Flirting: A Personal History
Flirts can feel themselves going into “the bit” and can sense their friends roll their eyes at “the bit”. Whether they’re the woman asking unsuspecting bar staff what time they “get off” or the man telling a woman that her “face looks very familiar”, it will be a tried and tested shtick.
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My mum has this story she likes telling. When I was eight years old, I noticed there were builders outside working on our house. She heard the front door open and close and looked outside. There I was, standing in my best dress, chatting to them; asking about the work they were doing and offering them snacks and drinks. I kept popping out, all afternoon, just for a hair-twirl and a chat. From then she knew that I was destined to be a flirt.
She was right; that is what I am. A committed one. I am a fully-paid-up member of this club along with Geri Halliwell and Robbie Williams and Nigella Lawson. Rod Stewart pouring the drinks, Carey Grant on the decks. Russell Brand passing around the nuts, Rod Hull’s Emu telling funny stories. We are all in here, having a right old laugh. Giggling at each other’s jokes and complimenting each other’s shoes and arses.
The routine is not subtle, I am no great seductress. My brand of flirting is a bit Carry On; the friendly, chatty sort that has secured me a life-long friend in the owner of my corner shop and means I am more often than not remembered by my friends dads as being “good fun”. A flirt works out their routine and will rehearse it until they see results; making friends at every turn, shaving down prices of bar bills and rent. Blagging fags and tickets and taxis.
Flirts can feel themselves going into “the bit” and can sense their friends roll their eyes at “the bit”. Whether they’re the woman asking unsuspecting bar staff what time they “get off” or the man telling a woman that her “face looks very familiar”, it will be a tried and tested shtick. Sometimes people are charmed by it and sometimes it falls flat on its arse, but the ones who will find the performance most exhausting and embarrassing are the ones who are closest to the flirt.
As you grow up, things start getting in the way of all the no-strings-attached coquetting. Firstly, you fall in love and you realise that this is a particular hobby that isn’t easy to keep up when you’re in a relationship. The closer you get to someone, the more apparent it becomes that your idea of harmless fun makes the person you care most about feel insecure, jealous and more often than not, just really embarrassed.
You also develop an annoying thing as you move into adulthood – empathy. Bloody empathy. It’s an amazing and yet incredibly irritating realisation that you are somehow connected to absolutely everyone, not just the people in your life. That no one is anonymous, that you owe total strangers nothing but respect and kindness. The moment inevitably comes when you understand that you CAN’T just flirt with whomever you like — they might have a serious significant other, or they might have genuine interest in you that is unreciprocated. Your idea of harmless fun comes at the cost of their upset, their jealousy and more often than not, just their serious embarrassment.