During Ryan Gosling's terrifying march to "Dreamboat person men want to be and women want to be on" he featured in a film called, Crazy, Stupid, Love. A fun new sort-of-but-not-quite romcom starring Steve Carell. He plays Cal Weaver, a straight-laced 40-something, whose cozy life suddenly falls apart when his wife (Julianne Moore) informs him that she’s cheated on him and wants a separation. After 23 years of marriage, Cal finds himself dumped back on the dating market with no idea what to do. Enter Jacob (Gosling) a super-smooth, impossibly good-looking Pick Up Artist who takes Cal under his wing and teaches him the dark arts of seduction.
The world of Pick Up (made famous by Neil Strauss’s 2005 book The Game) is an area I’ve always had a sort of gloomy fascination with. We knew a guy at college who got involved with it and was transformed overnight from a slightly nerdy but likable World of Warcraft enthusiast to a bona fide Sex Volcano! I still occasionally see him around Covent Garden, marching fearlessly up to startled-looking girls in HMV and demanding they sleep with him immediately.
I was therefore massively excited to be invited to a special Crazy, Stupid, Love promo event attended by Matthew Hussey – an actual dating expert who promised to reveal the secrets of seduction that would transform me from this into this.
So firstly, Hussey is a bit different to some of the creepier characters in the ‘seduction community’. He runs dating classes for women as well as men and helps people with a whole range of confidence issues from mastering public speaking to how to be a better CEO. He’s slightly wary of some of the methods used in Pick Up, which often revolve around thinking up ways to psychologically manipulate girls into finding you attractive, which essentially treats women like unruly toddlers who can be tricked into eating their greens… ‘The right knowledge in the wrong hands can have a dangerous result,’ says Hussey, ‘I’m not against it if it’s helping people, giving guys who need a break advice on how to have more significance in girl’s eyes. But the danger is when they’re not respectful, then it can create an us-versus-them scenario which isn’t healthy.’
To emphasize his non-creepy credentials, Hussey tells us a routine girls can use if they want to initiate a conversation with a guy for themselves; ‘ask a guy for a favour’ he says – ‘you could ask him to hold your coat for you while you carry drinks over to your table. When you’ll return you can thank him for his help and, if he’s interested, he’ll carry on the conversation. Not only is it a good way of coming in under the radar and not having to put yourself on the line too much, it also plays to his natural desire to feel powerful. Men like it when women ask for their help. It’s like at school; whenever a teacher wanted help moving tables or whatever, she’d always ask for a “big strong boy” to help her and everyone would put their hands up. Guys don’t really grow out of that.’
That’s fucking genius, I reckon. The most terrifying part about dating, for me, is the bit where you have to walk up to a complete stranger and start a conversation without it seeming like you’re a) a mentalist or b) wanting to talk about Jesus. So does he have any similar tips that would work for guys? ‘Yep sure. Just climb up onto the bar, pull your trousers and pants down around your ankles and tearfully waggle your penis around bawling “I’m horny, horny horny horny” at the top of your voice. Works every time...’ (Ok fine, he didn’t really say that. I’m just reluctant to give away all this genius material away – get your own Love Guru!)
“Yeah the favour thing doesn’t quite have the same effect for guys, you need to be able to prove you have confidence and status. Try just paying her a simple compliment in a genuine, almost matter-of-fact manner: “I just wanted to say I think you really great in that dress” kind of thing. But say it in a strong way, don’t be needy. And don’t linger around too much afterwards.”
Another good way in is to make an assumption about her – “you must be a lawyer right?” Then whether you’re right or wrong you can still spark a conversation – either about how much of a Derren Brown style genius you are, or about why you were wrong. When I’m doing a class with some guys, once they become more confident, I might get them to try something a bit more playful and risqué: I’ll have them go over to a girl and ask very politely “Would it be OK if I tried chatting you up?” If she say yes, they then follow-up with “OK, well you start and I’ll jump in in a bit..” As long as you’re congruent – relaxed and not weird about it - it’ll be fine’.
In one of the subplots of Crazy, Stupid, Love Cal’s 13-year-old son Robbie is obsessed with his 17-year-old older babysitter and constantly bombards her with messages declaring his undying love. She’s unimpressed with this approach initially but it eventually pays off at the end of the film when she rewards him with a photo of herself naked. (I mean, technically, giving a naked photo of yourself to a 13-year-old child is probably illegal and she should really have been placed on the Sex Offenders Register, but it’s quite a sweet moment in the film so we’ll let her off..) I ask Matthew if that relentless, heart-on-your-sleeve approach is something that could work for me? Not that I have a babysitter or anything… (she’s more of an Au Pair)
‘It’s not ideal. Possibly if you’re funny with it and make out that you don’t really give a fuck it could work. But unlikely I’d say. People respond better when they think they can’t have something. Find a way to subtly imply that a relationship is impossible: “I think you’re lovely, it’s such a shame we can’t be together”. They’ll instinctively start to think “why not?” This also works well if you secretly fancy one of your friends and want to take things to the next level. “Wow, you look hot in that jacket! I’m not supposed to be seeing you like that.” By drawing attention to the idea that you’re “not supposed” to be together in that way, you may encourage her to question whether that really has to be the case.’
So there you have it. Dynamite stuff! Well I’m off down Tiger Tiger to try out my new moves. Feel free to come and ask me for a favour.
Find out more about Matthew Hussey at matthewhussey.com.