When people ask me for sincere relationship advice, I tend to laugh at them.
This, more or less, is what I say: I write a blog about dating, sure. But the theme, generally, is my romantic failures; I’ve had one successful long-term relationship in the last six years; I reject people because they like me and pine for people who don’t. I have no business advising anyone about anything.
But when I talked to my DC friend A yesterday and she told me that I needed to give her some wisdom on how to flirt, it was not the first time a girlfriend had made a similar request. And for once, I didn’t laugh.
So here is a thing about me: I flirt with everything in my path. Much like my parents chocolate labrador, Clarence, consumes everything in his path–from pantyhose, to paper towels, to the occasional pair of designer eyeglasses–I do the same when it comes to flirting with men. (In my defense, I am quite a bit more discriminating than Clarence–and whatever indiscretion remains has not yet once caused my parents three thousand dollars in veterinary bills.)
I cannot tell you why I do this. It seems that it must be a matter of DNA: just as I am genetically predisposed to always take the wrong fork in the path, so am I wired to smile coquettishly at the attractive man in the room. Or, you know, the cute guy selling me coffee. Or teaching me yoga. Etc.
This personality trait is not something one can learn. You have it or you don’t, I’m afraid.
But there is an attitude that you can learn, and it is one that makes flirting a much less daunting endeavor.
Way back when I started this blog, I wrote about a “Golden Rule” of dating: one I’d gotten from a college friend who told me that I needed to assume every guy I meet finds me attractive.
I still believe this to be true. Not that everyone is attracted to me (I’m still working on that one) but that flirting is usually more successful–and more fun–with that thought in mind.
But now, without really realizing–until A asked me to express it–I’ve added a corollary to this rule: yes, you should assume every guy wants to sleep with you. And you should also assume that he won’t.
Assume he has a girlfriend. Assume he has emotional baggage. Assume he is incapable of being in a relationship. (If you’re in your late 20s, none of this should be a stretch.) Basically: assume that, despite finding you the sexiest thing since Lauren Bacall in heels, he has no intention of getting your number/asking you out/taking you home.
The thing about A is that her personality is pretty flirtatious, too: she’s totally witty, totally charming. She’s from Alabama, for Christ’s sake. But when she asked for my advice, she explained that whenever she goes out she winds up talking to the guys she knows aren’t available and doing everything to avoid those who are.
“It’s just so much easier,” she said. “I’m so much more comfortable talking to guys I know I can’t date!”
At which point I told her what I’ve just told you: that she has got to make herself that comfortable with everyone. And that the only way to do that is to pretend that none of them are really an option.
Her reply, of course, was a fair one: “Easier said than done.”
(Remember when I said I had no business giving advice? Still standing by that one.)
And I know it is. But so is it easier to talk about baking raspberry linzer cookes than it is to actually bake them. And that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. You just need to psych yourself up, find a little focus and treat yourself to occasional spoonfuls of expensive jam.
And with that, I will now return to my life: paying zero caution to the boundary between friendliness and flirtation, breaking hearts and having mine broken with the regularity of Clarence’s indigestion.