The game book about dating
To speak to the second part of it, today, I don’t think it’s actually about male-female, I think it’s about relative status. When Dave Navarro [formerly of the Red Hot Chili Peppers] read the book, he got so excited about negs, he thought they were the funniest thing ever. But today, you’re a jerk no matter what if you’re really out there thinking about status.
So some woman would walk up to him and say she loved his music, and he’d say, that’s a great shirt, where did you get it from, the Grand Canyon gift store? If you’re out there thinking about what your relative status is you can be guaranteed that it’s lower than everybody else. Gilsinan: Could you talk a little bit more about your perspective on the book’s cultural impact? Do people cite you as inspiration for specific things that you find abhorrent?
What do you think that says about the utility of the techniques for banging lots of women versus finding someone who likes you without your having to use tricks on them?
Strauss: Yeah, so if you’re going to talk to me today about it versus then, right?
So I’m wondering if the guy you meet at the beginning of or was it something else? I would hope that at no time is that ever okay in history. But now he wouldn’t be able to get out of bed without rocks being thrown through his window. But I’m wondering, aside from some of the abhorrent techniques that you’ve sort of disavowed, are there any principles you think apply in the Tinder era?
Strauss: Obviously in my journalistic life, I’m just a big believer in free speech and art not being censored no matter what it is, and I don’t think a book is responsible for someone’s behavior. For me, it spoke to a wound of mine that already existed before. People already exist and they find their communities. Gilsinan: And then there’s other small stuff, like one guy whose signature move is to bring women home to look at his Win Amp media player with him. These are problems that people are still trying to solve.
But now coming out of the other side of it, I can see how there were maybe unconscious forces operating on me that made me so obsessed, and even when I thought “the game” was over, that it still had this hold on me. It’s more controversial now than when it came out, and I think that’s a good thing for society. What happens when you grow up with your identity being squashed by this mother who never sees you but only sees herself, is you grow up with a fear of being overpowered by the feminine again. Even the relationships you get in are maybe with people you feel safe with because you’re in control. So when I would do seminars [about ], I would say, let me ask you, how many people here were raised with a narcissistic or dominant mother figure? And then when you start to realize, ok, this has nothing to do with the world, it’s just me, I’ve got to get over it—that’s when everything kind of changes. They engineer their behavior to such an insane degree.
Gilsinan: It’s amazing to think of such a book coming out now and what the reaction to it might have been. Gilsinan: A lot of the criticism was, well, men are afraid of women’s sexuality, and the response to that is, yeah, obviously. To me at least, that’s entirely why this pickup community exists. To me, the biggest shock of my life, was how, myself who wrote Gilsinan: What? Gilsinan: I’m reading this book 10 years ago as a female person.
If you ask me today about it, I’d tell you that anything that involves manipulation or needing to have a certain outcome is definitely not healthy in any way. I thought I was a nice guy, I really did, you know? And then there was a moment where I told her the story of my childhood. A lot of it is asking questions and treating people like they’re interesting.
If I just said the acceptable parts of a community it wouldn’t be an honest nonfiction account.
So for sure, now that you’re mentioning these things, I think that there was a journey through all these characters as a reporter, and not to confuse the reporter with a message per se.
It’s all about getting over fear of talking to humans. It did have the sort of hopeful implication, that everyone’s afraid to talk to attractive people and just to strangers more generally, but you can follow this set of rules and you’re basically guaranteed to get laid.
But I remember asking a male friend at the time if there was an equivalent set of rules for women. Strauss: To answer the first part of what you were saying, I think yes, getting over social anxiety is a great thing. If you take away wanting the outcome, it’s nice to have ways to get over social anxiety, but manipulating toward an outcome from someone is where it gets dicey.