Flirting: The Oldest Form of Safe Sex

By Isadora Alman

Years ago the rules of courtship between men and women were unequivocal. Once properly introduced, if there was interest, he called (never she). After several calls, the couple might begin walking out together in public, an open announcement to all interested parties that they were an item. Eventually the two would marry and live, if not necessarily happily, undoubtedly ever after. If a man came calling and didn’t eventually propose marriage, or if the woman suddenly “wasn’t at home” when he again called – if either one of them breached the expected order of things – that person was labeled a flirt, not a good thing to be.

For the most part, we can be thankful that rigid courtship rules have gone the way of whalebone undergarments. Nowadays, two people can meet anywhere. She can phone first, or he can. Things might progress to a sexual friendship or one without sex…or even sex without friendship. Two people might date for awhile, exclusively or also seeing other people. They might or might not marry, or live together, be monogamous or have an open relationship.

But along with all these options come the multiplied possibilities of flubbing up. How can I be sure an attractive stranger is as presented -single, solvent and sane? Will he/she think me unliberated/pushy if I phone first? Do I really have to tell my life history again? And when it comes to “that”, will he/she think I’m insensitive for combining love with latex? This is serious stuff. If it’s such hard WORK to obtain or maintain a romance, then what happened to fun?

My dictionary defines flirting as “to touch lightly, to play at love”. A light touch has much to recommend it, but to play at love in a world so filled with peril as today’s seems foolhardy.

I propose reviving the art of flirtation precisely because it IS playing at
love. The point of the game is the game. The purpose of this playing “at” is to kindle, even if only momentarily, that joyous rush of self-esteem, intimate connection, and delight with the universe one has when first falling in love …with no muss, no fuss.

Principle #1: IT’S ALL IN THE EYES
Like baby games of peek-a-boo, acknowledgment of another person is primarily visual, literally “I see you”. In fact, flirtations are often entirely nonverbal. By holding a glance one mini-second longer than necessary one conveys: “I see you. I see you seeing me. Briefly we are WE.” Zap, instant intimacy without fear of heartbreak or diseases.

Principle #2: REMEMBER FUN?
Flirting is fun. She glances, he glances. She feels attractive, he feels attractive. Both of you can then go on with your lives feeling lighter, more up. If you see it as some kind of contest where you are a loser if the other person doesn’t smile back, well, then you are. It’s a game, remember, not war.

Flirting is an acknowledgment of the person, not the gender. (We’ve all seen people who perk up only at the sight of the “appropriate” sex, like the guy who enters a room full of other men and whines “There’s nobody here.”) Look beyond the obvious. Presumably anyone whom you’d flirt with has reached the age of dressing themselves. Therefore, a comment about how nicely their shirt matches their eyes is letting them know you have noticed, that they are worth taking notice of. Try for subtlety. Tell a Madonna type that you’re captivated by her wit or a would be Bill Gates that his little boy pout is sexy as hell.

A woman I know says that one of the sexiest things a man can do in her company is loosen his tie and roll up his sleeves. To her that implies both “I’m feeling comfortable” and “I might be ready for less formal activities.” The idea of a flirtation is not that it lead anywhere in particular, but that it MIGHT, or might have if things were different.

Let’s revive a dying art. What could it cost you? Joy is a transmissible condition too.

© Copyright Isadora Alman. All rights reserved.