She’s Got Game

The summer blockbuster season must be upon us, for this is my second post in a row about movies as they relate to my BFF search. But today there’s serious business to attend to, folks. I read yesterday that Neil Strauss’ bestselling book The Game will soon(ish) be hitting the big screen.

Why is this of any interest to me? Well, the book’s subtitle is “Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists.” The gist of the story is that Strauss takes a year to dive headfirst into the world of female seduction. Along with his tales of conquests, Strauss shares some of the methods he learns in his seminars, including the most offensive, or maybe the most intriguing: “the neg.” Per Strauss himself, “Neither a compliment nor an insult, a neg holds two purposes: to momentarily lower a woman’s self-esteem and to suggest an intriguing disinterest. (‘Nice nails. Are they real? No? Oh, they look nice anyway.’)” Basically, by insulting women just enough—most of his “negs” are backhanded compliments a la “You have the cutest Bugs Bunny overbite”—he distinguishes himself from the other fawning men and makes her come to him.

Since starting my quest, two people have suggested I use Strauss’s methods to pickup friends. The first was a male friend, via Twitter, who wrote: “@rberch I know how to make a girl like you. Ignore her or be rude. It works.” I was horrified.

But then I got this email from a female friend. “The basic premise is to ignore the other person and not show interest. You actually have to insult them at first. I wonder if it would work in the friendship setting. You should try it … It’s sort of sick if you think about it. Who wants to be ignored and insulted? But honestly, I have seen my brother do it. He would walk up to a group of girls, insult the one he liked and talk to the other ones while completely ignoring the one he liked and then, before the end of the night, she would give him her number.”

It is sick. The empowered woman in me vomited a little bit when I read that. And yet, it’s probably a decently successful method for guys looking to hook up. Women don’t like to be ignored, especially if they’re the only ones getting the silent treatment from a guy showering attention on their friends. It’s an insecurity thing.

So could I use “the neg”? Here’s my take: The guys it works for are looking for one-night stands. The Game isn’t written for men who want to settle down. And in the friendship realm, that’s what I want. As long as we both shall live and for better and for worse and all that. To make the kind of local best friend who will last a lifetime, not a gal to party with for a single evening.

And anyway, I don’t have it in me to up and insult someone I like right to her face. You have to be pretty horrible for me to put you down like that—I’m usually nice enough, even to the people I can’t stand. (I wish I could honestly say, “Oh, I would never say anything behind someone’s back that I couldn’t say to her face,” but I can’t. And I know I’m not alone.)

For now I’m going to pass. Being civilized has worked so far. But it’s an intriguing, if totally disgusting, concept. Could the art of the pickup be universal no matter if you want friends or lovers?

What do you think about The Game? Are you entirely horrified, or is there a part of you that sees how it might be just the ticket? Could it work in a friend-pickup setting?


Filed under The Search

34 responses to “She’s Got Game

  1. Um, not a fan of this dude. I get why it works and if you’re into one-night stands – hey! More power to you. But it’s never been for me, either romantically or frienship-wise. Good call on the pass Rachel!


  2. Donna

    To answer your question with yet another movie reference…look at Shrek and Donkey’s relationship. Shrek constantly tells him to go away, Donkey keeps coming back. We all want to loved, or at least, not disliked.

  3. Oh, my. I want to box Strauss’ ears. I want to oversalt his food and then claim it will make him come to me.

    The amount of manipulative thought that goes into using insults to provoke sexual interest (it has to be harsh, but not TOO harsh, and the target has to be a certain kind of woman, and the man has to appear powerful and disinterested, etc.) is scary to me. Even if the gender roles are reversed and it’s a woman trying to attract a man, there’s only one fitting word I can think of: WEAK.

    • Not just sexual interest, but friendship as well, in your case. The time you would have to spend thinking of just the right level of disinterest and detachment, and then worrying (because you’re nice) if it will actually work and if it’s right…that’s SO much energy.

  4. Seriously? Talk about starting the relationship off on the ol’ un-authentic foot! To have real relationships, you have to be real yourself. (Which then reminds me of the Seinfeld when Elaine is talking about “faking it” with Jerry…”Fake, Fake, Fake, Fake.” and follows it up with “I’m goooood.” Ha, good stuff…in a TV show, not life.)

  5. I am not a fan, although I understand why it would work sometimes. For me, friendship isn’t a “game.” I think we already have our plates full in trying to work through issues that plague regular friendships and relationships. Adding the element of the “game,” just complicates an already complex subject.

    Food for thought though Rachel… thanks.

  6. I just threw up a little in my mouth. My reaction to this sort of friend / hook-up chasing is you get what ask for. If you’re throwing out insults and back-handed compliments, how can that ever turn into a true, genuine friendship? Definitely not my style and if a potential friend did that to me, I’d probably walk away.

  7. Jackie

    I can clearly remember the last time someone I didn’t know, but had met at a girl’s night said something rude to me… I still don’t like her. I’m pretty sure I don’t want to be her friend. And I was very open-mindedly looking to make new friends that night!

    While Strauss may be making money selling books/ movie deals about how men play games with women(shocking), isn’t that why so many women hate men and the dating “game” that they play? The thought of that “game” moving over to women and friendship is appaling! Yikes! Don’t you want a genuine friend who says nice things to you? I’d pass up ole Straussy’s advice if I were you. The book does sound interesting though… in an ‘I hate men’ kind of way.

    • Seriously… good fodder for an angry Valentine’s Day gathering! You’re right that with women–even moreso than with me–we remember every rude thing that is said and are pretty good at holding grudges. Or maybe that’s just me…

      • Ella

        Totally not just you.

        Why is it that the compliments and kind words are so hard to believe and easily forgotten, but that belittling remark made by some anonymous person 15 years ago stings like it was said this morning?

        We are our own worst enemy, it seems.

  8. silsila

    I read this book, and it really made me feel sad for all the men involved. Maybe I’m old fashioned or simple, but I still find “negs” to be passive aggressive and it’s not really worth my time. I think anyone who thinks you would fall for it is insulting your intelligence. I have no doubt it worked on bimbos that wanted one night stands but certainly if you want something with more substance, keep looking.

  9. Ella

    Yes. Horrified.

    I imagine this works on sleazy men to pick up “broads”, but I can’t imagine that this would work for making a friend.

    Would YOU want to befriend someone that was mean to you? Talk about a turn-off (in friendspeak, of course).

    Also, that rude, calculating crap is not who you are. So, you’d be starting off basing a possible friendship on a lie AND an insult.

    Not the way to go.

    Yeah, I threw up a little in my mouth too…

    • You make a good point. That’s the thing about game playing, isn’t it? We end up pretending to be someone we’re not. Good if you’re trying to get someone into bed (see: everything Barney Stinson has ever done), not so good as the early foundation of an actual relationship…

      • Laura

        I was thinking “this is something Barney would do” the entire time I was reading your post. I think a good rule of thumb in friend-dating is to NOT do anything Barney Stinson would do. Think “WWBSD and then do the opposite.

  10. Megan

    Neither in the dating world nor in the friendship world would a “neg” work for me. If a guy ignores me, I ignore him right back. Yeah, I’ll feel insecure if he’s paying a lot of attention to my friends, but I wouldn’t want to go out with a guy if he’s that rude anyway. And, women are mean enough to each other (as your last posted discussed), so being insulted by one is not going to draw me into friendship with her…

  11. I am horrified, too. I can’t believe this guy. And anyway, if it’s not who you are, then I’d say: pass. Besides, I wouldn’t want to be friends with someone who insulted me! Keep being nice and warm and friendly, I say.

  12. It is horrifying. I’ve seen it in action, though, and the most horrifying thing about it?

    It usually works.

  13. Edie

    I just read “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker. It’s about believing your intuition to help keep yourself (and your family) safe. The reason I bring it up is, this “neg” thing is exactly what he describes as a technique manipulators use to get you to do something you shouldn’t do. Just another reason to be yourself. You don’t need to manipulate someone into being your friend; they should like you because of who you are. (And yes, I know that’s so cliche, but…)

  14. Ana

    Totally disgusting. Seriously, I got nauseated thinking about this, and was relieved that you & several others mentioned a similar vomit-y visceral reaction.

    I don’t care if it “works”, and to be honest, I have to wonder at the type of girls this kind of strategy does “work” on—is it targeting girls with low self esteem that like to be subordinate? I have had guys talk to me this way & it really makes them ugly to me, it is NOT a turn-on. There is something to be said for playing it cool & not coming on too eager or too interested, but back-handed insults & rudeness is a whole different story. I can’t imagine that anyone (who has surpassed middle school age) would want friends that belittle them in such a way!

    Its not the way I would like to be treated, nor the way I like to treat others. So does not fit into my idea of what a good relationship (friend, boyfriend, family, whatever) should involve.

  15. I’m a bit horrified, but at the same time, I am not surprised. Maybe having some guy treat you like crap feels right to some girls because we are so mean to ourselves. So it’s sort of the manifestation of how we view ourselves or something like that.

    I don’t think it would ever work w/ me – but I think back to early 20s and I might have fell for a guy when I was studying abroad that treated me like crap. I think part of the allure was getting him to change his mind about me? No idea. It’s messed up. But I was 20 and I was in Australia so I am giving myself a pass for falling for a guy whose nickname was *sshole. Seriously. (hangs head in shame)

    I could never employ that method, though!

    • Lisa, I have been there. When I was younger and dumber and much more insecure, I too was in a place where the more a guy I was interested seemed to not like me, the more I was determined to show him how great I was. It’s sad to look back on, but it was a learning experience. Now I know better…

      We both get passes!

  16. MarcTheEngineer

    Not to sound contrarian to the theme of your post or the majority of your comments… but I feel you and your commenter’s have deeply misunderstood:
    1 – Strauss’ book
    2 – “Pick-up Theory”
    3 – What a “neg” really is.

    Firstoff – The Game is not really a book that is about teaching men to pick-up women. It is essentially an autobiography about when Strauss “Entered the secret society of pick-up artists”.

    His book is broken into components of a pick-up as defined by the “Mystery Method” – Mystery is essentially the guy who first conglomerated modern pick-up theory and presented it in a concise format – He published a book called the “The Mystery Method: How to Get Beautiful Women Into Bed” which details the procedures he developed.

    Anyways… on to what pick-up theory is really about.

    First-off I want to emphasize – Not all men who use modern pick-up theory are using it for one night stands or to pump and dump women. A lot of men who’ve adopted “game” have done so because in today’s world your grandfathers advice on how to impress a lady rarely works. A great deal of men are simply trying to meet someone and have realized that they need a new strategy.

    Second – The majority of pick-up theory is not about “tricking” women into liking you – it is mostly a description the path women take when they decide if they are attracted to someone + instructions on how to navigate that path.
    Some guys follow that path naturally, meeting women is easy for them and NOT just because they are attractive.

    Finally – if you don’t like that men have started to think about these things – blame feminism and the sexual revolution (which is really just a sub-set of the feminist revolution) – Without it pick-up wouldn’t exist because the in the old model the “naturally good with women” men got married and came off the market meaning that the guys who didn’t have a clue actually had a chance with the women that were left. In the current model the guys who used to get married early now end up in strings of short to mid length relationships and the guys without a clue have to constantly compete with those guys. Tucker Max couldn’t have existed in the 50’s… he would have been forced to marry a girl in his early twenties.

    Think about it – if when you went to the grocery store after work all that was ever available was apples with a bruise or two and you really liked apples…well you would get an apple with a bruise. However, if you knew that if you waited around by the apple stand for a little while you could get a chance to grab a perfect apple (assuming that you value the perfect apple much more than the bruised apple) then alot of people are going to wait around for their chance at the perfect apples. The poor bruised apples never get the chance to be eaten.

    Ok… now for the neg

    First-off the purpose of the neg is not to put the girl down or to make her feel bad about herself – it is to establish that the person delivering it considers themself to be of “high status” – it is essentially a power play. It is also to differentiate the guy from the endless mass of men who desperately pitch an endless stream of compliments towards that woman in an attempt to essentially “purchase” her affection.

    Notice how I mentioned endless stream of guys – NEGS aren’t meant for ladies with low self-esteem (who generally, even if they are pretty, don’t get an endless stream of guys approaching and complimenting them… if they did their self-esteem issues would likely be fleeting).

    Negs are part of the pick-up where the guy is establishing attraction, the single most important attribute a guy can have to enhance his attractiveness is status – it’s why famous men consistently have women falling all over them (fame establishes high status). You can argue this point… but you are wrong – Most women peg a sense of humour as the #1 quality that they look for in a guy but really what does a sense of humour mean – Generally it means confidence + a degree of social intelligence (having confidence and social intelligence generally means that you will develop a higher status within your peer group) – Not to mention, the funny person is always the center of attention = the famous/high status person of the group.

    Last bit about negs – they aren’t supposed to be put-downs. A common example of a “good neg” for a girl you just met “Nice hat, you don’t see many girls who have the confidence to pull that off”. Yeh, any guy who says that is a real asshole right? The other example of a good neg is simply calling someone out when they do something stupid – not in a mean way, but a funny way. We all do this in friend groups all the time – the most flagrant example is when someone completely misses when someone makes a sarcastic remark about something and it goes over the head of someone. You get that slight moment of silence when everybody else in the group figures out that they missed the sarcasm, then the funny person of the group puts their arm around him and makes a joke about their obliviousness.

    • Megan

      Interesting how this guy thinks it’s ok to blame WOMEN for guys being assholes. Sorry, but I refuse to make excuses like “feminism” for guys not having the spine to have real relationships/be assholes instead. (If you think about it, it’s basically like saying, “Hey, if you want to be pursued respectfully and intelligently, go back to the 50’s” which we all know was even more sexist and demeaning in terms of culture than what we’ve got right now now. Thanks, but no thanks).
      I think the ladies below here summed up the rest of my thoughts pretty well, so I don’t need to say any more really.

  17. Ella

    Whoa, easy there partner!

    We were discussing it in context to making GIRLFRIENDS.

    God, I’m glad I’m not single..

    • Jackie

      I can number my ideas too…

      1- Nobody likes it when one knows their thoughts are contrarian to discussion, makes the decision to share them anyways, and then prefaces the remarks with, “Not to sound contrarian,” like they don’t mean to sound contrarian, although they obviously know they do.

      2- I think this is the perfect example of how men and women are so very different, and why every lady should have a great girlfriend. Most of the responses posted by women are about opinions, experiences, and advice. MarctheEngineer’s post is based on pointing out (what he perceives as) deficiencies with those opinions, experiences, and advice, and sharing facts instead.

      3- I don’t understand how MarctheEngineer says that negs aren’t supposed to be put downs, but he himself says that his “good neg” example would make you think the speaker of the “good neg” is an asshole. That really proves the points of the other comments that noted they thought negs were put downs or rude to begin with, that Marc then disagreed with, yet gave the perfect example of.

      4- I too am glad that I’m not single. Sheesh!

      • Ella


        Thank you, Jackie.

      • MarcTheEngineer

        Actually I wasn’t blaming women for men being assholes – I was blaming the feminist/sexual revolution for the fact that men like Tucker Max can get laid by a different girl every weekend and not only not be ostracized for it… but make millions from it. (and therefore become an idol of sorts for some college-aged idiots). I don’t think we should be going back to the 50’s – However I do think that there is a happy place between where we were and where we are now.

        In my opinion my example of a good neg is not an example of a guy being an asshole (the note about him being an asshole was sarcasm).

        In response to Rachel’s email – I don’t think using a “neg” would be an effective way to develop a BFF type relationship. The neg is about displaying status and I think BFF relationships are mostly about trust. It is okay for a BFF to be higher or lower in status (think relationships where one friend holds a mentor status). That being said – I know at least for friendships between men friendly competition sometimes results in “negs” (ribbing a guy for whatever)… but friendship dynamics are vastly different for women friends from what I understand.

        Finally – It is good not being single… I used game to meet my fiancé and am the first guy that has been able to get past her “this relationship is becoming serious point” (that was 3 years ago). That is the big reason I want to defend Strauss… his book led me to read up and gain an understanding of pick-up. Pick-up gave me the confidence and toolset to meet an amazing girl whom might never have given the ackward sideline standing old me a chance. Is she mad that I had a plan in attracting her? I can’t imagine so, considering the biggest complaint most of my female friends have about men is that they are clueless on that very same subject.

  18. This “method” sounds like it works when you make the other person feel like you owe them a favour.

    I read an article somewhere that if one likes the company they work for and want a promotion for the long term with stiff competition for the position, make other people feel like you owe them a favour. It means they’re likely to rally for you to get that promotion, because the more power you’ll have, the more likely they are to get that favour.

    This is also an interesting theory, I wonder if it really works.

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