If you ask around, (and I did), few women will actually confess to having picked up a man. Granted, most of the women I asked were between 30 and 40, an age group that prefers the long-term benefits of snaring to a one-night sizzle. But even the term ‘picking up’ was met with a prickly sort of disgust. Picking someone up is the kind of thing that used to happen in tacky ’80s American films. Not here, not now.
For my part, I’m a bit confused about what ‘picking up’ means in these virtual times when you can pick up a husband online, along with the latest movie and an end-of-season sweater. I know that a pickup line used to be a way of introducing yourself to a stranger—a flirtatious, witty one-liner delivered in the hope of initiating a romantic encounter. Traditionally, men have dominated the domain of the chase and the cheesy pickup line, so perhaps the ladies’ reluctance comes from the fact that women taking the lead could be accused of harlotry, or worse, being desperate.
The truth of the matter is that regardless of who does the initiating, women have always been in charge. Even if the man makes the first move, it’s always the woman who encourages the advance or stops it dead in its tracks. Men may take milliseconds to decide whether or not they find a woman attractive. But women are equally speedy in determining whether a particular specimen is worth propagating the gene pool with or not.
Here then, if you are a woman who is so inclined, are the top tips shared with me:
Mae be, Mae be Not: Mae West may have been the best ‘picker-upper’ of men ever. She had wit, sex appeal, charm, and boy, was she direct. Not everyone can pull off a “Why don’t you come up sometime and see me?” or “Is that a pistol in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?” If you’re a woman who knows what she wants, you might go for the Mae approach. If your preference is subtlety, then Mae be not.
The look: All it really takes for a woman to send a signal is a look. There are many ways to look at a man—timid, earnest, meaningful, full-on, squinty, misty. In truth, the only look you need is the non-look, the barest flicker of sideways connection. If a man is interested, he’ll catch on.
Humour, apparently, is key: In a controversial article in Vanity Fair, Christopher Hitchens claimed that women weren’t as funny as men because they didn’t need to be. Men, he said, needed women to find them funny as a sure sign of attraction. “If you can stimulate her to laughter,” Hitchens wrote, “I am talking about that real, out-loud, head-back, mouth-open-to-expose-the-full-horseshoe-of-lovely-teeth, involuntary, full, and deep-throated mirth...well, then, you have at least caused her to loosen up and to change her expression.”
The fact that men always think they know when a woman is doing something for real is funny in itself. We’re all familiar with that famous restaurant scene in When Harry Met Sally. If your aim is to pick up a man, find him funny, or fake it.
Rule out the competition: An Italian friend shared a theory with me, which I believe has universal scope. The grazia, graziella, grazie ar cazzo theory, or the G-cubed theory, was concocted by Roman playboys. The idea is that women often travel in groups of three. The good-looking and gracious one is called the grazia—she needs a shoulder to lean on, a deputy, someone to turn to in order to extricate herself from an unwanted pursuer. So she is accompanied by someone who’s not as good-looking, the graziella—graceful and pretty, but not enough to compete with the grazia. Unfortunately, the graziella also needs someone she can turn to and say, “Hey, I’m better looking than this one at least,” and that one is the grazie ar cazzo (translatable in our lingo as ‘thank my lingam’, or in other words, ‘not if you were the last woman on the planet’.)
With the curious rise of the phenomenon of girl’s night out and other such activities, I share this tip with all women who travel in a pack: If you’re out on a mission to get lucky, make sure you’re not the grazie ar cazzo in the group.
Tishani Doshi is the author of The Pleasure Seekers, a novel.