Five guys walk into a bar — an Englishman, an Irishman, an Asian, a West Indian and a Jew. No, it’s not the first line of a joke, it’s what happened the other week when I, plus several other blokes of varying races and creeds, went to a nightclub to try and meet women after learning how to score on a course run by an organisation called Love Systems.
As Samir, one of the students on the three-day "boot camp" held in London, put it: "If you feel ill, you call a doctor, so why not have someone you can go to when you’re having trouble getting a girlfriend?"
And so, for the cost of around $3,000, you can pay to have treatment for your pulling. Love Systems approach the business of seduction with almost surgical precision. And it is a business: one of the two foremost academies in the world designed to teach pick-up skills at a theoretical level (daytime seminars in hotels) and "in the field" (night-time sessions in bars and clubs). Love Systems is a company, based in Los Angeles, with "dating coaches" around the globe and also an online facility offering auxiliary instruction in everything from "routines" — killer conversation starters on dates — to "relationship management".
If this all makes Love Systems sound like dating droids in designer shirts unbuttoned to the waist to reveal chest hair and bling, don’t worry: they’re just like you and me — normal-looking guys putting their knowledge and business acumen into practice.
Many of them are Jewish, such as Neil Strauss, who wrote the bible of pick-up, The Game, in 2005. So, too, are the principals behind Love Systems: founder Nick Benedict, who goes by the name of Savoy, and dating guru Jesse Krieger, aka Starlight (everyone in the pick-up community uses an alias). And all of them were previously unsuccessful with women.
"At high school I didn’t feel cool and women weren’t attracted to me," says Krieger. "I was studious and good with numbers, but not with girls. I wanted to become more socially adept."
The turning point came when he chanced upon a copy of The Game. Two years and thousands of in-field forays later, he has transformed himself from schlemiel to lothario — he’s just visited one former conquest in Slovenia, and another in Shanghai.
"Since I discovered The Game I’ve hooked up with more than double the girls I met in my entire life before that," says Krieger, 27. Good-looking girls, he explains, "get hit on by 10 or 15 guys a night". His job is to teach us how to be more engaging. So can he now pull on any given night, anywhere on the planet? "I don’t believe anyone who says they can do that, but yes, many more times than not. I’d say 80 per cent of the time I’ll leave [a club] with phone numbers or make out with someone. And we can demonstrate that at boot camp."
Indeed they can. At a hotel in the city, we sit entranced as Krieger and associates reveal the secrets of The Game. The rules of seduction are scrutinised in forensic detail. We are told the correct posture to adopt when approaching "sets" (a group of girls) and to use the "three-second rule" — any longer and your prey will perceive you as weak. We are given sure-fire "openers" (ice-breakers) such as, "Do you think kissing is cheating?" which women invariably warm to. We are taught the value of "qualification," which works both ways — they have to justify our interest in them as much as vice versa — and how to "build comfort" via "kino" (subtle touching) so they don’t think we are lecherous creeps. Finally, we study "transitioning" — basically, how to get a girl into a corner of the club for a cosy chat, or even a snog ("kiss closing").
And so to the appliance of all this science. On the last night of the course, we head down to On Anon, a club in Leicester Square. It’s one thing having the minutiae of courtship at your disposal; it’s another employing it over music louder than Concorde at full speed.
While the instructors head to the bar and the students tentatively mingle, I approach a tall blond girl, standing by the dancefloor, with a classic opener.
"Do women lie more than men?" I yell, ever so suavely, in her ear, but she either doesn’t hear or understand, and she turns back to her friend. Before panic sets in, I retreat outside to a cordoned-off area for nicotine fiends — thank God for smoking, and the smoking ban. And for London traffic — even though it’s 11pm, Shaftesbury Avenue is at a standstill, and there are huddles of men and women actually speaking.
"Would you break up with someone over a text message?" She smiles — I’m in. I proceed from stage to stage – "attraction," "qualification," "comfort" — with the elan of a master. She even instigates the kino phase by stroking my shiny pate.
Meanwhile, I am the very picture of cool — literally. There’s a man on the other side of the road, one of those street artists you see in central London at night, painting me, although it is possible at this point that I am hallucinating with delight.
I want to leave on a high, so I issue a "false time constraint", tell the girl that I have to be back in the club in five minutes to meet my friends, and decide to "number close": I give her my mobile phone, and she punches in some digits.
I haven’t called her yet but I’ve got to hand it to those Love Systems guys, because if a neurotic, self-sabotaging Woody Allen/Larry David type like yours truly can sustain a conversation with a complete stranger — a female one, noch — without lapsing into stammering nebbish mode, then anyone can.
"Some guys may feel a little bit of shame that they had to learn how to succeed with women," says Savoy. "But I don’t think it’s strange. People get professional advice on all sorts of stuff that isn’t anywhere near as important as their romantic relationships. If Iget advice on how to do my taxes or fix my car, why wouldn’t I get lessons on how to bring exciting women into my life?"
Some datings do’s and don’ts
Don’t project desperation – women can smell "needy" a mile off
Don’t supplicate – that means no making offers of drinks or lifts home to women (think of all the money you’ll save)
Don’t burst into tears when she asks about your ex and take it as an opportunity to bore her about your divorce
Do bathe before leaving the house – you can only take dishevelled chic so far
Do act cool — declaring undying love in the first five minutes is a no-no, even if she does resemble Scarlett Johansson’s more attractive younger sister
Do convey an "abundance mentality", even if the only other ladies in your life are your mum and the old lady who folds your washing at the launderette