Irreverent Mama

Saturday, July 15, 2006

A single friend was telling me about a frivolous, flirty exchange she'd recently had, and I replied with one of my own.

"Why are you flirting?" she says, trying but failing to hide her disapproval. "You're with someone!"

I gave her a long, quizzical look. A little gray at the roots, a few light wrinkles showing at her eyes, distinct lack of cherry-scented lip gloss. No, not a teenager. Surely no one past the age of, oh, twenty-three (at the outside) thinks that way? Really?

It led us to a very interesting discussion of the reasons and agenda for flirting. Yes, I'm with someone. The person I was flirting with knew that, because the man I'm with was with me. He, my man, is perfectly comfortable with my flirting (as I am with his), because we are both sure of the other's loyalty, and we both understand flirting in the same way. Neither of us sees is solely as foreplay, nor even primarily.

Me, I like the 18th-century model, when flirting was a social grace. Frivolous chat was expected. Clever banter, light-handed and tastefully suggestive, was admired. A man who couldn't flatter, a woman who couldn't tease, in oblique and quick-minded ways, were a detriment to a dinner party. It did not mean that these people would shortly be steaming up the conservatory, (though, as ever with humans, it existed as a possibility); it's just that sex wasn't the sole point. And flirting wasn't exclusive. A man and woman banter; a third person of either gender could join in, and the game just expanded. It was about social skill, not mere bedding.

Flirting is a safe way to express attraction and appreciation. Depending on the parties involved, they can certainly choose to act on that attraction, but it needn't. In and of itself, it's just talk. Play. Verbal cleverness. It adds a sparkle to a conversation, a liveliness to a gathering.

The younger a person is, the less likely they are to understand this. There is little subtlety to the sexuality of a twenty-something. You flirt with someone, you're indicating a desire to be getting naked with them in fairly short order. This is why I rarely flirt with anyone younger than myself. No sense in confusing the poor things. The older a person gets, however, the more nuanced sex and sexuality becomes. Thank God.

This is why I love fifty-something men. They "get" this. Their wives (usually) get it, too, so the fun is all-inclusive. (No fair flirting with someone if you can see it is sending their partner into a seething fury.) That gleam of appreciation, that welcoming smile, that twinkle of mischief in the eye; they add flair to the evening, life to the conversation. At the end of the evening? Everyone goes home with the person they came with.

And, if all goes as it should, puts all that positive energy to good use. :-)

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  • I get this.

    I think flirting is great! I flirt with everyone. Man, woman, 20 year olds, 50 year olds. It makes people smile, and I love to see people smiling.

    By Anonymous krista, at 10:41 a.m.  

  • I'm glad. I admit, when I posted this, I was afraid someone was going to come along and call me a tramp or some such.

    "It makes people smile". Yes, it does.

    By Blogger irreverentmama, at 7:09 p.m.  

  • Awesome!! Flirting, as you say, is an art, like clever conversation. It's also a skill, that is easy to lose!

    By Anonymous Naomi, at 7:58 p.m.  

  • That's why you just have to practice, practice, practice!

    By Blogger irreverentmama, at 4:04 a.m.  

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