What follows are some of the vitally important ideas that have sprung from what I've been reading and experiencing. Men and women alike can use many of these things, although a few are of specific concern to men and merely of interest to women.
- Never, ever give women what they want. Unless you're already with them, then doing so occasionally is permissible. Never buy women things either, for the same reason: If you pay for her ticket or for her meal, it's like you're paying her to be there with you. Hell, if you want that, there are escort services available for that kind of thing. And in that case you'll actually get something for your money, instead of a lot of heartache and anguish.
- Beauty is a fine thing, isn't it? But why is it there? Why does it turn men into nervous piles of mush? The purpose of beauty is to weed out the losers who are dumbstruck by it. Don't be that loser. And for heaven's sake, don't stare. I've been guilty of this behaviour myself, embarrassingly recently.
- Never go out of your way to pay a woman you're interested in a compliment. Funny left-handed compliments are far better. (Try not to be simply irritating, though. This is something else I'm working on, and it will get easier and more natural with time.) Definitely compliment the crap out of her friends, though. If you're paying a woman a compliment, or if you're that guy who's dumbstruck by her beauty, the message you're putting in her head is, "Hmmm, I wonder if I can do even better?" Everyone's always trying to upgrade!
- Some women (usually ones with serious psychological issues) will prey on men who are insecure and who will do anything for them. (I "dated" one such woman for two months. It was a sick farce.) Run away, far away, and get your shit together so it doesn't happen again... unless you want to have the rest of your life under the control of this person and her psychic-vampire, responsibility-avoiding narcissistic bullshit.
- Everybody's trying to dress up the mating game with amorphous, vapid theories about being yourself and "not looking," and saying that the person inside matters more than the person outside. A lot of it is pure bullshit (looks matter more in many contexts), though some of the things I'll grant to be half-truths:
You can't just be yourself. If that really worked, why would you be miserable? I'm willing to bet money that, deep inside, "you" are a whiny little kid that wants everything your own way, am I right? Adulthood is about using your brain and not just reacting to everything emotionally. (We all slip sometimes, me included, and you don't even need me to say how awful it makes us look.) When you take control of yourself, you're not just being yourself - you're being your best self.
And let's not forget to tackle the infamous "the way to get a woman is not looking" example. Sure, if you present the fact that you're looking in this fashion: "OMG I'm such a depraved, lonely POS because I'm looking for a mate" then bloody hell yes, looking is bad. As Dan Savage would say (he says it in the context of letting your partner know what's "on the menu," but I think it can be applied here), don't present it like you have cancer. Present it like you're a hot item! Like, holy shit, you're out on the market! This is a limited opportunity! And smile, wink, and laugh. (My hands-down favourite quote from Neil Strauss' "The Game" is actually these words from a guy called Juggler: "Laughter is the best seduction." I think for my part I will make my jokes slightly less acerbic and actually express greater interest in other people. ;-)
- Ah, yes, actually being that hot item. My formula for this involves a lot of work, but I can say that the work has been its own reward, and it hasn't all been misery and drudgery - quite the contrary, in fact. Since returning from Japan, I've thrown myself into learning and doing. This summer (and it's only half-finished!) has been the most enriching I've ever had! Believing in yourself takes work - you need to be engaged in things that interest and captivate you, and find success and gratification in them. (And buy some nice clothes that fit you, while you're at it. If you're a man, ideally you should walk up to a counter attended by two ladies and ask the less attractive one to help you. The time I did this, I never had a more helpful or attentive clerk!)
- Along the way, don't feign humility. If you're lucky enough to receive a compliment, accept it sincerely. Thank the other person for acknowledging what you already know about yourself. Isn't that a more honest, less manipulative approach? And besides, to use a baseball metaphor, you want to communicate the fact that you're around to hit home runs or throw perfect games, not hit bloop singles or load the bases. As much as it's true that we don't deserve majority credit for what we are (chiefly because we had no control over who we were born as), it's also true that, in the long run, your success is not a fluke. Don't treat it that way.
- If you are the least little bit successful, you will attract a great deal of criticism. Think about it: What's your first reaction when you hear that someone (who isn't already your friend) has been successful at such-and-such? You try to rationalize it, you try to take them down a peg. Everybody's going to be doing that to you. Criticisms are often compliments in disguise. So know this: not everybody's going to like you, and some will not like you because you're actually worth something, because you're doing things differently than everybody else, because you've found a modicum of success.
- It's amazing how these ideas all fit together like pieces of a puzzle! Don't seek approval! Gosh, I've been guilty of this too, sometimes on a quarter-hourly basis! So why shouldn't we seek approval? Simple: Seeking approval is usually a pretty good sign that you're afraid of criticism. If you're afraid of criticism, it's a sign you are unwilling to do your own thing and succeed, or a sign that you have in the past but have stepped back (this happened to me in grade school and I'm only now recovering from it). Don't seek approval. Don't seek approval. You are the only judge that matters in the end, after all.
- Keep working on this stuff, and don't give up. Rome wasn't built in a day. You will make these mistakes again, and you will suffer failures, which you'll have to pick yourself up from. But I think you will also find that, given time and practice, you will find greater successes, fewer failures, and your failures will hurt you less, since there'll be more opportunities around the bend. Now get out there and swing for the fences!