Article by Peter Also
The Phone wakes me. It’s 8:15 A.M. and I’m still groggy as the machine picks up. A mysterious female voice invades my bedroom.
“Hey, Peter, this is Vanessa. You called me and left a very compelling-psychologically compelling-message.”
Suddenly I am wide-awake, sitting up in bed, giddy and slightly in shock.
Jesus, it worked.
I feel like the skeptic who finds out that a magic potion actually does what the snake-oil salesman said it would do. Let me explain: A few days ago I began listening to a set of tapes titled Advanced Speed-Seduction, 13 hours of instruction in the art of getting laid, taught by a California geek turned lothario named Ross Jeffries. On the tapes, Jeffries says that for practice he sometimes leaves messages on women’s voice mail, and that he has devised one that never fails to get a response.
After having wasted a bit too much time trying to snag the perfect woman, I admit to being intrigued by the concept of seduction and speed in tandem. The personal-ad gambit seemed the ideal litmus test to Jeffries’ claims, a safe and anonymous way to try out his “speed seduction” patterns. So yesterday I called a personals 900 line advertised in The New York Observer, listened to a number of voices and selected Vanessa. (“Hi, fellows. I’m looking for a guy who’s looking for a girl who likes to read Baudelaire in bed and take long, luxurious baths and is not afraid to say what’s on her mind.”)
But first a confession: A year ago, on an evening when browsing personal ads was not part of a magazine assignment, I left a phone reply to another woman’s advertisement, in which I described myself in a straightforward manner as a Harvard-educated journalist who likes travel and adventure. Surely, I thought, she would be impressed by the resume and my sensitive, honest voice. I am still waiting to hear from her.
Rewind to yesterday and my Jeffries-scripted message to Vanessa, spoken in a bedroom voice, with lots of suggestive pauses: “Vanessa, have you ever been really attracted to a man’s voice while listening to your messages? And the warmth of that voice just began to wrap itself around you and penetrate your thoughts? You began to have certain ideas. And maybe as you allowed that warmth to heat up into a fire, and as your heart began to pound with the excitement of that, you realized there’s something you’ve got to have, deep inside. You know this is true. So listen, I really liked your message and if you find yourself reaching for the phone, I just want you to know that you should take all the time you need in the next 30 seconds. Here’s my phone number.”
You realized there’s something you’ve got to have, deep inside?
Are you kidding me? Did I actually say that? Did she actually respond?
Just to be sure, I ask a friend to call and leave her a normal message. In other words, to be my control group. Five days after her psychologically compelled response to me, he still awaits a reply.
Despite my glee at this, I’m in no hurry to establish in-person contact with Vanessa. For one thing, I’m not sure what to say to her for an encore (I haven’t listened to all the tapes yet); for another, I don’t want to puncture the fantasy, which right now is perfect.
Like almost all ordinary guys who have seen a beer commercial, this is my fantasy: to be able to seduce any woman I want simply by talking to her. Since I don’t look like Mel Gibson or have Bill Gates’ money, words are my only hope.
The fact is, I have known lotharios whose only special attribute was a good rap. I had a friend in college whose success with women was mind-boggling, given his Napoleonic stature and receding hairline. I tried to emulate him; we talked about strategy and approaches. But his gift was his and I could never get it to rub off on me. I wasn’t hopeless, I just found that whenever I got anywhere with a woman, it was a mysterious occurrence, an accident. My friend would ask, “Did you get lucky?” not only because that was the euphemism we used but because luck was the only reasonable explanation for my occasional success. The knack, I concluded, isn’t something you can learn.
That is, I thought so until I got Vanessa’s message.
Had I always been wrong? Ross Jeffries certainly thinks so. Nine years ago, as a failed comedy writer, he penned a self-help book called How to Get the Women You Desire Into Bed: A Down and Dirty Guide to Dating and Seduction for the Man Who’s Fed Up With Being Mr. Nice Guy that gave a Nineties twist to the Seventies Eric Weber (How to Pick Up Girls) approach.
Warming to his subject, Jeffries combined some of the ideas from his book with the principles of neurolinguistic programming and began developing Speed Seduction. Neurolinguistic programming, co-founded by Richard Bandler and John Grinder, is an approach to psychotherapy that used language patterns and metaphor to communicate with the unconscious mind.
For Jeffries, a self-confessed nerd, the development of Speed Seduction was a personal triumph. By breaking down the art of seduction into patterns of speech and word formations that would eliminate chance, he transformed himself into the Don Juan he had always dreamed of becoming. The concept also became a small cottage empire for Jeffries. The home study tapes go for as high as $345, the video version is $195, and the three-day “get laid” workshops he teaches several times a year will lighten your wallet to the tune of $895. He also markets other paraphernalia to help shy guys snag women, including a handwriting analysis prop that is called the Grapho-Deck and a video titled Flirting With Magic.
When combined with his overheated back-of-the-comic-book sales pitches (“How to Totally Mind-F*** almost Any Woman Into Screwing Your Brains Out and Make It Seem Like You’re Just Having a Normal, Innocent Conversation!”), one might easily conclude that Jeffries is just a cheap huckster trying to take advantage of lonely, horny guys.
“Talk to my students,” he said to me when I raised the issue. “Is it ‘taking advantage’ if the stuff works?” And while he admits that about 30 percent of his followers are “what you would expect them to be,” he claims the other 70 percent are “edge junkies.” “They want to beat the system and they don’t want to play the dating game. I teach them how to get that edge.”
Jeffries tells his students that “women don’t really want a guy with a great body, a handsome face or lots of money. What women want is the emotional states they experience when they are around a guy with a great body, a handsome face, etc.” And he guarantees he can show them how to create these states “in virtually any woman, using simple but powerful language patterns.”
Among the NLP crowd, Jeffries is not the most popular guy, the feeling being that he is using their great invention not for good but for evil. Nevertheless, his teachings have elicited delirious testimonials from his students: “Using your ‘instantaneous connection’ pattern, I got a bikini model in bed the same night I met her.” John Kent, Woodland Hills, California; “Not to brag, Ross, she has a boyfriend or husband or if I’m her type nothing matters! You’re a genius!” Mark Cunningham, Maumee, Ohio.
Whatever qualms I have about Jeffries and the concept of using conscious manipulation to seduce women (certainly many of my friends, especially the women, find Jeffries’ ideas repellent), I wonder if I can really claim to stand on Higher moral ground. I mean, when I go out with a woman I’ve just met, don’t I take care in selecting the clothes I wear? In choosing the right restaurant? Do I not tell her things I think will impress her, stories that have made other girls laugh and admire my wit?
Is that any less contrived or manipulative than what Jeffries teaches? OK, maybe I’m not using someone else’s words. But is that even true? I’ve uttered lines from Gide and Whitman as if they were my own; I’ve repeated things friends have said that I thought were clever or interesting; I’ve affected other people’s style, the cool way Jean Paul Belmondo rubbed his thumb on his lower lip in Breathless or the way Bogart inhaled his cigarette. And why? To get laid, of course.
Listening to the tapes, my slight queasiness about morality gives way to my real fear: that I am seeking help in scoring chicks because I’m some kind of loser geek. I can picture my fellow geeks at Jeffries’ seminars as they sit in masking-taped glasses, discussing the science of getting laid. Jeffries says that everything he teaches is designed to “capture and lead the imagination,” but some of the strategies and language patterns sound as if they were lifted straight out of a Saturday Night Live sketch about seduction. There are “blammo” patterns and “weasel” phrases. The “boyfriend destroyer.” And, of course, the “blow job” pattern, in which the would-be Speed Seducer says to an unsuspecting target, “I used to think my best ideas came from above me, but now I know they come from below me.”
As in blow me.
I’m not kidding.
Jeffries is defensive about this material. When I talk to him by telephone, he says, “Don’t knock this stuff until you try it. The metaphor I use is fishing you don’t bait the hook with the kind of food you like to eat, you bait it with what the fish are going to bite on.”
Will the fish bite if, beyond “below me,” you pepper your conversation with words such as “penetrate,” ” come inside,” “hard” and “surrender,” as Jeffries suggests? I don’t know, but I’m of the opinion that if you use the right inflection, as he also suggests, and pause mid-sentence to create a sense of anticipation and mystery, it’s possible.
I ask Bruce Goldberg, hypnotist and author of Soul Healing and New Age Hypnosis, if sexual double entendres and embedded commands can work. He says, “Numerous studies have been done, and they’ve shown that you can’t make someone violate moral and ethical codes. However, if you’re dealing with a woman you’re attracted to, and she’s neutral, or not opposed to you if she’s acting like ‘If he shows me something, I’ll give him a shot’ that’s a different story. Particularly if she’s in a naturally altered state for instance, if she’s jogging or listening to music. Now, those embedded commands might sway her. They might make the difference. If she’s open but doesn’t want to make the first move because of her puritanical upbringing or whatever, the right words can make the difference, absolutely.”
I remember my college friend playfully turning every conversation with a girl, no matter where she would try to steer it, into something with sexual undertones. He’d get her thinking about sex, and pretty soon she was thinking about having sex with him.
I am also aware that the gulf between the sexes is large enough that language that seems ridiculous to me might not seem that way to someone without a penis (or “ha-penis”). As Jeffries says, the proof is in the pudding (“deep inside” it). After all, most men find romance novels laughable, but there is a huge female audience for them.
A friend of mine wrote a romance novel once, and as part of his preparation he was instructed by his publisher to read Nancy Friday’s My Secret Garden, a book in which women talk about their sexual fantasies. Additionally, he was made to include a scene in which the heroine was served her lover in the form of a stew (my friend referred to this as the “praying mantis” scene). He was dumbfounded, having never engaged in a sexual fantasy that involved cannibalism (even the unwitting variety). But what left him baffled apparently struck some chord in women. The book sold more than 300,000 copies.
I mention this in part because one of Jeffries’ followers actually recommends romance novels as a source of powerful language patterns. “I admit these books are difficult,” says Mark (the housewife banger) Cunningham, “because you’re reading through them and you’re going, ‘What the hell are they talking about?’ But if you lift some of the ideas and the language from them and say them in a slow, relaxed and powerful manner, women melt. They’ve finally found a man who knows how to communicate with them in a meaningful way.”
Jeffries also advocates reading women’s magazines to better understand the female psyche. It all comes down to knowing who you’re trying to seduce. Jeffries says, “When most men meet a beautiful woman, they’re so wrapped up in their own feelings that they neglect what the woman is feeling. If you want to be successful with women, focus on their state, not yours.” Pay attention, in other words to something besides the thing in your pants.
“If you listen to what a woman says, she’ll give you all the information you need to seduce her,” Jeffries continues. Often his technique consists of extracting that information with a series of questions that begin with what he calls his “weasel” phrase “If you were to…, “If I were to…, “Have you ever…,” etc.
For example, you might say to a woman, “If I were to ask you” the implication being that you’re not really asking “what’s the most important thing in a relationship, how would you describe it to me?” In listening to her response, you would pay particular attention to her “trance” words the words she puts particular emphasis on or repeats frequently (e.g., “I want a man who makes me feel comfortable with myself”) then simply mirror her answers to her in the same language: “Wouldn’t it be nice if you could spend time with a man who makes you feel like you could let down your guard and just be comfortable? Whose voice soothed and at the same time stimulated you? I get the feeling that this could happen to you right now, with me.” |
“The effect of this kind of pattern is powerful,” says Jeffries, “and it gives the woman the sense of having an incredible connection with you.”
Instinctively, this makes sense to me. Most men don’t listen; so obviously those who do (and who prove it by mirroring what they’ve heard) are going to score some points. Does it matter whether you are listening because you are genuinely interested, or just listening because you have an agenda (to get laid)? As Jeffries says only half-jokingly, quoting George Burns, “Sincerity is everything. And once you learn how to fake that, you’ve got it made.”
Eager to test out what I’ve learned from the tapes, I visit a Barnes & Noble Cafe near my office, which is listed in the Zagat Guide to New York restaurants with the warning: “Good coffee, but beware of Casanovas.”
I find a table where a dark-eyed young woman in skintight black pants and black boots is reading a magazine.
“Do you mind if I sit down?” I ask her tentatively. She barely shrugs. She’s got the high cheekbones of a model and a red-lip-sticked mouth that Mick Jagger might envy. I’ve made some notes from Jeffries’ tapes and I open my notebook to do a last-second cram. Then I launch into my spiel.
“Excuse me,” I say to her. She looks up, eyeing me like I’m something that was left in her refrigerator too long. “I just have to tell you this,” I continue. “You are absolutely stunning.”
She keeps looking at me coldly. I bravely forge onward.
“I’m Peter Alson. Did you ever meet somebody for the first time and just feel absolutely comfortable with them?”
Without saying anything, she gets up, picks up her cappuccino and moves to the other side of the cafe.
I’m just following a script, I want to shout after her. I would never tell a woman that stuff about feeling absolutely comfortable 30 seconds after meeting her. Really!
A glutton for punishment, I try out this rap a couple more times, improvising slightly to make it less jarring. The results are better but still not great. I don’t get kicked, spit at or arrested, but beyond getting more comfortable with approaching and talking to strange women, I’m batting zero.
At dinner later, with a friend who is much amused by my stories, I am asked for a demonstration of Speed Seduction. I decide to have a go at our waitress, using a different Jeffries approach. Waitresses are the perfect test, actually. They have to talk to you. But if they are attractive (as ours is statuesque, blonde, with a cute English-girl overbite), you can be reasonably sure they get hit on all the time and are well practiced in the art of the polite but efficient brush-off.
I notice that our waitress’ voice has an odd inflection, so I use that observation as my low-key opening. “I was just wondering where you’re from. You have an interesting accent.”
She tells me she’s from a place on the Canadian border.
“Really?” I say. “Is that a small town? How many people?”
She doesn’t know, and after she moves on to another table, my friend says, “She probably can’t count that high.”
But she seems sweet, and she’s extremely pretty, and when she comes back to take our order a few minutes later, I go into the next phase.
“You must get awfully tired by the end of the night,” I say. She nods, taking a deep breath.
“Do you ever get a chance to go on vacation?”
“I went home for a couple of weeks over the summer. Does that count?”
“Hmm, not really. But I’m curious: If you were to take a real vacation in your ideal spot, what would it be like?”
I get the feeling she’s surprised to be asked a question like this, and intrigued. A light comes into her blue eyes as she describes her ideal place, a lush, tropical island where drinks are served on the beach in coconut shells.
It’s a pretty pedestrian fantasy, but her manner is charming as she spins it out, and in a way it’s as if I’ve taken her there. I’ve flown her out of this restaurant to a hot beach in the Caribbean where she’s getting drunk!
A few minutes later, I see her standing by the bar with another waitress. They’re looking at our table as they talk. When she brings our entrees, she puts them down and says, “And what about you? If your ideal vacation spot, what would it be?”
My friend is impressed by her willing participation in my seduction demonstration. I am as well. It’s like we’ve mixed up some chemicals in a laboratory and the test tube is beginning to spew smoke.
“Before I answer that,” I say, “let me ask you something else. You know that feeling you have when you get home after a hard day of work and all you can think about is stripping off your clothes and sliding into a hot bath or taking a shower?”
I’m shocked I’m saying this, but she seems OK with it.
“Which do you prefer?” I ask. “Bath or shower?”
“You know how sometimes, before you even get in, you imagine the heat just working its way through every part of your body and then you actually slide in, and that warmth just takes you and you surrender to it?”
My friend is looking at me. I can feel his struggle to contain his hysteria.
“Oh my God,” he finally says, laughing, as the waitress again travels out of earshot. “What?”
“You know, you’re actually kind of scary with that stuff.”
“What do you mean?”
“It sounds so natural coming out of your mouth.”
I don’t know if this is intended as an insult, but I have to admit I enjoyed my little performance. Because I was looking at the whole thing as an experiment and parroting someone else’s words, it didn’t feel like my ego was on the line the way it normally does.
Maybe that’s the key. If I don’t get over with her, it won’t be a personal rejection of me. She just didn’t go for the material. Jeffries emphasizes this point in the tapes. “Don’t worry about results,” he says more than once. “Just have fun trying the stuff out.”
“So how do you close the deal?” my friend asks.
“Watch,” I say. When the waitress comes back, I ask her what her name is. She tells me it’s Sandy.
I say, “Well, Sandy, it’s really been fun talking to you. It’s too bad that we won’t get the chance to do it again without all these distractions and interruptions.”
She nods but doesn’t take the bait. No problem. On my way out, I go up to her and say, “You know, I meant what I said about it being fun talking to you. Maybe we could meet for coffee sometime. Like tomorrow?”
“I can’t this week,” she says. “I’m in a play this week.”
“You should come,” she says. She writes down the information for me.
Not bad, but too involved. Going to a play doesn’t fit into the Speed Seduction formula. The whole point is to avoid extended courtship (besides, the play might stink). In the language of Jeffries, I’m on a fishing trip, and I want to see if I can land something quickly. I’m not going to get hung up on any one fish.
Over the next few days, I go to coffee shops, bars and department stores. I even try a street pickup. I get a few more nibbles but don’t manage to reel anyone in. Curious, I tell one girl, after she blows me off, that I am writing an article; I ask her to explain her response. She says, “Oh, I don’t know,” and repeats with disdain the lines I approached her with: “‘I have an intuition about you’? ‘I think you’re a very visual person’? It’s a little lame, don’t you think?”
I do. To me that’s the main drawback of Speed Seduction: The actual language tends to drift too often into the areas of lame and embarrassing. It’s not only the language Jeffries teaches but the language he uses in his teaching: “I ‘morphed’ it.” “I ‘time distorted’ it.” “Let’s ‘chunk’ for a minute.” Chunk? Even in California it’s not a happy concept.
All the same, I can’t help thinking that it’s good that Jeffries is helping propel guys like me, making us feel bold enough to approach strange women. Truth is, most successful seducers I’ve known don’t hit for a high average. James Toback, the writer and director of The Pickup Artist, whom I met in Los Angeles in 1980, was as compulsive and tireless in his pursuit of women as anyone I’ve ever seen, and a lot said no. But Toback told me he never took rejections personally: “If someone didn’t respond to me, the only effect was to make me think I was wrong about her, that I had made a mistake.”
As Jeffries says, “The difference between losers and winners is that losers don’t fail enough.” And he’s right. You have to step up to the plate. If it’s not your natural inclination, than having a strategy is helpful and using suggestive language is good. Even if the NLP stuff is a gimmick, a lot of late-night hooey, you’d be better off out there using it than you would be at home in front of the television, watching the infomercial.
I know better than to bore a woman with “What do you do?” questions, or, worse, with self-involved this-is-what-I-do monologues if I’m making them interested in me. The goal is to engage their imaginations. To intrigue. I want to create rapport and understanding. I mean, isn’t that what everybody wants? To feel understood? What could possibly be more seductive than that?
On the subway a few mornings later, I find myself squeezed in beside a blonde in a navy pea coat, who’s peeling an orange and putting the peels into a brown paper bag on her lap. Before my recent experiences, I wouldn’t have dreamed of talking to a woman on the subway. It’s just too tough, the K2 of pickups. But there’s something about this blonde in the pea coat, maybe that she’s unselfconscious enough to eat in public that makes her seem approachable.
“I’m just curious,” I say to her in my best Warren Beatty stutter. “Where’d you get that orange?”
“I’m just curious where you got that orange. See, I really love oranges, but this time of year I have trouble finding good ones. That looks like a really good one you have there.”
She shrugs, chewing on a section, keeping her eyes focused straight ahead.
At least she doesn’t reach for a can of Mace.
“So . . . Do you have some special place?”
“No. You just have to know what to look for,” she mumbles. I’m making her nervous. We rumble into a station. The doors open.
“You mean the good ones are there among all the others, but only you can tell the difference?”
“Mm-hmm.” There’s the barest hint of a smile, followed by a brief moment of eye contact. The doors close and the train lurches up to speed.
“Well, that’s amazing. How can you tell? What’s the secret?”
“No secret,” she says.
“Is it just the way they feel? The way they look?”
“Hmm . . . I think you’re being too modest. I mean, this is an important skill.”
She laughs and looks at me, but again just for a moment.
“Because, really,” I say, “there’s nothing better than a good orange. You know? The kind where you bite into it and it’s sweet and juicy, and it’s almost like you can’t get enough, do you know that feeling?”
“Is that what you’re feeling right now? I mean, with me . . . if I find that perfect orange, I’m just, I get transported….”
She’s looking at me now, no incidental eye contact, and I’m thinking to myself, This is working. I’m not sure where I’m going from here, but this is working.
As she starts gathering herself, I ask, “Is this your stop?”
“Why, is it your stop, too?”
“No, but it will be if you’ll let me buy you a cup of coffee.”
She shakes her head and smiles. “OK.”
Just like that. “OK.”
It’s like the “Jedi mind” shit that Vince Vaughn did to the Vegas cocktail waitress in the movie Swingers.
The funny part is that I immediately start sweating. I know that I’m supposed to be concentrating on her state, but shock has momentarily obliterated my powers of concentration.
So what happens next?
Well, I’m tempted to claim that after a couple cups of caffeine we make a beeline for the nearest bed. That would be a good ending. But the truth is we sit and talk (a lot) and I discover she” an NYU graduate student who takes her coffee black with sugar, that she likes to read Baudelaire and her name is . . . Vanessa.
That would be a good ending too, wouldn’t it?
(Parenthetical note for the curious: I did call back Vanessa of the voice mail. We even got together for coffee. But that was where my curiosity and her psychological compulsion ended.)
As for my subway baby, her name is Ruth (well, it is as long as I have to change it for this story) and she is a graduate student. She has a small gap between her front teeth, a charming habit of brushing her hair away from her face with one hand, and green eyes that remind me of a girl I once loved. Also, she talks extremely fast and her parents divorced when she was three (she grew up with her mother in Schenectady; her older brother grew up with their father in Albany) and if she could imagine her ideal vacation spot it would be . . . well, I didn’t get around to that.
See, what happens is, we’re sitting there in this cafe, and she squints a little at me and says, “OK, so have you ever done that before, picked up somebody on the subway?”
And I tell her no, though I can’t quite suppress a smile.
She doesn’t believe me.
“I’ll bet you’re one of those guys who goes around picking up girls all the time, aren’t you?” she says.
Now I’m laughing and she says, “What?” and I shake my head.
“No, come on,” she says. “You really can’t do that.”
I look at her and she looks at me with those luminous green eyes.
“And you probably don’t even like oranges,” she says
At which point the urge is too strong, I can’t help myself, I want to share the joke with her.
“Look, there’s something that I want to tell you, but I’m afraid if I do, you won’t like me.”
“What? Is it bad?”
“Then you have to tell me.”
So I spill the beans. I tell her about Speed Seduction, the article I’m writing.
There are a tense couple of moments while she digests it all. Then she laughs.
“You mean I fell for it?”
“Well, not really. I mean, the stuff about oranges wasn’t actually from the course, it was just me.” “But it worked. I’m here with you.”
“So you feel duped?”
She thinks about it. “I’m not sure.”
“Don’t. I mean, I’m really glad you’re here, and if I weren’t doing this piece, I never would have had the nerve to talk to you.”
“But now I am going to wonder if everything you’re telling me is just a line.”
I start to laugh again and she joins in. “I guess I blew it, didn’t I?” I say.
“Why? You really think I’d go right to bed with some guy I just met in the subway anyway?”
“I don’t know.”
“You really don’t know?”
“I’m sure that you probably wouldn’t. You know what the crazy part is? Women have The Rules, which tells them to put off sleeping with a guy if they want to make him fall for them, and men have Speed Seduction, which tells us not to date a woman until after we have had sex. I think that if you meet the right person it doesn’t really matter what you do.”
“Sure, it’s probably doomed either way.”
She looks at me.
“That’s a joke.”
“So is that what you want to do?”
“Well, Ross Jeffries would probably kill me, but would you like to have dinner with me?”
She twists up her mouth for a moment. “When?”
“I think we should wait.”
“For you to finish your article.”
“You mean so I can call the article Slow Seduction.”
What can I say, Ross? Even in the land of fast everything, some things are just worth waiting for.