The low-ceilinged basement of a central London hotel looks like an unlikely venue for men to transform themselves into love gods.
But there are 17 single blokes here to do just that. They're at a three-day love bootcamp which claims to be able to teach these guys how to seduce any woman. Yes, really.
The men here today, all in their 20s and 30s, don't exactly look like losers in love. There's nothing a decent haircut and a good shirt wouldn't cure. But each of them has paid £2,000 to have their flirting technique completely overhauled. Sounds expensive? That's the price of love.
In return for their hard-earned cash, they'll receive 25 hours of intense theory and practical experience from the Love Systems company. Then they'll put their lessons in love into action under the supervision of dating dons.
Solicitor Dan, 31, discovered the bootcamp on the internet and signed up six months ago after splitting from his girlfriend. With his dark spiky hair and cute features, he doesn't look like he'd have too much trouble approaching women. But he looks terrified, and, in a whisper, he admits: "When it comes to meeting women I'm paralysed with nerves. I can't imagine why any girl would waste her time talking to me."
Next to him is software entrepreneur Ajay, 32, who a quick Google search reveals to be a multi- millionaire.
"I've got a very successful career but I'm a total failure with the opposite sex," he confesses. "I can't do the most basic thing in the world - be attractive to the women I like."
A rumble of agreement ripples through the gathered group, which includes city traders, IT geniuses, top army officers and even a brain surgeon.
Will, 24, a job-seeker from Esher, Surrey, was so desperate for a chance at love that he persuaded an uncle to foot the bootcamp bill.
"Being able to talk to women is as important as having a good career," justifies Will. Who'd have thought us girls could be so scary?
A sudden hush falls over the class as the instructors stride to the front of the room. "I used to be just like you," says Mr. M, the 27-year-old European manager of Love Systems.
A university lecturer, educating students in the fine art of mergers and acquisitions, Mr. M reveals he used to be "rubbish with women". He didn't have his first kiss until he was 20 years old. Yes, that's 20 years old.
He declined to be photographed for our story, but standing the wrong side of 5ft 5in and sporting bad Lego-man hair, I can't help wondering how he became a mentor on the art of personal mergers. Like any good geek, he did his homework.
"I studied the science of attraction," he explains, citing psychology books, hours of observing human behaviour and endless rejections for helping him learn how to get women to say "yes".
"I went from lonely nerd to Playmate-pulling love god," he coos. And the men are hanging on his every word.
"We'll tell you exactly what you're doing that makes women think you're creepy," says Mr. M. "Then we'll help you fix it."
Fellow instructor, 23-year-old Keychain believes he's the key to unlocking the secret of finding a woman.
"We work on a 95 per cent scale," Keychain explains. "If you follow our guidelines, you'll be successful 95 per cent of the time, with 95 per cent of women."My question is answered when the bootcamp gets underway, breaking down the exact scientific process of sexual attraction and explaining it in the most logical way possible.
The first topic covered is 'Inner Game', which instructs the men about being masculine and confident - the very things that us red-blooded women want. One by one the group confess that they have "limiting beliefs" - voices in their heads that prevent them from pulling.
A shaven-haired man next to me types: "I'm too short, I'm boring," on his laptop.
Mr. M tuts. "You have to act confident even if you're not. If you try to kiss a girl and she turns her head away, don't apologise," he advises. "Every time you're apologetic, your social value decreases. You need to build this up to be successful with women."
Keychain nods, adding that men should never ask a woman if she wants a drink because she'll think he's trying to buy her time. His preferred phrase is: "I'm going to get a drink, do you want one?" said with a light touch to the inside of the woman's upper arm.
I'm not sure I'd notice the difference.
Next up is the 'Emotional Progression Model', which boils down to mastering a great opening line to start the attraction process.
Mr. M swears by his favourite: "I saw you from across the street. You were so gorgeous that I just had to come and talk to you." He says it shows confidence and is almost certain to never cause offence.
To up the men's sex appeal, Keychain advises plenty of physical contact such as leaning closer and touching a woman's hand. But the strongest tool the students learn is the 'Statement Of Intent'.
It sounds more business jargon than the language of love to me.
Mr. M and Keychain insist that the direct approach is best. "Say: 'I really like you'," they advise.
Poor Ajay looks horrified. "But then she'll know I'm trying to hit on her," he gasps.
Keychain grins. "That's a good thing," he replies. "You'll make her feel desirable - a powerful aphrodisiac."
Next, Mr. M suggests using 'takeaways', so the men don't come across as too keen. This technique involves checking texts while talking to women to make them work for his attention. He demonstrates flirting with a girl (well, Keychain), then turning away abruptly to read a text.
It's taken five long hours for Mr. M and Keychain to run through these pick-up tricks.
And now it's time for the students go out in 'the field' to try their new techniques out for real.
Suddenly, their nerves go into overdrive. "Why is this so hard?" wails Dan, as he fluffs: "You're gorgeous, hi, I'm Dan," over and over again.Tonight's mission takes place in a local bar and the object is to deliver an opening line to a woman and keep her talking.
I'm not convinced that anyone's going to be pulling tonight. But, by midnight, Dan, Ajay and Will are all snogging like teenagers. And no, they haven't resorted to kissing each other.
The next day, they're like new men. "Everyone had a clumsy start and a few rejections," says Keychain, like a proud father. "But they learnt fast. Will spoke too softly and had floppy body language that made women think he was a drip, not a sexual, masculine being. He needs to be more of a man. Ajay was too stiff. I told him physical contact should be like dancing - you lead and she follows. And Dan practised his opening line until it became comfortable. I made him try it 30 times on different women until he found a taker."
The men all pulled.
Keychain insists it's important students practise flirting on anything in a skirt before focusing on 'HQWs' - or High-Quality Women.
After another day of jargon and instruction in skills such as how, when and what to text, the men are set loose on the ladies once again. And the shy, awkward rookies have been transformed into confident men.
"You're gorgeous," Will smiles, touching me gently at the waist. Dan tries the same trick. "Is it working?" he laughs. If I'm honest, it's a bit cheesy, but I've been privy to their lessons. I can see how some ladies would be impressed. They have varying degrees of success.
In Sunday's seminar, Keychain explains how to make the transition from the club to the bedroom. "Whatever you do, don't make sex your main motive," he says. "The number one thing you need to take away from this weekend is respect for women."
Mr. M agrees. "If you want a real relationship, you've got to make her feel good, care about her feelings and prove she can trust you," he says.
Finally, the men are given image advice. A polo neck is deemed "creepy" and a floor-length leather trench coat is consigned to the bin. Something I'd being dying to do!
Dan, Ajay and Will unanimously agree their money has been well spent. They're all confident of being able to bag a date.
Outside, a passing man stops me on the street. "I saw you from across the road, and thought you were so gorgeous," he grins, "I had to come over and say hi."
I know it's a line, but I find myself smiling. So, as a new batch of pick-up artists get ready to deliver carefully pitched compliments to women all over Britain, I hope they find love.
They just need to remember that us girls have got a few tricks of our own up our sleeves.
"My girlfriend of four years dumped me last year after our relationship ran its course. Since then I've found it really difficult talking to women.Dan, 31, is a solicitor from London.
I want to settle down, but in order to find the right woman, I've got to learn how to approach her.
Previously, my pulling strategy was totally hit and miss. I'd get drunk at parties and occasionally get lucky, but mostly I didnt. Although I meet lots of women through my job, they've all either got boyfriends or are going through painful divorces.
My goal is to be able to go up and say hi to any pretty girl on the street, and for her to fancy me back. I think I've definitely achieved this on the course. I know that £2,000 sounds like a lot of money, but it's an investment in my future and if it helps me find The One, it'll be worth every penny."
Excerpted from Fabulous Magazine, by Kate Faithfull, 14/02/2010.
PHOTOGRAPHY: CHRIS ANDERSON, ALAMY
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