"Make your move, ladies."
I glanced around the auditorium at the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College and watched hundreds women of all different shapes and sizes, races and ages jump up and pump their fists into the air and scream, "Yeah!"
"One more time: Make your move!" screamed Matthew Hussey, a dating expert with a cult following that includes Eva Longoria.
The women went wild and I looked around me -- not a single woman held back as they all screamed, "Yeah!" and threw their arms in the air.
I couldn't believe that my best friend Julia had convinced me to sign up for a seven-hour-long seminar on "getting the guy."
"It's not an option," Julia had said. "We have to go." She canceled her trip to Boston so we could make it to the seminar.
We had been on the Hussey train for a few weeks by then; we both read his book, Get the Guy, after we heard glowing praise from a friend of a friend.
"He essentially changed my life," she had said. "And it's the best I've ever felt and been treated. Seriously. The man is genius."
When I bought the book, I was surprised to see there was nothing gimmicky about it -- no mind games or manipulation. It was all sound advice: Be confident, set your standards and men will come flocking.
A few weeks later, I found myself waiting for Hussey to take the stage.
I asked the woman sitting to the right of me if she was familiar with Matthew Hussey's work before. She hadn't read his book, but had watched all of his YouTube videos. She was contemplating purchasing some of his paid online programs.
Julia leaned over me: "Do you think he's really hot, too?"
"YES!" said the woman, nodding vigorously.
We weren't alone. Women screamed like they were at a boy band concert as Hussey walked on stage in his jacket and jeans and Adidas high-tops. A seven-hour seminar isn't quite as painful when the host is as easy on the eyes as Hussey is.
He looked at the crowd with a winsome half-smile and said earnestly: "Love is s--. It sucks so badly."
Women giggled and cheered; most of the women in the audience were in their late 20s or early 30s, but there were many women who looked younger and much older.
Hussey recounted a familiar situation: A woman calls her friend in hysterics about how a man has broken her heart and she doesn't ever talk to him again, but then a few days later...
"She'll say, 'So, he texted me.'"
"And then, she'll request a tribunal of her friends to decide what it means," he added.
Hussey promised the 800-something women in the auditorium that he could help them manage these situations and empower themselves to be more proactive in their love lives without appearing desperate. The central idea of Hussey's approach is basically to build self-confidence and an independent, fulfilling life in order to attract desirable men -- like I said, sound advice.
Hussey spent the next several hours alternating between the theoretical -- the idea of demonstrating value -- and the practical -- how to approach a man at the bar and the most effective pickup lines.
These lessons are punctuated with dance sessions, where everyone is forced to stand and dance in groups; they're small icebreakers that make the entire seminar feel like a more communal activity -- perhaps too communal for me.
I later offered some of my trail mix to my neighbor, and a woman in the row behind me yelped, "Me too!" and dug into my container. "Sure," I said, stunned.
Hussey's seminar was exhaustive. He covered very specific situations: the best last-ditch lines to use ("Why are you leaving?" and "You look like you'd be charming -- too bad I don't have time to find out"), how to hit on someone in line at a coffee shop ("Did you copy my order?"), how to talk to a guy who says he doesn't want a relationship and even the best way to walk up to a guy (from the side).
But Hussey also explored in depth how to become more attractive to the opposite sex, mostly by appearing confident and challenging; these parts acted more as life self-help sessions rather than dating self-help sessions. Tips included talking to more people in general (service workers, people on the elevator, etc.) in order to become more outgoing, keeping a busy schedule and not giving priority to a man in your life until he earns it.
By Hour Five, I was starting to wilt, even with the dance breaks. I would occasionally perk up at a particularly good pick-up line, cackle and write it down in my notebook; Julia and I especially loved when he said a woman can stand next to a man at a bar and say, "It's so crowded in here -- it's you and your big shoulders! Move!" and playfully push him away.
"So, so good!" howled Julia as she furiously scratched it onto her notepad.
Still, seven hours is a long time to sit in an auditorium, even if the seven hours might be life-changing.
Naturally, at the end of the seminar, there was something to sell. We all had to watch a long commercial for Hussey's five-day retreats in Florida, but I didn't mind. I genuinely believe that many women would benefit from Hussey's "you don't need to be pretty -- you are enough" approach in an intensive workshop. Hundreds of women from all over the world fly in for Hussey's counseling, and many of his former clients have moved on to marriages and kids.
I have to admit I haven't tried any of Hussey's lines since the workshop, but I will tell you one thing: Even just taking 10 to 20 percent of Hussey's advice will bring a different energy into your life. I've been saying hello and smiling at more people, and those positive vibes get returned.
On Saturday, at a bar, after three women tumbled out of a single toilet, I turned to the man behind me and joked, "I bet you wish you had been there with them."
When I came out of the bathroom, he stopped me. "All cards on the table -- I wish I had been there with you," he said. A few weeks ago, I would not have made that joke to a stranger in line. It wasn't an intentional flirtation, nor was that response necessarily an outcome I desire in general, but Hussey's advice most definitely makes women more approachable and dynamic.
As for Julia? She has nine first dates scheduled this week.