Monday, March 31, 2008

Flirting: A refresher course

I was sipping my cocktail -- one of those "martinis" where the only thing martini-like about it is that it's served in a martini glass -- at a bar Saturday night when my friend announced, "I want to practice flirting."

Like many of us post-relationship, she's a little rusty on chatting up people in bars and clubs and such. So our night out turned into a fun little flirting workshop. And since she made some common mistakes, you get to benefit from her blunders.

Here's what out-of-practice flirters have to remember: Flirting is like dancing -- salsa dancing, really. When the girl steps back, the guy steps forward. When the guy moves back, the girl moves forward. It's a sexy push and pull, and you're working together. And women, this is the most important thing: while there are some fearless (or reckless, or clueless) men who will flirt with anyone at any time, most guys will wait and watch for some sign -- an invitation to dance, if you will -- that lets them know they won't be shot down if they approach. No one likes rejection.

Which brings me to my first lesson.

1. My friend claimed she was a master of the across-the-room flirt, which is mostly in the eyes. Look, look away, look back. I asked her what she did when the guy she was looking at finally came over. "I run away," she admitted.
The lesson here: "You have to commit," I told her. If you're using the sassy eyes on someone, you're telling them without words you're interested. People who do stuff like that, then bail, might be thought of as teases, and that could get you hurt. It's also rude. But more on this later.

2. Here's a snippet of our conversation:
Me: ... You have to watch body language. Remember the guy who was here next to me ordering a drink? His body language was open -- did you see how he was facing me, so all I had to do was --
Her: What guy?
Me: That really cute guy who was right here less than five minutes ago. He had positioned himself so that --
Her: What cute guy? I didn't even see him!
The lesson here: I think I say this in every blog about the dating scene, but that's because it's crucial: YOU HAVE TO PAY ATTENTION. The father of my friend's children could have been standing next to me, and she missed him. You've got to be ON -- all the time really, if you're looking for a mate, but turn it up when there are a lot of available people milling around.

3. My friend set her sights on a man she wanted to practice on. He'd passed us earlier and when their eyes met, she smiled and he smiled back, holding her glance an extra beat. ("But he didn't stop!" she wailed. "You didn't help him!" I shot back. "He looked at you and all you had to do was say hi. You have to give him reason to stop." The dance, remember?)
In full wingwoman mode, when he passed us again I snagged him. In less than a minute he was sitting with us. But my friend had decided within the first couple of minutes she wasn't interested anymore. I wound up talking to him more than she did.
The lesson here: Back to lesson one: Commit, even if it's only three minutes before you use your escape strategy. You've done the work to get the dance going -- there's no graceful way out after only a couple of moves. I reminded my friend that she said she wanted to practice. You're not going to date every person you flirt with. OK, the person isn't who you thought they were going to be. Keep the stankface at bay and converse for a few minutes, then move on.

Another reason flirting is like dancing: you may step on a few toes in the beginning, but you become more proficient over time. My friend might have stumbled a bit, but at least she's back on the dance floor. You never learn if you never try.

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