How to make friends and pick up chicks

Head's up, this is not one of those repulsive "pick up chicks" articles.

Or is it? 

No, it isn't. The title is a joke. It's just me, a living cadaver of an old man, typing some meandering memories. When this page gets boring, you won't miss much if you jump to the last paragraph.

I've had few friends in my life, done very little sleeping around, and had one wife till death did us part. But I am now going to reveal all my secrets for making real friends and finding genuine romantic happiness. Are you ready? Here's all my tips:

  1. Be honest. Be who you are, not who you think someone wants you to be.

  2. That's it. There is no second tip.

Early in my adulthood, I had shallow, superficial friendships with people who accompanied me to movies or ball games or bars, and I had rare and brief relationships with women, but in all such situations I kept my guard up and played defense, so to speak. I'd let them see one facet of who I am — the side of me they liked, the interests we shared — but I'd stay silent about the other parts of me, all the things I suspected they couldn't handle. My basketball friends didn't know I was an anarchist. My church friends didn't know I like furry porn. My lady friends didn't know I was thinking about getting a vasectomy.

All my friendships were neatly compartmentalized, until my mid-twenties, when I slowly started figuring out life. Hey, wait a minute, I said to myself one Friday night alone. How come I'm never really relaxed around anyone? It was hard work keeping up my defenses all the time, and if you know me at all you know I don't like hard work.

Stop the presses, alert the media, call the cops, but here's an idea: What if I let all my defenses down, and was 100% me all the time? Except for work, of course; if you're 100% you at any job you're fired.

So outside of work, I tried being me. My expectation was that 99% of people would be repulsed, but that the remaining few would be people worth knowing, and maybe to them I'd be someone worth knowing, too.

Unexpectedly, my first chance to try Project Honesty came while I was at work, doing data entry on the overnight shift in an otherwise empty office building. Or, I thought it was empty, until the security guard came 'round at 2:00 in the morning to see who was playing rock'n'roll so loud.

I showed him my company ID, and he wasn't an ass about it, so I decided not to be my normal shy, walled-off self. Instead I was simply me. Our conversation went wherever it went, and I said what I thought, about politics, religion, and life in general, just him and me but with no walls, no defenses, no forbidden topics.

He laughed. He reciprocated. He said his name was Brian, and we shook hands. He was interesting and smart and funny, and suddenly Brian was a friend. Within a month he'd moved into my apartment. We shared a flat for years, until he moved out to get married. Lotta years later, I still hear from him 2-3 times a week. I got an email from him yesterday, which is what launched me toward writing this mess.

Honesty scored me a friend for life, and over the years honesty has brought me a few more friends. Not a lot of friends — but to me, that's kind of the point: I don't want many friends, I want good friends.

Next mission impossible: Could being myself get me a ladyfriend?

This was eons before the internet, so to meet women the options were bars, church, or personal ads. I didn't drink or worship much, so I decided to place a personal ad in the local alt-weekly.

Here's how it worked in your grandparents' time: You could buy an ad in the back of the paper, pay maybe 20¢ a word or whatever, and describe yourself and who you were looking for. Most personal ads were mildly ridiculous, with text like,

30-year-old male, single white Baptist, seeks loving relationship with compatible woman 25-35. You and I are both open-minded, free-spirited, and like long walks in the park. Would you like to take that long walk with me? Must be attractive, height/weight appropriate, and cook.

Everyone in these ads pretended to be perfect and sought perfection in return, but most of the ads seemed obnoxious to me. And they all wanted to take long walks in the park, or on the beach, or hike in the mountains. What's up with all that walking?

Personal ads were considered sketchy, but I was lonely and maybe stupid, so I bought an ad. My intent, though, was not to get lots of responses. Quite the opposite, I wanted very few responses, maybe even none — I only wanted to hear from women who might be compatible with a freak like me. I was anti-karma, even then!

It's been thirty-five years, so I don't have a copy of the ad I wrote, but it went something like this:

Fat bearded slob, 25, with bad breath, bad teeth, and bad attitude, seeks woman willing to put up with me. I am employed but cheap, healthy but lazy, and uninterested in long or even short walks. Age and color irrelevant, sleepovers optional, intelligence required. Atheist, anarchist, anti-social, and anti-bullshit. Cats, dogs, issues, or kids are OK, but I'm never going to be any child's father. No Republicans. If you'd like to meet, reply to Box 52.

As expected, the ad did not fill my box. I heard from several people who told me I was awful (but I already knew that), and idiots mailed me ads, Bible tracts, and a bizarre invitation to the kind of party "Momma told me not to come" to.

There were also, however, responses from a few women who wanted to meet me. Very few, but — yippee! Fat bearded slob had dates with several intelligent, funny, interesting women of assorted ages, sizes, and colors, and had second and third dates with some of them. When the dates eventually stopped, I ran the ad again, and for the next several years this was my romantic life. No serious relationships came from it, nor any sex, and hardy even any smooching, but none of that mattered.

What mattered was that being myself brought me friendships, and a romantic life. Some years later, being myself brought me a wife. Being myself also got me fired from a few jobs, when I forgot that honesty is never the best policy at work. Overall, though, being myself has served me well, and I recommend it.

I am me. Take me or leave me. If you don't like me, that's OK. But — I am me.

Republished 5/31/2023  


  1. "Unexpectedly, my first chance to try Project Honesty came while I was at work, doing data entry on the overnight shift in an otherwise empty office building [...] He said his name was Brian, and we shook hands."

    Any opportunity to post this again, the greatest scene in all of motion picture history!



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