Mystery solved: 'I had no idea approaching a woman could be this easy’

September 5 2005


Mystery solved: 'I had no idea approaching a woman could be this easy’

September 5 2005



The Maclean’s Excerpt

Mystery solved: 'I had no idea approaching a woman could be this easy’

As author Neil Strauss tells it in The Game (Regan Books/ HarperCollins), he has just arrived for his first how-to-pick-up-women workshop. After an enlightening session at an L.A. hotel with Mystery and his “wing” man Sin, Strauss and his fellow students are about to try the Mystery Method out for themselves at a nearby club.

We piled into the limo and drove to the Standard Lounge, a velvet-rope-guarded hotel hotspot. It was here that Mystery shattered my model of reality. Limits I had once imposed on human interaction were extended far beyond what I ever thought possible. The man was a machine.

The Standard was dead when we walked in. We were too early. There were just two groups of people in the room: a couple near the entrance and two couples in the corner.

I was ready to leave. But then I saw Mystery approach the people in the corner. They were sitting on opposite couches across a glass table. The men were on one side.

One of them was Scott Baio, the actor best known for playing Chachi on Happy Days. Across from him were two women, a brunette and a bleached blonde who looked like she’d stepped out of the pages of Maxim. Her cut-off white T-shirt was suspended so high into the air by fake breasts that the bottom of it just hovered, flapping in the air above a belly tightened by fastidious exercise. This woman was Baio’s date. She was also, I gathered, Mystery’s target.

His intentions were clear because he wasn’t talking to her. Instead, he had his back turned to her and was showing something to Baio and his friend, a well-dressed, well-tanned thirtysomething who looked as if he smelled strongly of aftershave. I moved in closer.

“Be careful with that,” Baio was saying. “It cost $40,000.”

Mystery had Baio’s watch in his hands. He placed it carefully on the table. “Now watch this,” he commanded. “I tense my stomach muscles, increasing the flow of oxygen to my brain, and ....”

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As Mystery waved his hands over the watch, the second hand stopped ticking. He waited 15 seconds, then waved his hands again, and slowly the watch sputtered back to life—along with Baio’s heart. Mystery’s audience of four burst into applause.

“Do something else!” the blonde pleaded.

Mystery brushed her off with a neg. “Wow, she’s so demanding,” he said, turning to Baio. “Is she always like this?”

We were witnessing group theory in action. The more Mystery performed for the guys, the more the blonde clamoured for attention. And every time, he pushed her away and continued talking with his two new friends.

“I don’t usually go out,” Baio was telling Mystery. “I’m over it, and I’m too old.”

After a few more minutes, Mystery finally acknowledged the

blonde. He held his arms out. She placed her hands in his, and he began giving her a psychic reading. He was employing a technique I’d heard about called cold reading: the art of telling people truisms about themselves without any prior knowledge of their personality or background. In the field, all knowledge—however esoteric—is power.

With each accurate sentence Mystery spoke, the blonde’s jaw dropped further open, until she started asking him about his job and his psychic abilities. Every response Mystery gave was intended to accentuate his youth and enthusiasm for the good life Baio said he had outgrown.

“I feel so old,” Mystery said, baiting her.

“How old are you?” she asked.


“That’s not old. That’s perfect.”


He was in.

Mystery called me over and whispered in my ear. He wanted me to talk to Baio and his friend, to keep them occupied while he hit on the girl. This was my first experience as a wing—a term Mystery had taken from Top Gun, along with words like target and obstacle.

I struggled to make small talk with them. But Baio, looking nervously at Mystery and his date, cut me off. “Tell me this is all an illusion,” he said, “and he’s not actually stealing my girlfriend.”

Ten long minutes later, Mystery stood up, put his arm around me, and we left the club. Outside, he pulled a cocktail napkin from his jacket pocket. It contained her phone number. “Did you get a good look at her?” Mystery asked. “That is what I’m in the game for. Everything I’ve learned I used tonight. It’s all led up to this moment. And it worked.” He beamed with self-satisfaction. “How’s that for a demonstration?”

That was all it took. Stealing a girl right from under a celebrity’s nose—has-been or not—was a feat. Mystery was the real deal.

As we took the limo to the Key Club, Mystery told us the first commandment of pickup: the three-second rule. A man has three seconds after spotting a woman to speak to her, he said. If he takes any longer, then not only is the girl likely to think he’s a creep who’s been staring at her for too long, but he will start overthinking the approach, get nervous, and probably blow it.

The moment we walked into the Key Club, Mystery put the three-second rule into action. Striding up to a group of women, he held out his hands and asked, “What’s your first impression of these? Not the big hands, the black nails.”

As the girls gathered around him, Sin pulled me aside and suggested wandering the club and attempting my first approach. A group of women walked by and I tried to say something. But the word “hi” just barely squeaked out of my throat, not even loud enough for them to hear. As they continued past, I followed and grabbed one of the girls on the shoulder from behind. She turned around, startled, and gave me the withering what-a-creep look that was the whole reason I was too scared to talk to women in the first place.

“Never,” Sin admonished me in his adenoidal voice, “approach a woman from behind. Always come in from the front, but at a slight angle so it’s not too direct and confrontational. You should speak to her over your shoulder, so it looks like you might walk away at any minute. Ever see Robert Redford in The Horse Whisperer? It’s kind of like that.”

A few minutes later, I spotted a young, tipsy-looking woman with long, tangled blonde curls and a puffy pink vest standing alone. I decided that approaching her would be an easy way to redeem myself. I circled around until I was in the 10 o’clock position in front of her and walked in, imagining myself approaching a horse I didn’t want to frighten.

“Oh my God,” I said to her. “Did you see those two girls fighting outside?”

“No,” she said. “What happened?”

She was interested. She was talking to me. It was working.

“Urn, two girls were fighting over this little guy who was half their size. It was pretty brutal. He was just standing there laughing as the police came and arrested the girls.”

She giggled. We started talking about the club and the band playing there. She was very friendly and actually seemed grateful


DHV-nou/7 or verb [demonstration of higher value]: a routine in which the pickup artist displays a skill or attribute that raises his worth or appeal in the estimation of a woman or group; it is intended to make him stand out from the other, less interesting men in the club.

ELICIT VALUES-verb phrase: to draw out, through conversation, what is important to a person, usually with the intention of reaching a deep inner desire that motivates them. In terms of seduction, eliciting values may help a man determine that a woman who says she is looking for a rich husband is actually just looking for a feeling of safety and security.

FREEZE OUT - verb or noun: to ignore a woman to make her seek validation; usually used as a technique to counter lastminute resistance.

101-noun [indicator of interest]: a sign a woman gives a man that indirectly reveals she is attracted to or interested in him. These clues, generally unintentional and subtle, include leaning toward a man when he speaks, asking mundane questions to keep a conversation going, or squeezing his hand when he takes her hand in his.

PHASE-SHIFT - verb: to make the transition, during a one-onone conversation with a woman, from ordinary talk to slower, sexually charged talk, touch, or body language; intended to precede an attempt to kiss.

THREE-SECOND RULE-noun: a guideline stating that a woman should be approached within three seconds of first seeing her. It is intended to prevent the man from thinking about the approach too much and getting nervous, as well as to keep him from creeping the woman out by staring at her for too long.

for the conversation. I had no idea that approaching a woman could be this easy.

Sin sidled up to me and whispered in my ear, “Go kino.” “What’s kino?” I asked.

“Kino?” the girl replied.

Sin reached behind me, picked up my arm, and placed it on her shoulder. “Kino is when you touch a girl,” he whispered. I felt the heat of her body and was reminded of how much I love human

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contact. Pets like to be petted. It isn’t sexual when a dog or a cat begs for physical affection. People are the same way: we need touch. But we’re so sexually screwed up and obsessed that we get nervous and uncomfortable whenever another person touches us. And, unfortunately, I am no exception. As I spoke to her, my hand felt wrong on her shoulder. It was just resting there like some disembodied limb, and I imagined her wondering what exactly it was doing there and how she could gracefully extricate herself from under it. So I did her the favour of removing it myself.

“Isolate her,” Sin said.

I suggested sitting down, and we walked to a bench. Sin followed and sat behind us. As I’d been taught, I asked her to tell me the qualities she finds attractive in guys. She said humour and ass.

Fortunately, I have one of those qualities.

Suddenly, I felt Sin’s breath on my ear. “Sniff her hair,” he was instructing.

I smelled her hair, although I wasn’t exactly sure what the point

“If you think you could have, then you could have,” he said. “As soon as you ask yourself whether you should or shouldn’t, that means you should. And what you do is, you phase-shift. Imagine a giant gear thudding down in your head, and then go for it. Start hitting on her. Tell her you just noticed she has beautiful skin, and start massaging her shoulders.”

“But how do you know it’s okay?”

“What I do is, I look for IOIs. An IOI is an indicator of interest. If she asks you what your name is, that’s an IOI. If she asks you if you’re single, that’s an IOI. If you take her hands and squeeze them, and she squeezes back, that’s an IOI. And as soon as I get three IOIs, I phase-shift. I don’t even think about it. It’s like a computer program.”

“But how do you kiss her?” Sweater asked.

“I just say, ‘Would you like to kiss me?’ ”

“And then what happens?”

“One of three things,” Mystery said. “If she says, ‘Yes,’ which is


was. I figured Sin wanted me to neg her. So I said, “It smells like smoke.”

“Nooooo!” Sin hissed in my ear. I guess I wasn’t supposed to neg.

She seemed offended. So, to recover, I took another whiff. “But underneath that, there’s a very intoxicating smell.”

She cocked her head to one side, furrowed her brow ever so slightly, scanned me up and down, and said, “You’re weird.” I was blowing it.

Fortunately, Mystery soon arrived.

“This place is dead,” he said. “We’re going somewhere more target-rich.” To Mystery and Sin, these clubs didn’t seem to be reality. They had no problem whispering in students’ ears while they were talking to women, dropping pickup terminology in front of strangers, and even interrupting a student during a set and explaining, in front of his group, what he was doing wrong. They were so confident and their talk was so full of incomprehensible jargon that the women rarely even raised an eyebrow, let alone suspected they were being used to train wannabe ladies’ men.

I bid my new friend good-bye as Sin had taught me, pointing to my cheek and saying, “Kiss good-bye.” She actually pecked me. I felt very alpha.

I was in high spirits in the limo to the next bar. “Do you think I could have kissed her?” I asked Mystery.

ON THE WEB Read the transcript of Lianne George’s conversation with Neil Strauss, www.macleans.ca/strauss

very rare, you kiss her. If she says, ‘Maybe,’ or hesitates, then you say, ‘Let’s find out,’ and kiss her. And if she says, ‘No,’ you say, T didn’t say you could. It just looked like you had something on your mind.’ ”

“You see,” he grinned triumphantly. “You have nothing to lose. Every contingency is planned for. It’s foolproof. That is the Mystery kiss-close.”

I furiously scribbled every word of the kiss-close in my notebook. No one had ever told me how to kiss a girl before. It was just one of those things men were supposed to know on their own, like shaving and car repair.

Sitting in the limo with a notebook on my lap, listening to Mystery talk, I asked myself why I was really there. Taking a course in picking up women wasn’t the kind of thing normal people did. Even more disturbing, I wondered why it was so important to me, why I’d become so quickly obsessed with the online community and its leading pseudonyms.

Perhaps it was because attracting the opposite sex was the only area of my life in which I felt like a complete failure. Every time I walked down the street or into a bar, I saw my own failure staring me back in the face with red lipstick and black mascara. The combination of desire and paralysis was deadly. Perhaps signing up for Mystery’s workshop had been an intelligent decision. After all, I was doing something proactive about my lameness. Even the wise man dwells in the fool’s paradise. Iffl

Excerpted from The Game, copyright 2005 Neil Strauss.

Reprinted by permission of Regan Books/HarperCollins Publishers.