A little backstory on pickup artists (PUAs): they are men and women (but usually men) who see what they do as teaching social skills. Their students, as they see it, are hapless men who just need a few bro-pats on the back in order to have the confidence to go forth into the jungle of pussy and skin their first pelt. But what PUAs actually advocate is out-and-out manipulation. Getting women into bed is reduced to a game with rules to follow, a code to crack. PUA methods vary, but all pickups socially and emotionally manipulate a woman. Men are taught to engage in certain behaviors to make her feel “safe” in his prescence and even to intentionally insult her (“negging”) to put her off guard. (A decent background explanation of online PUAs is here on Buzzfeed; my piece about men training to be PUAs in NYC “charm school” classes that ran in the New York Press a few years ago tells you how they behave “in the field.”) Sounds dehumanizing? It can be. It’s disturbing then, but not entirely surprising, how some PUA sites overlap with “men’s rights activist”/MRA sites — best known for being angry hornets’ nests of bitter men who rant their misogyny in any comment thread that doesn’t ban them. Although the two communities are distinct, there’s a scary amount of overlap in their attitude towards dealing with that alternate species known as women.
I could continue to lay in bed for hours and hours every day and only experience life with all the colors drained out of it. I could carry in my chest the darkness that at once felt heavy and hollow. But I refused to believe that was the only option. As much as I felt stigmatized and strange for feeling a way everyone else seemed not to, it served as a sort of inspiration. This is a riddle for me to crack; this is a puzzle for me to solve. It took a long time to feel not just not-sick or neutral, but happy. I’m not going to sugarcoat it and pretend it was quick or easy. Constructing a liveable life for yourself is one of the most difficult things I know. I had to do a lot of pruning in my social circle: taking away or putting-at-arms’-length the energy drainers, whether they were acquaintances, colleagues or family members. I had to decide only to work for people who treated me with the respect that I deserve (and then find those people and get them to employ me). I had to make wiser decisions about dating and then, when my heart got broken anyway, dust myself off and try again. I had to take better care of myself: getting the right amount of sleep (not too much or too little), doing talk therapy, not drinking or using drugs to make myself feel better, eating more healthfully and regulating my moods with anti-depressants. When I do all these things, I feel not-sick and neutral. And lately, because I am very lucky, I feel happy.