It’s Saturday at 11:45 a.m., and I’m one of 330 women who’ve come to the ballroom of the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Toronto to receive the wisdom of love and relationship guru Matthew Hussey.
The New York Times bestselling author of Get the Guy: Use the Secrets of the Male Mind to Find, Attract and Keep Your Ideal Man is in Toronto, one of three Canadian stops, to offer up his “secrets to attracting, keeping and understanding men.”
It’s a bold move, really, to proclaim there’s a kind of secret key-code for winning the game of love, but the lure proves effective. The “ballroom,” which is really a corporate conference room, is packed with women (and one lone man in his late 50s). The women are a diverse mix of ages and ethnicities; some are in the smooth-skinned prime of their early 20s, while others are well into their worldly wise 30s, 40s and even 50s.
There’s a DJ playing music at what feels like a p.m. volume to my Saturday morning ears, and the event staff, clad in pink Hussey Ts, are dancing in the kind of “Where my girls at?” atmosphere that Hussey cultivates in these seminars, which he runs all over the world.
For all the party atmosphere, however, the crowd seems oddly dispirited. These ladies seem tired, as if they’ve been working back-to-back double shifts for weeks. That exhaustion may account for the carb-loading—the sandwich-snarfing and cheese-and-cracker eating—that I see all around me. It’s as if they’re preparing for a marathon.
Noonish: Hussey appears to a hooting standing ovation. The 27-year-old is dressed in a sharp dark sport jacket, a skinny tie and dark denim. Athletic, British and WB-handsome, he’s a bouncing ball of energy. He’s cute and flirty and Scientology-intense. His presence has an immediate leavening affect on the crowd.
One of his first pronouncements sends a delighted ripple through the audience. “Love,” he says. “It sucks. It’s such shit. It really is the worst thing ever.”
Know what else is shit? The advice most women are given when it comes to love and sex, he says. Make the first move. Don’t make the first move. It’s all a bunch of conflicting contradictory crap, he suggests.
So, what’s Hussey offering in exchange for dumping your Cosmo subscription? Confidence. The secret to attracting the guy you want, according to Hussey, lies in building both your “core confidence” and your “dating competence.”
I hear a lot of mmms and uh-huhs around me as he reveals his “secret” to attraction, and I can’t decide whether the audience is enlightened by the insight or just affirming that yes, they too believe this to be true, which makes me think Hussey isn’t really offering much in the way of anything new. The idea that confidence is attractive sounds pretty familiar—the kind of thing my mother and grandmother drilled into me as a child.
The only novelty seems to be that the old chestnut is coming out of the mouth of a cute British guy in a stylish jacket, which he later removes, along with his tie, to howls of approval.
“Take your shirt off,” hollers one bold soul from her seat. Hussey eats it up.
12:53 p.m.: Fifty-three minutes into our eight-hour journey, Hussey lets another secret fly—this one is a doozy. There will be no breaks for lunch or anything today, Hussey declares. I swallow an expletive.
Perhaps to soften the blow, he cues the DJ to pump up the music and commands the audience to stand up and dance. It’s the first of many dance breaks we will take. I don’t want to dance. I bolt for the bathroom.
Eight hours without a break? Hussey may proclaim to know a lot about the male mind, but his knowledge of the female bladder is sorely lacking.
I can’t help but think it’s a bad sign.
Time drags slowly on… I think it’s 1:30 p.m. but I’m afraid to look at my phone to check for fear that it’s only 12:55. The seminar is loosely organized around the idea of being confident and being a more competent dater. He focuses mainly on the latter and urges us to become either “moths” or “flames” to get what we want, an extended analogy that boils down to: get out there and meet some men, honey, and if you can’t be exciting and fun then hang around people who are (or “hubs”).
There’s another dance break. I don’t dance, but I smile encouragingly at those that do. One of the event staff scowls disapprovingly. “It’s OK to have fun you know.”
“I know,” I answer. “But I’m OK to be me.”
She’s not impressed with my core confidence.
Tick-tock… It’s only two o’clock. Hussey has two volunteers onstage. He’s teaching them how to flirt at a bar, and he’s pretty darn flirty himself, kissing and hugging and nudge-nudge wink-winking them into submission. For all the theatrics and touchy-feely stuff, the advice is pretty standard. Make eye contact. Don’t hover. Look like you’re having fun. I feel like my grandmother could co-author his next book.
An hour later… Now Hussey gets really specific about how to chat up a guy. He offers what he perceives to be foolproof scripts: for example, if you’re at a restaurant and see someone you like, you could break the ice with “What did you order? It looks so good.” If someone yawns, why not try “Long day?” as an opener. It’s worked on him, he shares.
The audience is in thrall. I start to wonder if the real appeal of this seminar is being around the charismatic Hussey; if he’s the “guy” we get out of his program.
Eventually Hussey offers his advanced flirty patter, which is downright peculiar. My personal favourite is, “Oh my god, I love that tie. Stay away from me. I’m obsessed with ties.”
“You look up to no good” is another gem we’re told to commit to memory.
It’s closing in on 3:30-ish, and my butt is numb… Hussey calls for another dance break. I head for the bathroom again.
10 minutes later… The oddly disjointed patter continues. Hussey talks about how most women don’t want to wind up with the nice guy or the “sexy dick,” but rather a hybrid of both, which he defines as a “good man with an edge.” He doesn’t go into too much detail about who that guy is and where he hangs out or how to spot him in a crowd of “sexy dicks,” but in a way he doesn’t need to. We all know who he’s thinking about. He is the very pattern of the ideal he’s selling.
Hussey breaks down the four components of attraction, an hour or two of patter that could be summed up in the following directions: carry yourself with confidence; be fun; be flirty; be “feminine.”
He offers some examples of “feminine” chat-up lines. The greatest compliment a man can receive, according to Hussey, and a veritable jockey-remover, is: “I feel so safe with you.” Another: “I love how masculine you are.”
“This shit works,” he proclaims with curiously personal conviction.
God, it’s only 4:30… He urges us to assume attraction, and by doing so we will be attractive. I feel like we covered this a lot earlier. I am starving.
Rihanna’s “We Found Love” blares. Fuck it, I dance. Not because Hussey and his foot soldiers want me to, but because my butt is numb and I love this song! Most powerful insight I glean from the day: I need to dance more. And by the joyful expressions on the faces of the tired women around me, I think they’re feeling the same thing.
Almost 5: My attention is waning, but Hussey is just getting into the nitty-gritty of his program. He’s also now just wearing a T-shirt and jeans and is sweaty from his own feverish dancing. He wants women to stop taking shit from jerks and to be more sensible in love. For example, don’t give more than you’re getting, he advises. Unrequited love is “masochism,” he says, preaching to the choir. And he says don’t labour under the illusion that a guy can absolve you of your hang-ups; in fact, he’ll only magnify them.
Tell me something I don’t know, Matt. Please.
5:10-ish: Dance break. I wobble in my heavy winter boots unconvincingly. I’m tired, and it’s hot in this dank room. Even the dancing starts to feel redundant. A woman next to me fans herself with her notepad. I notice that the notepad is blank.
5:30-ish… It’s the big emotional climax of the event. We’re instructed to stand up and close our eyes. He urges us to let go of whatever or whoever is holding us back, because “this is our year.” An emotional soundtrack plays—I can’t pick out the music but I know I’ve heard it before.
Another dance break.
It’s only 5:53 p.m? After the emotional climax and the dance and more personal anecdotes about how he turned failure into confidence, Hussey cues up a video. I wonder what we’re going to learn from this. A few seconds in and I realize it’s a commercial for his week-long retreat on—you got it—core confidence, which he’s touted as the secret to attracting basically everything good in life all day without ever really telling us how to achieve it.
The price tag for the retreat: $4,000.
The video ends and Hussey goes into sales pitch mode. This course is amazing, he says. One 40-year-old woman got married and had a baby after doing it, which is the modern woman’s Cinderella story. He even shows us a picture of her and her husband and children to prove it. Sincere or not, it feels like a manipulation. It doesn’t sit right. I swallow a few more expletives.
Is it 6:30 yet? Hussey announces that he’s distributing applications for his pricey retreat, which we’re told we can’t afford not to take. It’s here, at the precise point that the seminar turns into a shameless sales pitch for his retreat, that I bail, and so does a quarter of the audience. We’ve spent our precious Saturday with a charming, WB-handsome love guru with an agenda, and we’re really tired, really hungry and really looking forward to watching some TV.
We “got” this guy, and we are happy to leave him behind.
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