If you’re a single man, do not go up to a woman whose back is turned to you. Chances will be very slim that both of you will engage in a meaningful conversation that leads anywhere beyond the hiccupy stutter and the Grand Look Away. Thus spake not Zarathustra but one of those ‘date coachers’ in New York now making young men shell out good money to help them hone their pick-up skills. Call it the collateral damage being caused by the Sex and the City franchise; call it the consequences of too many lonely hearts pinging each other in internet chat rooms. The truth of the matter is that with social skills of the amorous nature becoming as niche a phenomenon as smoking with a drink, young men on the prowl need help to get a dekko from the ladies. Or so the young men with $377 to spend on learning how to date from coaching businesses like the Craft of Charisma would have it.
In an age when the art of seduction has become plopping a few roofies in a Red Bull, immortal lines like Mae West’s ‘Is that a pistol in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?’ are bandied about far and few between, even when retro-fitted for the gentleman. The problem is the lack of gentlemen. Not all Casanovas these days have the real weapon that a George Clooney comes equipped with: charm. The fact that damsels of today aren’t going to get weak-kneed by a round of gimlets also makes working the work harder.
But are coaches and trainers, who seem to be the equivalent of professors of media studies rather than experienced hacks themselves, successful in turning theory into practice? Won’t a quick read through Desmond Morris’ Manwatching (which isn’t confined to the investigation of male behaviour but tackles human behaviour), watching Oprah and spraying yourself with pheromones do the trick? We can’t really say. Yet.