There is a seething horde of mopey males who feel they have been lied to by society.
They feel cheated, having been brainwashed into thinking that women want a nice guy, a guy with an ironed shirt and pressed pants who shows up on time and pays for the meal, only to see the object of your desire fall into the arms of some seedy, smooth-talking swine who hardly lifted a finger to woo her.
It seems that when it comes to winning a woman, nice guys finish last. Admit it. Like me, if you are a guy, you must have felt like a doormat at some point.
Online agony aunts sites are filled with e-mails from guys who moan about being “the one she cries to, but never kisses”. The women they yearn for, in chick lit-speak, are just not that into them. These guys have been “friend zoned” – men who are angry because their secret loves use them most cruelly as buddies, chauffeurs and meal tickets, never as lovers.
“Women,” they cry angrily, “only want to be with jerks.”
Today, I am learning how to be a jerk. My instructor, Mr Xavier See, is teaching me how to be that cocky brute who gets the girl. He is one of several coaches in Singapore who want to unleash the inner swine within us and if their websites are anything to judge by, guys are buying.
These trainers go by several names, including “pick-up artists” and “dating experts” and their goals for the students range from the frankly sexual to the, well, slightly less frankly sexual. They are the horny yang to the chaste ying peddled by female dating coaches.
Mr See, however, prefers not to call what he does by any of those names.
He wants me to be a “24/7 attractive man”, a guy who will be so “social, powerful and charismatic” (to quote his ads) that women will be drawn to me as inexorably as giddy ants to a particularly awesome picnic sandwich.
We meet at a cafe and for three hours, I am blasted with a highly concentrated dose of his three-day, $1,950 course.
Mr See is a slim and boyishly good-looking 23-year-old, in a close-fitting black T-shirt, with a bad-boy neck chain and a leather wristband. His complexion is enviably flawless.
After training, he says, we will hunt. My objective: Chat up women until I get one telephone number. My hands turn icy- cold at the thought.
I am not a complete novice in the arts of amore, but I have committed hideous goofs. The memory still makes me curl up in shame. My personal foible is that I am too eager to please women I like. My crime: Trying too hard to be funny or clever.
“Don’t be a clown,” advises Mr See. Clowns are desperate and land a man in the dreaded friend zone.
The three-hour lesson is now a blur, but much of it was confidence-building.
Mr See’s principles come from a mix of places. There is the “Yes you can” of the US President Barack Obama campaign and the “You’re OK, I’m OK” school of motivational pop psychology, with a dash of How To Give A Great Presentation.
An attractive man is a masculine man and I must reclaim my manhood, he declares.
He tells me to say it loud and say it proud.
“I am a man,” I mumble.
“Louder,” he says.
“What?” I ask.
“I AM A MAN!” he yells, startling me and the people in the cafe.
Other coaches teach pick-up lines and manipulative scripts. Mr See says that a truly attractive man has no need for them. The magic will flow out from within, like some kind of Jedi juice, once I hold the right beliefs. I am not sure if it was his mesmerising speech pattern or the course content, but it all makes sense to me.
A real man must dominate verbally, he says. This means never get into that typical Q and A interrogation with a girl you have just met.
“Make statements, don’t ask questions,” he says. He orders me to make a dominating statement. My eyes dart desperately around the coffee table.
“Your laptop is crap!” I blurt out.
“That is just being mean,” he says, offended. I have missed the point. He patiently goes over the bit again. Do not start a chat with an “excuse me,” for example. That is weak.
“Just say ‘hey.’” Strong like a man, he says.
Once you have established rapport with a woman, you must get her to see you as a sexual creature, lest you are taken for yet another guy pal.
Here, Mr See’s ideas do not all pass the sanity test. For example, there is the intense sexual stare, followed by the caressing of nearby objects, like a mug. There is the use of words with double meaning. For example, “Let’s meet on Friday. Let’s do it.” The “it”, says Mr See, will resonate sexually. The welcome-to-my-lair vibe was getting a little rich and I had to suppress the urge to make an Austin Powers-style quip, as in “Do I make you horny, baby?”
End of lesson, and out we go. With us is a former student of Mr See’s, Mr Laveen Lalwani, 24.
Mr See takes us to what he calls a “hotspot” – a bookshop’s relationship section. Knowing where to find women in the right frame of mind is half the battle won, he says.
He kicks things off by chatting up a shopper. Mr Lalwani gives me a colour commentary. “See him leading her around the shelves? Dominance,” he whispers. Mr See does not get her telephone number, but has her Facebook name. Not a complete success, but she was clearly charmed and to be fair, mentioned a boyfriend.
Mr See tells me to chat up a woman browsing in the foreign magazine section.
“Hey,” I open, a little too loudly. She looks up, startled. I ask her if she knows where the French graphic novels are. I do not know why I asked that; I do not read them. She leads me to the right section (bad; I should have led her). She is Japanese. I end up lobbing lame questions about, of all things, ramen. Inwardly, I groan. I say thanks and goodbye.
Mr See and Mr Lalwani offer a postmortem. My arms were crossed, as if I were defending myself from her. And I went into the dreaded Q and A zone.
My next chat-up is a well-groomed woman in her 30s, browsing cookbooks. I get as far as “Hey, do you know...” then she is shaking her head, waving me away as one would wave away a tissue paper seller at a hawker centre. My ego is now on the floor. When I woke up this morning, I did not know I would end the day as a sex pest.
Third try. She is in the Occult section. I ask her to help me find a tarot book. We get into a conversation and, to my surprise, it begins to click. I make a few statements of self-belief (as taught) and she reciprocates. I whip out my telephone and ask for her number (a physical demonstration that demands an immediate reply). She gives it to me. I feel like crying.
Mr See, Mr Lalwani and I head home, riding high on a cloud of high-fives and back-slaps. We rock. We are men. We are Vikings on a rampage!
The next day, I call the woman, telling her I was being trained in chatting up and ask for a performance review.
Yes, she knew that I was on the prowl when I showed no interest in her books and instead blathered on about nothing in particular. It was an interesting chat but no, she would not have gone out with me because she has a boyfriend.
So why did she give me her number? I ask.
“I’m a sales promoter, I give my number to everyone. It doesn’t mean anything,” she says.
Did I make her feel weird? Was I creepy?
No, she says.
I thank her and hang up. That is not much, but it is good enough for me.