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Pickup Lines

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There was a miniature convention, featuring expert pickup artists, in New York . . . And over the last few years there has been a wave of books, CDs, DVDs and Web sites as well as a satellite radio show on the subject . . . The students paid $377 each (drinks at the club were extra) to hear from about 20 dating experts . . .

-"For New Pickup Lines, Pay $377 and Go Practice", The New York Times

For my eighty-seventh birthday, my son Marvin, a retired New York City high school English teacher, sent me a gift certificate for a weekend conference here in Miami on how to pick up women. What was he thinking?! Where I live, in The Ponce de Leon Geriatric Center, widows outnumber men five to one. My first week here, I tacked a three-by-five index card to the multi-purpose bulletin board outside the dining room: "Had enough of intimacy? For earthly delights with a warm, vital man, come to Apartment 36J."

Early the next morning, a lovely gray-haired woman appeared at my door. "How much?" she asked.

I liked her directness, and responded in kind: "Five dollars for the floor," I said, "ten dollars for the couch, twenty dollars for the bedroom."

The woman reached into her pocket book, took out a twenty dollar bill.

"This way, please," I said, closing the door behind us, and heading for the bedroom.

She grabbed my arm. "Oh no you don't!" she said, holding the twenty dollar bill high in the air while pointing at my feet. "Four times on the floor!"

I gasped, and when I did, she burst into laughter. "Coffee?" she asked.

So we had coffee, after which came the famous one-thing-led-to-another, and Edna and I have been dear friends ever since. What she found admirable about my approach, she said, was that it had an element of style to it, and when I received my son's gift certificate her words came back to me--an element of style, indeed!--and I thought: Sonny boy, forget your conferences and your on-line dating sites, your personals ads and high-end referral services! You were an English teacher, right? So head for the nearest bar, museum, fitness center, or subway platform--it's Strunk and White to the rescue!

1. Choose a suitable design and hold to it.
A basic structural design underlies every kind of romance, whether star-crossed, tantric, mantric, or serially homogenous. The pros, and count me among them, know that meeting and winning a lady's attentions depends upon . . . prose!

2. Use the active voice.
Many a lame approach can be made lively and seductive by substituting a transitive in the active voice:

  • My first sight of you will always be remembered by me.
  • Near you, my breathing can be labored.
  • I'll never forget how my first sight of you blew me away.
  • You take my breath away, sweetheart!

3. Put statements in positive form.
Conscious or unconscious, ladies don't like to be told what is not. Express even a negative in positive form:

  • I am not very often on time.
  • Haven't I met you somewhere before?
  • You're not Natalie?
  • I usually come late but often.
  • Hey--great to see you again, Natalie!
  • Could have fooled me!

4. Use definite, specific, concrete language.
Prefer the specific to the general, the definite to the vague, the brash to the beggarly:

  • Perhaps, if I'm so fortunate, we'll meet again.
  • So what'll it be--your apartment or mine?
  • Objective consideration of contemporary phenomena compels the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must inevitably be taken into account.
  • So I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the beach to the bums--but time and chance and the cabana are ours!
5. Express co-ordinate ideas in similar form.

The guy who never scores violates this basic principle because he thinks he has to keep changing his tune to keep a lady interested. Not so. Parallel construction--what you taught your kids for 42 years--will carry the day and the night:

  • Formerly, I used a home health aide, while now a nursing home is preferred by me.
  • Blessed are the golden years; for they bring me the sweet smell of your snatch.

And a small reminder, son, via Messrs. Strunk and White: If one is to pick up women successfully, one must believe--in the truth and worth of the line and the ability of the ladies to laugh with you at your efforts. No one can date decently, or happily, who is distrustful of a lady's intelligence, or who doesn't, for openers, have a handful of good jokes at the ready.