Here is my Christmas gift to Spectator readers, one that applies mostly to unmarried males, but is also available to married ones who might wish to test if that old magic still works. (Female readers of the best magazine in the whole wide world might also pick up a few hints.) This is, of course, not to be confused with the amateurish, vulgar and embarrassing inventory of the American Julien Blanc on how to pick up women. His guidance is meant for tattooed beer drinkers trying to pull drunken slags in cheap bars. Mine is for gentlemen endeavouring to make an impression on ladies and well brought-up young women. Here we go:
Needless to say, the way to success with the fairer sex cannot be taught. One either has it or one doesn’t. Politeness comes first — that and humour. Make a girl laugh and you’re halfway there. Never harass, never beg, never insist too much. (Choking as foreplay is a real no-no.) Wit and self-deprecation are indispensable. Ever since I began to look my age, I’ve become more polite than usual, and when the opportunity arises, I approach the lady or ladies in question and ask, smilingly, if any of them are at all interested in a much older man. Women are much nicer than men, and in all the years I’ve been trying this, all but one have laughingly said yes. I never thought it would work in Greece, but the last time I was there, two months ago, I approached a table of five girls who were looking awfully jolly — and in their cups — asked them this particular question and they roared with laughter. Because of a slight accent when I speak Greek, one of them mistook me for an American, and said in a low voice, ‘The oldie is cute.’
As previously mentioned, this is how to pick up strangers of the opposite sex in polite society. In Hollywood, for example, nothing I’ve said counts. La La Land requires its very own key questions that are a sine qua non. ‘What are you missing in your life?’ is Hollywood pick-up 101. The most important of all is, ‘What can I do to make your life better?’ As the famous film director James Toback said to me, ‘Anyone not responding to that is not worth picking up.’ Being direct in California helps as much as it hinders at 5 Hertford Street.
Anything that doesn’t feel like a pick-up line is a very good line. A hint of potential authenticity is a plus, and can sway the lady after a drink or two. As is the enticement by disappearance. Having come on strong romantically, a very polite goodnight accompanied by the expression of a wish to see her again is very potent. Women are curious and easily intrigued, and what better way to intrigue them than to leave them alone to think of you. Another sine qua non is never, but never, ask about her boyfriend, husband or lover. Pretend that she’s never had any of the three. Never give her time to think of him; women, unlike us, have a conscience. This is very important. And don’t talk about yourself, ask her about herself instead. Her job, her dreams, her likes or dislikes. Always with jokes thrown in for good measure and with plenty of smiles.
Poetry and elegance might seem a bit decadent nowadays, but lyricism with a touch of madness, or even perversity, intrigues the weaker sex. You may sound direct à la Hemingway, redolent of Oscar’s withering hauteur, or even passionate like Verlaine; if she’s any good she’ll love it. But always end up with a joke, telling her you’ve been rehearsing it since you spotted her at the start of the evening. Honesty rarely fails to impress. Never forget that seduction is an art, and the drunken gropings of many of today’s seedy Lotharios puts the stronger sex to shame. Another good tip is to flirt with the girlfriend of the one resisting you. Not too much, just enough to allow her (the object of your affection) to go further. Be thoughtful, be yourself, be passionate, be light and funny. Do all of the above and it will guide you to Nirvana.
Which brings me to the ultimate weapon for seducing a woman, the written word. Desire in a woman has many faces. She can be moved by a smile, an image, a phrase; but nothing moves her more than a declaration of love. Even from a stranger. Saying it out loud does not work, at least for the kind of woman I like to pick up. Forty years or so ago I wrote the following to one resisting me: ‘Dear X. There’s a marvellous line in Romeo and Juliet when Romeo, having avenged Mercutio’s death, is advised to flee Verona. But Heaven’s here, where Juliet lives, he cries. However sudden this may sound, or corny, this is how I’ve felt about you since the moment I met you last night. Love, Taki.’ It worked. Repetition, of course, dilutes the meaning, and after my original success, I overdid it. There are hundreds of these letters getting yellower by the minute, and someone even suggested that the original could be worth a lot, but never mind. The R&J letter, as I call it, is the artillery, to soften up the target. When it’s nice and soft, the cavalry charges with the following: ‘Heaven without you would be too much to bear, and hell would not be hell if you were there.’ If she can resist that one, give up and stop wasting your and her time.
Having said all that, I am the man who failed miserably where the deputy editor of our very own Spectator is concerned, and that’s because women, thank God, are above all unpredictable. Have a very happy Christmas and New Year.
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