By Hanne Blank
Many people think of flirting as just an old-fashioned way to chat up a potential date. I, on the other hand, think of flirting as a thoroughly modern art of playful social self-assertion - the practice of a sort of verbal and expressive game that can serve to test the waters, smooth the path and grease the wheels of almost any situation. Flirting can, of course, also be a top-quality means of sweet and serious seduction. But the seductive side of flirting is almost a by-product in many ways: the real art of flirting, the real meat of the matter, is the joy of the chase, the delight one takes in playing the game well.
After all, flirting well is not so much a matter of talent - anyone can make small talk - but of skill. It's the skill of figuring out how to amuse, surprise, flatter, intrigue and engage the people you flirt with. Do it right, and flirting is automatically charming even in its most G-rated form. Let a little more of your inner Mae West out to play and it can send tingles right down to the toes. It's fantastically fun, and a lot easier than many women think.
The secret of flirting is to just have fun. Honest - it only works if you don't take it (or yourself) too seriously. Trust me, attitude is everything! When you're having fun flirting, everything about you, from your wit to your walk, becomes more attractive - and all you have to do is keep enjoying it. That's what makes a flirtation successful.
When you're enjoying yourself, your expression will make it obvious that you are a fun person, out to enjoy yourself and the people you meet, sharing your smile and the infectious twinkle in your eye. Subtle as they are, facial expression and body language are important. Many a fine flirtation has taken place through glances exchanged across a quiet library or a crowded party, an arched eyebrow or a silent giggle speaking volumes. Your facial expressions can be as effective as words, so use them to your advantage. Try on one of the classic flirt facial expressions: looking up at your conversational partner with your chin tilted slightly down lends your face an irresistible look that's equal parts openness, intelligence and tell-me-more-I'm-fascinated.
Gestures and expressions aside, the mainstay of flirtation is talk - talk that both intrigues and reassures. Intriguing someone is good for all the obvious reasons, but reassurance is necessary, too. Anyone making a new acquaintance wants to know that you have good intentions, that you're not lying in wait to slay them with some poisonous barb, unwanted proposition or other nasty ambush. Playing to mutual experience - the weather, a particular activity you happen to both be engaged in (even if it's waiting in line to get your driver's license renewed), some bit of the immediate landscape - is a good place to start. These kinds of topics are not too personal or threatening, and are known to you both.
At the same time, creativity is worth a bundle. What you want is something innocuous yet a little unusual; something that will catch your flirting partner's attention and let them know that yes, the lights are on, and someone interesting is at home. "The weather sure has been nice recently," only counts as flirting if it's been pouring buckets for two days and you deliver it with a glare at the droplets pelting the window and a saucy, conspiratorial grin. Better still is something more off-the-cuff, like the young man I recently shared an elevator with who pointed to the elevator buttons and said, with surprise, "Wow, there's a thirteenth floor - that almost never happens!" Almost instantly, we were having a merry chat about noticing evidence of old superstitions in our supposedly too-scientific-to-care world, and having a fabulous chat on our way to the seventeenth floor.
And that is the point of flirtation: to have a fabulous time talking to people whom you otherwise might never have chatted up. Flirting, not baseball, should be the national pastime - what's not to like about a game that's fun for everyone who plays it? It can be played by anyone, no matter whether they're beginners or professionals, and requires no equipment other than the willingness to try.
Not only is flirting easy, available, and fun, but when it comes to romance, flirtation is an utterly fabulous litmus test. You can tell volumes about someone by the way that they flirt with you. Are they quick on the rebound? Do they seem to enjoy making you smile? Does the person you're flirting with get flustered easily, and how do they react if they do? What's their sense of humor like? Much of what you can tell about someone by flirting translates into other aspects of a possible interaction - and to be sure, they can tell the same things about you. Listen closely and you may hear the sound of a flirty new relationship going click!
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