Catherine Townsend: Sleeping Around

Negging will get you nowhere

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"You have really freaky, wide-spaced eyes," a guest at a black-tie dinner told me, right before blowing smoke in my face. "Can you see in opposite directions, like a horse?"

Was he kidding? I had spent forever getting ready, and felt seriously foxy after squeezing myself into my black ballgown and gold stilettos.

Our chat had started so well: after a few minutes of sarcastic banter that I found mildly amusing, I'd given him my number. Emboldened by this early success - and about a gallon of red wine - he then decided to start insulting me.

And he's not the only guy who believes that putting a woman down is the surest way into her knickers. The Game, Neil Strauss' runaway bestseller about seduction techniques of pick-up artists, advises men to undermine a woman's self esteem by paying her a backhanded compliment - a move he calls "the Neg". Judging by the lame chat-up lines I've been getting lately, "negging" is now all the rage.

As I nursed a post-party hangover, I started browsing various seduction blogs, and what I found was a collection of desperate men in search of routines to woo their "targets". While I'm totally in favour of acerbic wit, lines like "Nice hair? Is it real?" and "You are so cute, you could almost be a stripper" would send most of my girlfriends screaming.

My friend Victoria got "negged" last week in a Mayfair cocktail bar after when a guy approached her and said her Christian Louboutins "looked like comfortable shoes" - a line right out of the book. "He didn't exactly say that they were ugly, but for some reason it really bothered me," she admitted. The problem is that some guys clearly don't know when to quit. Guys like the increasingly belligerent black-tie man.

After I left the party he must have come to his senses and started drunk-dialling me. Always a mistake. His first rambling message said: "It's probably a really bad policy to leave a message especially after I insulted you over your eyes, so I'll quit while I'm behind."

His last text, left at 1.10am, read: "THIS IS MY LAST DRUNKEN WORD ON THE SUBJECT. EVERY MAN YOU HAVE EVER MET IS AN ABSOLUTE SHITCAKE COMPARED TO ME. NO EXCEPTIONS. NONE."

Though tempted to dismiss him as a complete lunatic, after his apology I concluded that he was probably more clueless than calculating.

Especially the next day when he called again to apologise, and claimed that he could not remember much of his drunken diatribe. "I'm so sorry. That's the worst thing I've ever said," he admitted. "I told my friends that I thought you were really amazing, and under the halo of drunkenness I thought I was being really charming. I'm really not like that, I promise."

So for now, I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt. Of course, the Mr Nice Guy act could just be a reverse double bluff. Is this another chat-up technique? I've decided to meet him for drinks to find out for sure.

In the end, I think he realised that old-fashioned politeness got him a lot further than hurling insults. But if he does initiate another verbal sparring match, I'll eat him for breakfast.

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