HEADSHOTS IS AN EXPERT IN BROKEN HEARTS, and if you’ve joined us week after week, you’ve read between the lines and picked up on the clues. Before we joined The Smoking Jacket, we were universally renowned for our Just Dumped Quarterly column, “How to Get Whiskey and Tears Out of a Cotton Blend and More Helpful Advice.” We have a full roster of ex-wives and ex-lovers who can attest to both our ineptitude as a partner, as well as our affection for slow, sad country songs and discount liquor. So perhaps it was not a surprise when Headshots’ editor assigned us the task of spending a weekend at a Love Systems Bootcamp.
What is Love Systems you ask, equally lonely and forlorn dear reader? Well, I had not a fucking clue. Some brief Internet research, as well as reaching out so some similarly defective colleagues led to the discovery of a worldwide program that helps develop men into men, to alleviate their fears and find themselves a woman. Well, this is how they sell themselves, or how I interpreted it anyway. Being an award-winning pessimist, I expected an organization led by douchebags, for douchebags. I was eagerly, or rather not at all, anticipating a weekend spent with dudes in wife beaters, talking about GTL, discount hair products, fist pumping, macking on barstars, clubbing like it’s Vancouver in 1998, and the morality of Rohypinol and GHB. I was wrong. I was horribly, embarrassingly, wrong.
I assumed that the program would be led a couple of brahs tanned orange, rocking Oakleys, blinding the room with gold chains challenging Catholicism boldly dangling from their steroid inflated necks. I expected the “students” to be dudes who wanted to be these dudes. Basically, I expected a rash of dudes. This was not the case. Instead, I was greeted by Chris and Derek, two smaller town Canadian guys who welcomed me to the bootcamp with the ease and grace of buddies you’ve known for years. Chris and Derek go by their Love Systems monikers, Tenmagnet and Cajun, in the Love Systems literature and promotional materials, but here, in this setting, they were simply Chris and Derek. While they are labeled pick-up artists, after a few days with them you come to realize that they are life coaches, unlicensed psychiatrists, and wingmen-for-hire. (In fact, Chris has his own dating advice blog, and Derek has co-produced and -starred in a video on the art of body language and physical seduction.)
The three days of seminars and workshopping began with introductions. The students were made up of down-to-earth guys, with varied but similar stories. Just out of a relationship, just off a marriage, or just single and looking to get it right.
As the weekend progressed, I would discover these guys to be open, honest, and at ease with their stations in life, and yet truly committed to finding a partner. I wish that at some point in my life I had had similar engagement with myself. Chris and Derek led our group through the finer points of socializing with the finer sex, from pick-up lines to direct and indirect approaches to developing your “game.”
GETTING YOUR GAME ON AT THE BAR: HOW TO
I won’t get into the specifics of the course, at least not the practicum. Where Love Systems is most impressive, is in the “in-field” workshops, or what we commonly refer to as: The bar.
Immediately upon arriving at Toronto’s The Madison, a place known for its young, attractive, and eager-to-find-the-same-crowd, the instructors and students were in full go mode. From the near center of the bar, Chris and Derek held court, and sent their charges out into the field. I expected (note: the lesson here is that my expectations were bullshit. Love Systems defies expectations) wallflowers and shyness. Instead, to a man, every student was immediately approaching women, pairs of women, tables of women. It was, to say the least, impressive.
One of the most important lessons learned over the course of a Love Systems bootcamp, is to forget about your fears. Forget about the notion of rejection, and as Chris said, “the willingness to not give a shit about the outcome.” While out in the field, Derek and Chris were there to give advice, workshop the students’ efforts, and send them back out for more. The days after workshopping begin with a debriefing, a review of the night before, and what the students were doing right and what they needed to work on. What was most impressive here was the support system, from both the instructors and the other students. There was a very quickly developed fraternal bond, which certainly worked to the Bootcamp’s advantage and success. Though they had known their students for only 24 hours, Chris and Derek analyzed their personalities, their shortcomings, and their qualities to near perfection.
Whereas most of these types of programs focus on a misogynistic approach to courtship, Love Systems preaches the development of the self. The lessons learned over the weekend naturally lend themselves to other facets of one’s life. On the final day of the Bootcamp, Chris and Derek discuss escalation, physical contact, the challenges of dating, text messaging and phone calls, warning signs, and stress a goal of respectfully fostered relationship. I went into the weekend full of judgment and preconceived notions. I left with a better sense of the inherent demands of dating, and the virtuous nature of a program that aims to make it easier.
Dating’s a motherfucker. Love is harder. Figuring it out in an era of digital technology, social media, and 50 Shades of Grey is damn near impossible. In the seven-and-a-half years before TSJ sent me to Love Systems, I had been working on my own dating and relationship strategy in which I preached a three-step program of breakup poetry, binge drinking, and a severely broken man-child in desperate need of being fixed. Love Systems seems to work better, rooted in a philosophy and fraternity of being fearless in the face of rejection, respecting yourself, and most importantly, respecting women.
Mike Spry is the author of JACK (Snare Books, 2008), which was shortlisted for the 2009 QWF’s A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry, and he was longlisted for the 2010 Journey Prize. His most recent work is Distillery Songs (Insomniac Press, 2011).