'And of course, you musn’t forget about vaginal tenting.'
We’re in Soho’s Kettner’s brasserie to experience a School of Romance seminar, run by 'International Love Coach' and psychosexual therapist Cate McKenzie, with the hopes of picking up some tips in the run-up to Valentine’s Day and finding out exactly where we’ve been going wrong.
'Remember, it’s important when being sexual to 'warm up'' Cate continues. Across the bar we swear we can hear the sound of an older couple gasping.
Cate (all red hair, red flowery dress, red lipstick) begins the session by insisting the group stand up and repeat ‘I am ir-res-ist-ible’. It’s a cringer of an ice-breaker but, along with the canapés and glasses of champagne, it goes some way towards diffusing the awkwardness of the evening.
From there, Cate fills us in on the power of flirting; how knowing how to do it properly can get us anything we need in life. She revolutionised her own life, it turns out, by deciding to pursue fun, rather than romance. Her action plan involved attending three music festivals in three days, striking up conversations with everyone she met, then inviting a total stranger at Euston station to go dancing.
It worked, and Cate’s stranger is now her partner. If she sounds like the woman who asks you which crisps you’re eating at the bus stop, you’re probably not far off, but the thinking behind it all seems rather sound. Cate’s three basic rules to meeting a potential partner - smile, be positive and say ‘hi’ - may seem trite, but how often do you really make an effort to do all three?
The first step to putting these rules into action is, according to Cate, to ‘juzh’ (we're not sure what it means let alone how to spell it) yourself up each morning. If you’re not familiar with the term, the gist is to make yourself feel sexy and desirable, then carry this confidence with you all day.
Cate claims best practice is to picture an enticing Italian man along the lines of Joey from Friends coming through your bedroom door. We decided to swap Mr Tribbiani for Emily Ratajkowski and suddenly understood what she was on about.
Then, just to ramp up the awkwardness a bit more, Cate insisted we spend the next four seconds staring at whomever we happened to be sitting next to. We began as the receiver of a look from a female journalist that quickly descended into exaggerated laughter and both parties less-than-subtly glancing at our watches.
The idea of the exercise was to become more open and receptive to signals from potential partners, and while it was hard to imagine these four-second stares ending in anything other than a polite kick in the groin or a strong word from the barman in any sort of real-life environment, the idea of boosting your confidence as a man was intriguing.
‘We’re all twelve years-old inside,’ Cate suggests, “Men often don’t know how to approach women, so women should make it clear when they’re flirting and really spell it out.’
Cate then touches on the culture of ‘lad banter’ and ‘pulling guidebooks’ such as The Game, suggesting all are designed to boost a man’s confidence, but don’t necessarily do this in the most sophisticated or respectful way, ‘There were seeds of ideas in that stuff, like presenting a bigger, bolder ‘you’ when you’re flirting, but if you’re going to say ‘hi’, you may as well be authentic and say ‘hi’ from a real place,’ Cate explains.
‘If you want to meet someone with the aim of sharing time with them, it might as well be someone like you,’ Cate suggests.
This is all well and good, we think, but how do we meet women in the first place? Cate says flirting can be put into action anywhere, as long as the timing’s right. ‘Men who are really good at chatting women up feed into the space and find a way of saying hello. 93% of communication is body language, tone and pace of speaking. Only 7% is what you actually say, so if you slow down and ease yourself into a woman’s space, with a genuine desire to connect, you’ll be ok.”
The number one rule is to keep your efforts as friendly and neutral as possible. ‘A guy said hi to me on the tube. I had a book on me and he tied the book into asking what I did. When I told him I was a life coach he said he knew someone who needed my help and took my card. I knew he was going to ask me out, but he did it in a friendly way and put me completely at ease,’ Cate explains.
The key to meeting a partner, it seems, is to be open, confident and act like yourself. A bolder and friendlier version of yourself that is. So, assuming this all goes to plan and that girl at the bar/supermarket/dog grooming show does agree to go out with you, how do you keep the ball rolling?
‘Men have a lower level of the happiness hormone, oxytocin, which often means they naturally move much slower than women,’ Cate explains. ‘A woman can see a guy and know he’s the one, whereas a man can wait six months to call a woman his girlfriend. Men need to remind women they are interested throughout.’
The seminar ends with Cate taking us through a low-key dance routine to Foreigner’s ‘I Want To Know What Love Is’, where she acted out the lyrics to really ram the point home.
Before we leave there’s time for Cate to give us one final rallying call reminding us to throw ourselves into every opportunity because ‘the one’ might not wait around. Next time you think someone’s glancing at you in the coffee shop, approach her. Next time you see a girl reading an interesting book on the tube, ask her what it’s about. Next time someone strikes up a conversation about ‘vaginal tenting’, listen.
And, most importantly, try to have fun.