I am a terrible flirt.
I don’t mean that in the usual sense of the phrase. There are folks who manage to glide through this world on a skateboard of seductiveness, charming people left and right. I’m not one of these people, which may have been apparent from my use of a phrase like ‘skateboard of seductiveness’. I am a genuinely, literally, terrible flirt.
This is partly because of social anxiety, and partly because of my natural baseline of immense awkwardness. I’ve never really understood what counts as flirting, and what doesn’t. There have been times when people have insisted to me that I was flirting with someone, when I thought I was just asking them about their day. There are other times when I’ve tried to flirt with people, and ended up talking about politics, or egg curry, or tentacle porn.
Experiences like these, plus the slightly off-kilter nature of my brain, have led to flirting being a solid fixture in my regular games of Anxiety Doublethink. It’s perfectly possible, when I’m talking to someone I like, for me to believe that I am simultaneously being poker-faced and inscrutable, and being so obvious that I might as well have ripped off my clothes, raised an eyebrow, and asked “Well?”
It’s not just my brain that gets in the way – my body likes to join in, too. Apparently, its favourite seduction technique is “inspire pity through general uselessness”. The highlight was the time I sailed off the edge of a dry ski slope in front of a boy I had a massive crush on, but I’ve also done a great deal of “try to perch on the arm of a chair, fall off and land heavily in crush’s lap”, which only leads to love in romcoms.
I often feel a sense of guilt about this – after all, as someone who’s supposed to be an adult, I should just be able to tell someone I like them, and deal with it if they don’t feel the same way. Even my awkward attempts at flirting can sometimes feel uncomfortably unfeminist, like I’m trying to conform to stereotypes that shouldn’t even exist (the idea that “Women shouldn’t be too
confident keen, it’s unattractive!” makes me want to vomit quietly in the corner).
But, the best-laid (bad choice of words there) plans of being a mature, confident adult crumble in the face of anxiety, awkwardness, and the underlying fear that any recognisable flirting would be met with screams of horror and men running gibbering into the night. (This has actually happened, which didn’t do my confidence much good).
Online dating is a little less daunting in that regard – the notification that someone’s clicked like on your profile is an electronic equivalent of a friend assuring you yes, he really does fancy you, he told me. Of course, there’s still the comic awkwardness of what I call the ‘So Moment’ (which happens when you’ve done your introductory talk, and your small talk, and your getting-more-personal talk, and you think that you might both be interested, and there’s a long silence and then a spoken or unspoken “…So.”)
I think I’m done with feeling guilty and/or worried about my flirting, or lack thereof. It’s neither a good nor a bad thing in and of itself (making moral judgements on people because of their flirting is, and I hope I haven’t come off as doing that here – do call me out on it if I have), but it may be time that I accepted that it’s not for me – and that’s okay.
Even so – if I offer you a spoonful of egg curry, I might think you’re cute. Just so you know.