At a party, we all play a specific role: the social butterfly, the wallflower, the comedian, the annoying drunk, the flirty married girl, the copper magnate, the Chinese industrialist, Dabney Coleman, etc.

For too long, my party role has been "the comedian." I rely solely on my wits to attract women -- wits some would argue seem to ebb a little as the party wears on. I end up sort of just saying stuff in the general direction of a woman I'm interested in, hoping, by some miracle, we end up in a cab together.

I don't have a backup skill. I've never learned a second language, taken up archery, water colored, become a krav maga blackbelt or made any serious commitment to my abs. I always just rely on being the funniest guy in the room to get a girl into bed -- but it doesn't always work. (Nobody ever got funny because they had great social skills, perfect bone structure and an infinity pool.)

I realized this at a friend's party one weekend not long ago. He goes by many names, but for our purposes we'll call him Coop. Coop's always throwing these things where he cooks up a storm, and I've always loved them and come just to eat, get drunk, and occasionally mistake his marinade bucket for a recycling bin. I never realized ol' Coop had a grand design that I was unwittingly part of. While I stumbled around enjoying Coop's cooking, telling jokes with barbecue sauce on my chin, Coop was manning the grill. Getting hit on by women left and right.

On this particular night, Coop had cooked up an Asian-inspired feast. He grilled, he glazed, he smothered, he made the best slaw I've ever put into my mouth. Sounds vaguely sexual, right? That's the design. At one point, after giving a gal's wings an extra brush stroke of sauce (cooking is so euphemistic!), she took a big bite, did a miniature swoon, and moaned, "The flavors, they're everywhere -- who are you?"

All this time I had simply ignored the fact that he was this incredible cook, and that his cooking seemed to effortlessly delight women, while I was walking around the party like a mildly concussed Dane Cook.

On my lonely cab ride home, it hit me: I needed a skill. Coop's skill.

The next day I called him and asked him to take me under his wing.

You're the Man Now, [Redacted]
After a brief chuckle over how I'd "hovered around that keg like a tap troll," Coop agreed. But with provisos. "If you really want me to teach you the ways of flavor, the first thing you need to identify is why knowing how to cook is important," he said, channeling Pat Morita, who sadly isn't around anymore to try Coop's cooking.

Coop explained that women don't just shove their panties in your mouth because you creamed some spinach. Unlike jazz or David Lynch movies, everybody loves food -- the sexiness of it lies in the mastery and the process.

"Look, you may not be tall, dark and handsome," he said (somewhat unnecessarily, I thought), "but if you can create a serious salsa from scratch and understand why roasting tomatoes is the key step in coaxing out that deep, smoky flavor, then maybe that girl you've been mouth-breathing on for the past hour might look past the fact you were acting like the keg's bouncer."

At this point, I admitted to Coop I didn't even know the difference between roasting and frying, or what a baking pan was, and copped to a deep-seated fear of the pilot light. (It's a flame that's always burning in your apartment!) I needed a crash course, or a montage, or one of those subliminal teaching tapes that you can buy on SkyMall. Alas, this was not the way of Coop.

I Could Cook a Peach for Hours
Coop patiently reiterated, like any good sensualist, that this was going to take time. The skill is impressive because it's not something you can pick up while you're at day camp or in prison for misdemeanor voyeurism. Like sex, cooking well requires trial and error; you've got to practice at home, by yourself and on other people (sometimes whole groups of them, if you get really good). Anybody can learn how to make a stir fry, just like anybody can learn to execute serviceable missionary. But do you really want to feed your guest serviceable missionary?

"Slow down," Coop told me sagely. "If you can make a wonderful, thoughtful meal for a lady, it will go a lot further than that stupid ping-pong joke that makes people want to cause you physical harm."

This sounded reasonable. People often do try to hurt me after that joke. And on subsequent occasions, I heard two different women take Coop aside and whisper something like, "I simply can't get enough of your sauce." I hadn't heard of horniness inspiring that level of terrible innuendo since I read Slash's autobiography. Slash! A man whose virtuosity allows him to wear a leather top hat and still get laid.

Because, really? If you're the kind of guy who would never pass a urine test required to serve in high public office, wear a fireman's uniform, or play professional sports, you pretty much have to have some kind of awe-inspiring skill.

It was either learn to shred guitar, or Napa cabbage. So I manned up, grabbed an apron, and started apprenticing.

Slow Food
About a month into cooking, I asked Coop if I was ready to start using my newfound prowess to impress women. He got all serious again.

"Look, [R], it can't all be about you and your penis. You have to want to do this for you, first, to round yourself out, to find another release." (I assure you -- this was all very heterosexual.) "It's therapeutic! And I know you can't afford actual therapy, so this could be very beneficial for you. Cooking is creative, it's thoughtful, and it's about being patient enough to do the work necessary to end up with something beautiful. You catching my drift?"

I wasn't.

Coop sighed and took away my whisk. "Look, it's about delayed gratification," he said. "I watch you. You hate delaying gratification, you want what you want, when you want it -- a little like a child. A child who haunts kegs."

I didn't love this idea of Coop "watching me" (and I was sort of weirded out by how he just kind of took that whisk away), but I was starting to catch his drift.

What's impressive about Coop's cooking -- and his way with women -- is the effort he puts into it. Something good takes that assiduousness to plan, to go the store, to shop, to buy, to prep, to cook, to rest, to plate, to enjoy and, eventually, to clean it all up. This isn't to say you can't whip up something quick and satisfying, but the point is -- it's a thoughtful process, and the cachet is in the effort.

"If you follow my lead," said Coop, "You'll get laid, and it won't be by someone who attends court-appointed therapy. So?"

I figure that if I can do this -- if I can actually create something nice for people -- then maybe, just maybe, I'll have a baseline of desirability. And I'm nearly at the point with my risotto that, if I can get just a forkful in a girl's mouth, I can tell her any joke I f**king want.

[Redacted] Guy once blacked out at a Benihana and woke up in Pat Morita's hot tub, only Pat was nowhere to be found, but the dude who screamed "Put him in a body bag, Johnny!'" during the first "Karate Kid" was there, running from an irate golden retriever. He ([Redacted]) lives in New York and sometimes drinks whole kegs.

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