How to Flirt

PEOPLE DESPERATE FOR relationships work themselves into an all-or-nothing frame of mind. Always poised for the kill, they have completely forgotten how to flirt

Flirting is wonderful: it’s free, won’t expand your waistline, and ranks close to Prozac as a tonic for general mental health. The beauty of flirtation is that, by definition, it leads nowhere. It plays at courtship without serious intention. Because you hold no expectations of scoring a “hit,” you free yourself from win-or-lose anxiety. Love is like lottery: you can’t win if you don’t play. But flirting is its own end, a means of giving pleasure to hundreds without depleting one drop of vital energy. Not least, it expands your imaginative possibilities.

Let me explain.

A well-targeted flirtation is like a smart tap on someone’s shoulder. You have no control over how your object responds. You might get attitude, a nod and returned smile, or advancement to the next step of chatting someone up to closure, which means anything concrete like an exchange of phone numbers, a future date, or slinking off together. Flirting announces that you are socially approachable, not sexually available as is often misunderstood. (To think so would be a rude presumption even though possibly true, which is why sexual innuendoes label you as a slut rather than a flirt.) Other no-nos include demands, smart comments, and whining.

You flirt with whoever takes your fancy. It’s a spontaneous thing. If you complain that you can’t meet anyone to flirt with, you are confused; you’re not supposed to be trying to meet anyone, you are only flirting. “How to meet people” is a separate department. The answer to When to flirt is “right now.” What to say is guided by taste and restraint, understanding that flirting is done in regular circumstances, the more traditional the better.
Remarking, “What a firm handshake you have! It makes me wonder what your hugs are like” pushes the edge of directness, whereas the sidelong glance, sheepish smile, or plain saucyness is more subtle. At either end of the scale delivery is forthright, never tentative. Any sharp person will be able to develop your signal into something interesting in a jiffy. What you signal in your desire to make someone’s acquaintance is potential and a new realm of possibilities. Ambiguity allows you to deny your intentions completely if things don’t turn out as hoped.

The proper reply to no response is a puzzled look as if to suggest your recipient is deaf, the implication being that he is too stupid to realize he’s been paid a compliment by your attention.

Should you find yourself on the receiving end of someone’s interest, you must never act as if you are so socially desirable that admiration is your due. That someone is not your type is beside the point. Always be gracious to everyone, especially those who flatter you tastefully. “Thank you” or a slight nod is all that is required. Anything more, especially too surprised a look on hearing a compliment, encourages elaboration. Be prepared.

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