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Funny can't buy you love

I'm a 23-year-old guy, just out of college. I dated a lot in school, and found it easy to meet girls in class or through friends. Now, I'm going out more than ever, but having the hardest time even breaking the ice. I know women say they value a guy with a sense of humor. Should I memorize some jokes or funny lines? I read an article that suggested teasing a girl by pretending you have a point system, meaning whenever she does something you can bust her on, you say, "You just lost a point!" so she thinks she has to work to date you. Does stuff like that actually get you anywhere? -- A Man in Need of a Plan

Canned pickup lines are the cheap toupee of humor. Sure, they'll get a woman's attention, and maybe even make her laugh -- same as she will if your head reminds her of a freeze-frame of somebody being attacked by a ferret.

The guy who tosses cheesy lines around -- "Did it hurt when you fell from heaven?" -- is the warm-up act for the guy who talks to women like a human. A study of which openers work best by U.K. researchers Christopher Bale and Rory Morrison distinguishes "wit (spontaneous jokes that fit the context exactly, are genuinely funny and require intelligence) from mere humor (the pre-planned jokes and one-liners which were ineffective and do not demonstrate intelligence)." Sexually suggestive cracks can be effective -- when you're trying to hire a date instead of simply finding one. But, in general, even if a woman's a cheap hoochie, she won't appreciate being treated like one. Clever as you feel suggesting places she might re-park her thighs upon exiting the bar, it pays to consider your goal: breaking the ice, not wearing it, along with the rest of her drink.

There are books you can read that will help you be interesting to women, but they aren't the ones with titles like How Even A Schlub Like You Can Be Irresistible To International Supermodels Who Are Also Nymphomaniacs. A recent entry in the Tricking Women Into Liking You genre is M.A.C.K. Tactics, by Rob Wiser and Christopher Curtis, which advocates using hostage negotiation techniques like "creating IOUs." At a restaurant, you're supposed to ask your date which side of the table she prefers. Whichever seat she picks, you tell her it's your favorite, but insist she take it. Later on, if she won't put out, "it's time to cash one in." That's when you say ("jokingly"), "Wow, I let you take my favorite seat at dinner, and I can't even get a kiss." According to the authors, "She'll smile at this clever, unexpected comment, and might reconsider." Well, other girls' mileage may vary, but when a man gets all sweaty about his "favorite chair," he will be going home, almost immediately, but not with me.

Why would you want to scam a girl into liking you? Not only is it a highly ineffective way of getting a girlfriend, isn't it kind of degrading if somebody only wants you because she's too dumb to see through your con? And then, on the off chance you are successful, there's always the problem of keeping up the British accent or remembering to stick the "war wounds" back on after showering. Instead, try a novel approach: Be real. Just walk over and say hello, and maybe open with a real knee-slapper like, "Do you live in the neighborhood?" Talk to a woman like you're genuinely interested in her -- which involves actually listening to her, not waiting for her lips to stop moving so you can continue your monologue on your own greatness. Remember, it's a conversational exchange, not a used-car sale with martinis.

No, real life isn't the surreal, built-in chick stable that college was, but at least nobody in your corner bar is showing their solidarity by waving big foam fingers around. If you fare best when you have common ground, why not create it? Start a bowling league, or a satanic cult, or go again and again to the same bar. Suddenly, you've got the home-game advantage: It's your turf, the bartender treats you like somebody, you know which bar stool is ripped. And maybe that's all it takes. You open by warning a girl before she catches her skirt, "Watch out for that chair, it eats your wash." There you are, taking charge, being helpful, displaying generosity and using mild, situationally appropriate wit -- qualities Bale and Morrison ranked high in girl appeal. The idea is trying to pick up women, but not trying too hard. It's a lot like being bald. Many women will overlook a bald spot on a great guy's head, but they'll never get that far if they're too busy offering bar snacks to the ferret covering it up.

Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, No. 280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail AdviceAmy@aol.com (advicegoddess.com).

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