of their guy friends for about an hour before they leave to go to the dance floor. They invite me to follow but I feel it best to touch base with Ozzie and Saad first. That was good, says Ozzie. What I liked the most was that you weren’t threatened when the other guy sat down with the girls. You spoke to him until he felt comfortable with you then you refocused back to the blonde on the left. Good focus. Good technique. Thanks coach.
By two in the morning I am exhausted and desperate to sit down. I have approached about 12 groups of girls over four hours and was only majorly rejected once. (A blonde surf girl had blatantly turned her back on me. When I persisted, she loudly called me a praying mantis). The other guys are also tired but they appear to shine with pride; not one of them was rejected at all. Will even has invitations to go home with two different girls but he has decided to stay with us and debrief. After all, he says. I am here to get the most out of the course.
I am very proud of this group, says Ozzie. You are all very sensitive and supportive of each other … and committed! I like that. It’s nice. Now go home and get some sleep. You have much to learn tomorrow.
The following night we were to meet at Darling Harbour. I arrive five minutes behind schedule and Ozzie is pissed. You’re late, he says firmly. I feel it best to say nothing.
While waiting in line for the club, Ozzie looks me up and down. You look too formal, he says. I am wearing the same black woolen jacket that the girl had complimented me on the previous night (maybe she was in fact hinting that it was daggy?). You have to look like you are here to party, says Ozzie. You look too conservative, like a guy who is trying to dress up to impress girls too much. You will look like every other guy in there. Get a jacket like Saad’s Saad has a brown corduroy collared pull-over with black leather patches on the elbows. It does look cool in a retro kind of way; like he is a muso or a funky advertising executive.
Once inside, we assemble at the back of the beer garden for our briefing. Tonight we are gonna employ Kino, instructs Ozzie. My foot starts to shake again. I know what Kino is. It is when you approach a girl by putting your arm around her before initiating any other conversation. Kino comes from the term Kinetic Energy. By touching a girl there is an instant transfer of energy between your body and hers and this supposedly works on a sub-conscious level establishing a rapport between you and your target. It is also a good way to get in close to a girl and jump-start the courtship dramatically. If she doesn’t push you off, you could be making out within half an hour… or less (and it also signals to other guys in the club that this chick is taken).
This technique is patented by the boys at RSD and is referred to as The Claw. It works like this; you wrap your arm around a girl, gripping her side tightly while making a right angle at the elbow. After the successful administration of Kino, the inside of your elbow should tuck up against the girl’s spine while your shoulder nestles up against her shoulder. The success of The Claw depends on it being executed in a way that doesn’t look sleazy. If she looks at you strangely or a guy-friend comes over to see who is making his girl-(who is a)-friend uncomfortable, it is important that you don’t lose your cool. You can high five the other girls or guys in the group, then grab them all in a group hug, saying something like, I am sooo happy to not be working tonight! Then you go back and place your arm around the initial girl while talking to the other members of the group. This gives the infiltrated group the vibe that this guy is not being sleazy, he’s just a touchy-feely kind of dude who likes to party.
Earlier that day, Ozzie had shown us some home movies of him employing this technique in different clubs around London. We were sitting in the restaurant of a classy Sydney hotel having a late lunch when Ozzie pulled out his laptop, to show his footage from the field. The videos played out and he kept asking us questions in his loud Spanish accent. Which guy is the bigger Chode here? (Chode- n. An individual who has poor social skills and very limited success with women, a.k.a. AFC – Average Frustrated Chump.) Which guy is more likely to get laid that night? In this situation, who do you think is being cock-blocked? (Cock block- n. and verb. A person who interferes with or hinders a pick-up artist’s game, whether accidentally or on purpose.) I noticed the waitresses repeatedly smirked as they walked past our table.
The briefing continues: Again, says Ozzie. No excuses! Most guys fear wrapping their arm around a girl straight away because they think that they will get rejected immediately and kicked out of the club. I can tell you that that hardly ever happens.
Now, in the club, it’s time to see if that’s true. Saad instantly walks up to a group of three blonde girls, giving them a group-hug from behind. The girls turn around looking a bit startled but before they even have a chance to open their mouths Saad says, Hi, I’m from New York and I love this town. This is my friend Simon. He then grabs my arm pulling me, totally disorientated, into this blonde triangle.
Hi Simon, asks one of the blondes. What’s your friend’s name?
Oh, I stutter. His name is Saad [long pause] and he is from New York. I turn around nervously to bring him back into the conversation but he is gone… faster than Kevin Spacey at the end The Usual Suspects. He truly is a Master. Anyway, I am in with this group of girls and the next two hours fly by. I have snuggled my way into a group of about 20 people and I’m getting along with the guys in the group just as well as the girls. But I haven’t targeted anyone yet and I certainly haven’t employed The Claw. I know that somewhere out in the crowd of clubbers, Ozzie and Saad are watching and as soon as I leave the group, they will appear from behind a strobe or from under a table and hit me with some severe criticism.
Finally, a number of the girls venture to the bar leaving me at the table with just one of the other guys. I soon feel a hand on my shoulder.
What the fuck are you doing?” says Ozzie. We are here to talk to girls not guys.
I know, I say. But the girls are at the bar right now and they are buying me a drink. His shoulders drop, his jaw relaxes and his eyes appear to twinkle with pride. OK. Get back in there! Good work!
I can’t do it though. I just don’t have the courage to grab a girl on the back. Also, I know for a fact that my girlfriend Clare’s brother regularly drinks at this club. How can I explain this - him coming in here and catching me with my arm around two drunken backpackers from Brazil?
I am on assignment. Of course Clare is cool with it. Yeah, I swear that she knows about it.”
The situation is too absurd to even contemplate. I just have to keep my focus. So far I was doing ok within the course. Saad had already told me last night that, despite not touching any girls, I had attained the rank of gang-star. But unfortunately, he had said, I was still a long way from the title of pimp.
The night eventually closes and we debrief on the jetty at Darling Harbour. It’s about 2.30 in the morning, I am absolutely exhausted but I can’t help feeling proud of myself for sticking it out. Unfortunately, Ted had been escorted out of the bar by security about an hour and a half earlier. It appears some of the clientele had become uncomfortable through his excessive use of The Claw and consequently complained. He understandably feels a bit down about the way the whole thing played out but we all immediately show our support, like family and friends at an intervention.
I can’t count the amount of times that I have been kicked out of bars all around the world, Ozzie tells Ted. And you know who got security onto you. It wasn’t girls. The girls were enjoying the attention. It was guys who went and got the guards. They obviously felt threatened by you. This makes Ted look up, smiling once again. His eyes come back to life under the beautiful lights of the harbour.
Everybody did really well tonight, says Ozzie. Sure some girls won’t talk to you but who cares? Most of the girls in there - and most of the guys as well - have really boring lives. They work all week and look forward to dressing up and going out on the weekend and getting drunk. Maybe they’ll meet someone and maybe they won’t. We teach you guys how to provide a bit of excitement to these girls’ lives because, trust me, they always seem to be attracted to the life of the party. They want someone to offer them something a bit different to what every other guy in there does. And then we take them home and fuck them.
They’re sick of the same old guys, using the same old approaches and the same old lines. What you have seen after this weekend was that what we teach really works! Real Social Dynamics was started by geeks who couldn’t approach women and wanted to learn how to get laid! Always remember that. If those guys can make a success of this then you guys will be fine. It just all depends on how much effort and focus you want to put in from here. Be disciplined! Be hard on yourself and the future is great. I promise you that.
Ozzie’s right. Not one of the girls I had approached over the last 48 hours seemed really that interesting. Most of the girls were quite pretty but not many of them seemed that passionate about their jobs or their lives in general. Maybe that’s why they seemed so easily excitable when Ozzie or Saad made one of us do something off the cuff - like when Ozzie got Will to grab a pretty girl’s hand before even talking to her and dragged her onto the dancefloor. The girl laughed but her guy friends soon dragged her back to their table and shepherded Will away.
Maybe it doesn’t matter how you approach a girl, as long as you deviate from the traditional, getting drunk and then complimenting the girl in a boring, lacklustre way, like, You look just like Angelina Jolie. Maybe girls are repulsed by that kind of behavior and they just want guys to try a little harder, to make them feel a bit special. Maybe they want to be swept off their feet. Maybe this is what RSD teaches to the world. The skills themselves aren’t that difficult but maybe RSD just forces guys to put in a little more effort.
As I swagger out of Darling Harbour I feel like a returning soldier. Over the past two days, I have chatted up numerous girls and feel proud of my efforts, but also strangely, a bit empty. I have been up the mountain and looked over and seen the promised land - but I have to admit, it scares the shit out of me a little bit. Sure these girls all seemed to like me but was it me they were actually attracted to?
In the space of 48 hours Ozzie and Saad have carefully sculpted me into this carbon-copy RSD personality; they hammered out all my dorky chat-up lines, altered my dialect somewhat, stopped me from smoking, improved my posture so that I could pounce into The Claw at a moment’s notice and eliminated my need for a drink or two. They chewed me out, made me over and psyched me up, before sending me out on the prowl.
Sure I was successful with the girls but I just didn’t feel like myself. In truth, I feel a bit lost without all my little idiosyncrasies. Maybe I do dress a bit too conservatively. Very possibly I do drink too much. Perhaps my chat-up lines are a bit too corny. But still, that is who I am. That is who my friends like going out with for a good time. And for some reason, that is the person my girlfriend fell in love with.
One thing is for sure though, if my girlfriend and I ever break up, I will never be comfortable with her heading back out onto the single scene. The thought of Ozzie infiltrating a dance floor at one of my local clubs, armed with nothing but his exotic accent and a water bottle, patiently watching Clare from afar, just waiting for the perfect moment to open up her three-set of friends, remark how he is Spanish and doesn’t know anyone in Sydney and then dive straight into The Claw…
Poor Clare. She wouldn’t know what hit her.