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Generally, most pickup instructors teach men the importance of remembering to smile on the approach. Their thinking is simple: Girls prefer the company of smiling men, because a man who is smiling is showing that he has what he wants in life. In reductionist terms, he’s advertising his worth as a provider and broadcasting his positive emotional state as a man who, the woman is likely to assume, gets his share of pussy. A woman’s hindbrain is more apt to label an impassive stone-faced man with the celibate loser scarlet L.

Examining my own successful pickups, I can recall not smiling much at all for at least half of them. Maybe a coy smirk, after introductions were made, but certainly my face was not shining brightly with the happy, smiley glow of a motivational speaker working the audience. I’ve always thought that the advice for men to smile was a bit overblown, but I could never put my finger on exactly why this is the case.

Now evidence has come out from OKCupid’s in-house blog team that smiling in profile pictures on their internet dating site is not the boon to men that many would think (link provided by reader Ben).

Men’s photos are most effective when they look away from the camera and don’t smile:

Maybe women want a little mystery. What is he looking at? Slashdot? Or Engadget?

My first thought is along the the same lines. Women do have a tingle for the international mystery man. This is why salesmen on the road score so easily. It’s the “expert from afar” phenomenon that women can’t resist. Possibly mixed in with a little of the ol’ subconscious desire for hybrid vigor. The problem for women, as is the curse of their mercurial gender, lies in the tension between two contradictory pulls that happens in their brains — women love dark mystery men but they also love happy, smiling, social men. What is a woman to do? The smiling social man and the mysterious brooding man are hardly ever occupied by the same man (although I have made an art of managing it). Judging by OKCupid’s data, the best course of action for a man who insists upon internet dating (it’s a sucker’s bet for the average man) is to post a picture of yourself staring intensely into the distance at the horizon. Or at a stripper just outside the picture frame. The girl looking at your profile pic will never know the difference.

While internet profile pics are only a simulation of real-life face to face interactions, the knowledge gleaned from internet messaging habits does help inform men what might work best in a nonvirtual scenario (what used to be known as “getting out of bed in the morning”). For instance, if you are going to play “serial killer stare her into submission” your best course of action is to leaven your hard stare with a flirty grin. But you’re much better off not making intense eye contact. If women prefer the man who looks preoccupied with something else besides her, then in a social situation you want to limit your pre-approach eye contact to the bare minimum (just enough to make it register with your target) and refrain from excessive smiling, if at all. You also want to look like your full attention is directed elsewhere, and that it requires a serious face. After all, a man’s business is serious. Always. With a heavily hooded sorcerer’s robe and the right lighting (stand over a floorlight) you can attract more than your fair share of curious women, then wow them with a surprise smile once she peeks under the hood.

So unlike the advice of a lot of pickup instructors, I say don’t smile at the girl when you are walking toward her. Don’t frown either, of course. Just a dab of deviousness will do ya.

There is a lot of interesting data mining at that post, so go ahead and read the whole thing.


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