A little while ago while I was in my self-imposed no-dating hiatus, I was chatting with a guy named Brent whom I’ve known casually for several years.
I’ve always liked him as a person, but never, not once, looked at or thought about him as more than that. As we were arranging our chairs at the coffee shop, my hand accidentally brushed his leg, and he made a joke about how that was the most flirting he’d experienced in a while. I replied that I was strictly on the wagon in terms of dating and flirting.
He looked a little surprised and disappointed. “So all this time when we’ve talked you weren’t flirting? You were just being friendly? You had no interest in me?”
So I told him that no, I had never flirted or had that type of interest in him. Being the meticulous investigative reporter that I am (not really, but with my CIA-like interrogation tactics, I might as well be), I then asked what I had done or said to make him think that. He recalled warm smiles, friendly hugs, witty repartee, focused attention, and the occasional unintentional bodily contact (my hand, his arm). If you’ll note, he did not once mention sexual innuendo.
And that got me thinking: where do you draw the line between flirting and just being friendly?
If I’m just being my usual affable self and a man thinks he is going to get lucky that night, should I always preface my humorous anecdotes with: “By the way, I’m not interested in you”? And here’s another thing: these days politeness has become so rare that people mistake it for flirtation. So in order for my basic pleasantness to not be construed as flirting must I be aloof, suspicious, or play deaf all the time? Do I have to be quiet, rude or speak with a heavy accent so that every guy on the planet doesn’t assume I’m secretly fantasizing about him?
But then I thought: dang that’s a lot of work. And honestly, I’m much too lazy to accommodate everyone I speak with as though I’m serving airline meals. Gluten-free for him, vegan for them, a juicy steak for that guy. I just want to be able to be myself—friendly, approachable, and fun—without worrying that the guy is memorizing his proposal speech.
So I figured I would compromise. if I want to keep being friendly, I’m just going to have to be more assertive about my boundaries and more honest about what I want or don’t want. In other words, I’ll just have to risk bruising a guy’s ego and/or looking like fool by saying that I’m not interested the minute I see that look in his eyes. You know, the one that says “I’ll stop at the 24-hour Walgreen’s to pick up a 12-pack of condoms tonight.”
Hey, buddy, I just asked if that seat was taken.
“The smiles, the hugs, the witty retorts,” I told Brent. “That’s not me flirting with you. That’s just me being friendly.”
He frowned. “Damn. So much guesswork is required on the part of a man to know whether he’s justified in asking a woman out or not.”
“Here’s a thought,” I suggested. “Rather than rely on cryptic messages and guesswork, you could always just ask her.”
“Huh.” He sat back in his chair and thought for a moment. Then he eyed me with a grin. “Wait a second. Are you just playing hard to get?”
Holy crikey. Flirting or friendly misinterpretations aside, sometimes there’s just no accounting for idiocy.
Selena Templeton is a blogger with JenningsWire Online Magazine. For more posts by Selena please visit here.
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