"For John, Who Begs Me Not To Enquire Further"

Mystery and Herbal sac facing each other on opposite couches, their arms folded across their chests. It was not only a defensive position, but also a stubborn one. Between them stood Mystery's Krav Maga instructor and Roadking, a PUA who worked as a bodyguard. Herbal had refused to set foot in the house without someone there to protect him from Mystery.

The other permanent residents—Papa, Xaneus, Playboy, and me—sat on a third couch perpendicular to them. Tyler Durden didn't attend because he claimed to be a guest, although he'd been living in Papa's closet for months now.

We had called a house meeting to resolve the dispute between Mystery and Herbal once and for all.

We allowed each to present his side of the story without interruption. Mystery said he would not allow his ex-girlfriend to set foot in the house again. And Herbal said he would move out if his girlfriend couldn't come over. It took each of them half an hour to convey these simple points.

"Now, normally, I would just say that Herbal should move out if he wants to be with Mystery's ex-girlfriend that badly," I said, trying to play the role of peacemaker that had been foisted on me. "However, Mystery, you've damaged house property and threatened a tenant's well-being. You have neither apologized for your actions nor repaired the damages." Herbal's door was still lying on the floor, the dents were still in his wall, and his room still looked like a tornado had hit it. "And it makes us very reluctant to reward bad behavior by letting you get your way."

"I purposely left Herbal's room like that as a demonstration of what I will do if I see Katya in this house again," Mystery said sullenly. "It was a perfectly acceptable means of showing that I was willing to enforce my rules."

One of the problems with the PUA community was that it presented inflexible standards of behavior that men were supposed to follow in order to win a woman. And chief among them was the idea of being an alpha male.

The result was a bunch of men who'd been kicked around most of their lives trying to act like their former bullies, leading to immature behavior such as Mystery's.

"If I may say something?" Roadking interjected. "Herbal here broke an important rule."

"And what's that?" Herbal asked. There was no anger or resentment in his voice; only the red rings around his eyes betrayed the emotion he felt.

"It's the rule of bros before hos," Roadking said.

"No," Mystery said. "I'd like to agree, but sometimes it's hos before bros."

Herbal cracked a smile for the first time that afternoon: He and Mystery actually saw eye to eye on something.

Strip away the community bond and the seduction business interests that united us, and what was left? Six guys chasing after a limited subset of available women. Wars have been fought, world leaders shot, and tragedies wrought by males claiming territorial rights over the opposite sex. Perhaps we'd just been too blind to see that Project Hollywood was doomed from the start by the very pursuit that had brought it together.

After three hours of go-nowhere debate—during which Papa, oddly, didn't speak once—we asked Mystery and Herbal to give us some privacy to talk amongst ourselves and come to a house decision.

They both agreed to accept whatever we decided.

When we entered Papa's room, there was a flurry of activity. Several figures darted into his bathroom and shut the door. I hadn't seen his room in nearly a month. The carpet was barely visible beneath six convertible black foam chairs that had been unfolded into beds. On top of each was a pillow and bedding.

Where were the people who slept here? Who were they?

We folded the beds back into chairs, sat down, and prepared to reach a conclusion. That was when Papa spoke for the first time.

"I will not live in the same house as that guy," he said.


Papa's hands trembled from either hatred or nervousness. He was a difficult person to read. He hadn't been sarging in months, and much of the progress he'd made after working so hard to improve himself had disap peared. He was the same blank, introverted shell I had first met in Toronto. His passion was no longer pickup; it was Real Social Dynamics. Instead of going to seminars on meeting women, he spent most of his time flying around the country to marketing and business seminars.

"Mystery disrupts my workshops," Papa continued. His voice was distant and monotone, echoing from somewhere deep inside his head. "He damages the house. And I'm worried he's going to harm me."

"What are you talking about? He wouldn't do anything to you."

"I have nightmares that Mystery is coming into my room with a knife. I'm getting locks put on my doors because I'm scared he'll break in."

"That's ridiculous," I said. "He's not going to hurt you. That's your own issue: You need to learn how to deal with aggression and confrontation rather than just avoiding everyone and trying to kick them out of the house."

But no matter what I said to dissuade Papa, he kept repeating the same sentence—"I will not live in the same house as that guy"—in a robotic voice, as if he'd been programmed to say it.

"Have you ever stopped to think," Playboy finally asked me, "that the only reason you're defending Mystery is because he's your friend?"

Perhaps Playboy was right. I was giving Mystery special-circumstances treatment, because he had brought me into the community and because the house had been his idea. None of us would have been here without him. But he had screwed up. He had made his bed. I needed to consider what was best for the house.

"But," I said. "I'd still like to find a way to solve this without anyone having to leave the house."

"We'll trust whatever you decide," Papa said. "You're the house leader. Everyone looks up to you."

I found it strange that Papa, who was so adamant about having Mystery leave, was putting the decision in my hands. For the next two and a half hours, we discussed possible compromises. The more we talked about it, the more complex the dilemma seemed. There was no solution that was going to satisfy everyone:

Papa wouldn't live in the house with Mystery.

Mystery wouldn't live in the house with Katya.

And Herbal wouldn't live in the house without Katya.

Someone had to go.

"All the problems in this house can be traced back to one source," Playboy said firmly, "and that source is Mystery."

I looked at Xaneus. "Do you agree with Playboy and Papa?" I asked him.

"I do," he said. He too seemed to speak from somewhere deep in his skull, as if he weren't really present. He was turning as robotic as the rest of them. "I think Mystery needs to go."

We called Mystery and Herbal into the room to give them our decision. They sat on the edge of the step leading up to Papa's bed. Having come up with the only possible compromise for a complicated dilemma, I was proud of myself—mistakenly, it would turn out—for exercising my newfound leadership skills in a Solomon-like manner.

"Herbal," I began. "Katya will not be allowed in the house for two months. After that, if you're still dating her, she may return to the house."

Herbal nodded.

"Mystery, you have two months to get over Katya and find yourself a new girlfriend. In addition, there will be a zero-tolerance policy for violence in this house. If you threaten anyone's life, attack anyone, or damage property, you will be asked to leave the house immediately."

Mystery didn't nod.

"So basically you're saying you want me out of the house and that bitch gets to replace me," he snarled.

"Well," Playboy said. "There's always the chance Herbal and Katya will break up in that time."

"I don't see that happening," Herbal said.

Mystery threw his arms into the air. "Well, then you guys are kicking me out."

"No," I said. "We're giving you two months to come to grips with your emotions."

I was trying to help him. But he refused to be helped.

"If you give me at least two weeks notice before you leave," Papa said, "I'll refund your full deposit and find someone to fill the room."

Papa was happy. He was getting his way.

Mystery's forehead creased; his head twitched involuntarily. "You realize," he said, "that Papa is trying to get me out of the house because he's in competition with me. This is not about Mystery versus Herbal. It's about Mystery Method versus Real Social Dynamics. I gave Papa his entire business model. I told him to harness his sex drive and become a businessman.

He's even charging fifteen hundred dollars now for boot camps where he teaches my material." Mystery glared at Papa; Papa stared right through Mystery. "And now that he doesn't need me anymore, he wants to move me out and turn my room into a twelve-person dorm."

At the time, I thought Mystery was in denial, that he was still refusing to take responsibility for his actions. "It didn't have to turn out like this," I told him. "Every step of the way, you've made bad decisions, and now you have to live with them. We're not even kicking you out. You're deciding to leave."

Mystery folded his arms across his chest and looked at us disdainfully.

"Can't you see that the actions you think are alpha-male ways to solve a problem actually prevented you from getting the outcome you wanted?" I continued.

"It was a tactic designed to keep Katya out of the house, and it worked," he maintained. "She hasn't been back since."

I lost my cool. It was time for him to wake up and take a good look at himself.

"You need some tough love," I said, raising my voice for the first time all meeting. "You're the best illusionist I've ever seen, yet you haven't taken a single step toward your ninety-minute show—or any show, for that matter—since I've met you. Your pickup business is a mess, and your former students are raking in all the money that should be yours. As for your love life, ever since Katya, you've driven away every girl you've slept with. I would not recommend a girl ever dating you. You are a financial, mental, and emotional mess." With each sentence I felt like a weight was being lifted off my chest. "You have nothing: no health, no wealth, and no relationships. And you have no one to blame but yourself."

Mystery dropped his head into his hands. His shoulders started shaking. Big Mystery tears rolled out of his eyes. "I'm a broken man," he cried. "I'm broken."

The wall of sophistry and self-deception that had been propping him up came tumbling down. "What should I do?" He looked at me. "Tell me what to do."

Tears began leaking out of my eyes. I couldn't help it. I turned and faced the wall so Herbal and Papa wouldn't see. The tears ran faster. Despite all of Mystery's flaws, I still cared about the guy. After two years in the seduction community, I still didn't have a girlfriend, but for some reason I

had bonded with this big blubbering genius. Perhaps it was really shared emotion and experience that creates relationships, not seven hours of routines followed by two hours of sex.

"You need therapy," I said. "You need treatment or counseling or something. You can't just keep doing this to yourself."

"I know," he said. His eyes filled with tears as viscous as mercury. He balled his hand into a fist and hit his head self-castigatingly. "I know. I fucked up."

I walked out of Papa's room and left the house. I had a headache. It had been a long day.

As I started down the hill to grab a burrito at Poquito Mas, a black Mercedes convertible whipped around the corner and began climbing the hill. Inside were two blondes.

The car screeched to a halt in front of me, and a voice yelled my name from the driver's seat. It was Lisa. My heart skipped a beat.

She wore a red Diesel jacket with a wide rainbow collar that made her look like a cross between a supermodel and a racecar driver. I was unshaven, wearing sweatpants, and frazzled from debating with my roommates all day. I felt so many emotions at once: embarrassment, excitement, resentment, fear, joy. I didn't think I was ever going to see her again.

"We're going to get a drink," Lisa yelled. "Do you want to join us?"

"What are you doing here?" I tried to keep my cool and appear unfazed by her sudden reappearance.

"Going to the Whiskey Bar."

"Didn't you just pass it?"

"Yeah. I came by to ask you to go with us. Do you have a problem with that?"

A touch of attitude. I still liked her. She was a challenge. She didn't let any sarcasm, neg, or cocky funny get past her without a verbal smackdown.

"Let me change," I said, "and I'll meet you there."

I slipped on a pair of Levi's Red jeans with fake cat scratches down the front and a military-collared button-down shirt I'd bought in Australia, and ran down the hill to join them.

I was anxious to talk to Lisa and find out why she'd disappeared after Atlanta. But when I arrived, Lisa and Sam were at a table with two stocky, heavily tattooed rockers. They were the type of guys I had imagined Lisa dating. I sat between them, dwarfed by ink and hair dye.

As they gossiped about local rock scenesters I neither knew nor cared about, an overwhelming anxiety took hold of my body. I didn't want to

Continue reading here: Manage Expectations 397

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