XL COVER STORY
Pickup artist shares his secrets
Author of 'Make Her Chase You' offers tips on the art of getting women.
SPECIAL TO THE AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Tynan enters the low-lit Brown Bar in baggy jeans, flat shoes, a form-fitting vintage button-up and his signature costume piece, a multicolored, sequined cap.
The Austinite, who goes by one name, doesn't come off as the author of "Make Her Chase You," a guide "to becoming irresistibly magnetic to all women." On the contrary, the self-professed pickup artist appears a bit dopey with his protruding ears and offbeat sense of style.
He smiles. The clouds break. Quickly, he transforms into an avatar of self-awareness, exuding an immaculate sense of confidence.
"My only reason for getting into pickup is that I felt like I had no control," Tynan says. "Once in a while a girl would like me and maybe I could sort of wrangle my way into a relationship with her, but it was never up to me."
Despite those early dating trials, Tynan is one of the key characters in Neil Strauss' best-seller, "The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists." Researching the book, Strauss moved to Los Angeles, infiltrated the world of pickup artists and learned how to go from zero to hero.
Tynan had chased the same dream in Hollywood, where he met his biggest pickup-culture influences, the solo-named Mystery of "The Mystery Method" and Tyler Durden of "Real Social Dynamics." Both have developed protocols for meeting women and now make their livings teaching techniques to others.
Tynan joined "Project Hollywood," an entourage of pickup artists, living colorful, soap operatic lives in Dean Martin's former house.
"I got to the point where every girl I would meet would invariably become attracted to me," Tynan reports with a glint in his eye. "And even better than that, I didn't really feel like I had to do anything for it."
Moving the interview from Brown Bar to his 12th-floor penthouse overlooking downtown Austin, Tynan explains what most guys are doing wrong: "If I were to boil it down, the biggest mistake is that they tend to think of themselves as unworthy of any girl."
They are too willing to please, he suggests, buying flowers and drinks and coming across as too eager.
He says that a good way to feel confident is to think of past success: "Maybe it's been a girlfriend who totally loved you. Maybe it's just some girl you talked to for 20 minutes and you could tell that she was really into the conversation. You realize that you've done this before, realize that it's what people do: They attract other people. They date other people. They marry other people. They have babies."
Another no-no for Tynan is dating conformity: "Women don't want to date every other guy," he says. This means coming up with unique ideas or dressing differently to get noticed.
In the pickup world, this sartorial differentiation is known as "peacocking" and can involve wild tops, garish boots or loud hats such as Tynan's cap.
"The worst possible thing you can do is dinner and a movie," he says. "Anything that any other guy does is not what you want to be doing because the instant she slots you into the 'he's just like every other guy' hole, you've got to dig your way out of it.
"You see those radio towers over there," Tynan says, pointing to spindly structures off in the distance, "I used to take girls there and climb up with them to the first story. I'd say, 'Hey we're gonna go out. It's a surprise. Wear jeans and sneakers.' "
Even the casual suggestion, Tynan says, sets the pickup artist apart.
"Normally girls want to dress up for dates," he says "and it throws them off a little bit, kinda has them guessing about you, thinking about you, wondering about you.
"We would climb 100 feet to the first platform and see a beautiful view of Austin and hang around and chat. Even if the date doesn't work, she has this really cool story which I guarantee she's going to tell to people for years to come. Whereas, no girl is going to say, 'Back in March of '04, I went and had dinner with some guy.' "
After some near-accidents, Tynan decided to trade that high-flying routine for simply taking women out for ordinary activities.
"Maybe I'm going to Whole Foods for grocery shopping, so I'll just ask them along to do that," he says. "Even if you're just going to get your car fixed, tell her, 'Hey, I need a ride to the car place. Come with me and we'll go find something fun to do.' It shows a lot of confidence to do something like that."
Not everyone appreciates the typical pickup artist, who self-consciously develops skills to control social situations with techniques borrowed from psychology, relying on insecurities, telling loaded stories and performing parlor tricks.
"Fair warning to women," posts one blogger, Sam, known as "Thinking Girl" on WordPress.com. "Men are willing to pay someone to teach them how to trick you into thinking they are charming so they can get into your pants. And some men are willing to take that money."
Sam says male pickup artists are manipulative and dishonest and asks, "Why is it that teaching men to be confident with women is automatically about tricking women into thinking the man is something he's not: smooth, suave, charming?"
In response, Tynan says he is always honest with a woman, and he lets them know he's a pickup artist.
"When I'm open about it, they think, 'Well, if it's the truth, how can it be manipulative? He's openly telling me about it.'
"The way I see it is, if a girl gets an opportunity to be with me, you know, in a relationship with me, I think it's probably one of the best things that will happen to her in her life. So I feel like, if I play on her insecurities a little bit ... well, if that gets her into a relationship with me, then I think that is a good thing for her."
Deception in mating
While such attitudes can sound boastful, it turns out that some social scientists would qualify pickup artistry as normative behavior.
"Pickup is deceptive in that you are working on projecting a higher mate value than what your natural self-esteem would otherwise suggest," says Norman Li, assistant professor of social psychology at the University of Texas.
However, Li says pickup is "hardly the extent of deception in mating," going on to say that men and women respond to different cues. "For instance," Li says, "men respond very readily to cues of physical attractiveness, and any time a woman enhances her appearance, it is ultimately deceptive.
"When a woman wears makeup, a push-up bra or clothes that hide fat while accentuating curves, she is in effect trying to deceive people as to her age, health and reproductive capacity," things Li says are critical to a man's selection of a mate.
"Given what women look for in men," Li says, "men may have evolved to trick women into thinking that they have higher status than they do, and that they are more capable of investing in a relationship than they really are. Women, on the other hand, tend to want to see signs that a man can invest in them before wanting to have sex and are pretty good at assessing men for who they truly are."
It's an ancient shared deception for transmitting DNA, Li asserts, "not a comment on right versus wrong, but simply how it is."
A friend's view
Evan, an Austin sex columnist and former fashion editor, walks up to a picnic table at the Hotel San José, orders champagne and introduces herself with a laser-whitened smile.
She met Tynan by applying to be one of "Tynan's Angels," a now-defunct showcase of women giving advice to men and answering their questions about dating through his Web site, BetterThanYourBoyfriend.com.
"He found girls who he thought, 'clearly these women are attractive; they are able to date widely,' " she says, "because a woman's opinion doesn't matter unless you want to date her. Does that make sense? So you have to find girls who are really young and appealing."
Aware that she is expanding or undermining Tynan's dating reputation, Evan says he interviewed many women.
"But he and I did discover, as soon as we met each other, we clicked really, really well," she says. "Mostly over things like our obsession with healthy eating and our love of Scrabble and so we became really good friends. But I had a girlfriend at the time."
Yet Evan says she wasn't immune to Tynan's charms and the two developed a relationship.
"You know, he is hands-down one of my best friends on the planet," says the bisexual Evan. "We are very, very close and when we met I was very much in a relationship and I would say he did not hit on me, ever. But I think that is one of the hallmarks of good pickup, is that you don't know that it's happening."
She says her perspective is influenced by the fact that she prefers dating women to men.
"I'm not really a big fan of guys," she says.
But does Tynan really possess incredible powers of seduction?
"He's not better than I am," she says. "Tynan is amazing because part of the thing that works in his favor is that he is physically very unassuming: skinny, geeky, really young looking, nerdy, nerdy guy who wears atrocious, terrible clothes and a god-awful hat which I, by the way, hate. Hate that hat."
On the other hand, Tynan is easygoing and unassuming.
"Either he's the guy who's gonna be your best friend, or he's gay," Evan says of her first impressions. "When I met him, he was drinking tea at a coffee shop and he had painted nails and this flamboyant outfit and looked like he was 16 years old and he's a very good listener. He would just listen and smile and I thought, 'Awwww, what a great guy.'
"He's not faking it," she continues. "But then what you don't see immediately that starts to come out later he's insane. He has these wacky, wacky ideas and this crazy sense of humor and he's very, very smart. And so women trust him easily and then kind of get sucked into the 'Ty Bubble.' They have to live in his universe for a while."
Over time, Evan says, their relationship seemed more like an ideal business partnership and less like an intimate relationship with a future, so they parted on good terms and remain friends.
Although she admits it can be effective, Evan's not entirely sold on Tynan's pickup philosophy.
"I think that a lot of guys kind of lose track of the fact that they're in pickup because they love women and want to be with them, and instead it becomes about the boys' club and it becomes about notches on the bedpost kind of thing," she says, "which I think is entertaining when you're 19, 20 but I don't think it's a super great way to live your life, nor do I think it's productive if the actual goal is to improve yourself.
"The guys who think, 'this is a great way to get laid a whole lot' that might work out a while for them, but a lot of them tend develop some very misogynistic viewpoints that are icky, and no self-respecting woman is going to buy into that."
Tynan walks through the doors of a downtown coffee shop carrying a large motorized skateboard, wearing his signature cap, and introduces himself to Charles.
Charles is anxious because Tynan has agreed to share some pointers on pickup, work out a routine and then march him into conversations with strangers.
A project manager in his early 20s, Charles owns his condo, holds down a well-paying job and makes sound business decisions. These traits make him a candidate for a successful, fulfilling life, but Charles, above all, would like to find somebody with whom to share his life.
In Tynan's view, Charles is the type of guy constantly reading Maxim trying to learn about women, "just spinning his wheels," he says, "The girl that he's interested in has no interest in him; they're just friends. There're maybe some girls he has crushes for he won't even talk to. You know, an average frustrated chump."
Tynan coaches Charles on the selection of an "opener," a "neg," a "personal story" and other elements of a routine Charles will use from set to set. (A "set" is the pickup term for a group that a pickup artist approaches.)
Charles learns two openers, or conversation pieces, in case the first one doesn't work.
Tynan directs him to say: "Quick question, and then I have to meet up with some friends" this lets the set know that the pickup artist must leave soon and therefore makes him appear nonthreatening. "Do you think it's OK for a guy to be friends with his ex-girlfriend?" After the set responds, Charles will ask, "Well, do you think it's OK for a guy to keep a memento box of movie passes and letters, etc., from a previous relationship?"
Charles will follow up with: "The reason I ask is because I have a friend and his girlfriend found his memento box from a previous relationship and burned it ... what do you think of that?" This is known in the pickup community as the "jealous girlfriend opener."
The point is to engage the set in a conversation about a relationship, and then leave an opening for the pickup artist to demonstrate his ability to break up by saying, "I told my friend to get rid of her."
This statement is designed to show the set he is not falling over himself to land every woman and, in fact, is choosy.
Following the opener is the "neg," saying something negative so that members of a set don't think the pickup artist is such an easy catch. "You're gonna say something that makes them wonder if you actually want them," Tynan says, "because every girl is gonna say, 'This is another guy trying to pick me up.' It's throwing a little pebble at them that makes them think, 'maybe he doesn't really want me. Maybe I have to earn him.' "
Charles' neg will be: "I can already tell we're not going to get along. We're just too similar and we'd end up fighting all the time."
After the neg, Charles will tell a story. Charles asks, "Can I just make something up?" Tynan agrees.
This story, in short, is a detailed description of a whitewater rafting trip that never actually occurred in which Charles saved a stray dog from drowning by jumping from his raft and swimming it to shore. By the end of the story Charles has positioned himself as a hero, a man of derring-do and the owner of a new dog, at which point he asks the set for suggestions naming the dog.
After the anecdote, Charles will open up to the set, saying: "You know what? When I first met you, my impression was so-so, but now that I get to know you, you're actually real cool."
Man in action
After a few practice runs with Tynan acting as the set, Tynan directs Charles toward a set consisting of a man and woman. He jumps right in.
From nearby, Tynan listens to Charles' words and watches his body language. Afterward, Charles admits to being nervous but is able to assess the steps he'd forgotten and the points in the conversation where he might have acted differently.
The coffee shop turns to the casual bar, Hi Lo, which turns into Union Park, which turns into several other bars.
Although Tynan's stated goal for Charles is snagging somebody's number, that does not happen. Near the end of the night, Tynan decides to use the same routine as Charles. He builds a quick rapport with a woman who seems to enjoy the conversation, noted by much head-throwing laughter and smiling, but ultimately, she admits to having a boyfriend.
In a very black-and-white way, they achieve the same results in the numbers game that is pickup. Both enjoy positive conversations, but neither get any digits.
"I have always had the impression that pickup artists were either very smooth men that could just pickup women naturally," Charles says, "or they were weird sleazy men whose motives were completely transparent. And I felt that pickup artists were just looking for one-night stands. This was all, of course, before reading Tynan's book. My impression of pickup artists/pickup now is completely opposite.
"I learned the smallest details can mean everything. I learned that I need to pay more attention to my body language, to slow down actions and thoughts, and to think about what I am going to say and how I am going to say it. I've done it once, I can do it again, and I can do it better."
In final analysis, Charles didn't see anything negative about pickup culture and says he thinks it's just a way of "meeting someone who you have never meet before and talking to them for a short period of time, which hopefully results in an exciting conversation."
So is pickup, with its preening self-confidence, rehearsed lines and costumed "peacocking," an honest way to find a mate or deceptive advertising that objectifies women as targets?
Social psychologist Li says it might all be as natural as basic biology.
"The peacock's tail is thought to be honest advertisement," he says. "That is, only a male with good genetic quality can produce the kind of bright displays that female peahens are attracted to."
What's new with Tynan
You can keep up with pickup artist Tynan through his Web site, better thanyourboyfriend.com. Some recent news:
Tynan has moved from a penthouse downtown to an RV and Tynan says, 'I love living in my RV.'
Tynan has completed his latest book, 'Wingman Strategies,' to accompany his recent, 'Make Her Chase You.' Check out www.makeherlikeyou.com for details.
Although he's hosted Karaoke Wednesdays at the Firehouse Lounge for awhile, he recently began hosting Tazeroke at Shakespeare's on Tuesdays. 'We electrocute people every week with an 800k volt stun baton. Somehow no one has shut us down yet,' Tynan proclaims in his blog.
Tynan has started to use the popular training program 'Crossfit,' saying, 'Crossfit is used by housewives, old ladies, teenagers ... and oh yeah, the Navy Seals, UFC fighters, and the dudes who acted in the movie '300.' Why? Because it is THE way to get your body into optimal condition.'
Rumors abound about Tynan taking a ballet class.