June 03, 2015
My Non-Adventures in the Pickup Artist World (Part 1)

The world of pickup artists is full of swaggering men who seem to be able to "score" with any woman they want. At least that's how it seemed to this writer, until he tried it.

by Mario Rustan, Columnist
Issues // Politics and Society
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Once, I felt the need to read a self-help book, but they were all about wealth. Yes, while the Americans focus on happiness, Indonesians think about getting rich. But what’s this? The Rules of the Game. The hardcover book showed a bald, tan man in a regal chair surrounded by four silhouettes of women. I had started to listen to hip-hop at the time, and “the game” meant many things. To the hip hop artists, it meant music business and popularity. For me, it was about getting a date.
Back then I worried if dating tips or nightlife stories were a white man’s game – at the expense of the Asian guy like in The Hangover or Sixteen Candles. But this Neil Strauss fella might be black. So I bought it to see what Neil had to say.
My activism then was on Chinese people’s positive image, whether in Indonesia or the United States. I felt I “lost out” to the white guys in Australia, not just in competition for women, but also in popularity and acceptance. At home, I felt that Chinese-Indonesians were still invisible in the media and from public conversations, although urban Indonesians met them every day. If the alpha bros in Melbourne were Anglo-Irish and Italians, in Jakarta they were the Javanese and Bataks. So I scoured the Internet for heroes, since I found none on television.
I found Better Asian Man and months after following the blog, I learned about William, the founder. He used to write another blog that criticized Hollywood’s negative portrayal of Asian people. Then he signed up for a Pick-Up Artist (PUA) “bootcamp” (a very expensive workshop) and transformed himself from a nerd to a player. Then he made a blog and podcast to teach other Asian-American men to improve themselves.
I wrote down his tips, essays, bullet points, and subscribed to his podcasts, where he talked to Asian-American media personalities. Whether male or female, they laughed at the reality that finding work was not easy due to stereotyping. Eventually I wrote to him (it’s been wiped out along with his old blog so I’ve been de-googled. Ha!), where I think what he said, “Let her go and apply for JT’s bootcamp. There’s one soon in Australia.”
But that sounded expensive, so I opt to read The Rules of the Game instead. Neil is not black, at least not fully. The book was apparently the companion to The Game, which I had not been aware of before. In The Game he described how as a Rolling Stone journalist he investigated the PUA community, but went deep for personal reason since he was not good with dating, despite his business card. Then he became the best in the USA. Now he was telling us how it worked in 30 steps.
The first steps were great. I answered questions about my identity and life goals. There were readings and wardrobe checklists. There were forms and exercises – just like in psychology tests or church workshops. There were handouts and videos to download for free. I was disappointed that I could not do the practical exercises like calling a stranger to recommend a movie instantly or asking a woman on the street about a trendy male clothing store. The thought “I should have done this in Australia!” popped out again and again.
I did not finish the book since I stuck on Day 10 and so on. Most of the intermediate program is about going to nightclubs and New Age stuff. I could not just act “Whatever, I’ll see what’s the rest of the program about”, since that would be cheating and I believed that folllowing the program properly would help me getting a girl.
In the end, I had a couple of dates. Perhaps the early exercises did some improvement to my body language, confidence, attitude, voice, and fashion sense, though none of my relationships lasted long. Ironically, Strauss writes that I win the game if I’ve got a date in 30 days since following his program.
So yay, I’ve won without going to a nightclub! What’s next? Put myself in the “winner circle” and told my story. I created an account on his Stylelife forum and, naturally, began to look for other Asian posters, and found some Singaporeans.




I made only one proper post, when the administrator asked us to post a picture of our Perfect 10 woman. Out of all possibilities, to my surprise, the sole Asian woman featured was Taiwanese actress Lin Chiling. I suspected the Singaporeans posted it. So I featured my Perfect 10 woman, Korean singer BoA.
So I had grasped the basics of dating skills and personal grooming. But at the same time, I wondered why I still hadn’t become a chick magnet. Perhaps it was because I had not gone “sarging” with other bros, swaggering around nightclubs. I did not think such action possible in Indonesia – the nightclubs can be dangerous, strangers in the malls are not accustomed to make small talks, and, frankly, I was not even the most popular guy in church.
In Singapore I made small talks with waitresses, girls on bookstores, Western tourists on train. I even had a couple of lunch or dinner dates. But I did not become Justin Timberlake, and was too scared to contact any Singaporean from the forum since I did not follow The Game properly.
On the other hand, mails from Stylelife kept offering one part of advice and three parts of advertisements for expensive seminars, DVD sets, and personal trainers. I hoped there would be a bootcamp in Singapore or Bali, but the nearest one was in Hong Kong – interesting but still too expensive.
“Too expensive”, turned out to be an excuse that saved my soul, but I shall tell you about it in Part 2. 

Mario Rustan writes opinion pieces for The Jakarta Post and is working on some other online projects and was featured in Guardian Football and SBS Radio. His dream job is still teaching High School History by day and writing for feminism by night.