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Aunt Pythia’s advice

March 30, 2013

Many thanks to Aunt Orthoptera for her fascinating, insect-related advice from last week.

Aunt Pythia is psyched to be back, is psyched to refer to herself in the third person, and is psyched to continue her sex and dating advice far beyond what anyone asked for or wants.

If you don’t know what you’re in for, go here for past advice columns and here for an explanation of the name Pythia. Most importantly,

Please submit your smutty sex questions at the bottom of this column!


Aunt Pythia,

After how long without any sign of interest from any member of the (or an) appropriate sex should you give up on trying to date? Also, how do you get over a crush on someone who likes you as a friend and who you want to be friends with when breaking off contact is not an option?

Forever Alone Probably

Dear FAP,

Thank you so much for the question. Over my vacation I read The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists by Neil Strauss and I’m dying to talk about it. You’ve given me the perfect excuse to do just that!

According to the book, if you’re a man, you should do a bunch of things to get laid with “really hot chicks”, among them:

  1. Get used to people saying no to you – don’t dwell on one relationship.
  2. Dress and appear confident, which means think about how your appearance and actions come off to other people.
  3. Ignore your “target” (i.e. the really hot chick you’re interested in) until you’ve …
  4. won the admiration of the alpha male of the group by doing magic tricks (no shit).
  5. Learn how to “neg” your target once you deign to pay attention to her, which means insult her in playful (read: obnoxious) ways such as (not a hyperbole) carrying around a piece of lint so you can pretend you found it on her outfit and then say, “How long has this been on your shoulder?”
  6. Once you have her attention, have interesting things to say and…
  7. generally pay her attention and know how to talk.
  8. Make it clear that you’re interested in continuing to spend time with her (without be creepy).

Here’s my take on this weird and disturbing set of instructions: it’s not rocket science that it works but it’s unduly evil.

The pick-up artists who studied up and tested out these techniques collected a lot of data and tried out a lot of things. They started out completely dweeby and socially awkward and ended up being able to hold a conversation with a women in a nightclub. They were essentially on-the-ground data scientists.

But they made a classic mistake of data scientists, namely they overfit. They came to the conclusion that they needed to do magic tricks and be assholes to get laid. But just because that didn’t prevent them from getting laid, it doesn’t mean they needed to do that. My theory is that it was a replacement for actually having something interesting to say.

Let me give advice to anyone, man or woman, that I think will help you in terms of meeting people and dating. In fact, this is also my advice for people who aren’t interested in dating but who want to be able to engage socially in any situation.

It’s easy – I’ll just add one thing they forgot about (having a life) and which they replaced by a bunch of unnecessary, stupid and quasi-evil shit:

  1. Get used to people saying no to you – don’t dwell on one relationship (unless it’s making you happy to do so!).
  2. Dress and appear confident, which means think about how your appearance and actions come off to other people.
  3. Work on being an interesting person with cool life goals.
  4. Once you have someone’s attention, have interesting things to say and…
  5. generally pay attention to that person and know how to talk.
  6. Make it clear that you’re interested in continuing to spend time with that person (without be creepy).

Now, to answer your questions.

I don’t think you should give up if you’re actually interested in dating. But I do think you should think about getting over your crush, or at least ignoring your crush sometimes (not the person, the feelings) so that you actually allow yourself to meet other people and find them fascinating. Otherwise, like it or not, you’ll close yourself off to new people and experiences.

Next, keep in mind that the most exciting things to whatever new person you’ve just met is that a) you’re interested in them, b) you’re paying attention to them, and c) you want to spend more time with them whilst d) you’re an interesting person with cool life goals.

About the crush: it won’t seem tragic to have a crush on someone who doesn’t reciprocate when you also have other romantic relationships brewing. In fact it’ll seem cool and awesome to be near someone that attractive.

I hope that helps!

Aunt Pythia


Dear Aunt Pythia,

I’ve sometimes noticed on receipts instead of just a single charge for something, a single charge plus a duplicate, plus a credit to nullify the duplicate. This has happened often enough to make me suspicious that these duplicate/credits aren’t appearing by accident. I’ve only noticed it happening at venues owned by large corporations. The most recent occurrence was a checking deposit at a bank, that appeared in duplicate on my statement along with the usual credit/retraction. I wonder, do these fake transactions serve some books-cooking purpose?

Curious Observer-Participant

Dear COP,

I’ve decided to answer this question even though it has nothing to do with sex because, first of all, it’s a fascinating observation and second of all, I think it could do with a bit of data collecting.

Readers, please check your receipts for the next few days for this weird phenomenon. And accountant readers, please explain this weird phenomenon if it does indeed indicate a book-cooking purpose.

Auntie P


Dear Aunt Orthoptera,

I have spent the last couple of years modelling the beheavioural neuroscience behind the always respectable Acrididae. Recently, I came across this strange species of primate called Homo sapien. Unlike regular folks who rub their legs against each other when they are gregarious, these primates like to make sounds at each other or send symbols or pictures!

I would very much like to study them and was wondering which part of industrial data science would find my skill set (math, biology, neuroscience) useful. Also have you seen my cousin Melanoplus spretus? I haven’t seen him in a while.

Solitary Schistocerca americana

p.s. here’ my picture:



Dear SSa,

I decided to answer your letter even though it’s addressed to Aunt Orthoptera because it’s about sex.

I wanted to repeat a point about the mating rituals of humans which my friend Laura made recently. Namely, every man she knows somehow knows about The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists by Neil Strauss (see above description), even though most women have never heard of it.

At the same time, every woman she knows somehow knows about another book called All the Rules: Time-tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right by Ellen Fein, even though no man has ever heard of that. [Aunt Pythia’s personal note: I’d never heard of the latter book either]

Both of these are more or less instruction manuals for getting what you want from the opposite sex. Or maybe a better way of describing them would be manipulation manuals. Not much there in terms of adult honesty and saying what you really feel. Makes you wonder if we’re so very different from grasshoppers rubbing their legs together after all.

Food for thought!

Aunt Pythia


Please please please submit questions!

Categories: Aunt Pythia
  1. Eric
    March 30, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    I wouldn’t say that the original pick-up artists overfit their data as much as the nature of their experiments made it impossible for them to collect good data. These guys were hitting the bars and clubs five to seven times a week, trying to talk to as many girls as possible. They were necessarily going to be talking to club girls. In L.A., no less. So their sample was biased. And it’s not that a large range of people don’t go to the clubs at some time or another. It’s that the people who are there often have nothing better going on. They might not be very interesting themselves and not capable of recognizing an interesting person with cool life goals. Instead, they’re captivated by the guy in the platform boots, wearing the fuzzy hat and aviation goggles, performing magic tricks. This led to plague in the mid-00’s of guys in fuzzy hats performing magic tricks. Also, the strange rituals in the Game (negging, ignoring the target, etc.) which are always taken literally come from an attempt to disconnect the person from the approach. This is for psychological reasons so that the aspiring pick-up artist can tell himself that the girl is rejecting the approach not him.

    Now, most guys are not interested in club girls but a lot of them might need practice talking to women. If a guy has no women in his social circle, he might try to meet women from approaching them in bars, coffeeshops, etc. Let’s make up some numbers. Of the women he talks to, one in three are initially receptive. Of them, however, one half, when learning that he is a mathematician, says, “Math! I liked math all the way through middle school but when I got to high school, I didn’t get it. I got a B in calculus, and then when I took calculus in college, I barely got a C” and then ends up so agitated that the guy is off-center and has trouble continuing the interaction. If the guy had a response for that, he could effectively double the number of girls he has a chance with. There are of course, many other conversational obstacles later. Now, this guy could learn how to respond to the girl in a way that shows his personality, explains that math is not like college calculus, and shows what appeals to him in the subject. But he might have to go through hundred such interactions to learn. So, he might need some of the game stuff to get him through the learning process.

    Your advice does cut out a lot of the pick-up artist hokum, but there may be some truth behind that silliness which was discovered by legions of guys talking to club girls and codified by Mystery. First, ignoring your target and performing magic tricks. Sure, the Game version is dumb, but a guy has to have some way to start the conversation. He can’t tell a girl or her group what a cool person he is and what his life goals are. That’s called bragging and oversharing. And ignoring the target is perhaps pick-up code for making the girl invest in the conversation. A guy wants her to ask about him. And the Mystery people made too much of negging, but one can take it as teasing and kidding around and not acting as if “OMG, a cute girl is actually talking to me!!! I’ll show her what a great boyfriend I’ll be!!!” is going through your brain. This does not mean insulting girls or carrying around a little ball of lint.

    Ps. The answer to the original question is “immediately.” A guy should give up right away if he recognizes that there’s no interest. If he recognizes it, she’s been giving out signals that she’s not interested for way long than that. By the time he asks Aunt Pythia, it’s way too late. He should also ask himself that when he says he likes the girl as a friend does it mean that he really likes her as a friend with no chance of ever going further. And the best way to get over a crush is to be open to all the other people who might be interested. They’re probably sending signals that he’s not noticing.


  2. Jason Starr
    March 30, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    I had never heard about any of this crazy pick-up artist stuff, and now I wish I never had. What is the matter with our species?


  3. March 30, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    I think it’s important to recognize that there are a lot of different styles in pickup. Also ‘The Game’ was written as a sort of recollection of things that Neil Strauss whitnessed in his time as an upcoming pickup artist. These are not necessarily recommendations, although a lot of it is based off of actual techniques from the Mystery Method (MM).
    Also a lot of the mainstream pickup methods are geared towards picking up “10s”, which are basically pretty girls you see at clubs and bars (though not exclusively). A lot of males are interested in picking up those types of girls, but there are other approaches as well that are aimed at just generally increasing your success with women and they promote a lot of self-improvement and self-development such as “having something interesting to say” and having interesting personal and life goals.
    You really can’t overgeneralize and then criticise the community as a whole. There are good and bad things about the community.
    I am not a participant in the pickup community and I dislike certain aspects of it, such as the objectification of women which a lot of the successful pickup artists practice. I suppose a lot of pickup artists need that perception of women to be able to approach a large amount of women on a regular basis and in the process be rejected by a certain amount and have sex with the rest. Also the fact that they are so good at “manipulating” women into having sex is a form of constant reinforcement in their beliefs. The aspects that I like are the emphasis on self-development and self-improvement.


  4. Patrick
    March 30, 2013 at 7:17 pm

    Relevant xkcd comic: http://xkcd.com/800/


  5. Abby
    March 31, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    I’ve had the double billing and deletion thing before. At the grocery store, it’s usually an honest mistake, like getting the PLU numbers for bananas confused with bunches of flowers.

    It did happen for me with an account at a branch of one of the countries largest banks, about ten years ago. It was my first full-time job out of college, and I was living in a new state. I opened a checking account. About a month later, I had around $1500 in the account. The bank sent me a promotional letter encouraging me to open a savings account so I could get some sort of bonus. I transferred $1000 to the savings account. When I got my statement a few weeks later, I saw that TWO $1000 transfers from checking to savings had occurred, along with ONE $1000 transfer from savings back to checking. The problem? I didn’t have enough in checking to cover two simultaneous transfers, so it triggered OVERDRAFT fees. I finally got those removed after several phone calls trying to explain the situation, though the bank kept insisting it was my fault. I had no online access, so a bank employee had to be the one to out the transfer through. I never did get that bonus, and I closed the account a few months later when I moved again.

    So, intentional or not, there was a benefit to the bank in making a double transfer and hoping the customer wouldn’t notice.


  6. Frank
    March 31, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    I recommend this:
    for a good critical but partially sympathetic view of PUAs from someone who used to be one.


  7. JSE
    March 31, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    Tanya and I have both heard of, and roughly know what’s contained in, both The Rules and The Game, and I don’t think we’re particularly hermaphroditic. I think of both as pretty big bestsellers whose broad contours are known about by men and women alike! I also know roughly what’s contained in The Secret, but have to concede ignorance as to The Celestine Prophecy.


  1. August 13, 2013 at 7:02 am
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