On Flirting: The Meeting of Eyes and Ayes and Is: Part I–Theory
December 8, 2008 1 Comment
So enjoyed your last few posts which–as it happens–coincide with what I wanted to write you about anyway: flirting. I’ve conducted a smallish experiment and am eager to share the results with you.
But first, let me agree wholeheartedly with your assessment of the sexes’ attitudes toward pizzle and cooch instrumentality. Yes! Having read figleaf a bit, you’ve no doubt noticed that one of his major pet peeves is the “No Sex Class”–not just a population but a whole system built around the self-evident truth that men always want sex and women never do. That what is in fact being transacted across a room when people make eyes at each other is a tricksy rhetoric by which a man convinces a woman to let him do something to her that she doesn’t particularly want done.
Returning for a moment to the question of sexual fantasy, I’m going to offer a slight corrective to figleaf’s lucid cultural critique: wrongheaded as it is, I think this might, in fact, be the biggest unacknowledged fetish in Western culture. The pretense that women don’t want sex (or some sort of contact) is a HUGE fantasy that fires the imaginations and loins of the lusty, and it has the benefit of being sufficiently widespread (heh) that it doesn’t need Craigslist postings or special outfits to be enacted in bar after bar the world over.
I am loath, therefore, to repudiate the model completely, as the girl’s role is one I am used to playing (“playing” is the key word) and actually quite enjoy.
Stating the obvious: playing is fun!! And as we get older there are fewer and fewer games available to us.
The danger obviously arises when one or both parties forgets that the whole thing is a game. When men really begin to believe that the pizzle’s demands must be met through a complicated game of actual and malicious deceit (as opposed to playful trickery), and women use the hoohah as a reward for good behavior, dinners, etc., that’s when things get terribly sad. And there’s nothing more fundamentally unsexy than sadness.
And YET! Lest I become an apologist for the sheer jouissance that the status quo sexygames bring, let me say that the above danger is quite quite real. The role can seep into your reality. Sort of the way Second Life marriages can end real ones.
This, I think, explains why both you and I relate to our bodies as things we grant access to. And why the gentlemen can summon existential firecrackerness from the hole through which they pee. Somewhere along the way playing house turned terribly real. This is the opposite of my objection to fantasy–that it seems impossible to make the pretend scenario come true. Here the risk is that the fantasy might take over real life. Huge danger. The whole appeal of fantasy is that it’s otherworldly–it absolutely cannot survive with texture and dimension in a real world. The contact between the two is detrimental to the sparkles of the imagination and the sensations of the real nervous flesh. And it’s hell on the emotions.
This preface became very long. Sorry.
In the face of this problem–and the fact that, game or no, I in fact am totally passive when it comes to initiating contact with the opposite sex and can’t imagine doing otherwise, which means that somewhere along the way my way stopped being a game and became a corset–I’ve decided to learn how to flirt.
Some caveats, as I think a definition of some kind is in order:
- I’m more wedded to the “play” idea of the war between the sexes than most. That is, I can talk to anyone in a playful and potentially flirty way, provided it is absolutely clear that there is another and more dominant context available. In other words, I can “flirt” easily and comfortably when it’s crystal clear to both parties that we are in fact talking about the Electoral College or George Carlin or Chekhov. Any other subtexts are just that. We are first and foremost two unsexed people having an innocent conversation.
- I do this because I like feeling the little surges and eddies of interest that arise despite the fact that we are talking about a distinctly unsexual topic. What’s more, I like the challenge of complex conversation while managing to shimmer with a little of the other. I like the demonstration of linguistic and intellectual dexterity, both in myself and in my interlocutor.
- However, I’m USELESS at the kind of flirting that begins as a bare and unabashed expression of sexual interest. This, then, is the kind of flirting I’m trying to learn.
By flirting then, I mean the sort of thing that theoretically happens when someone goes into a bar: the eye contact that happens across a room. The glances, the looks away, the smiles—all that happens when the invitation to talk first blooms. The thing, in other words, that can get pure strangers to meet.
My problem: When I catch so much as a glimpse of someone’s eye, I look furtively away, mortified, and resolve to NEVER EVER look in that direction again. Why? Why do I feel like I’ve just downed a helping of Vulnerable poached in Shame? Why do I experience this as an insult to my pride? It’s absurd. It’s hopelessly unplayful. So I’m getting over it.
This has gotten unreasonably long, so I’ll end it here and write you with the actual Experiment (and results!) shortly.
(For Part 2, click here.)