Is khaki a color or a fabric?
The most obvious answer to this query is, “Well, both, technically,” or, better yet, “Who gives a crap?” But for some reason, when the question is posed by a man sporting his best Saturday-night gear, eyeliner and black fingernail polish, it takes on a degree of intrigue I’d underestimated.
A silent accomplice, I watch Derek and Pierce (they asked that we not print last names) approach at least four groups of women at The Ritz, the uncommonly loud, impossibly crowded bar in Jacksonville Beach. They preface the question with a white lie – “My friend and I were just having an argument, and we’re wondering …” – before cutting to the khaki. A couple of the girls blurt out answers, but then they second-guess themselves, and the group begins mulling over an answer to a question that doesn’t exist or matter.
I’ve had a few drinks at this point, but it’s still fairly obvious to me that neither Pierce nor Derek cares about khaki. What straight men spend their evenings out arguing about fabric anyway? The women, though – all smiles, giggles and confusion – are oblivious to the fact that they’ve just been engaged by a pair of genuine pickup artists.
An unsuspecting world was introduced to the seduction community – or just “the community,” as members refer to it – when one of its most accomplished pickup artists got his own reality program on VH1, aptly titled “The Pickup Artist.” Mystery, AKA Erik Von Markovik, recruited a houseful Of romantic sad sacks (one of the guys remarked, “I’m like the 40-year-old virgin, plus five years”) and attempted to mold them into confident, suave ladies’ men. Ever the narcissist, Mystery dubbed his pickup techniques The Mystery Method and assigned it more insiders’ jargon than the Church of Scientology. “Sets” are the groups of women you might approach with an “opener,” like the khaki bit. In the “set,” there’ll be a “target” – the woman you specifically desire – on whom you might try a “neg” (a kind of smartass comment that belies your interest in her) in hopes of getting an “I.O.I.” (an indicator of interest, like a playful touch) or eventually a “close,” a phone number, a kiss or, the granddaddy of all closes, sex.
On the program, Mystery’s pupils were required to develop “avatars,” and, as such, each took on a sexy pseudonym and underwent a flashy makeover so he could “peacock,” and hopefully attract a mate in a crowded bar or nightclub. Aside from any romantic aptitude or the right lines, most of the men lacked a fundamental self-confidence. Like TV shows of a similar format, one guy was eliminated each episode, sent back to his mother’s basement with new highlights, an earring and, believe it or not, a renewed hope in his ability to attract members of the opposite sex. Mystery, with his stupid furry top hat, aviator goggles, ponytail and trench coat, looks like a nu metal caricature, but he had a very real effect on the contestants’ lives. And chicks really do dig him.
Disciples of The Mystery Method, Derek and Pierce, have taken on students of their own. The two St. Augustine residents met on an online forum for PUA’s (Pickup Artists). Derek, a salesman by trade, was toying with the idea of starting a class to teach prospective salespeople the social skills necessary to get jobs and become successful in the field. Turns out, teaching guys how to pick up women isn’t all that different. For four months, the two have been holding camps, group classes and individual sessions for guys lacking luck with the ladies. One of their most successful marketing tools has been the black card. When they’re out “sarging,” or testing their pickup material, Derek and Pierce stumble across guys who just look like they need
help – slumped shoulders, hugging their beer, shoe gazing. These men are handed a simple black business card with just their web address inscribed in grey, puacoach.com, as intriguing as the secrets they teach.
On this particular evening, Derek and Pierce are showing Vic – who never received a black card, but found their website on a local PUA forum – the ropes. Incredibly nice, a little heavy and with striking pale-blue eyes, Vic suffers from what’s known in the community as approach anxiety. According to Derek, approach anxiety isn’t just a result of low self-esteem or even conditioned response from prior rejections – it’s an eons-old evolutionary defense mechanism intended to prevent a man’s genes from being unapologetically weeded out of existence.
He takes it back a few thousand years: “Say, there’s a 50-person tribe, 25 men and 25 women. Out of the 25 women, there’d be only two or three suitable mates, because some of the women would be too old, some too young, and some of the women would be taken. Let’s say that this one man, who’s not aligned to be the tribe’s alpha male, goes up and approaches one of these women, but doesn’t realize that the alpha male of the tribe or one of this buddies are courting this woman. Five or six of the other guys in the tribe are going to find a rock, smash him in the skull and bury him in the jungle.” Derek finishes, “Either that, or he’s going to make a fool of himself, and he’s never going to have sex again for the rest of his life. “But now,
In our global society’s fathoms-deep
breeding pool, approach anxiety is
no longer necessary, like an appendix
or vestigial tail.
Non-necessity doesn’t make it any easier for Vic to shake his anxiety.
Derek and Pierce (with Vic by their side) begin slinging canned lines at groups of women. Aside from one girl who looks at me, confused, and asks, “Am I on ‘Candid Camera?’” women are taking the bait. Vic observes, in awe of how well the shtick works, but remains invisible to the group for the most part. It’s time for Vic to start opening sets. Pierce insists that Vic set a goal for the number of sets he will open. He explains, “The goal isn’t to get Vic a kiss close or to get him laid … it’s just that the
walk to approach a woman is the hardest part. He needs to get comfortable with that.”
Vic starts opening sets with a line that does more to confuse women than attract them, something about a fish burping. Once he’s found his groove, though, Vic looks more at ease. He laughs with a few women, lightly touching their arms. Later that night, Vic met a pretty girl by doing a palm-reading routine that Derek and Pierce showed him. He got her phone number, and they’ve since begun dating.
The fact that an entire subculture devoted to the art of picking up women even exists is kind of creepy. Guys clack away online, swapping lines, exchanging the newest and best ways to seduce women, and we, the “targets,” are none the wiser. But, in some strange way, it’s kind of cute. Derek can’t speak for the whole community, but he insists that his intentions are good. Clearly, some women could really luck out if more guys like Vic overcome their approach anxiety. And, let’s face it; we’d all be better off if Vic wasn’t afraid of getting his skull smashed in
12 FOLIO WEEKLY – GWYNEDD STUART [email protected] – Contact PUACOACH.COM