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January 09, 2010


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Practice flirting with a toddler? I guess your definition of flirting is different from mine. (Which may be why I am no good at it.)

Next time you're hanging with a toddler, notice how much of the magic has to do with eye contact and smiling, and how much of it is about what you're actually saying. I think you'll find it's a lot closer to flirting than to conversation.

Yeah but I'm not sure I'll keep many women enthralled with a toy tractor and sweets.

OK, the sweets will probably help.

(NB: Speaking as someone who is happily married, but who never was any good at the flirting thing and eventually gave up and moved to internet dating.)

My 18-m.o. son is an incorrigible flirt. A few months ago he actually turned away from an admiring store clerk and then smiled over his shoulder at her.

If I may extrapolate to more adult interactions: a common mistake among uncertain adults (males?) when making eyes at someone is to either stare too intently ("do you see me? I see you!" - creepy) or be genuinely embarrassed when caught looking ("omigod, she saw me looking"). The key is to give a quick smile ("you caught me") and then look away, ideally at your companion, who is saying something interesting ("I am capable of healthy verbal interaction").

For verbal flirting, I'd say the key is not trying too hard - it's not about being the most interesting or funny person, just being a non-dud. Make normal small talk and, when you get the chance, say one funny (or, possibly, insightful) thing. Not canned lines, obviously - the point is that flirting is small talk with a little extra energy, which comes out in you saying something that you wouldn't say to your boss or your maiden aunt.

Non-sexual flirting with clerks is great advice (as is everything Sherry said - I'm barreling forward with straight advice because I think she already did a great job laying the groundwork). Obviously you don't want to be a creep who's hitting on the poor clerk (who can't escape), but it's good practice for turning a basically blah interaction into a moment where you say something bright that catches the other person's attention, however briefly.

Most important thing for this sort of flirting: it HAS to be in response to something she says. The whole point is that you're responding to her (because you think she's interesting) in a way that expresses your desirability (because you're witty/insightful AND you pay attention). In the case of a clerk or librarian, you're obviously not responding to their inner person, but you should try to key to what they're saying, not just drop some cliche about shopping or libraries.

One last insight, courtesy of Douglas Adams: whatever a person's deal is, that person is used to hearing a certain pat response that the respondent thinks is clever and/or amusing*. Your minimum goal is NOT to say that thing. Obviously, you can't get caught up overthinking it; my point is that you should be inspired to go past your first response, which is probably an exhausting (and exhausted) cliche. So if you find out a woman's an (aspiring) actress, don't ask if she waits tables (ha ha), or what her favorite movie/play/director is (predictable attempt to draw out conversation). Ask, I dunno, Did your parents always call you a drama queen?**, or Is it exhausting trying to be someone else for hours at a time?, or something. It doesn't have to be brilliant - just try to get past that first cliche, which will get you an extra few minutes of opportunity.

* the example from Adams is a woman who plays the double bass, and everybody asks, "wouldn't it be easier to carry a violin?"

** this may be a stupid line; I only think of it because it's what my wife's mom always called her, and she was, indeed, interested in acting

Has the asker seen this: http://www.sirc.org/publik/flirt.html

My favourite bit so far is "Almost any participant sport or hobby can involve flirting. The level of flirtatious behaviour, however, often tends to be inversely related to the standards achieved by participants and their enthusiasm for the activity. You will generally find a lot of flirting among incompetent tennis players, unfit swimmers, cack-handed potters, etc., but somewhat less among more proficient, serious, competitive participants in the same activities."

Most of this stuff is way above my head, but I will caution against the cliche "Don't try too hard."

This is good advice for the naturally forward but for the naturally shy (such as myself) nothing is going to happen unless you try a good deal harder than normal.

Likewise "Just be yourself". Obviously being themselves hasn't worked up till now, so they have to CHANGE.

"Ask, I dunno, Did your parents always call you a drama queen?**"

I assume S. already knows this, but just in case, don't get drawn toward Game type flirting or behavior, which seems essentially to consist of "humorously" insulting women until you find one with sufficiently low or high self-esteem not to be put off by a stranger's insults.

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Rhubarb Pie

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