For the first five years of my career shift in to life and love-coaching, I worked part-time as a tutor and mentor to keep the pennies rolling in whilst I set up shop.
(As I always say, good things take times to grow – especially when it comes to setting up to a heart-centred business).
With a Bachelors degree in English Literature and a Masters in European Classical Acting, I was a good fit for teenage girls doing GCSE’s or A-Levels in English Lit, Classical Civilisation and Theatre Studies.
What was so great about this gig was that I simultaneously got to practice my coaching skills on these teens at the same time as getting up close and personal with some of the most exquisite and insightful pieces of work ever written in the English language.
The fun part came when I had to somehow find a way to transfer my-very-uncool-passion for literature on to a sixteen year old girl, whose focus was 100% directed towards her Instagram feed and DMs, and who could have cared less about ‘the extent to which Tess of the D’Urbervilles demonstrates how the suffering experienced by tragic protagonists evokes pity in readers and audiences alike’.
So, I used the one tool I had at my disposal which, fortunately, I knew was guaranteed to pique any teenage girl’s interest:
The fact that I worked as a love coach, and had about a thousand times more experience than they did when it came to discerning the mystifying mechanics of a teenage boy’s brain.
One of my most beloved (and tricky) tutee’s was a Russian girl named Polina.
Beloved, because this feisty Russke took no prisoners, and tricky for the very same reason.
She hadn’t gelled well with the tutors before me, so I knew I was going to have to find a way to gain her respect and attention quick-smart if I had a hope in hell of getting her the good grades the tutor agency and her parents insisted upon.
This was easier said than done, given that one of her set texts was The Canterbury Tales by medieval poet Geoffrey Chaucer – and English happened to be her second language.
The Canterbury Tales is a collection of 24 stories presented as part of a story-telling contest by a group of pilgrims as they journey from London to Canterbury to visit the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral.
In other words, it’s about as far away from Gossip Girl as you could possibly get.
However, as we settled in to her Easter holidays study period, it dawned on me that whilst Chaucer and his medieval language may have held zero resonance for Polina, one of the characters from his tales was sure to spark her interest.
The ‘Wife of Bath’ is up there with one of the sauciest females ever depicted in literature – especially when you consider the context of the tales being written in the late 1300s, a time when women were doomed to live out a cloistered existence under the most extreme constrictions of patriarchal law.
Yet, despite the odds being stacked against her, the Wife of Bath introduces herself and her tale with arguably more power and gusto then all the other pilgrims put together.
Going against pretty much all the staunchly anti-feminist doctrines of the church at the time, the Wife openly admits that she married much older men for financial gain four times (meaning that they kept dying on her), and how she believed it to be wholly unnecessary to enter marriage as a virgin.
Refusing to pigeon-hole herself in to the submissive role expected of all women back then, she shamelessly describes her insatiable sexual appetite, as well as her skill at using sex, money and her words to control her husbands.
This is mirrored in the message of her tale which stipulates that what women really want is power over the men in their lives.
To help Polina more fully understand the character of the Wife of Bath and the tale that she tells, I realised I was going to have to take these themes out of Middle England and plonk them in to a world she was way more familiar with:
The world of modern dating.
It didn’t take long for us to draw parallels between the two eras, because in both cases there’s a blatant battle for power between the genders when it comes to sex and love.
And, whichever century you happen to find yourself in, the most effective strategy to win this power - it would seem - is to manipulate the other person in to believing that they need or desire you more than you do them.
Whilst the Wife’s modes of manipulation may appear to be more overt than our own, I’d argue that our approach to seduction and romance today can mind-fuck the people we’re dating just as potently - especially with regards to technology and all its tedious ghosting, stalking and breadcrumbing.
Because the truth is that far too often nowadays, we treat each other like commodities that can be replaced at a moment’s notice with a mere swipe of the thumb, rather than the sentient beings that we are.
(And then we wonder why it hurts so much when the same is done to us).
Let’s take the ‘seduction community’ of pick-up artists first initiated by Ross Jeffries in the 80s, and later widely publicised via the New York Times bestselling book ‘The Game’ by Neil Strauss.
If you haven’t heard of it, this is essentially a movement of men (and now some women, too – lucky us!) whose one and only goal is quick sexual success with whatever prey they set their sights upon.
(It says it all to me that the underground pick-up meetings are known to the community as ‘lairs’ – I mean, come on).
Whilst there are some practices in the pick-up community that I admit may well be beneficial to your love life (for example, studying NLP and confidence techniques to help you become more prolific at communicating with dates), it’s the superficiality of the goal of the community, as well as the inhumanity of some of the techniques employed by it in order to reach this goal that anger me the most.
For example, ‘Negging’ – the practice of giving a woman a back-handed compliment to weaken her confidence and make her more susceptible to seduction or ‘Pawning’ – which means trading or discarding an unwanted woman as proof of the pick-up artist’s own social value.
At the less offensive end of the spectrum are bucket loads of YouTube videos promising to deliver you everything from ‘The 5 best text messages to make any man obsessed with you’ and ‘The secret to winning back your Ex immediately’ (I don’t think I need to point out the flawed logic in that one…)
Whilst I’m all for a catchy title, if the content fails to adhere to the most basic standard of treating one another like human beings rather than prizes to be won, I’m telling you now:
BEST TO WALK AWAY.
Because, let’s just be real for a moment:
Whilst this sort of approach may work in the short-term to superficially hook a romantic partner in, it’s never going to work in the long-term.
Of course it isn’t – you know that.
And I can say this from firsthand experience, because I used to be reeeeeally good at manipulating men through seductive trickery.
The problem was that it didn’t get me anywhere close to what I actually wanted, which was a genuine, intimate, committed relationship where my partner and I could support each other to grow and thrive in every area of our lives.
This is the type of relationship I have today, and let me tell you - I didn’t get it by playing power games.
I didn’t get it because I looked hot in my social media pictures, or had a brilliant dating app profile, or was really good at playing hard to get.
I got it by healing my relationship with myself. I got it by confronting all the fears and limiting beliefs that were keeping me stuck and repeating the same old negative patterns in my love life.
And most importantly, I got it by being brave enough to get the help and support I needed to do all of this (NOT from the pick-up community!)
Because, I won’t lie to you, it IS challenging. Of course it’s challenging!
Look, none of us were really taught how to have healthy relationships growing up – which is absolutely absurd to me, because look what’s happening to our world as a result.
The point is, if you want a healthy and fulfilling love life that goes way beyond what today’s superficial swipe culture has to offer, you’re going to have to take full responsibility for learning how to get it (reading this is a good start).
When I met my boyfriend Joe over three years ago now, it was literally the first time a man had been so clear and direct about his feelings for me so early on in to a courtship.
And for the first time, no other woman or guy on the scene to muddy the waters.
I can only assume that the clean and simple nature of our dynamic in those early days was a reflection of the fact that I’d finally – after 29 years – decided to stop running away from genuine love, intimacy and commitment.
Which is to say that I no longer had the energy to entertain anyone who wasn’t willing to be straight with me about what he did or didn’t want.
I was only interested in connecting with a man on an intimate soul level, and if the man before me wasn’t available, able or willing to match that, that was absolutely fine, but I was done with trying to kid myself or manipulate him in to getting what I so deeply hoped for in a romantic exchange.
Because, dear one, if there’s one lesson my relationship has taught me, it’s this:
Love is not a game that can be faked.
And anyone who tries to is fighting a losing battle – mostly, with themselves.
I’D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU:
What are your thoughts on the ‘pick-up artist’ community?
And, have you ever been on either end of game-playing in your love life? How did it make you feel?
Let me know below!