The lost art of the pick up line

Observing the courtship and mating rituals of juvenile Northlanders is perhaps not yet a tourist attraction here in Whangarei but sitting in Cameron mall in the school holidays did give me some insight into the behaviour of adolescent Kiwis at extraordinary close range. A privilege – perhaps, and while not necessarily a pleasure it was certainly entertainment.

The young males of the species congregate in groups faces hidden in dark hoods, one hand clutching their bollocks (it was difficult to determine if this is a deliberate ploy to suggest male virility or an awkward attempt to keep their oversized pants from ending up around their ankles) flipping skate-boards and doing the gangster strut which involves bouncing on the balls of your feet and rolling from the hips like you’ve got bollocks the size of planet Jupiter. One young brave did manage to shout to one of the passing gaggles of girls “Show us yer tits”. This was met with the colourful rejoinder “Get a dog up yer”. Later that day I witnessed one young female delivering a mean right hook to another whom she accused of ‘hooking up with’ her man. I began to miss South America. Sure, you’ll get mugged at gun point and your child will get kidnapped but at least it will be done with social grace.

Latin women often complain that living in New Zealand makes them feel unattractive and invisible because the men, well… they just don’t look. Really look. At least not at anything that doesn’t have an outboard motor attached to it. The kind of sighing, fondling, low whistling and general appreciation of form and grace that is usually associated here in New Zealand with the annual Boat Show is readily witnessed on every street corner of South America as men lounge languidly and appreciate women who seem to be the only ones who actually have a job. Whereas Latin men are the optical equivalent of Benny Hill on E – Latin women get as much visual engagement from Kiwi blokes as from your average ostrich.

Piropos; very roughly translated as chat up lines, are an entire art form in themselves in South America. Men have a repertoire at hand just to get a woman to give them some attention for 5 seconds. And the charming thing is that they expect to be rejected which takes all the tension out of the exchange. A grade 6 bad hair day can instantly be transformed as a complete stranger tells you he could drown in your eyes. You would be expected to reply with a smile, that it would therefore be unwise to dive in.”

This harmless flattery and banter is part of the social lubricant that keeps everything ticking in South America – and performs the same function as alcohol seems to here.

In a highly sophisticated Coleman’s Mustard poll (a barbeque in my backyard), the Latin contingent came to the conclusion that New Zealand has a problem with anti-social binge drinking because young men don’t know how to talk to or pick up women and the girls don’t know how to accept a compliment, continuing the banter for long enough to really observe the lad in question so that she can come to a decision on whether or not he has sufficient character and social grace for her to risk meeting up for a coffee with him later.

Latin men spend hours tutoring their protégés on the ancient art of the conquest of a woman’s heart and equally, mothers train their daughters in the often not so gentle art of deflection and self protection. Battered by gale force electioneering and the seduction of my vote – I just wish some of that training could go on those young men and women in Cameron Mall. They may not get lucky but they’d probably feel a whole lot better about themselves and wouldn’t need such vast amounts of alcohol just to make friends and talk to the opposite sex.

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