10/24/2007

The Science Of Picking Up Men

by Laura Morgenthau

It was Moon Pants time, and I was on a mission—to pick up men using only my dubious feminine wiles and the nerdiest of science and math pick-up lines. After all, who can resist a girl with a good Moon Pants line?

And so, one Friday night, I found myself approaching a rugged, dark-haired guy whose five o’clock shadow and sporty North Face jacket made him decidedly atypical in a bar full of button-down shirts and shoulder bags. I was so nervous that even the tequila shots and beer I had downed couldn’t drown the butterflies in my stomach, and I wondered how I got myself in this situation in the first place.

It started about a week before, with one seemingly innocent thought, “wouldn’t it be fun to compile a list of the best science and math pick-up lines?” I pitched the idea to my classmates, but the response was lukewarm. Wouldn’t it be better, my classmates suggested, if I used the lines myself, and then wrote about it?  “Sure,” I thought, “only slightly less humiliating than delivering a speech on quantum mechanics in my bathing suit.” But, with a little cajoling, I was on assignment.

Using the web, family, and friends as sources, I settled on four subject-specific winners:

  • Physics/Math: If I were a function, would you be my derivative? Because then you could lie tangent to my curves.
  • Biology: Could I be your DNA Helicase? 'Cause I really want to unzip your genes.
  • Chemistry: What does it take to get over YOUR activation barrier? 

And, for Astronomy, there was the Moon Pants line.

Over the next few days, I honed my delivery technique. And by honed, I mean practiced quickly with friends over beers at the local watering hole. Soon enough, Friday night rolled around and it was time to put my money where my mouth was. 

Dragging a couple of friends along for support, I decided to start at the Thirsty Ear, the graduate student bar on the MIT campus. I reasoned that if I was going fishing with science and math lines, I’d better go someplace the fish might bite.

The Thirsty Ear, a small, brightly lit bar where the beer is cheap, and the furniture cheaper, was the perfect setting for a fumbling, first-time pick-up artist.  But the crowd was disappointing: small, quiet, and seated in groups. Just when I thought I’d have to pack it in before casting a line, a cute guy carrying a bike helmet walked in. Alone and waiting for friends, he circled the bar, bought a beer, and sat down behind me. It was go time.

I took a swig of liquid courage, walked over, and asked him his area of expertise. Jumping to his feet, a moment of stunned silence followed as he registered that I, a girl, was, in fact, hitting on him, a guy. Scraping his jaw off the floor, he smilingly mumbled something about material science and physics. “Nice!” I thought, “it’s function time.” But, after delivering my line, his quizzical look and polite half-smile told me that he was less than impressed. Apparently, he already knew the line. Regardless, he was amiable and we ended up chatting for a while. I counted it a partial success and a good warm-up, but it was time to get out of the kiddie pool and jump in the lake. I was going to a real bar—the Miracle of Science.

Again it was a tough crowd. Surveying the room, most were seated in small, don’t-even- try-to-break-our-conversation-with-a-nerdy-pick-up-line groups. I think they knew I was coming. And then I saw the North Face guy.

He was leaning over the table, back to me, right on the way to the restroom. Perfect. I had an excuse to walk by. I went to the ladies room, steeled my nerves, and walked back out. Tapping him on the back, I sidled around him and assumed my most quasi-seductive face. “Sorry to interrupt, but can I ask you a question?”

“Go ahead” he said, peering straight at me with surprised, questioning eyes.

“Are those Moon Pants you’re wearing? Because your ass is out of this world.” 

And then North Face broke into a huge smile. All of a sudden, I found myself cheek-to-cheek with the five o’clock shadow, fully folded in a giant bear hug. After what seemed like a good first-hug amount of time, I tried to wiggle away some. After all, I had more talking to do. But what I heard next replaced my words with a huge smile, too. “Why are you pulling away? I’ve got to savor this!” North Face exclaimed as he gave me a second hug. Apparently, my line was out of this world.