Letters from HongKongers: “Diaries of a Pick Up Artist” (Part 2)

Hong Kong is a transient place.  We are all living in a borrowed place, with borrowed time.  In this story about Ricky, he traces back from the beginning how he came from 宅男 to so-called “pick up artist.”  But after turning his life from loner to playboy, did he find what he wanted in life?

I was always a shy guy

My name is Ricky (not my real name).  Before I begin, let me give a quick introduction.  I’m a local middle class guy.  Since I was little, I spent my time studying.  I was a model Hong Kong kid.  I got good grades, and went to a top local university, studying Engineering.  Like many Engineers, I’m shy.  Almost all my classmates were boys and I had no opportunity to meet girls.  I spent my time studying, reading, and playing online.  A stereotypical 宅男.

I did not know how to approach girls

During university, I always envied guys with girlfriends.  I’d imagine what life would be like if I had a girlfriend.  I lived at home and took the bus to school everyday.  That didn’t help with meeting girls.  The only place I could meet them was at the school library.  But I didn’t know how to approach.  While I was surfing online forums one day, I came across something I’ve never imagined existed.  A book called The Game, by Neil Strauss.

I had to learn how to pick up women

When I read about how the book teaches “average frustrated chumps” how to “pick up” women, I knew I had to get it.  What are the “secrets” to women?  I didn’t even know how to talk to them.  Let alone how to pick up women.  That’s like black magic.  The moment the book arrived, I started reading.  I learned things like the “3 second rule”, where you have to approach a girl within 3 seconds of seeing her.  I couldn’t imagine doing that.

Applying my knowledge in the library

I memorized all the pick up lines.  Just like how I studied for school.  Now, the only thing left was to apply.  That day, I went into the library, and sat on a large table where there was a cute girl sitting across.  I wanted to ask her about her Introduction to Sociology textbook she was reading.  I imagined asking, “You’re a Sociology major?”  I contemplated for 15 minutes pretending to read my book.  I was so nervous.  She eventually walked away.

I was undeterred by failure

The Game doesn’t work in Hong Kong, I thought.  How could I use some pick up lines, and use body contact on strangers without getting a slap on the face?  “Help!  Indecent assault!” they would scream.  But I was not deterred.  I really wanted a girlfriend.  Though I’ve never touched a girl (except for my mom), I was determined to touch, or even kiss, a girl.  Next?  Film club.  I joined it long ago, but never went to any events.  I should go.

My first approach on a girl

So, I signed up to watch a French film with other members.  As I walked into the meeting room, I saw an ordinary but otherwise neatly dressed girl at first glance.  Within 3 seconds (3 second rule), I walked towards her and said “Hi“.  I didn’t know what to say, but I had to think of something.  “Have I seen you before?  I knew you from somewhere?”  She looked confused but was friendly, and answered, “Oh, I don’t recall, did you see me in class?

My first conversation with a girl

I asked her what she studied.  English major.  There was no way I could say we went to the same class.  “I must have seen you in the library then!” thinking that she must have went to the library at one point or another.  I was starting to run out of things to say.  Luckily, the film was about to begin and we needed to find a seat.  Since we were chatting, I figured I should sit next to her and plan my next move.  I knew I must have done something right.

How I chased my first test subject

So, we sat on front row in front of the projector.  The firm was Un prophète, a French film about an Algerian gangster.  During the movie, I imagined touching her hand.  But the more I thought about it, the more nervous I got.  I struggled the entire movie whether to touch her hand.  I chickened out.  But I did ask for her number after.  I forgot to ask her name, but I was smart enough to input it on my phone – “Michelle” (not her real name)!

It became a whole different game

I won’t get into details, but Michelle became my first “girlfriend.”  Of course, she didn’t know I only had the guts to talk to her after studying The Game.  I kept it a secret.  However, I ended up doing everything that opposite of what was taught by the book.  I became clingy, annoying, un-funny, and un-cocky.  Everything that wasn’t attractive.  Anyways, it taught me how to approach women, but not maintaining a relationship.

I don’t know how to find another

I won’t speak in detail about my first relationship except that it wasn’t what I imagined to be.  As far as I can remember, I always wanted a girlfriend.  But the infatuation lasted a few weeks only and things went sour shortly.  We broke up in 4 months.  I was sad because she was my first girlfriend and I didn’t know if I’d be able to look for another.  We were each other’s first boyfriend and girlfriend and neither of us knew how to handle a relationship.

From 4th year student to 1st year baby

I was in my final year when we broke up and I stayed single through the rest of university.  I thought once I start working, I will easily find a girlfriend.  After all, I got an offer from a reputable developer as an engineer trainee.  This hope had kept me on for months.  But very soon after I started working, I realized I went from a final year student to a baby who just went into the adult world.  I was no longer the hot shot.  I was nothing.

I went back to the pick up bible The Game

As months went by, I became more depressed.  I found that adulthood was a completely new game.  In this game, people were a lot more materialistic (or realistic).  The bottom line was I was just a baby with the big boys.  I didn’t stand a chance.  The adult world completely shattered my confidence.  No money, no car, and no flat, equals to no ladies.  Suddenly, I remembered The Game.  I read the book once more.

I refused to be an average frustrated chump

After reading the book again, I realized my need for change.  I bought a new suit – got it done by a tailor in TST.  Bought nice looking cuff-links.  Asked my mom for a new watch for my birthday.  New shoes.  If I was a loser, I could at least look like a winner.  While the other trainees went to work in their yellow-stained white shirts, I went to office with shiny tailor made suits and Swiss watch.  I refused to look like an average frustrated chump.

I started applying methods in The Game in real life

I started joining networking events on meetup.  In those events, I would use those skills I learned in The Game.  It didn’t matter whether they worked.  I used them until I internalised them.  I ended up with many phone numbers and many dates.  I didn’t have that much money to date, so I had to plan my dates creatively.  Going to the beach, walking by the shore, hiking on Dragon’s Back, etc.  You won’t imagine how I changed my life around.

I went from chump to the king of the world

It wasn’t a matter of getting a girlfriend.  I had multiple flings at any given time.  I couldn’t have imagined how I was depressed after my first breakup.  I was now the king of the world.  Relationships were for losers.  As my salary increased, I had more in my arsenal.  I got better at the game.  Then, there was this girl, Judy (not her real name), a piano teacher.  I met her at meetup.  I don’t know why, she was just so innocent.  I had to have her.

I got slapped in the face for the first time

I used all my skills to chase her.  But she just didn’t buy it.  But she continued to talk to me anyways.  I asked her out.  It was a simple dinner date.  I wanted to be a gentleman and paid for dinner.  She insisted that we split the bill.  She insisted so hard that that she would pick up the glass of water the splash it on my face.  I wanted her even more.  By the end of the date, I wanted to deal the deal.  A French kiss.  She slapped my face, hard.

I did everything right by the book

I was angry.  I did everything right by the book.  How could I have deserved a slap in the face?  She ran away and I just froze.  I would have chased her if I knew what to do but I’ve never been slapped in the face before except by my mom when I was 12 for swearing.  Judy blocked my number so I couldn’t even get an explanation.  I was in complete shock.  I had girlfriends.  And I couldn’t even win over this one girl.

My drive to numb myself from the past

I gave up on Judy.  My journey as a pick up artist intensified.  Plenty of fish in the sea.  I continued this lifestyle of going out to play on weekends for about 2-3 more years.  My night life would begin on Thursday and end on Sunday afternoon recovering from hangovers.  But I felt alive and well, no matter how painful my headache.  A friend taught me eat butter before the night out so I won’t get drunk.  Sounds disgusting but it helped.

I became lost and devoid of emotion

I’m not sure what happened, but I think the more girls I picked up, the less I excitement I felt about my next target.  I felt nothing.  It was just a game and I was playing it.  This lifestyle had eventually felt almost empty.  I had soon forgotten why I started wanting to be a pick up artist in the first place.  It just became a part of life.  I felt completely lost and wasn’t sure what I wanted to achieve, and what I have actually achieved.

I am now approaching 30 and feel like I’ve never been in a meaningful relationship.  Now that I think back, I knew why Judy slapped me.  It was a wake up call.  But I didn’t wake up.  After these years of trying to be a “pick up artist” just to prove to myself that I could be popular with women, I lost sight on what I wanted in life.  While more of my classmates got engaged or married, I was alone.  And I thought to myself – what was the meaning if I wasn’t happy at the end?


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