Ask The Strategic Genius – 4


What would Sun Tzu say about…

… How To Interrupt A Woman Wearing Headphones.

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
– Sun Tzu

Here is the tactical problem: you see a really attractive/interesting looking woman on the subway. She’s wearing headphones and is listening to Pandora as she reads stderr blog. She’s ignoring you.

Here is the strategic situation: you know yourself (a bit) and you know nothing about her except that she’s attractive and ignoring you.

What does the strategic genius do?

One way to display your interestingness

One way to display your interestingness (source: bioexpedition.com)

The strategic genius knows that even just a casual “hookup” requires that the other person be interested in you. I.e.: you have to be interesting. Stop breathing through your mouth, worry about your personal hygeine, carry items that may project your interestingness.

Your opponent has already projected her interestingness. Or perhaps you’re just a shallow jerk who’s captivated by her ${favorite_body_part} where it’s limned against her burqua.

The strategic genius might catch the opponent’s eye and smile wryly, as if to say, “I know, you’re thinking I’m another of those shallow jerks on the subway who is captivated by your ${favorite_body_part} but I’m not.”  And if your opponent assesses you and finds you interesting, you might actually be able to get to know them. More likely, she already noticed your covert drooling at ${favorite_body_part} and is /eyerolling so hard she’s almost doing backflips. She doesn’t want to talk to you, she wants to see you participate in the “trolley car problem” as one of the guys on the tracks.

Here is the strategic crux: your opponent knows you know nothing about them. Why? Because she knows she’s a serial killer. Or she’s an undercover cop. Or she’s so full of hate that she’s just looking for an ego-weakling on the subway that she can destroy with a twitter-gram. She knows that, since you know nothing about her, you’re only interested in her ${favorite_body_part}.

Thus, you will be defeated in a hundred battles, because you’re not interesting, because you do not know yourself.

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I just had to weigh in on this one which was inspired by this one which has caused a great deal of manflailing on the internets.

I apologize for casting the relationship as one of opposition, but it was necessary to speak of the woman as “opponent” because I was writing in the context of pretending to be a strategic genius. Normally I would have avoided opposition and even gendered pronouns; the original piece was clearly advice for stalkerish subway-starers, uh, excuse me, sensitive internet gentlemen, so I followed suit.

Fun aside, I got a clue about this issue around about 2007. I had just had a long-term relationship fail and suddenly found myself single. There was a certain model I used to photograph who was, to me, as beautiful as a goddess stepped down from olympus to earth. So I asked her out. She politely declined and we carried on as though nothing had happened. That was all well and good until about a month later I realized that she had reasoned that I only asked her out because of how well light bounced off of her. I knew absolutely nothing about the person inside. I had made no effort to understand what she liked or didn’t like – for all I knew she was a republican christian fascist serial killer ex-cop – in a nice shell that light bounced off of beautifully. Imagine if she had agreed to go out with me, and then I’d discovered that I was trapped on a date with a monster. It actually did turn out that she was hyper-conservative and only dated cops – even if she had gone out with me we’d have hit it off just like the Titanic and the iceberg.

Then I realized that if you’re pursing relationships (even casual hookups) where all you’re interested in is how the light bounces off ${favorite_body_part} you’re asking for miserable times with people you have nothing in common with. I had a friend who used to occasionally complain to me that he was always getting his heart broken by women. And I said, “Boyd, you’re a drunk who smokes a lot and plays guitar in a bar in Paris. The kind of partners you’re going to find are people who are looking for that demographic. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if you’re looking for culture or conversation, you’re meeting people in the wrong place.” After that, at my suggestion, he hung out his shingle as a private guitar teacher, wound up falling head over heels with one of his students a year later (their shared love of guitar and music and wine had a lot to do with it) and they lived happily ever after until he died of a sudden heart attack 5 years later.

What the pick-up artists ignore (or don’t understand) is that you’re more likely to succeed if you’re in a context where you’re interesting or they’re interested. Strategically, that means that damsels-in-distress actually are good to rescue* and so forth. The best strategy is to be interesting and to be where people who are likely to be interested in you are likely to be. You don’t see peacocks strutting their plumage on a subway, do you? The peacocks are out in the fields where the pea-hens congregate. Peacocks are masters of strategy compared to internet pick up artists. And their brains are about the size of a lentil.**

The pick up artists give away their entire “strategy” from the beginning because their strategy is: “you have a vagina; I want in”  That’s hardly clever at all; if your opponent knows what you want and you know nothing about them, you’ve given everything away before you’re even on the battlefield. And that’s why she doesn’t want to take her earbuds out – she has seen the entire engagement play itself out in her strategic mind, and defeated you while you were still reading some pathetic internet pick up “how to”*** and trying to think of a good come-on line.****

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(* Unless it’s just to lure you to their lair where they can skin you alive)

(** Mensa pick up artists, take note)

(*** And if you want a REALLY scary strategic denouement, imagine what happens if she’s already read the “how to interrupt a woman wearing headphones” and has seen right through your playbook from your opening move. That little smile flitting across her lips? That’s her thinking, “next, he’s going to… aha! right into my trap!”)

(**** Think: the scene in “Hero” where Nameless and Sky fight, and the battle is half in their imagination)

Comments

  1. sonofrojblake says

    The best strategy is to be interesting and to be where people who are likely to be interested in you are likely to be.

    This post, and this line in particular, sounds like a pitch for book on pickup artistry for non-assholes.

  2. says

    sonofrojblake@#1:
    Hm, do you think that “The Strategic Genius’ Guide To Dating ${Preferred_Gender}” would be a big success? I could write it. I think it’d be about 2 pages, if I went heavy on the illustrations.

  3. Siobhan says

    The best strategy is to be interesting and to be where people who are likely to be interested in you are likely to be.

    I’d say this falls under common sense but common sense is so uncommon that I’m inclined to be skeptical such a thing exists.

  4. sonofrojblake says

    From my extremely limited knowledge of PUA literature (having read only Neil Strauss’s “Game” books) you might be surprised how much of the advice therein falls under what you’d think was common sense. The people doing the things like paying to attend seminars apparently need to be told that showering, brushing their teeth every day and getting a haircut are a good idea. The focus of anti-PUA ire is usually on the dehumanising nature of their planned “openers”, which is valid, but as a proportion of what the purveyors of this stuff are actually selling, that’s relatively tiny. Most of it really is just advice on how to make your own life and self better, before you even start thinking about talking to another person – how to “be interesting”, because for a lot of people, it simply isn’t obvious how to achieve that.

    And do I think it would be a big success? Anyone with any kind of public profile and reputation who published a book of advice on dating would likely make a bundle, especially with cool hook. Frankly, I’d be surprised if there isn’t already a “Sun Tzu’s guide to dating”, but since I’m very happily married to a woman I met and wooed without recourse to PUA techniques I shall not be googling to find out.

  5. Eric Weatherby says

    Are there any good basic guides to becoming interesting? I need a lot of help in that area.

  6. says

    Shiv@#3:
    I’d say this falls under common sense but common sense is so uncommon that I’m inclined to be skeptical such a thing exists.

    Strategic genius is generally common sense! It’s sort of like “buy low, sell high” except a lot of people don’t do that, either. Also: “never get in a land war in asia unless you’re Russia” and “never get in a battle of passive/aggressive with a cat.”

  7. says

    Eric Weatherby@#5:
    Are there any good basic guides to becoming interesting?

    I might have to put my strategic genius hat on for a couple days and write one. I’m not aware of any guides to becoming interesting that are actually written by real strategic geniuses, though I see Amazon.com has a “Sun Tzu’s guide to dating” – I suspect that general Sun did not actually write the book in question, unless there has been a significant discovery in ancient literature that escaped my notice.

  8. says

    sonofrojblake@#4:
    From my extremely limited knowledge of PUA literature (having read only Neil Strauss’s “Game” books) you might be surprised how much of the advice therein falls under what you’d think was common sense. The people doing the things like paying to attend seminars apparently need to be told that showering, brushing their teeth every day and getting a haircut are a good idea.

    Yep!
    It reminds me of the Dilbert cartoon where Dogbert is a consultant and concludes, to his client, that they hire too many consultants.

    The Strategic Genius Guide To Picking Up Girls:
    1) stop trying to “pick up girls”
    2) get to know some women and maybe you’ll find eachother mutually interesting
    3) ??!!
    4) profit!

    And do I think it would be a big success? Anyone with any kind of public profile and reputation who published a book of advice on dating would likely make a bundle, especially with cool hook. Frankly, I’d be surprised if there isn’t already a “Sun Tzu’s guide to dating”

    There is! You win!

  9. Lofty says

    Lofty’s “Always Successful” Guide to Picking Up A Good Partner:

    1. Learn how to listen, remember and empathise.

    2. Develop a genuine interest in your potential partner’s favourite things.

    3. Find things that you can share a good laugh over.

    Disclaimer: I’ve only done this once, about 30 years ago. I haven’t needed to try it again. But I’m sure it’s a successful strategy.

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