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His wife stays indoors, in the cool, looking after their son. Throughout my visit, I catch only glimpses of her. She has requested not to be interviewed for this article, a reluctance I can well understand. His wife is Ingrid, the much-messed-about girlfriend who first insisted he seek treatment.

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After a whole load of therapy and self-examination, Strauss explains, they met at a wedding. Their son was born this spring. That life would be boring. He has the bemused, raw-red eyes of the parent of a six-month-old. His beard shows grey. He looks happy and absolutely exhausted. Therapy, marriage, fatherhood were not the only things that prompted Strauss to change his thinking.

Shortly after he reunited with Ingrid, he met a woman in a bar who knew of his books and seemed to want to sleep with him. She sarged him, basically — kneeling down and miming giving him a blowjob. Embarrassing in the moment, unpleasant when he had to tell her no. They just might like you enough to go along with it. A technique to end up making out?

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It was more about being terrified of rejection, and getting over that. The techniques got him there.

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  7. Lost on a wider world, too. But then it became a part of the culture. And it became a reason for women to be afraid of guys. Strauss is trying to do something about this.

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    Even a decade later, he has found he still has Game readers who look to him expectantly. They follow him on social media, subscribe to his mailing list.

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    Then I did a book about, like, how I learned not to be lonely and get out of friend-zone with girls. I think a lot of those people who started to listen to me wanted instruction, advice — life guidance. When his son was born, Strauss put a baby picture on his blog along with the message: He tells me he does not regret writing The Game, nor what people might have taken away from it. The seminars he arranges these days tend to focus on ways for men to become more content or confident without resorting to cynical bar-trawling.

    The goal now is really to be OK with yourself, to not need anything else. To this end, Strauss has convened seminars on improving posture and public speaking, dressing better, eating better. And there have been more emotionally-charged gatherings: Cultural shorthand, Strauss knows, will have him down as the creep who wrote The Game for a while yet. And the question is, can you keep growing?

    Death of a Pickup Artist

    Or are you going to get stuck somewhere? Outside the villa, in the driveway, Strauss and I wait for a cab to collect me. The vintage Corvette from his Game days is parked out there.

    An electric golf buggy — boxy, small, nakedly ridiculous. If he needs to get about the neighbourhood, Strauss says, he hums around in that.

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    I think about that word. I think of Ingrid, whose heart I broke, whose friends threatened to kill me. The nurse looks up. She smiles sympathetically and continues looking through my intake folder. She opens a drawer, removes a red square of paper, and writes my first name and last initial on it in black marker. Then she slips it into a small plastic sleeve and loops a long piece of white string through it.

    Red is for sex addicts. And the red two group is in therapy with Joan. There are eight huge words on it: Which ones are you experiencing right now?

    I scan the display for crawling dread, for utter worthlessness, for total confusion, for intense regret, for rule-hating frustration. I am now officially institutionalised. Shame is about who you are. She has pasty skin, blue-black hair, lots of piercings and the look of a vampire. From the other direction, a woman with long blond hair pouring out of a pink baseball cap saunters to the reception desk.

    I think what I always think, what every man always thinks: Her tag is blue.