Decoding ‘Mystery Method’

A practical guide to romantic risk-taking between classes.

by Allison Fingerett

Musician Neil Sedaka once said, âÄúBreaking up is hard to do,âÄù but even harder than parting ways with a former lover is the process of finding a new one. Many prefer to search under cover of darkness, and with the aid of alcohol. But a sunny, sober day on campus is an even better opportunity to forge a new relationship. Approaching strangers with ulterior romantic motives sounds terrifying. But what if you could wipe away self-doubt enough to seize the day? Last week I saw him again; the enigmatic hipster walking past Scott Hall. I thought about going up to inform him of his charm but remembered the obligatory cat and mouse game that accompanies attraction. Surely I canâÄôt ruin the chase by admitting that IâÄôve been caught? Or worse yet, freak him out and ruin my day with painful rejection. As I watched him walk away, I dialed my friend, Nick, whoâÄôd recently purchased âÄúThe Mystery Method,âÄù a manual for âÄúpickup artists.âÄù The art of the âÄúpickupâÄù typically refers to a knack for convincing women in bars to come home with you, but Nick insisted the concept, rooted in social psychology, speaks to the larger issue of approaching anyone, anytime. âÄúRead the book,âÄù Nick said. âÄúTry it out. What have you got to lose?âÄù âÄúThe Mystery MethodâÄù was written by a former nerd and self-proclaimed âÄúsocial dynamics scientistâÄù named, appropriately, âÄúMystery.âÄù It outlines a series of algorithms for approaching women and not only attracting them but âÄúallowing them to fall in love with you.âÄù While largely focused on the psychology of heterosexual women, many of the theories presented do extend to all genders, sexual orientations and venues. Mystery claims that if you study social interaction long enough, patterns emerge, and you can use the predictability of humans to your advantage when trying to attract them. But in order to study such things successfully, one needs practice, and practice takes courage. I set out to test the method, adapt it for use by women and conquer my fears in the process. What I learned is that MysteryâÄôs advice is, at its core, nothing more than a set of tools for building confidence and taking control. The first is to remember that this is no big deal. Seriously. The goal is to hone your skills, not land a date on any one approach. As I stood hyperventilating on the sundial outside Wilson Library, I tried to remember this. Day One of âÄúOperation Mystery MethodâÄù was a wash of anxiety and repeated violations of the methodâÄôs core principle: the three-second rule. After spotting the object of your affection, you have three seconds to make your move. The hardest part is the initial leap. If you wait too long, your second guesses will dissolve into full-blown self-doubt, and youâÄôll be a quivering ball of nerves whoâÄôs now awkwardly leering. Just do it. Like a Band-Aid: right off. But once youâÄôre actively moving in their direction, you must be confident in what it is you plan to say. Mystery recommends a variety of âÄúopeners,âÄù such as asking for directions (functional), asking a question that elicits an emotional response (opinion) or commenting on shared circumstances (situational). The trouble with Day One was my obsessive focus on these canned routines that are really meant as starting points to efficiently earning respect and engaging in comfortable conversation. The book does distinguish between night and day, advocating for a well-executed direct opener in the daytime. This is what I like to call the âÄúIâÄôd regret it all day if I didnâÄôt tell you youâÄôre quite dashingâÄù approach. Day Two started with a warm-up student poll. The question: âÄúHow would you feel if a stranger told you they found you attractive?âÄù Most guys gave a tentative or immediate thumbs-up. âÄúEverybody loves a compliment; they just donâÄôt like the awkward moment it occurs in,âÄù one male said. There were a few who were not keen on such social kamikaze missions, but most males, gay or straight, placed greater value on the residual flattery than the fleeting discomfort. Heterosexual females, on the other hand, were mostly wary of the direct opener. âÄúIâÄôd think the guy was a creep unless he was exceptionally slick about it,âÄù one said. It is harder for a man to use this tactic on a woman, but it can be done. The direct opener is a risk, but itâÄôs often your best bet when dealing with fellow students on foot. Mystery maintains that people are just people, after all, and you must truly envision equal footing before attempting to act on impulse. By the end of Day Two, I was ready to hit the field. I started by joyriding the Campus Circulator and asking boys if they knew how to get to Northrop Auditorium. This failed miserably; the functional opener was a conversational dead end. But I survived. It was truly no big deal. A good opener must lend itself to further questioning, but sometimes this process feels like navigating around a land mine while beating around a bush. As one male pointed out, âÄúsome guys are so dense, they donâÄôt realize theyâÄôre being hit on.âÄù I threw out my internal cue cards and committed to being direct. On Day Three, I approached a bearded smoker outside Walter library. âÄúThis is incredibly forward,âÄù I said, âÄúbut youâÄôre adorable.âÄù He smiled wide and said simply, âÄúIâÄôm speechless.âÄù After pausing to visibly ponder the inflation of his ego, he politely informed me of his girlfriend, who may or may not exist. I shared my belief that compliments are useless if not verbalized, and I felt triumphant as I walked away. While he wasnâÄôt my future boyfriend, I learned the value of making someoneâÄôs day and living mine to the fullest. What have you got to lose? Mystery reminds us that missed connections are far worse than rejection. Allison Fingerett welcomes comments at [email protected]