Dr. NerdLove’s Guide to the Successful Approach

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About Harris O'Malley

Harris O'Malley provides geek dating advice at his blog Paging Dr. NerdLove, as well as writing the occasional guest review for Spill.com and appearing on the podcast The League of Extremely Ordinary Gentlemen. He can be found dispensing snark and advice on Facebook and Twitter (@DrNerdLove.)

Dr. NerdLove is not really a doctor.


  1. I wouldn’t say that’s all there is… I see a definite mix of some of the stuff used in PUA communities (nicknames, assertion of control, opening with “I gotta go soon”). Of course, I doubt those would receive attribution to the ‘horrible woman-hating PUA community.’

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      Here’s the thing about PUA advice. Any GOOD dating/meeting women advice is going to sound like PUA because their principles are built upon stuff that really works. The basic principles of PUA were being used by guys when I was 15 years old, and when my mom was 15 years old.

      I always tell the story of how I met one of my exes and the first thing I said to him was, “Did you get dressed in the dark?” (he had a tie on over a tee shirt, so dumb) and smiled coyly. When we met for our first date, he said, “Funny, I remember you being much more beautiful” and winking. This was pre-PUA, the guy didn’t even have Internet or an email address he used outside of work. Yes, it ended up to be a terrible relationship, but we were master flirts. He scored the HOTTEST girls, dated some of the most beautiful up-and-coming celebrities at that time and he wasn’t that hot.

      We both knew better than to be too available, we both battled for control, we both threw out negs and whatever else.

      PUA didn’t invent any of the shit they sell, they just named it and explained it and created a community. The best flirts have been doing those things for decades, probably centuries in some form or another.

      • Teasing has always been a big part of flirting. I fell for a guy 20 years ago because he was a big teasy flirt and was always insulting me in a funny way. He’d call me a dork and ask me if I slept in my clothes. I would dish it right back at him. He always made me laugh. PUA hadn’t been invented yet back then and it wasn’t “negging” it was just being funny.

      • The thing is that it doesn’t work (even close to equally) for everybody. There has to be some spark of attraction or at least interest to begin with. Oherwise you are just some dork or idiot, and you will be stared down just as such.

        Which is also why I think this approach favours girls over guys. Because many girls might be wary to pick up on an approach from just about any guy if she doesn’t know anything about him, as we have seen in a lot of comments around here. While a guy probably is more likely to throw caution to the wind in such a situation.

        • Joanna Schroeder says:

          Yeah, it definitely only works for a certain group of people… And even then I worry that it’s not that healthy. When I look back at the relationships I started where a guy used what are now known as “Negs”, they weren’t the healthiest in my life.

          It certainly takes a certain person, connecting with a certain person, and a very good nature to make it work. Many times the guy or girl just comes off as an asshole.

          That’s why I like what Harris is doing in this article. They tease, but he’s not mean to her. He’s feeling it out, assessing and reassessing with every signal she sends him. That’s so crucial in meeting new people.

          • “That’s why I like what Harris is doing in this article. They tease, but he’s not mean to her. He’s feeling it out, assessing and reassessing with every signal she sends him. That’s so crucial in meeting new people.”

            It still only works for a certain group of people. Note how part of his slick approach included giving her his business card while “closing” her. Do you remember how kindly the give-her-your-card technique was treated in the “Dating Power” comment thread? It was ripped up down and sideways because in that context, the anecdotes were coming from women who’d been given cards by guys they weren’t attracted to. I’ve also heard countless anecdotes from women about being bothered (or even assaulted) by guys who intruded on their solitude without any outward sign of encouragement, yet that’s exactly what he did in this story. Does it mean he was wrong to approach without permission? No, it means guys don’t know if an approach will be welcomed until/unless they try, and he had the guts to try, which makes him exactly like every other guy approaching an attractive woman.

            So, while none of the “techniques” that Harris is patting himself on the back for here are to be condemned, the only ingredient that really matters is “Be attractive.” If you start with that advantage, then you can get away with any number of behaviors that if you lack it, will get you the creep treatment. You can approach while she’s alone and doing something. You can say flirty things. You can nickname her after a sex position (out loud) and give her your shiny card and have a chance that she’ll call you back. All because you were attractive to her before you approached. It’s still possible to screw it up despite that starting advantage, so kudos to Harris for not screwing it up, but all those moves he so deftly executed would not have helped he was deemed unattractive at the first glance.

            SNL had a good sketch based on this point that I’m too lazy to look up right now that I think was a “sexual harassment” training video or something. Nerdy guy (regular cast member) would do or say something innocuous and it was sexual harrassment. Tom Brady (quarterback host) would do or say the same thing and every woman would swoon.

            • yeah personally the secusl innuendo would have been a turn off to me and possibly offensive. It apparently worked in this instance so I don’t know, appears he knew what he was doing. But a lot of guys would not be able to pull it off.

            • *sexual innuendo

              I can type. Really.

            • Nick, mostly says:

              sure you can type.
              don’t forget, while he might have started the secusl innuendo, he also had plausible deniability – she’s the one who really ramped it up with that bareback comment.

            • Well, it’s a numbers game. Nine out of ten women (or whatever ratio) might be annoyed by the sexual innuendo. The Reverse Cowgirl in this case liked it. Nothing succeeds like success. If you don’t succeed you are a creep.

            • He was able to pull it off, not because he knew what he was doing, but because the girl in this instance happened to like him.

            • Exactly why advice like this is worthless. A more honest advice article would say “Figure out some way to be instantly attractive, or just give it up. Without her intiial interest, you’re doomed…. even if she eventually gets to know you and winds up liking you as a person, that’s a one-way ticket to Friendzone. Without initial attraction, there is zero–repeat, ZERO–chance of a romantic relationship.”

            • There are plenty of men — I’d say, the majority — who fall somewhere between Quasimodo and Tom Brady on the attractiveness scale. For the average-looking guy, starting the conversation off right goes a long way towards making yourself attractive to her. In other words, Copyleft, it’s entirely possible to influence her initial attraction with something other than physical appearance.

            • How much of that range between Quasimodo and Tom Brady do you suppose can get away with sitting down uninvited, escalating to sexual innuendo within a few sentences, and putting a hand an unknown woman’s back? Does this sound like the kind of advice *any* woman would give to men in general about how to approach and impress strange women, even if you’re more toward the Quasimodo end of the spectrum? If the sketching woman at the table had been Amanda Marcotte instead of Reverse Cowgirl, would it still stand as a helpful anecdote as long as he used all the same techniques?

              On a different point, not really central to the piece, but did no one else flinch at how the “bareback” comment increased his interest rather than decreased it? Maybe I’m not current on my slang, being a middle-aged married guy myself, but “bareback” to me means no condom, so if a woman I’m flirting with quickly volunteers that she’s in to no-condom sex, that’s a bad sign, not a good one. Would it be a fun and flirty thing to say if he’d been the one to indicate a bareback preference?

            • Actually, Marcotte is a fan of Nerdlove. She just interviewed him for her podcast.

            • I was not aware, but seriously, do you think Marcotte – or any woman who felt no initial attraction to an approaching man – would welcome and respond favorably to the approach outlined by Nerdlove in this article? I dare you to try it. Find some place where Marcotte is reading/working at a table by herself, and then go sit down with her (after asking rhetorically if she minds and not waiting for an answer), and after a quick escalation in flirtation, put your hand on her back as you hand her your card. If Marcotte isn’t handy, just pick any woman. Follow Nerdlove’s guide, *regardless* of how attractive you are at first glance, because remember, this wise advice is about how to become attractive through smooth moves; it doesn’t mention any prerequisites about having a handsome or non-threatening appearance, or how attractive you can tell she thinks you are before you even start the approach.

              The real lesson of Nerdlove’s anecdote is that you (men) don’t know if a woman will find you attractive until you try to find out. If you discover mutual attraction, it’s all good and trying to find out was a good idea, however you did it. If she’s not interested, there’s a good chance your effort to find out will come off as creepy, even if you did all the same things you would have in a successful approach.

            • @Marcus

              I completely agree. Without initial attraction you come off as annoying at best and creepy at worst. Men who approach without some sign that their approach is welcome, for example a smile, take the risk to leave a bad impression. On the other hand, taking this risk shows boldness and confidence. Traits women prefer in men. This catch 22 is hardly ever acknowledged from feminists who talk about unwanted sexual attention.

              There is a widely popular blog post called Schrödinger’s Rapist. It explains to men that they are perceived as potential harassers by the strange women they approach. Therefore men have to be extremely cautious when they approach. If I remember correctly Schrödinger’s Rapist specifically states men should not approach when a women is preoccupied with something like reading a book, listening to music, or drawing in a sketchbook. This is exactly the case in Nerdlove’s story. And Marcotte is one of the feminists who likes to reference Schrödinger’s Rapist.

            • Nick, mostly says:

              NL had a good sketch based on this point that I’m too lazy to look up right now that I think was a “sexual harassment” training video or something. Nerdy guy (regular cast member) would do or say something innocuous and it was sexual harrassment. Tom Brady (quarterback host) would do or say the same thing and every woman would swoon.

              You’re thinking of this: Sexual Harassment and You
              Funny, at the time I didn’t really think about the gender dynamics of it (even though they were bludgeoning you over the head with it), I was mostly thinking about it from the context of Tom Brady being a heartthrob and therefore able to get away with anything.

            • Again, Marcus raises an excellent point. Look over these ‘tactics’–every one of them that’s counted as charming and flirtatious when the guy is attractive will also be listed as creepy and obnoxious when the guy ISN’T attractive. Picture a fat or ugly guy doing these things, and you know full well that the woman will complain afterwards about being pestered by an annoying creep…. for doing the exact same things.

              So do the techniques themselves matter? No. If they only work if she’s already attracted to you, then they don’t actually ‘work’ at all.

            • Do you ever think even for a moment that there are some people in the world who pick up on cues that aren’t about looks? Like that when approached by someone who is trying to “sell, pull, and close” a girl she might actually sense that (not unlike how one is treated by car salesman) and dislike it? and that when approached by someone who is actually just open to the possibility of whatever, authentically enjoying not only her but themselves….she might respond better to that?

              Cause I think a lot of people in the world can tell when they are being played or sold to vs interacted with. I think that’s the biggest difference to me. I’ve met some very very hot salesmen in my life and I avoided them like the plague in lieu of the nerdy guy who actually had things in common with me and treated me like a participant in his life rather than an accessory to be utilized.

            • Nick, mostly says:

              Well, there go my plans to travel to Austin and accessorize my life with Julie.

            • But you could hurry on down and collaborate with me! I think that would be mighty fine!

          • Joanna:
            Yeah, it definitely only works for a certain group of people… And even then I worry that it’s not that healthy. When I look back at the relationships I started where a guy used what are now known as “Negs”, they weren’t the healthiest in my life.

            And, there you have the basis for the “Girls only go for the jerks/bad guys” stereotype…

      • “The basic principles of PUA were being used by guys when I was 15 years old, and when my mom was 15 years old.”

        That sounds like a parallel cheerleader universe that I could always see but never live in. If you saw me at 15 (when I looked 12), you would scoff at the idea of picking up anyone, despite having all the desires and urges that go with being 15.

        • Well, the women were using those techniques too. A lot of us geeks were using them as well, just not dating as much, only using them for fun and theater. I didn’t date much in high school. Not many of my friends actually did. But as we aged and learned how to refine those skills and actually like ourselves and people like us, yeah, dating and fun happened. No need for me to be bitter about cheerleaders having more than I did at the time, my life turned out fine.

      • @Joanna: Jepp. I remember reading Richard Feynman’s (who was known as a ladies man) autobiography. According to it the turning point in his relationship with women was some advice he got that made me go “This is basic PUA” and that happened in the late 40s/early 50s (don’t remember exactly)

      • Quadruple A says:

        Joann, I’m curious. PUA books seem like they go out of their way to make the reader feel really weird for even picking up their book. I’m sorry “targets”? whether its to be taken literally or not, its still unnecessary language. I feel like I’m being psychologically manipulated when I read that stuff and I’m given more fluff than advice. Even sex positive writers like Rachel Rabbit White claim to be only able to partially sympathize with men who must resort to their use. Clarisse Thorn also once wrote that PUA has a monopoly on “effective” pick up advice. Why is it then that PUA advice (which is fairly ideological cohesive as far as I can see-nothing else has a know reputation as different) is so much more readily available than its less dubious and pre-existing form?

      • Yes, Joanna. The techniques are nothing new and are neutral for the most part in what they are. It’s how they are used and with what intent. He broke down an interaction well, starting with the “I wasn’t actually looking to get laid but open to adventure” and “I honestly had interest in her sketches (wasn’t lying about being an artist.” and so forth.

        There are hundreds are lovely encounters like this all the time. I’ve had lots. When they are reasonably organic and not to a formula approach (if I do this I will win the goal) they feel really good for everyone involved.

  2. I don’t like this advice at all, everything goes smooth because the girl is attracted to Harris, as people above have pointed out that is the sole reason, why the story might look good. The problem I see, is that Harris tries to be not creepy, but doesn’t try to be not rude. Now while being creepy is not a real thing, being rude is real and Harris advises to show rude behaviour here. Examples of rude behaviour in the text are:
    1.““Mind if I…?”
    I pulled an empty chair from an adjacent table and sat perpendicular to her.”

    It seems that he doesn’t even wait for the answer.
    “Similarly, when coming up to someone who’s seated, it’s important to sit down as soon as possible – otherwise you end up coming across as looming over them, which can creep them out.”
    Harris doesn’t seem to care if he is polite, but just if he looks good. In my opinion the advice is also bad, because he forgoes the chance to let her decide, if she offers him a seat, and by this get to know her better. When she doesn’t offer him a seat, he should leave after a while, as she is not interested in him or rude.
    2.“Does it get you a lot of guys asking if you could hog-tie ‘em?”
    Harris brings a sleazy note into the conversation, before they have some sort of emotional connection or trust. This could make her severely uncomfortable and his approach puts her physical attractivity before her character, a clear sign of disrespect.
    3.“She scooted closer to me and leaned in and I put my hand on her back.”
    He starts with low level physical intimacy, before getting to know her. This is just a lack of manners. When interacting with a stranger, the person who is physically more vulnerable should choose, how much physical contact they want.
    4.“As it was, leaving her with my card was a; it often comes off as a passive-aggressive move and puts all of the pressure of making contact on her. I would’ve done better to say “Hey, I’m having a great time talking to you and I’d really like to see you again. Let me get your number and I’ll call you tomorrow,” and handed her my phone to have her punch her number in.”
    Harris doesn’t mention, that for her to accept his number is the less commitment, than giving him her number. He should have asked: “Can I give you my number?”, so she can choose between “No”, “Yes” or “I would rather give you my number.”.

    As I see it, this advice desbribes a jerk getting away with pushy behaviour, and so women who applaud this column, are an example of “Women dig jerks.”. It also has the problem that this approach is the old “guy acts and girl reacts”, instead of two people being proactive in getting to know each other.

    • dr_toldyouso says:

      and comments like these are why I refuse to approach women. Because no matter how polite you think you are being, some people will just think your an inconsiderate jerk anyway and call you a bad person for it.

      the only winning move is not to play

      • I am confused by your response. In any interaction with a stranger you should be polite (not thinking you are polite) and treat them with basic respect, that is what they can expoect of you, not more and not less. Unlike “creepy”, which is a subjective judgement, “rude” is established in a culture and most people know what “being rude” means. You seem to disagree with some of my examples of rudeness in Harris advice, feel free to explain where exactly you disagree.
        Now it is perfectly possible to approach an unknown woman (or anybody) politely. You can introduce yourself, listen to her answers to your questions, have a nice conversation (which leaves out topics, who are generally considered very intimate, like sex), not touch her unnessecarily and instead of forcing things on her, offering them, so she can choose. Of course when you gert to know each other better you can escalate physically, but it is a rather trivial observation that most people need some emotional connection and trust, before getting in intimate situations, where they feel vulnerable.

    • None of this is being rude. He wasn’t meeting a person in the hopes of starting a platonic relationship. The ONLY reason he spoke to her was because he found her attractive. The entire meeting is already steeped in sexuality.

      Unfortunately when trying to “pick up” (and I use that term to mean meeting a woman with the intent of asking her out) the man HAS to take charge. You can’t wait for the woman to give you permission to pull up the chair, initiate “low-level intimacy”, or give you a yes/no answer to taking your phone number. You just can’t. It comes across as weak and spineless. Believe me I’m no fan of the female obsession with jerky guys, but even I think your concerns sound passive and lame.

      Something I learned toward the end of my dating days. Never ask, “Can I have your phone number?”. Always say “Give me your phone number so we can do something”. You have to tell women what to do. That’s just how their brains are wired.

      • You must be dealing with a certain kind of woman, or interested in that type. When guys say things like that to me, it gets my back up and I don’t give it to them.

  3. Bottom line: She found him attractive. Otherwise, she would not have called him.

    This will work only in limited situations, unless the woman is lonely and desperate.

    Just saying.

  4. My current boyfriend’s first line was a response to a Dungeons and Dragons question I was asking my (then boyfriend). He said ‘Green dragon’s breathed chlorine in 2nd ed’, which instantly piqued my interest even though I hadn’t noticed him before. After about half an hour of DnD related dialogue and introducing me to other tabletop stores, he *asked* me if we could exchange numbers , which I happily agreed to. We kept in touch, and two years of being platonic friends, we finally got together, and I have rarely been happier.

    If he had practiced the advise here, the overt sexual innuendo, the invasion of privacy (pulling up a chair to sit next to her), the unsolicited touching, he would have never heard from me at all.

  5. First and foremost, stop trying to pick up strange women.The very act dis empowers you( even if you do get laid) on some level. Secondly,get in the gym, women like good looking men,especially women in bars looking for men to talk to. Thirdly,put yourself in circumstances where you are with women, at the laundry mat, at the coffee house etc.If she is interested, she will make it known.I have been in circles of friends and overtime manged to have interesting interactions with more than one woman in the group and yes they knew about it.They didn’t care. Women are engaged in more sexual relationships and friendships with men that don’t involve commitment then they will ever admit too.


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