A Brief, Depressing, Hilarious, Disgusting History with Pickup Lines
By Jamie Iredell
Any time I’ve ever tried to use a pickup line I was young and drunk. Today I’m happily married. As it is with my wife, any significant relationship I ever had with a woman came about rather organically, when I met people in benign situations (i.e., I wasn’t trying to “get” with them), then I got to know those people better and, in some cases, romantic relationships ensued.
Seems that pickup lines are for when you are trying to “get” with someone. They’re like the tag lines an automobile manufacturer uses in its television commercials. They are the spirit of disingenuousness. But they do make for some sad/funny stories.
I just wanted to tell you that I think you’re beautiful . . .
This is, depending on your point of view, a sad, or silly and juvenile story. But it might be funny, too. I’d gone to a Bob Dylan show as part of the Reno Hilton’s outdoor summer concert series. I was in this I-should-probably-see-as-many- great-musicians-from-before-I-was-born-before-they’re-all-dead phase. I saw acts like Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton, Etta James, The Grateful Dead, James Taylor, that sort of stuff. But what’s important here is that I’d eaten an eighth of mushrooms and I peaked during this show. It really was magical, blah, blah. But, seriously, Reno, Nevada is in the high desert, on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, so when storms come tumbling over those peaks, they usually dump off all their moisture on the western windward side, then dissipate over the desert—hence the desert being a desert. But sometimes the storms were too intense, and they didn’t lose everything and so carried their strength into the valley of the Truckee Meadows. This happened the summer afternoon of this particular Bob Dylan concert when I was tripping out on psilocybin. The sun was going down, and so made a band of bright orange and slowly-dimming-to-purple light in the slit of sky on the horizon between the mountains and the storm clouds. From these clouds lightning flashed to the valley floor. The wind blew strong, but warm, a soft breath over my whole body. I stood at the pinnacle of the temporary bleachers the Hilton set up in the parking lot each year for this concert series. And there, among this atmospheric spectacle, and under the influence of these drugs, I met a petite brunette with the most dazzling green eyes I’ve ever seen. We talked for what seemed to me an hour. I was mesmerized. And the whole thing started because I had balls enough—or my inhibitions were down enough—that when I noticed her, I said the line above, which wasn’t so much a line, but complete drug-addled honesty. And, at least, so I thought, we “hit it off.” I remember that, after the concert, when she and her friends were leaving, and I and my friends, we parted with a hug, and I never got her phone number or anything because, I thought, it was just one of those magical things. But what’s weird is that I did see her again, not two weeks later, at a Fourth of July Party in Squaw Valley in Lake Tahoe. Again, we were listening to a band, this time some asshole’s garage band playing off a cabin deck at this particular party. And when I saw this girl and recognized her, I thought, Holy shit, this has to mean something. So I felt compelled to talk to her again. I walked up, and leaned in for a hug hello, but she drew back, wary. I think she even said, “Whoa, dude, what are you doing?” She didn’t remember me at all. When I reminded her of the Dylan show she claimed to remember, but the look on her face told me otherwise. She mumbled something about being “a little drunk that night.” Ha. She went on to tell me about how she had the hots for the dumbass playing bass in the shitty bad punk band we were listening to, but mostly it seemed she just wanted me to go away. I did. I returned to my own cabin and got drunk because what matters? Nothing matters! The world is awful! I think I was twenty years old.
What is that that smells so good? Ah, it’s you ladies . . .
I used to hang out at this bar in Midtown Atlanta that’s no longer there, a place called Vickery’s. My buddy, the poet Mike Dockins, and I were regulars there, and we’d sit at the bar for hours and get into ridiculous conversations/rants about the most mundane of things. Once we had an hours-long shit-talking session about how air is dumb, because most people just say “air” or think that it’s mostly oxygen, when in fact a larger portion of what we breathe as “air” is nitrogen, and there’s the “trace elements.” Oh how Dockins loves the trace elements. We always drank PBR, which they served on draft to restaurant industry employees for a dollar a pint. Neither of us worked at a restaurant; we were PhD. students. But they served us at the industry price anyway. So it was easy enough for me and Mike to get through quite a few beers without emptying our wallets of our meager graduate student stipends. It was actually cheaper drinking at Vic’s than buying beer at the grocery store. But sometimes we’d load a sidecar to our beers: a bourbon on the rocks for me, scotch for Dockins, sometimes martinis. Those days are a little foggy. This particular day we’d been at the bar since noon and the after-work rush had come in at around 5:30. Who knows what Dockins and I had been talking about? Maybe it was Dockins’s theory that the idea of iambic pentameter being the “natural rhythm of the English language” was dumb, because most words, according to those Dockins would offer up while sitting at the bar, were trochaic: window, sidecar, barstool, ashtray, liquor, bourbon, whiskey, vodka, etcetera. A group of four beautiful young professional women walked in and ordered drinks then stood in a circle in the middle of the bar, sipping said drinks and talking. Any rational (i.e., not drunk) man would see that this is an after-work girl group clearly having girl time, and they would not be interested in men hitting on them. They were probably talking about their men problems. But me, not me. I wouldn’t recognize this, not after a sidecar or two. They were a couple brunettes, a blonde, and a dirty-blonde, in heels and form-fitting suit pants and skirts, their hair did, makeup and jewelry on, clearly still dressed from the law firms, or consultants’ offices, or banking offices in which they worked. I had to step up to this group of beautiful women, lean into their circle, sniff audibly, and utter the ridiculous lines that head this paragraph. It was so bad that even the bartender (who knew me well) had to yell across the busy bar, “Jesus, Jamie. Sit your ass down.” And, other than the looks of disgust and impatience that crossed these women’s faces, the bartender’s response was the only response my oh-so-cool line generated. Failed, I returned to my barstool next to a laughing Dockins. I ordered another sidecar.
Nice coinslot . . .
Vickery’s again. In fact, you will be little surprised that these stories about pickup lines often occur in bars. The bar was rectangular, horseshoe-shaped. Everything was wood-paneled. Other than that they allowed smoking, which at this time did not bother me, because I smoked. It was a pretty cozy place. The food was good, not that I ate it much. I was there for the drinks. Anyway, this time I was near blind-drunk. I’m actually surprised I even remember this. I think I remember it because of how shameful it is. What a jackass I can be. There was this Filipina hanging out with a white guy at the bar. It was getting towards closing time, and I’d been there for a while. Dockins wasn’t even with me. I was alone. At this time Vickery’s had a cigarette machine sitting just inside the foyer when you walked in the front door, and I had sauntered over to buy a fresh pack of Camels. This petite girl was cute and it was summertime, so she wore a tight yellow t-shirt that showed off every curve, and a pair of lowriding jean shorts. They weren’t quite daisy dukes, but they were close, and as I passed I noticed she had a bit of plumber’s crack showing. I just thought that was funny. It was obvious that the guy she was with wasn’t her boyfriend. They were chatting, sitting next to one another, but there didn’t seem to be any romantic tension, and no affection (in that way) passed between this couple. Why are we so unlucky that alcohol makes us do such stupid things? We’d exchanged a few pleasantries, since it was only us three sitting at the bar. So, I guess I felt that some kind of repore had been built. I got my cigs and the fifty cents change that the machine dispersed, and as I walked behind this little Asian girl with her ass crack hanging out I slipped a quarter between her cheeks and said, “Nice coinslot. But if I had a Cheeto, I’d put that in there.” Well you can imagine how well this move went over. The girl was mad, her guyfriend was mad, the bartender was mad. I was laughing. The guyfriend—really, I’m surprised he didn’t just sock me in the face—held up his arms and pleaded with me, saying, “Come on, man, that’s pretty goddamn rude, and you should apologize.” So I did, and then I felt really bad. Somewhere in there I was still laughing a little, and I still laugh awkwardly inside when I think about what I did. But it’s an awkward laugh because I was such a fuckup and such a drunk, and it was a good thing that a few years later I cleaned myself up.
Would you mind dropping me off at my apartment? It’s just up the street . . .
This one isn’t even properly a pickup line as it’s more like, “Hey, you want to fuck?” So, interestingly, it’s one of the only ones that ever worked. Actually, it worked a lot. But, nothing substantial ever developed between me or any of those women with whom it worked. They were all clichéd one-night stands. That’s probably because it wasn’t a pickup line. I used this one more often at a different bar than Vickery’s: the Highlander. My apartment at the time was just down the street on Monroe Drive, literally a block away, so that wasn’t a lie. I saved this one for the end of the night. I went through a period where I wasn’t really drinking much at all, and I wasn’t eating much either, and the result was that I lost a ton of weight. I did all this because I had one goal: getting laid. And get laid I did. I’d hang out at the Highlander and nurse one beer for an hour or two until the bar got near closing time and girls would come up to pay their tabs. That’s when I struck up some conversation, offered to buy them a last drink, kept talking, then, after last call and the girl said she had to get going, there came the line. It failed a lot, too, of course, but at least it didn’t sound like a pickup line. The women with whom it did not work gave me a smile, said they were sorry, but they could not give me a ride home. Or, same, somewhat sad-looking (pitying?) smile, a no thanks, and goodnight, and they let me out of their vehincle in front of my door after I had lamely invited them in for a drink. It was already equally obvious what I had meant by “ride.” When it did work: cheap, fast, boring sex. There you go. No wonder I got tired of it and joined eHarmony, where I met my wife.
Woman: You’re smart, wearing shorts out here. I’m really hot.
Me: Well, you’re right about one thing: you are hot.
This one wasn’t really a pickup line either, as I never intended for it to go anywhere. It just occurred to me for whatever goddamn reason as I was walking through downtown Atlanta one day in March or April—that time in spring when no one knows what to wear because the weather doesn’t know what the fuck to do. Still, Jesus, when I think back on that, what kind of bullshit was I spouting? She was, in fact, an attractive woman, and it was warm outside, and she wore a sweater and pants. I was on my way to the train station and we were walking up Marietta Street and she saw me in the reflection of storefront windows, about to pass her in my shorts and t-shirt when she said the above line. If I wasn’t an idiot I might’ve seen that this was actually a line she was delivering to me, or at least an honest observation from a gregarious person. If I wasn’t an idiot I might’ve recognized that this beautiful woman was actually attempting to start a conversation with me, of all people. But no, I am an idiot, so I had this spontaneous and stupid retort form at my lips and leave them, a little love note scribbled on a paper airplane and tossed only to land, very likely, in the garbage bin of this woman’s memory. Immediately after this jawdropper, which is what happened—I briefly noted—I crossed the street, on to the subway, and out of that woman’s life forever. Oh Casanova.
Can daddy have a kiss?
The only pickup line—if you want to call it that—that I use anymore. If you’ve ever known any one-and-a-half year-old little girls then you know that you’ve got to tease affection out of them, if it ever comes at all. Children at this age are, understandably, self-centered. Still, my daughter is a sweetie. Let’s say that I’m biased, but I think my daughter has a good heart. I’ve seen her in daycare when one of the other kids was crying, and my girl went to the other kid’s cubby hole to retrieve her stuffed animal then walked it over to her. I assume she did this because she put it together that this other toddler was sad and having her stuffed animal might make her feel better. You can tell if you’ve read to this point that I’m no model human. I’ve got my share of problems and have had moments of, shall I say, less than stellar behavior. Over the years I put a squash on my excessive drinking and I don’t do drugs anymore. The result of those changes in my activities was garnering a wonderful lifelong mate. With that mate we chose to procreate and this one-and-a-half year-old is the result of that choice. I’m still no model human, but I know that probably the best thing I can do for this sweet little girl is shower her with all the love I can. Me, I’m a sucker, and sometimes I want a little in return. To my daughter’s credit, she rations her devotions. This gives me hope that she will fare far better as a human than I have.
Jamie Iredell is the author of The Book of Freaks and Prose. Poems. a Novel. A collection of essays is forthcoming in fall 2013 from Future Tense Books, and novel in fall 2014 from Aqueous Books. His writing appears in The Rumpus, Thought Catalog, and The Good Men Project Magazine.