Neil Strauss has a super power. He wasn’t born with it. He didn’t mutate or trip into an errant gamma ray. He honed it, crafted it and mastered the unearthly ability until it became second-nature. Strauss has the ability to fly in (figuratively) and sweep any woman off her feet.
Enter Ingrid — Strauss’s damsel in tight dress and total dime who’s everything he’d ever wanted in a woman. It wasn’t long before the two were a couple.
Except, well, super powers just don’t fucking go away. Imagine Superman not leaping tall building or bending steal or Aquaman not, I don’t know, what the fuck does he do besides swim fast? Well imagine him not swimming fast. Both images are inconceivable, unless, there’s a woman involved.
A woman and the kryptonite commonly referred to as monogamy.
Neil Strauss, as most supes do, had an alter ego. By day, Strauss banged away at his keyboard to become one of the top writers in the country for Rolling Stone magazine. At night, Strauss engaged in a different type of banging. Strauss was “Style”, one of the most prolific pickup artists in an underground community of men schooling one another in the art of meeting, and sleeping with, women.
Strauss’s chronicled his journey, from introverted and lonely author to three time winner of the title “best pickup artist in the world”, in the best-selling book The Game: Penetrating The Secret Society Of Pickup Artists. The book continues to be one of the most notorious and controversial books the 21st century and lead to the exposure, and eventually overexposure, of the underbelly of the world of professional pick-up artists.
In his latest book, The Truth: An Uncomfortable Book About Relationships, Strauss chronicles a life crisis that was forced on him by his own behavior and its consequences. The result is a candid and awkward book about what happens when a guy just can’t control his super power, or better yet, what happens when he just can’t keep his utility belt fastened and his bat-a-rang in the holster.
Strauss is now older, wiser, able to harness his powers for good and open to talking about anything. Even the mom, his own, who secretly treated him like a boyfriend.
You mentioned you were nervous about this book release. What are you nervous about?
When you write a book you have complete control of every word you release into the world. In interviews, you’ve got no control. And once the book is out, you’ve got no control. It’s like sending your kid off to college.
I thought you were going to say you were nervous because your mom would finally get to read the book. Out of everything in the book, the stuff that was most identifiable but uncomfortable was about your relationship with your mom. I also had a controlling mom though your experience was much more intense.
Well, you may not know the extent to which she controlled you. I had no idea my mother was controlling me sexually until it was pointed out. I had no idea. I thought I had a normal childhood and was boring. You just might not see all the signs.
In rehab, you’re diagnosed as being the victim of emotional incest. Has your mom read the book?
Good question. As far as I know, she has not.
Will she? Since your screwed-up relationship with her is such a pivotal theme of the book.
I don’t know. I really don’t know. You just have to write your truth and not change it for anybody. Otherwise, what’s the point of writing a book? But honestly, you never know how a person is going to react in regard to stuff written about them. For example, I’ve written stuff in Rolling Stone where I thought the subject was going to be really upset, and they loved it. And I’ve written other stuff that I might to be positive and they’d get upset about the smallest detail. You just never know. But…I may have a good idea about how my mom will react.
All I really wanted was the stories that made me, me. I gave her the opportunity to have her named changed. I was willing to change her name and where she was from, so that she could tell her friends ‘oh he just made this stuff up, he was lying.’ She didn’t take the offer.
When you first checked into sex rehab, you mentioned that another male patient recognized you as the author of The Game. You said that guys are constantly approaching and explaining how your book helped them meet their wife or girlfriend. I’m going to do the same but I’m also going to be, I’m assuming, the first guy to tell you that your first book helped me meet my wife and this latest book had me questioning my marriage.
You are the first person to tell me that, but what are you contemplating, before I get too excited.
Well, we’re going through all the shit the typical married couple goes through. But maybe I should point out that I read this book, about you cheating on your girlfriend and having threesomes, on a beach in Jamaica surrounded by countless women in tiny bikinis.
Yeah, that’s a bad choice. How did it make you contemplate your marriage?
I’m like any other guy. I look at other women. I don’t act on those impulses. You touched on it in your book that ‘a man is only as faithful as his option.’
Yeah, I’m not sure I believe that now. But I did at that point in the book.
Well, I just don’t let myself get in those situations. If I was in that situation, I hope I’d make the right choice.
I hear you. I mean now, because of my journey, I know what I’d do. I’d make a phone call to my wife and if we both felt it was the best thing for me, for her, and for our relationship, I’d do it. Or if she didn’t, and I felt I had to do it and it was more important to me than her and the relationship, I’d let her know I was going forward with it. The one thing I know I wouldn’t do is be dishonest.
If you were just Neil, and not this pickup artist and able to meet any woman you wanted, do you think any of this would have happened? The cheating, sex rehab, etc..
It absolutely would not have happened because The Game opened up the doors to change. It opened up the doors to self improvement, it gave me the psychological tools to do things I never imagined I could do. Without those skills I’d still be living under a rock.
Do you think you’d be married?
Probably. Probably unhappily married. I’d probably be my parents.
You wrote an entire book basically teaching men how to pickup women. How would you teach men the best route to be in an openly sexual relationship?
I’ve been told that I should do something like The Game about gaming your wife and getting her to commit to an open relationship. But what happened with Ingrid and I is both people have to commit do doing things they might be uncomfortable with at first.There’s a point called “the burning period” where things aren’t going to feel good and those fears of loss and jealousy are strong.
Most importantly, you need a healthy relationship. You really have to be transparent, open and honest. You need to have open lines of communication. You both have to be able to accept there’s going to be things you’re going to have to work through.
The Truth: An Uncomfortable Book About Relationships is available now. Read more of Neil Strauss’s work at neilstrauss.com.