Read the beginning of this behemoth here.
And in case you were wondering after that impressive cliffhanger in the last episode,
all of the things mentioned in the previous post are things I’ve done with male friends who are... well, ‘just’ friends.**** They know it, I know it. We’re hanging out – like friends do. Like I do with any friends, according to what kind of person they are and what we both enjoy. We’re not flirting. Then again, when I was trying to get my former boyfriend to notice me (the only boy I’ve ever run after, really) I did exactly the same things. I played soccer with him – and enjoyed it. I met his friends. We hung out together and talked a mile a minute and shared personal stuff. And, eventually, he started getting that look in his eye. It all started to look a bit different. More on this later (and the end – well, the start – of the story). What made the difference, in my opinion, was our intentions. Though we weren’t doing anything overtly flirty or particular, our intentions showed. Flirting is “interaction with intent”. Like loitering with intent. Very like, in fact!
So how the hell does one flirt? When I was 19, adrift in England and impeachably naive, I remember asking my very awesome flatmate that very question in frustration. She called me some kind of silly name and told me “just do sweet things for him and see what he does, I dunno man”. It stuck. And at the risk of over-analysing an offhand comment, I think it’s the spirit of the rule here, and the complete absence of a letter of the rule to stick to, that works. It emphasises intention rather than action, and acknowledges that every person and situation is different. I heard the sweetest example of this advice in action once, from a flatmate’s flatmate’s flatmate. The flatmate in question worked at a cafe and one of the chefs had, by the sounds of it, a massive thing for her. Much-discussed were the individualised pikelets, in the shapes of her favourite kinds of dinosaurs, that he made for her and her alone. That is the kind of sweet, personal thing we’re talking about here. I can’t tell you to go and make whoever it is you’ve got the hots for a dinosaur pikelet, because, you know, context-dependent. Your desired object of affection might hate dinosaurs.
So what can I tell you? Not much, apart from ‘be yourself’. There are few things worse than having to pretend you’re someone other than your real self if you do hit it off – except, probably, finding out that the person you’re going out with or whatever is faking being someone else. That’s rough. Well, I can’t give any hard and fast rules, but what I can do is leave you with another story of my own as demonstration of what worked with me. Which is how former boyfriend and I finally got past the “HAI YOU’RE COOL” stage. It was the end of summer and all our friends were back in town for the impending beginning of uni. We two had spent the summer together, doing tramps around the wild parts of Wellington, hanging out in town, plotting parties. We’d got to know each other a bit for four months or so. And we were, with our mates, all going to see an outdoor movie in the Botanical Gardens. The movie was ‘Blade Runner’. To this day, I don’t know what happens in Blade Runner. Because we all sat down in a little huddle on the grass and, tactile bunch that we are, leaned up against each other to watch in comfort. I asked this guy if I could lean on him. Yes. Was he comfortable? Yes. Was I too heavy now? No. We all sat and snuggled and our arms were braced together against our combined weight on the dusty grass. I shifted and he shifted, and his arm was round my back. He picked up my hand and held it. I brushed my thumb against his palm. Etc. Etc. I won’t bore you with more details. What I’m talking about here is the back-and-forth of flirting, the is-this-cool and if-I-then-would-you and what-will-you-do-now escalation. The way little, everyday actions, a cuddly bunch of friends at a movie, turns gradually into something different, more, until there’s almost no doubt left what’s happening.
I have problems with doubt. I doubt, sometimes, the stars are fire. And when I really, really don’t want to make a mistake, I’m pretty conservative in making decisions. I like to be sure. After the outdoor movie, it took a whole night of hanging out and talking and dancing with this guy before I was sure enough to act. Luckily, I’d read the signals how they were meant to be read. But how do you know if the signals you’re getting are the right ones?
I took the foolhardy route and just snogged himself in an alley. But the sensible thing to do? I recommend asking. If you want to know if your suspicions are correct and whether to proceed with them, or you want to make sure you’re not being misunderstood, you can always open your mouth and use your words. You can bring it up matter-of-factly and, I reckon, do it without making any bones about it (If you ask a vague question, you might get a vague answer and worry yourself again about what it “actually” means. Not good). Be the adult you are – watch people’s reactions. Interact pleasantly. See people as humans. Be honest. Be brave. Talk.
And if you bomb, well, I can tell you it’s not the end of the world. Go forth, my friends, and flirt again.
**** Before you ask, sleeping by my various guy mates has occurred under various circumstances, but the closest anything got to pants business was the one guy who passed out or fell asleep (hard to tell) in my lap. I hadn’t the heart to wake him. He ended up with creases from my onesie covering one side of his face. I was wearing an oversized polar-fleece jumpsuit and looked like Tinky-Winky. He was drunk and sleepy. Not a recipe for romance.