You've been watching her all evening. She's standing near the bar with her friends. You've gone to the bar three times already hoping to strike up a conversation with her but chickened out each time at the last moment. It's not your fault. Her back is turned to you and she's in conversation with her friends. What are you going to do? Tap her on the shoulder? You're at the bar again for your fourth beer. After this one you'll be too drunk to talk. It looks hopeless but then as if by magic destiny intrudes. Her two friend's go off to dance. She's alone. She turns to the bar. Your eyes meet. You smile and open your mouth to say... what?
I'm guessing that just about every heterosexual male has found himself in this situation: palms sweaty, mouth agape with the milliseconds ticking by in slow-motion until it's too late and we slink off and dwell on the hundred things we could/should/would have said if only our brains were as focused as our dicks.
Hence the need for a magic phrase that once uttered would secure her attention and interest long enough to get past the initial awkwardness and allow her to see how charming you really are. This line would theoretically capture her attention, convey our essential wit and intelligence and lay the groundwork for an engaging conversation.
Guys have sought this magic phrase ever since our ancestors evolved a larynx. As much energy and devotion has been expended in the efforts to find the no-miss pick-up line as have been spent on alchemy, elixirs, El Dorado and the Holy Grail combined. Books have been written. Dozens of websites are devoted exclusively to this.
Now, we men are a smart lot, we've built civilizations, pondered the origins of the universe and put men on the moon. But after generations of mental toil and anguish the best that the brightest minds on the planet have come up with are these:
- Have we met before? You look very familiar.
- My friend over there just bet me twenty bucks you wouldn't give me your number. There's a ten in it for you if you do.
- Man, are you ever cute. What's your name?
- Hi, I was wondering if you could spare me a moment to hit on you?
- What's a nice girl like you doing in a dirty mind like mine?
After much research I've determined the above lines are the best on offer. That's right. It's all downhill from here, bottoming out with such unspeakables as:
- Gee that dress would look great on my bedroom floor!
- Did it hurt when you fell from Heaven?
- You look like you could suck the chrome off a trailer hitch.
- Are you from Tennessee, ‘cuz you're the only ten-I-see.
Most canned lines, I'm sure, have been proffered for the amusement of our fellow men. I can't imagine any guy being clueless enough to actually use them on a real live woman although it might be fun to watch them try.
So does the perfect line exist? Is it like cold fusion or the Higgs boson; theoretically possible, but we just haven't stumbled across it? Or is it a waste of time to even contemplate it.
I suspect the latter, if only because if such a line did exist, every guy would use it and it would no longer serve it's prime function, namely to differentiate ourselves from and compare favorably to our fellow men. Nothing is more boring than a stale joke.
The other reason is that a pre-fab line is just that. Pre-fab. Seduction is a dynamic process. The ground is constantly shifting below our feet. A line that might have worked one minute can be useless the next. We have to think on our feet. The minute we open our mouths, we're on display and you'd best believe it Bub, we're being judged. In fact, there's a widely respected theory in circulation that the reason we evolved such big brains was not to hunt and gather more effectively, but to seduce women more effectively. And what women want in a man besides protection and resources is intelligence. Not the geeky obsessive intellect that actually serves humanity but the kind of intelligence that engages and amuses. Our brains are our peacock's tail, an evolutionary extravagance that's primary function is to impress babes. Women like wit and confidence. Confidence you can talk yourself into but wit? That's damn hard to fake.
Before I sat down to write this column I emailed my female friends and asked them to tell me how they felt about pick-up lines. Predictably their response was; "Oh puleeease. Forget lines. Just say hi." And if the above mentioned "lines" are any indication then you can't fault them for preferring a straight-up introduction. But they're also being a tad disingenuous. Sure, it's the subsequent conversation that counts but every conversation has a beginning, and that beginning will set the tone for the conversation that follows. "Hi what's your name?" is all very good but once she answers, you're back to square one. The onus is on the man to prove he's worthy and if the best you can come up with is "Sue? I have a cousin named Sue," you're on your way to a lonely night with Mrs Palm and her five daughters.
The key is to start an interesting conversation and keep it going. If you're not the kind of guy that can do this naturally then it behooves you to come up with a strategy. One of the master's in the art of seduction is a self-promoting seduction guru who calls himself Style. I know what you're thinking; any guy that calls himself "Style" deserves to be beaten up. I'm with you on that but Style is actually on to something. His strategy is to approach a woman – or better yet a group of women – and ask them their opinion on a matter of pressing urgency.
One of his gambits is to point out a friend at the bar and tell the woman/women that he's having a debate with said friend about his jealous girlfriend. It seems that this friend keeps an envelope of letters and photos of a former girlfriend in his sock drawer and his girlfriend wants him to destroy them. He thinks this is wholly unreasonable but thought it best to secure the opinion of women. What do they think?
The genius of this of course is that it scores on so many fronts. It's a perfect in, you're not trying to get them in the sack (effective seduction is rarely overt), you're showing them respect by asking their opinion and this simple question initiates an engaging debate. Even if nobody hooks up, all of you are going to have fun.
Of course, this seduction strategy is already out there. In fact it's famous. It's even got a name: The Jealous Girlfriend. So while you might get away with it, you also run the risk of exposing your ruse for what it is. But it's not hard to come up with others.
Of course, the fundamental problem with Mr. Style's approach is that it's dishonest. It's not a line per se, but it's still prefab. Once the woman gets to know you she'll discover that your friend doesn't have a girlfriend at all. Of course, by this time you may have already slept with her and if this was your sole ambition then yippee for you. But if you're like most men, what you want is a girl you can partner up with and a relationship inaugurated on deceit is off to a bad start.
So perhaps my female friends are right. Maybe the best line is simply "Hi," followed by eye contact (don't underestimate this!) and a smile. If you can't follow it up then it wasn't meant to be. Life is long and in the long run persistence pays.
The Mating Dance: The Eyes Have It
Ego At Heart Of Romantic Attraction
The Virginity Trap
Better Dancers Score Higher In The Romance Stakes
Why Nice Guys Don't Get Laid