It’s How You Play the Game

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Trigger Warning: Discussion of rape culture.

I have never been any good at playing games. I chalk it up to the fact that the only way I was “taught” how to play most of them was by my grandfather showing me absolutely no mercy and trouncing me, filling an entire side of the board with hotels or leaving my eight-year-old self with nothing but a couple pawns and my king before going in for the kill.

To me, relationship games are very much like that experience. They’re not a giggly round of Twister or a supremely boring hand of Uno. They are hangman: shout out the wrong letter, and your love life gets it.

For the most part, I don’t really understand dating games. They really only exist to police dating behavior, restricting it to a very limited range of acceptable actions and things to say. These games, or more accurately rules, primarily seem to fit into one of three categories. In this column, I’ll examine the first of those categories, the “Rules of The Pick Up,” and will continue with “Rules of Attraction” and “Rules of Dates” next week.

Rules of The Pick-Up

I understand why pick-up lines exist. They are an easy thing to grab when you see someone you find attractive and your mind goes blank, yet you want to say something smooth and winning rather than stand openmouthed while your drool approaches the floor. The problem is that pick up lines are almost always obviously lines, which means that they’re not actually accomplishing their directives very well. The other issue is that they are often rude and/or based on pure objectification, which isn’t really what most of us find appealing, even in a hook up.

Take a Swarthmore example: I know a bunch of Freshman and Sophomore guys have been asking girls that they dance with “Do you go to Bryn Mawr?” This is more successful than some at being not obviously a pick up line, though its directives are a little vague, except that most girls at a Swarthmore party who routinely dance with male partners are hearing it at least once a night, so it becomes really obvious and incredibly annoying. My guess is that the intended reasoning behind this line is “Wow. You’re really pretty. You must go somewhere else, because if you were a student here, I would have noticed you.” But it comes across as “There is a stereotype that Bryn Mawr girls are ‘easy’. With this question, I am trying to discern whether you too might be easy because that would be to the benefit of mine and my penis’s immediate desires.” Even if we’re willing to help the two of you out, this line probably isn’t what’s going to get us there.

The only way that pick up lines actually have any prayer of working is if you find the kind of recipient who would find them funny, then employ a fairly unique, yet cheesy one in such a way that it’s clear that you are poking fun at the practice of using pick up lines. Honestly, isn’t it just much easier to talk to someone like they’re a human being?

 Stay tuned next week for the second half of “It’s How You Play the Game.”


  1. It should be easier to talk to someone like a human being, but at 1:30 in the morning in Paces or DU, tis a little tougher to have that well thought out conversation. I don’t use pick-up lines because, like you, I agree they are straight up retarded. I will definitely drop a really cheesy pick-up line solely because it is so ridiculous its funny. It also depends on the girl and how you read the situation, because you may know just by looking at her that such a tactic won’t work. Either way, a lot of guys (and girls too for that matter), have lost the ability to communicate like human beings, either because of some societal shift in the culture of the hook-up or because of an absurd amount of alcohol imbibed earlier in the evening. There are, however, plenty of guys who do enjoy a nice conversation. Honest.

  2. wait what was the point of this column? usually I feel like you have something somewhat compelling to say, SM, but I don’t even understand where this pick up line thing was going because it didn’t GO anywhere.

  3. Confused, I know, and it’s something that has been said to me a lot.

    The gazette has tightened some policies around columns this year including one surrounding length limits. This column, in its entirety, went beyond that parameter, and slitting it in half was the compromise my editor and I reached to get around that while still being able to publish the piece in its entirety. We felt that, given that the whole text would ultimately be available, that this setup compromised the piece least, but it seems that we were wrong, as it has caused a lot of, well, confusion.

    So I guess all that I can tell you for now is have patience. The second half is coming out tomorrow, and hopefully it’ll make sense then.

  4. Am I the only one not finding it, or has the daily gazette completely forgot to publish the second part of this article???

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