Dragueurs (a sort thereof)
I’m fascinated and disgusted in equal measure with a recent Village Voice cover article: “Do you wanna kiss me?” (How New York’s women are wising up to The Game‘s pickup tips). Fascinated because what it describes is such an interesting, natural, and inevitable step for men to take in relationships; disgusted because it seems to betray the all-important honesty upon which conversation relies. The rightly famous cluetrain manifesto is about the need for companies to speak with an honest, human voice; I guess we’ll soon need one for people too (but then again, what could be more positively human than artifice?). Magda, from William Gibson’s delightful Pattern Recognition, comes to mind:
[Cayce:] “You’re in advertising? What do you do?”
[Magda:] “Look sorted, go to clubs and wine bars and chat people up. While I’m at it, I mention a client’s product, of course favorably. I try to attract attention while I’m doing it, but attention of a favorable sort. I haven’t been doing it long, and I don’t think I like it.”
“I mean you’re in a bar, having a drink, and someone beside you starts a conversation. Someone you might fancy the look of. All very pleasant, and then you’re chatting along, and she, or he, we have men as well, mentions this great new streetwear label, or this brilliant little film they’ve just seen. Nothing like a pitch, you understand, just a brief favorable mention.”
“But it’s starting to do something to me. I’ll be out on my own, with friends, say, not working, and I’ll meet someone, and we’ll be talking, and they’ll mention something.”
“Something they like. A film. A designer. And something in me stops.” She looks at Cayce. “Do you see what I mean?”
“I think so.”
“I’m devaluing something. In others. In myself. And I’m starting to distrust the most casual exchange.” Magda looks glum.
And now, after reading the Voice article — let alone reading The Game, for whatever purpose — , how can you not act differently? How can you help from negging, from creating a yes-ladder or a false time constraint? (Or from recognizing them?) I now know that the style of conversation I’ve evolved over the years, mostly unconsciously, is quite neggish; doesn’t being aware of what one’s doing changes the very nature of the act? “Being natural is such a very difficult pose to keep up.”
Is it sneaky for men to employ said techniques? No sneakier than it is for a woman to color her hair or wear a push-up bra or high heels. We do what we need to in order to get the attention of the opposite sex.
Perhaps Dolly is right. These techniques may be nothing but conversation cosmethics (or rather, prosthetics) and I can surely appreciate their playful side, the way they’re “the grown-up version of hair-pulling on the playground.” But I’m still wary — it’s conversation we’re talking about here and there are few things I value more.
Oh, and I’m well aware that at least some parts of the article have been fabricated, as rumored first in Gawker, and then acknowledged by the Voice and the author himself. This is a shame (not least because of the wimpy apology by the author) but the article is still interesting and worth reading; that’s why I made a verbatim copy of it in my website.