A guy walks into a bar, lays eyes on the woman of his dreams, is paralysed by an overwhelming fear of rejection, leaves without speaking to her, and spends the rest of his life wondering what could have been. Sound familiar? Well, if it does, you need to hire the services of professional pick-up artist Adam Lyons.
Once a shy schoolboy voted by his classmates the person least likely to find a girlfriend, Lyons’s life transformed two years ago after he read The Game, a book by Los Angeles-based writer Neil Strauss that exposed a “secret society” of pick-up artists operating in the United States. Twenty-six-year-old Lyons immediately quit his job in PR to spend seven hours a day in “the field”, practising the lines and routines which have made him one of Britain’s experts in what he says is “the science of seduction”.
He now runs Attraction Explained, a “dating academy” where this new-age shidduch teaches the formula which, he claims, can help men overcome their dating fears and turn them into someone any discerning woman would love to spend time with. So in the interests of public service, and to fine-tune my own seduction skills, I took the challenge of spending a night on the town with the master to discover if his irresistible way with women really does bring results.
I met him outside the trendy Central London nightclub Paper. I did not know him from, well, Adam, but his warm smile, confident swagger and piercing eyes immediately set him apart from the swarming Saturday-night crowd. Moments after meeting for the first time, I already felt as if I wanted to give Lyons my phone number.
He sidestepped the long queue and flashed a magnetic grin at the bouncers, who lifted the velvet rope and waved us through. As we walked down the stairs leading into the marble-walled club, Lyons set me my first test: “I want you to spend the next five minutes ignoring all the girls and making friends with all the guys. I want the women to see what a fun and popular person you are.”
Concerned that this first exam would already be a bridge too far, I breezed past a strawberry-blonde by the bathroom and a brunette sitting at the bar and headed straight for two security guys, with whom I animatedly discussed England beating Australia in the rugby World Cup. I then shook hands with the barmen and a random group of guys standing by the stairs, before slightly scaring the toilet attendant by making him give me high-fives after I had paid a visit.
“This may seem strange, but you’re establishing a high social standing in the club,” said Lyons, seemingly pleased with my groundwork. “Now you’re ready to speak to that girl by the cloakroom who’s been staring at you since we arrived.”
I followed his gaze and spotted a pretty woman wearing a low-cut red A-line dress. She had been staring at me? I had been so distracted by the toilet attendant that I really had not noticed. Fixing a friendly grin, I sauntered over and introduced myself.
Her name was Martha. She was 26, from Poland, and had long Pantene Pro V-conditioned blonde hair. Her English may have been broken, but her body language eloquently indicated interest. After a minute’s small talk, I delivered, according to Lyons’s instructions, a flirtatious put-down that pick-up artists call a “neg”: “I like your dress. There’s a girl at the bar wearing the designer version.” Martha looked suitably outraged, but she did not walk away. So I followed up with a move known as “kino” — playful physical contact, touching her arms and shoulders.
I was on the verge of topping up her Red Bull and vodka when Lyons reappeared. I assumed he was simply going to whisper something in my ear along the lines of “my work here is done”, then let me get on with the job in hand. Instead, he took my arm, told Martha that I would speak to her again later, and dragged me towards the roped-off VIP section.
“That’s rule number two,” he said. “Walk-away theory. Only chat to a woman for a few minutes, then surprise her by saying: ‘Have a nice evening. See you later’. When you leave after a few minutes, you stand out from the other guys who’ll lock on to her all night and monopolise her time. Women are attracted to men they have to work hard to obtain, so leave fast, escalate attraction, then go back for her number at the end of the night.”
I had known this man for half an hour and he had already transformed me from an average male into an alpha male. I was a young Hugh Hefner with the world at my feet.
The VIP section offered a girl-to-guy ratio heavily in my favour, the ideal location for a second approach. I spotted a tall and tanned beauty sitting alone on the couch, her brunette hair tied in a ponytail and a pair of headphones curiously wrapped around her neck — which provided a helpful conversation starter. Her eyes locked on to mine as I recalled Lyons’s third rule — “Make your move within three seconds of establishing eye contact or you’ll appear shy, or even creepy.” OK. One. Two. Three. Here goes.
“Hi, I’m Richard,” I said, leaning down to shake her hand.
“Hi, I’m Carmen.”
“Nice headphones. Are you DJing here?”
“No, actually I’m a model.”
An awkward pause filled the room while I racked my brain for an emergency “neg” to counter her use of the word ‘model’.
“Err, that’s great. Are you a hand model?”
I do not recall how much time passed before she stopped sneering and rose to he feet. Maybe seconds, maybe a week. But at some point, she got up and stormed off without another word. I fled the VIP section so fast my cheeks rippled from the G-force.
Lyons had seen my downfall from between his fingers as if watching a scary movie. “I couldn’t pick up what you said, but that interaction was doomed from the moment you leaned down to speak to her,” he said. “You have to match head height. Never be in a position where you are looking up or down at a woman. If you have to approach a girl who is sitting down, then shake her hand and then, without letting her hand go, stand her up, twirl her around and steal her seat to create a fun game with physical contact.”
After such a cruel setback, I took time out to witness Lyons bringing out the heavy artillery on the dance floor. I could not hear his “game”, but I could see it in all its glory. He was taking “kino” to Zen-like levels, which allowed him playfully to link arms, hold hands and kiss cheeks with any woman he wanted. He even got an enthusiastic hug out of headphone girl. Lyons was going to need a second sim card for his mobile by the end of the night.
Moved by my mentor, I soon got my own game back in action, initiating eye contact and conversation with three women using one of his easiest and most effective moves — placing a hand to my nose and making a funny face. This defuses the intensity of the initial stare from a stranger, makes the woman giggle and opens her up to an approach. Crucially, it also provides a fun conversation starter.
By using this playground manoeuvre, then following it up with “kino” and an occasional “neg”, I hit an unprecedented run of form. By 4am I had spoken to Savana, Carmen, Ellie and Jade, making sure that my old friend Martha could see me talking to each of them to advertise my blatant desirability. But due to walk-away theory, I was yet to “number close” or “kiss close” on any of them. According to Lyons, I was now sitting on “damage limitation” — the key phase of the night when the time comes to cash your chips.
Adam Lyons’s theory on “number closing” raced through my mind as I returned to each woman. “Never ask ‘Can I have your phone number?’. Women associate this line with being picked up. Say something open-ended instead, like: ‘You’re really interesting. What’s the best way to contact you?’”
I stuck to the script. “You’re really interesting,” I told Savana, then Carmen, then Ellie, then Jade and finally Martha. “What’s the best way to contact you?” To my amazement, all five women happily handed over their digits — or at least that is what I thought, until spotting that cheeky Carmen had keyed in her name as “Try Again” and her number as “118 118”. Touché.
As the club emptied, Lyons delivered his end-of-night assessment. “You are comfortable approaching anyone, which pretty much guarantees you’ll do well. But you’re a little forward in your approach and telegraph your intentions too much. Let women chase you more, even if you risk losing them. If you make a woman want to own you, she’ll give you more attention the next time you speak.”
I gave Martha the first shot at “owning” me when I called her the following night. As we arranged where we would meet, her flatmate abruptly grabbed the phone and angrily yelled in my ear: “Ask Adam when he’s going to call me!” I did not have the heart to tell her she was in for a long wait.
• First published in the Jewish Chronicle.