The flirting gene
‘Help! I’m not a born flirt’, I can hear some of you say. Wrong. You were born a fabulous flirt. We were all born fabulous flirts. Psychologists believe that flirting skills are hard-wired into the human species. Since the Stone Age, we have instinctively flirted to help us identify and attract the most likely mates for successful breeding and care of the resulting offspring.
Nowadays, however, flirting is not just a vital means of identifying your best bet for a partner, it’s also a basic form of communication between people in any social setting. It simply goes into a higher gear in romantic and sexual situations. The good news is that you can develop this innate flirting ability to a state-of-the-art level. I’ll show you how you can do this with aplomb.
First, though, we need to get something sorted out. Isn’t flirting all about being a manipulative coquette, being fluffy and getting round guys – if you’re are woman. That’s not the philosophy of the independent, 21st-century female, surely? Or if you’re a guy, using all you seductive powers to get women to bed? What would metrosexual man have to say about this, I wonder?
So, what are the meanings attached to this often misused term?
The conventions of coquetry
I remember my grandmother telling me how a ‘lady’ could make herself more desirable to a ‘gentleman’. Before appearing she should take a gentle breath and silently articulate the word ‘brush’, which should leave her lips enticingly parted so that they were like ‘the petals of a new rose just bursting into bloom.’
“Modesty: the gentle art of enhancing your charm by pretending not to be aware of it.”
This glorious strategy was, I suspect, one among many listed in Victorian books on charm and etiquette for attracting the attentions of men. Visual signals, accessories and metaphors of dress were used to communicate indirectly with the object of your interest. The fan lent itself to a whole language of flirtation. (Actually, I’ve always had a sneaky suspicion it was invented to mask gusts of bad breath emanating from mossy fangs – the result of poor dental hygiene).
Flirting has been associated both with the demure heroines of Jane Austen novels and the thrusting breasts and pouting lips of Hollywood sex sirens: from the barely expressed through to the most brazenly explicit. What’s going on? The dictionary defines flirting in many ways – most of them implying superficial or pretend courtship. For example: ‘To try to attract sexually without serious intent’; and ‘One who pays or invites attention merely for amusement.’
“A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony, in a moment.
Jane Austen, Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice
Next Flirt School post – how to connect with your own inner flirt.