Game On, Part 4: The Courtier’s Last Stand


NYU senior Jesse VanDusen has been telling us about his epic showdown between the dating techniques of the 16th century and the jargon-filled pick-up techniques of the modern day. In this concluding episode, he reaches a decision about which approach works best for him. (Go here for episode 1, episode 2, and episode 3)

By Jesse VanDusen

I Get Musical

There was one more trick in the Castiglione playbook I needed to try. I had avoided it so far because it hadn’t really, um, sung to me. Aside from general rules about etiquette and dress, Castiglione provided his readers with a list of skills one must learn in order to win over the countess of his dreams. Most of these talents — javelin prowess, boulder throwing, bull-running — seemed impossible to flaunt in Manhattan, except one — playing the lute skillfully.

Of course, I had no idea what a lute truly was, let alone how to play one. But if Richardson was willing to don a Cap’n Crunch T-Shirt in the name of love, I would cave to Castiglione’s demands. So I borrowed a friend’s recorder — you know, the thing you played in elementary school? Well, it was the only music skill I had ever retained. I rehearsed a few melodies, and headed, as Luna would say, into the field.

This time I had chosen a busy dive bar on the Lower East Side, a place where you’d have to do much worse than bother patrons with a recorder to get kicked out. Once I settled in with my friends at a small counter by a pool table, I revealed my instrument from under my coat and started puffing out a tune.

My friends laughed, but no one else in the bar even flinched, maybe because my ditty was too cacophonous to create a care or maybe because my companions’ chuckles were deafening. I only managed one verse before shame and foolishness got the better of me. I felt even more disingenuous here than groping girls on a makeshift dance floor. This time, Castiglione didn’t translate — I was the court jester, nothing more.

With Castiglione losing his edge, I decided to give the seduction men one more chance to explain themselves. I met Luna to grab a beer at the Village Pourhouse on 109th and Amsterdam, where he told me that in order to find that special somebody, I needed to identify what I wanted in a woman. If I wanted a girl who was in shape, I should go to the gym. If I wanted one who was smart, I needed to, as Luna put it, “go to a bookstore or something like that.”

I doubted Luna would be much help determining what type of girl I was looking for, but, in his own way, he was right. The girl I wanted wasn’t going to be prowling for lute-players on the Lower East Side. She might not even be at a bar. I continued to push my luck with Luna. I knew a classmate I’d been trying to build up the courage to ask out all semester, but I wasn’t sure if she already had a boyfriend, so I asked Luna for his advice.

“Here’s a dirty little secret,” he said quietly. “It doesn’t matter whether or not a girl has a boyfriend. Most relationships are stale anyways.” He sat up and returned to his beer. Why would someone so devoted to instigating relationships call them stale?

Perhaps it’s because Luna had seen quite a few important relationships fail. When Luna was in his early twenties his parents abruptly divorced. His father moved from California to Texas for a new job but not long after having relocated, he became extremely sick. Luna can’t remember if his father died when Luna was 21 or 22. But he does remember neglecting his longtime girlfriend after his father’s sudden passing. He remembers her leaving him too.

“You can really rip yourself apart over a relationship,” Luna says with a kind of authority that now suggests biting regret. “When I hear about guys killing themselves after a breakup, that’s when I know the ‘community’ is important.”

For him, the lingo, the gimmicks and the guidance of the seduction community seem to have revitalized his life, given him a prosperous job and a cult of followers. For him, the community has won every round.

But I’m a different story. I decided to ask my classmate on a date — Luna had helped me figure that out. But I decided never to puff myself up again — Castiglione had lent me a hand with that.

Leaving our penultimate class, I mustered up the courage to approach my classmate. I put this whole competition aside and stuck to my own method — a mixture of awkward jumbled sentences and genuine interest — and I invited her out.

We’re getting drinks on Friday and I think it might just work out — as long as I leave my ski-hat and my recorder at home.

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