Advice For My 22-Year-Old Nephew, Delivered Impromptu and Unsolicited at His Sister’s Wedding

Listen, picking up women isn’t all that complicated. Not really. Not if you know what you’re doing. Handling women is all about expectations. That’s my secret. You have to know when to meet expectations and when to defy expectations. It’s delicate, or, anyway it can be delicate. But devastating. A lot of guys can’t understand that. There isn’t a one size of fits all formula. You have to be a little flexible to figure out what she wants. And then you just be that.

My opening never changes though. That’s the one thing that never changes. And you won’t believe it. “So,” I say. “What’s your sign?” That’s the truth. My hand to the god of getting laid, that’s the truth. A girl can react one of two ways. She can love it, or she can hate it. It’s better if she loves it, but it doesn’t matter if she hates it.

If she loves it, she’s been waiting to get hit on. She took her time getting ready. She looks good and she knows it. It’s been a long week, she came here for a reason. You’re that reason. She wants to be in the passenger seat.

When she says, “Virgo” or “Pisces” you tell her that’s the wrong drink for her. Buy her white wine. She’ll love it. You’re practically done. Like I said, it’s better if she loves it.

Of course more and more these days they hate it. Feminism, I guess? But don’t worry. Maybe, one day, if the numbers keep trending the way they are, I’ll change my opening line. But for now, it ain’t broke. I’m not fixing it.

If she hates it, take a beat — a big beat — and laugh. She’ll look at you like you’re crazy. Keep laughing and say something that sounds like an apology but isn’t. Say you’re no good at this. Say you don’t do this, ever. She’ll believe it. She’ll want to believe a guy as good-looking and well-dressed as you (I forgot to mention: be good-looking and well-dressed) doesn’t pick up girls. Because she is stupid.

Well, no — she’s not stupid. But she wants to believe you’re not a jerk. And I suppose there’s nothing wrong with that, right? It’d be nice if the people who liked us, who desired our company, who wanted to spend time with us were nice people. Optimism dictates that we hope the best about the people who show interest in us. So it doesn’t matter how smart she is — when you want to believe something, you believe it. Remember that.

Anyway, then you buy her a drink. You say, that’s how it’s supposed to work, right? And you smile. If she says no, you say that, it’s just to make up for being so lame. Buy her another of whatever shes drinking. If she still says no, give up and go try somewhere else. You can’t be ashamed to strike out, and you can’t win ‘em all. But be confident. She won’t say no.

Shake her hand and tell her your name. It can be your real name but it doesn’t have to be. If you make something up keep it to one syllable and avoid hard, stops, like k and g. “Jim” is good. “Tom” usually works. If you forget your fake name, it’s a lot easier to mumble something approximate if it doesn’t have a hard stop.

Ask her what she does, and listen. Ask her a question. Just about any question will do. But if you’re smart and can use the right word, use the right word. (The right word, if you’re wondering, is not so hard to find. She knows what the right word means, but she isn’t confident enough to use it herself. As such, “peripatetic” is not the right word. Neither is “fiat,” or “dialectic.” “Circumvent” is nice. Or, perhaps, “phalanx.” Yes, “phalanx” works quite nicely if you can make it natural. You see, she wants to think you’re smart. She wants to believe that it takes an insightful, intelligent man to desire her. And why not let her feel that way? You do, after all, desire her, don’t you? If not, you’re wasting everyone’s time.)

When she asks what you do, tell her as nonchalantly as possible what it is that you do. That is, as long as what you do is lucrative and interesting. If not, say you do something lucrative and interesting. If you work in finance, don’t say you work in finance. Go back and find the girl who told you her sign.

You want an example of something lucrative and interesting? I told a girl named Khara I was a psychiatrist. I regaled her with the tales of one patient’s irrational fear of square roots. I had her laughing off the bar stool. Did she know that a real psychiatrist would never discuss a patient with a stranger in a bar? Probably. She was smart. Like, really smart. But at the same time, she knew that I was so interested in making her laugh that I’d break all bonds of professional conduct. She knew a lot.

Let her know what she knows. Get out of the way of expectations and you’ll be fine. You’re halfway home.

Although, I don’t want to paint too clean a picture. I don’t want you to think this is a good way to handle yourself. It isn’t.

You’re going to get called an asshole, a liar, a jerk, a dickhead, a reprobate (I told you Khara was smart) and not a nice person. Hang on, let me rephrase. You will be an asshole, a liar, a jerk, a dickhead, a reprobate, and not a nice person. Them saying it doesn’t make it true, but it makes it harder to ignore. Let me put it this way: you’ll know its true.

Which is fine. Really, it is. If you’re okay with it, then it’s okay. You can’t win em all. I have no regrets. Not really. Besides you can stop anytime you want. I can stop anytime I feel like it.

I guess if I had one more word of caution, I would say avoid girls with two syllable names with repeated consonants, especially if they’re friends of your sister-in-law and have soft brown eyes that smile at you whenever you see them.

Girls like that know your name, and what you do, and where you live. Which is fine. They’ll chat about Joyce over beers at your younger brother’s wedding and listen when you go on too long about obscure Irish-language epic poetry. And when they brush the hair out of their eyes you’ll have to look away and pretend to scan the room for bridesmaids.

Girls like that might email you after a week or so, and see if you’re free for dinner. And you might be tempted to say yes, because, if for no other reason, you are free for dinner. You’re always free for dinner.

A girl like that might take you to dinner and laugh at your jokes and even make you laugh. She might do something interesting like play viola in the pit orchestra for a long running Andrew Lloyd Webber show, and you might love to hear her tell stories about the cellist and his wife who plays the kettle drums. You might love to hear it. All that’s fine. A girl like that knows a lot too. A lot more than most.

The problem with a girl like that is what she doesn’t know. She doesn’t know how many lies you’ve told. She doesn’t know what you did in the ladies room of The 13th Step or the men’s room of the White Horse Tavern. She doesn’t know how many names you’ve forgotten and how many you never knew. She doesn’t know that enough women to fill out a football team have called you an asshole. Which is to say, she doesn’t know that you’re an asshole.

And if she did, she wouldn’t like you. If she did, her hand wouldn’t be stretched out to your side of the table, playing with the edge of your flatware, begging, just begging to be covered by your hand.  If she did, she wouldn’t be smiling at you right now. If she did, she would probably tell you it’s okay, but it’s not okay. She’s sweet and smart and pretty, and what in the hell is she doing out to dinner with an asshole?

She doesn’t know you’re a bad person. But you know. So push your chair back, stand up, and say “I’m sorry, I have to go.” Because you do. You have to go. 

And if you see her twenty-five odd years later at a wedding, dressed up in a black gown, twenty-five years older but every bit as beautiful, are you going to ask her if she remembers you? What her husbands name is? How she met him? If he’s a nice person?

Of course not. You weren’t listening to the vows, and the songs, and the toasts. You weren’t listening to anyone go on about love and companionship. You don’t need any of that. Find a cute girl and ask what her sign is. Try that one, sitting alone at the bar.