How to Kill Attraction, and Fast: Breaking Down the Pickup Line

It’s the simplest thing in the world to do – start a conversation – but when there’s attraction and potential rejection involved, apparently it becomes a MESS.

The October issue of Hampton Roads Magazine is out, and I feel like I’ve been thrown to the socially awkward wolves. The auction isn’t till Thursday, but we 20 Sensational Singles have already been friend-requested on Facebook, and getting messages and emails from ones (supposedly) interested. And I’ve been bombarded with the reality: The real reason there are so many singles out there? People suck at starting and/or maintaining conversation.

Yeah, I know I’m a total dating rookie. My one, long-term serious relationships developed ‘situationally’ i.e. with someone I saw on a regular basis. There’s a reason for that—it’s REALLY hard to pique my interest with a few lines of chitchat. But I said I’d be openminded, right? Slowly, as I’ve warily sent responses to would-be weirdos, I’ve realized that ‘tis true: no one has a decent intro AND a good follow-up, which is really what it comes down to.

A few days ago I asked friends on Facebook to leave me the worst/best pickup lines they’ve ever heard. I noticed an interesting breakdown among the 8 people who responded (yes, 8.  I’m a blogger, not a social scientist!)—4 guys responded with typical sleazy/cheesy one-liners, while all 4 gals knew exactly what I was talking about. The pickup line is an ongoing test. It does not include one-liners that are more or less meant to grab attention or laughs. It’s more than that, and one slight can UNDO all past prose. And my own opinion: you have to keep proving yourself through the second or third interaction.

Whether in person or online (or the odd circumstance of someone seeing you in a magazine), the anatomy is basically the same.

The Essentials of a Good Pickup Exchange

Keep It Simple
Why are you talking to me? Do you think I’m interesting? Is there something interesting going on around us, or do you have something to say about a shared pursuit? Whatever the reason is: don’t make keeping up my half of the conversation hard work! Be friendly, don’t use physical contact too soon, and (in the case of online communication) do mention a detail you know about me, but don’t get weird.

Keep It Interesting
OK, now tell me something about YOU. Saying hi and/or paying compliments do not earn you a prize. (Perfect example from a recent message: “You look familiar. Let’s meet for a drink and talk about why you look familiar. I’m awesome, just wait and see!” I KID YOU NOT!).

Keep It Specific – No Ambiguity, Please!
Ask for a phone number, if you want to. Or, if it’s an ongoing email exchange, make an effort to keep the conversation going. ‘“Hi, you seem like an interesting person. I just wanted to tell you that. Okay, bye.”’ doesn’t give me much to work with. Thanks for noticing! If you want a response, you’re gonna have to do better than that.

*special note for online communication*: Use Punctuation Marks! So many things can be taken so many ways:
“Let’s get together.” (Is that a suggestion, a passing thought? If I respond to this, does it make it my idea?)
“Let’s get together!” (If you’re really that enthusiastic, you shouldn’t be keeping me guessing. See above.)
“Let’s get together?” (Nice. Now I know I have only two possible responses.)

And most importantly, here’s how to stop any potential interest DEAD in its tracks:

Be Totally Off the Wall
A fumbling-idiot line can be kind of cute, because it indicates nervousness and sincerity. But eventually you have to pick up the ball and sprint to the goal line! Real life example: “Do you believe in ESP?” I’d like to think he was just awkward, but 10 minutes later we were still playing guessing games, and my eyes were glazing over. He should have started talking like a normal human being after a minute or two. As soon as I saw my friends come in the restaurant, I politely told him to get lost.

The point is, go ahead, act like a total idiot! Just convince me you’re not really an idiot…preferably as soon as possible.

Be Inappropriately Inappropriate
Flirting is OK. It’s even OK to be racy. But don’t sexify a neutral topic! This is a time to be tasteful and classy. I understand that guys think about sex pretty much all the time. Just pretend you don’t for at least the first few conversations, OK?

What do you think, am I too harsh? (It’s my opinion that if you’re not picky about the pickup, well…you deserve what you get!)
Is there ANYONE who can keep it interesting and clean until they’re past the awkward stage?

  1. It seems this is specific. Some women are okay with cheesy lines. Some women prefer not to be approached at all. Some women want someone just like them to approach them so that they may blog about the perfect opening line. It would behoove you to do research and provide something most men can use, and not just use on you.

    • Pam said:

      Haha, OK, whoever you are. Yes, it IS specific – it’s MY blog. Anyone is free to comment on what works and doesn’t work for them. And simple, interesting, and specific? Pretty sure that’s general! And I didn’t say cheesy wasn’t OK….it has its place. And- I would be terrified if someone “just like” me actually existed!

      It would behoove YOU to use a real email and not hide behind a fake one! 😉

      • If you cant tell who that is…. I feel for you Pam. LOL

      • Pam said:

        Haha, I guess the word “behoove” threw me…that’s a big word!!

  2. LMAO at above comment! I will say that there is one missing element to the crapshoot we call pick-up and that is don’t be afraid to get dissed! Failure is a part of life especially when it comes to opening people for conversation and people are like flavors of ice cream; you don’t know what they taste like until you try them (in conversation that is. lol). People like what they like, and if they don’t like you, its not your fault that they don’t have good taste. PERIOD.

    • Pam said:

      That’s a good point, Damien, but I don’t know if that holds true for everyone. I am very openminded in terms of taste…..but very picky (as you can tell) about conversation topics and lines. And while I might think some of the guys who’ve contacted me are weird, I appreciate the attempt to contact!!

  3. From my own research (and numerous failed attempts at opening a conversation with a poor, unlucky target of mine) I’ve discovered that women, for the most part, appreciate honesty, and someone approaching them as themselves- not an act.
    It always depends on the environment on how you approach. It’s not a great idea to be over-the-top hilarious at church, and it’s completely ineffective to whisper poetry at a tailgating.
    You can never choose the “this always works for me” approach, but rather, do your best to assess your situation and subject, and make your approach at that moment- carefully. If you take just a few moments to check the person out, you can learn alot about what might work best. 1. Does the person seem outgoing? 2. Has the woman been approached all night, the entire time? 3. Does the woman even notice you? 4. Does she seem available to being approached? 5. What kind of people is she hanging out with? (people tend to surround themselves with “themselves”) There are, of course, many other things you can use to assess your situation before your approach.

    Bottom line is, every approach should be custom to that particular woman and situation. If you are at a lecture for microbiological studies, it’s best to not approach the woman frantically taking notes with jokes and one-liners. Yes, wait till there’s a break, and make your approach carefully- better bone up on your microbiological knowledge- and wow her with your take on what the nerd in the lab coat spent 2 hours blabbing about. Invite her to Starbucks where all the other perpetrators with laptops and novels hang out.

    • Pam said:

      DarkerThanPam (REALLY?! Can you guys please use your real names, or at least A real name, on here?!),

      Thanks for your comment! Your approach definitely seems appropriate and honest. “Not an act” is definitely something I can appreciate!

      Numerous failed attempts? At least it looks like you’ve got it down now! 🙂

  4. Pete said:

    sheesh, i first need to comment on smarter than pam, although i’m sure he (we can agree on that much, right?) isn’t paying attention anymore. crushing defeat like the one you dealt him usually leads to fewer subsequent visits… anyway, one lesson i’ve learned the hard way is that generalizing across females is a slippery slope covered with jagged boulders and briar patches. don’t try to generalize or ask bloggers to do so. the key is to collect input one girl at a time, and do your best to synthesize it. once you complete this (impossible) task, write some sort of meta-analysis, and you’ll make a gazillion bucks–guaranteed. i’ll be your first customer.

    pam, the only bitterness i feel when i read this comes from the fact that males end up having so much responsibility. in the ideal world, wouldn’t the female also want to keep the conversation going and perhaps give the poor bumbling idiot-man a pass on a crappy pick-up line or two? if a woman needs to be quickly and consistently impressed with a guy’s verbal gymnastics and he’s not delivering, i think one of your “polite get losts” is in order. i guess, please just don’t let a guy dig an even deeper hole. push your x button (like on america’s got talent), and let the guy cut his losses without making an even bigger fool of himself.

    another addition i’d suggest is non-verbal communication. as a pretty gifted manipulator who has lived his whole life succeeding by saying whatever the listener wants to hear, i am pretty good at reading between the lines and figuring out what i need to say in order to produce a desired outcome. but that’s where it ends. i’d argue that a better way to identify a winner from among the pack of losers would be to pay attention to things like eye-contact, fidgeting (or the lack thereof, or even the type of fidgeting), and other body language, rather than limiting your data collection tools to your ears. know what i mean? maybe it will be easier to see through a smooth-talking but insincere asshole. just a thought.

    last advice i’d give to any females is not to throw the baby out with the bath water. some guys might be new to dating and not yet so good at pick-up lines. this does not mean they’re not great people. they may actually have more going on than meets the eye (or ear). in fact, i’d say this may even be desirable. were i a female (thankfully, none of us have to worry about this) i think i’d be worried if a guy knew exactly what to say at any given time. how many times has he performed this routine? if he’s done it a lot, why is he still on the market? hmm. anyway, perhaps the aforementioned bumbling idiot-man doesn’t thrive in bars or wherever the hell people meet members of the opposite sex these days. perhaps he’s new to the scene and hasn’t “hit on” a girl since “do you rent or own?” actually worked… my point is that the pick-up line ought not to be a deal-breaker (to refer to a previous post). if you’re interested in really learning about a person, give it more than two minutes. can’t argue with your logic though–you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

    keep up the great work, pam! 🙂

    • Pam said:

      PETE! I love the anologies – slippery slope, briar patch, throw the baby out with the bath water… HAHA!

      Did I deliver a crushing defeat to SmarterThanPam?? Totally unintentional. But if so, I’m reveling in this tiny victory.

      I can see how you think men have so much responsibility…but men DO tend to be the pick up-ers. If a guy is gonna approach me, he needs to prove to me why I should be interested in him. That being said, I DO try to make a sustained effort at the making of conversation. And I WAS really nice to ESP guy…I tried to tell him many times that I was waiting for friends (and I was; obviously sitting alone at a table for 6 and texting constantly wasn’t clear), but he would not listen.

      Thanks for mentioning nonverbal cues! I totally forgot about that one. And yes, I have been a victim of mistaking a guy’s “knowing exactly what to say at any given time” for sincerity…so thanks for that swift kick in the rear! And OK, I will try and give more than 2 minutes and be less harsh; that seems to be the consensus. And I wasn’t trying to argue that you can’t change a first impression; I think one can…it’s just very difficult because some people only pass your way once, so you deal with what you’ve been given.

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