Ovid’s plan of action

Mars and Venus

“You, who for the first time are taking up arms beneath the standard of Venus, find out, in the first place, the woman you are to love.”

Ovid, in his two-thousand-year-old dating guide ‘The Art of Love,’ lays out his plan  in three stages: (1) find your woman, (2) “bend her to your will,” (3) do what you need to do to make your love endure.

We shall talk about all these stages in due course, but in passing I’d like to say that we often neglect the third. Once you’ve made a conquest, don’t slack off. You need to keep the flame alive. Don’t start being a typical bloke and fart and belch in her company (sorry, but it needed to be said). Don’t neglect oral hygiene if you still want deep kisses and more. Don’t stop the behaviours that she found attractive and exciting in the beginning. Especially when married, tend the fire.

Back to the matter in hand.

Ovid goes on, “Now that you are still fancy-free, now is the time for you to choose a woman and say to her: ‘You are the only woman that I care for.’ She’s not going to be wafted down to you from heaven on the wings of the wind. You must use your own eyes to discover the girl that suits you.”

I definitely don’t agree that you should go up to a woman and straightaway say, ‘You are the only woman that I care for.’ She’ll run a mile unless already desperately in love with you, and that you cannot count on. You have to work on attraction – a process explained in my own book. One important principle of attraction is, let her come to you. Paradoxical. For now let’s just say, never appear desperate. But Ovid is right that your soulmate is not going simply to turn up and ring your doorbell.

Ovid goes on, “The hunter knows where to spread his nets… .” This should be part of your strategy. You need to think about where the woman of your dreams is likely to hang out. If you’re a wild party animal, don’t look for her in the library. And if you hate parties and prefer intelligent conversation, don’t torment yourself by going somewhere where the music is so loud you end up deaf. Your soulmate won’t be there anyway. However you do have to go out looking. And wherever you go, you need to keep practicing the arts of attraction until your babe magnetism is fully charged and under your control.

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What makes you think you need to go to Russia?

“You who seek out the object of a lasting love, learn the places which the fair ones most haunt,” writes the poet Ovid in his 2,000-year-old poem, The Art of Love.

I have given a few tips about where to find your soulmate before.

If spam emails are anything to go by, there must be a fair number of men out there who fall for Russian woman who are very romantic and are looking for an honest man in the West for love and marriage. Now there is of course nothing at all wrong with Russian women. But if you can’t attract a woman in your own home town, why do you imagine you’ll have more luck with a woman from hundreds or thousands of miles away?

If the relationship is based on money (which it may be) then is that what you really want? Wouldn’t you rather learn the arts of attraction and find a woman much nearer home and who wants you because of what you really are? (Ok, you really like Russian women. There are probably thousands in London. You still don’t need to find the air fare.)

Ovid says, “You won’t have to put to sea or undertake any distant journeys … Rome alone will give you a choice of such lovely women, and so many of them, that you will be forced to confess that she gathers within her own bosom all the treasures that the world can show. As numerous as the ears of corn on Gargarus, grapes in Methymna, fish in the ocean, birds in the thickets, stars in the heavens, so numerous are the beautiful girls you’ll find in Rome. Venus has made her seat of empire the city of her beloved Aeneas.”

And for the benefit of us in England, note that our own Henry Purcell made a song called ‘Fairest Isle’ from John Dryden’s words, in which the poet explains that Venus has made her dwelling here, too.

Here are the words:
Fairest isle, all isles excelling,
Seat of pleasure and of love
Venus here will choose her dwelling,
And forsake her Cyprian grove.
Cupid from his fav’rite nation
Care and envy will remove;
Jealousy, that poisons passion,
And despair, that dies for love.

Gentle murmurs, sweet complaining,
Sighs that blow the fire of love
Soft repulses, kind disdaining,
Shall be all the pains you prove.
Ev’ry swain shall pay his duty,
Grateful ev’ry nymph shall prove;
And as these excel in beauty,
Those shall be renown’d for love.

Ovid’s banned book

To catch the woman who will be our heart’s desire we need a plan.

But first, at the beginning of any new activity it is necessary to call upon the appropriate god. Be patient – I’ll explain.

Let us not be put off by our modern ideas. Some of us will be atheists, and yet others subscribe to one of the religions that recognise only one God. I’ll address the latter first.

If you’re a Roman Catholic you’ll understand the idea of praying to the appropriate saint, so you need only think of the matter in this way. If you’re a follower of a more austere faith then you can think of it as praying that your actions will accord with God’s will. And if you are an unbeliever, simply consider that your intention at the outset will determine your success or otherwise, and that an unclear intention cannot result in a clear result. We all have gods – the petty gods that are our obsessions and the larger gods that inspire our nobler aims – it’s just that atheists don’t call them by that name.

(By the way, if your god is a devil then I can assure you that the results will turn out unpleasant in due course. Perhaps I’ll expand on this another time. This is one of those obvious things that nevertheless people don’t get.)

The point is to know what it is we want clearly enough that we can state it, so that we can be sure that it is good, and so that we shall not be deviated from our aim or settle for less.

So, who is the god that Ovid invokes at the beginning of his book, ‘The Art of Love‘?

It is not Apollo. This should be for us a warning: there is a mischievous twinkle in Ovid’s eye. He is writing poetry, yet he tells us his inspiration is not from Apollo or one of the Muses, the goddesses of all the arts. For a poem that has lasted two thousand years this is an odd claim. Personally, I think the Muses smiled on him anyway. And perhaps his failure to give the Muses their due was why he was banished to Tomis (now Constanta) on the Black Sea coast – “a town located in a war-stricken cultural wasteland on the remotest margins of the empire,” according to Wikipedia.

No, Ovid claims not to be inspired by the Muses, nor to have had the arts of love sung by birds into his ear.

“Experience is my guide,” he says.

As you know, I say the same, although I also acknowledge some fate or invisible power that brought to me the woman of my dreams – but of this perhaps another time. But for grace to occur, work is necessary.

Ovid does ask a goddess to smile on his undertaking – Venus, goddess of love, mother of wild boy Cupid. Ovid also says he will “sing of love where danger is not; I sing permitted pilferings; free of all offence my verses are.” Unfortunately the Emperor Augustus did take offence, and the ‘Art of Love’ was banned and Ovid banished.

So, take care. For this undertaking you have dedicated yourself to Venus, not Apollo. As for “permitted pilferings” – hmm. And you know that Cupid is notorious for shooting arrows of love without regard for age, social propriety or your convenience.

Nevertheless, I commend this study to you, for the same reason Ovid gives right at the beginning. As he says, “I, too, will bring Love to heel, even though his arrows pierce my breast and he brandish over my head his flaming torch. The keener his arrows, the fiercer his fires, the more they stir me to avenge my wounds.”

If you would conquer, know your enemy.

Next: Ovid’s plan of action.

How do I find my soulmate?

Strategy. Finding your soulmate can be difficult. Finding someone for a quick fling is easier if you know how – the rules of attraction are the same. But how to find the one?

You can be great at chat-up and attraction (of which I have much more to say some other time) and still this part can be very difficult. You can go on date after date and nothing works out for the long term. You can even have dates that pall after the first ten minutes.

Why not start working on strategy now?

Let’s cut to the chase. Yards of verbiage are not needed to explain this. Go to places where the kind of woman who might be your soulmate would hang out. Sure, if you just want a quick fling, go to a bar or club (comedy clubs are fun too), and apply the techniques. But if you are (for example) into art, go to a gallery or join an art evening class (if there are no hot women there, join another one – join several – simple).

If you don’t like noisy nightclubs, why would you expect that your soulmate would? It’s possible, but you are lengthening the odds unnecessarily. Go to the places she might go to.

Your criteria for a soulmate are, or should be, pretty strict. Don’t compromise. Learning confidence will give you plenty of choice, so you don’t need to compromise. It then becomes a numbers game. Don’t waste time looking in the wrong places.

Rush hour crush – 4

I think a lot of us live in dreamland.

Do we really want to meet the man or woman of our dreams or do we just want to fantasize about it?

Here are two examples from the ‘Rush hour crush’ section of the Metro newspaper today.

Example 1:

To the gentleman with the gym bag who catches the 08.32 from Penarth to Queen Street every morning. Let me see how many shades you have. Drink? – Brunette

Ooh la la! The reference to ‘shades’ is probably something to do with the recent publication of the ‘shades of grey’ novels, which I understand have lots of references to kinky sex. So if the guy with the gym bag is into that then it’s game on. But (even assuming he reads today’s Metro) how is he to know which brunette is offering? I can imagine a highly amusing farce made out of that (writers of TV comedy take note).

Ok, there is a chance that the target of these entertaining texts will actually read them. And that might just break the ice (or facilitate a very polite refusal) in the event that the two of them ever actually talk to each other. But please, Brunette, consider adding a bit more of a description. Why not wear an unusual brightly coloured shoulder bag or a distinguishing hair ornament? If you weren’t wearing anything eye-catching on the day you could still have said that’s what you’ll be wearing next time. You’ll have to be the one to break the ice unless you do that.

And for the avoidance of doubt, as the lawyers say, the gentleman wasn’t me and I’m not into shades of grey.

Example 2:

To the man with the white dog on the train from Clapham Junction on Saturday, I wish I’d written your number down before you got off at Feltham. Coffee sometime? – Smiley Brunette

Of course this is better. The description of the man is more precise, because fewer men have white dogs than have gym bags. And Smiley Brunette is a little more specific than Brunette.

On the other hand the description could have been improved by stating the time of the train at Clapham Junction. But maybe this isn’t so important, because the text suggests that they actually spoke. I deduce this because she writes “I wish I’d written your number down…” rather than “I wish I’d spoken to you.” So almost full marks here.

Next time, ask for an email or mobile number, or if really shy, at least a Facebook name. “Hey, are you on Facebook?” is a risk-free question. Actually, asking someone if they’d like to meet for coffee sometime is also risk-free. If they’re not interested (or married – check the left hand) they can always find a polite way of declining.

Lessons?

1. If you see someone you fancy, make some harmless remark (the weather, overcrowding on the tube, ‘nice gym bag, where did you get it?,’ ‘what kind of dog is that?,’ whatever) and see if a conversation develops;

2. If a conversation develops in a positive way, ask for a Facebook name/ email/ mobile phone number;

3. If you only think of these things when it’s too late and you text in to the newspaper, you need to be specific enough that the intended recipient has half a chance of knowing who you are. But I can’t help thinking that the ‘Rush hour crush’ column is the repository of lost dreams.

Why don’t we act on our desires? I’ll talk about fear of rejection another time, but it’s all imagination, really. The sky will not fall in.

Rush-hour crush – 3

Kudos to this one (from the Metro, Wednesday August 15):

To the attractive woman in the parka who got on the Northern Line on Monday, June 11. We broke the Tube rules and spoke to each other. We got off at London Bridge and went our separate ways after exchanging names. You have been in my thoughts ever since. – Guy in the black cashmere coat.

They exchanged names? But not phone numbers?

Kudos, because he actually spoke to her. Brilliant! How hard can it be? Just make some remark about something and see if a conversation develops or not.

Then say, hey, meet for coffee some time? Or just ask for her number?

Asking for a Facebook name is one option, and a non-threatening one because if she is just being polite she doesn’t have to respond to your ‘friend’ request later – or she can give you a false name. Then when you can’t find her on Facebook you can stop thinking about her and move on (the guy in the black cashmere coat is still thinking about her two months on, note). I can’t help thinking that asking for a Facebook name is a bit lame, though.

Asking for email is also likely to be perceived as less intrusive than asking for a phone number. Ask her to write it down for you (top tip: always carry a pen and a diary or small pad of paper). Some say that once she’s writing down her email you ask her to write her phone number underneath, since by now the ice is broken. Consider, however, not being too pushy, as that will not work in your favour.

What I have done (and this did work) is give a woman my number (written down). She rang me two days later.

These are a few ideas to work with. Which you do depends a lot on the situation. If you’re clearly getting on well I’d just ask for the phone number or else give her yours.

To the guy in the black cashmere coat: unless you see her again, you’ve blown it this time. But you have learned the most important first step. My advice: talk to other pretty women on the tube, and follow through by getting some phone numbers. If the woman in the parka turns up in your life again, excellent. If not, then don’t waste your time hoping. It’s in the lap of the gods.