in which we sit down without guns and discuss flirting, briefly and amiably, for a little while.

June 17, 2012

one problem with blogging as a collective is that sometimes it feels like everyone has said everything you wanted to say. that everyone’s covered all the aspects.

however, if someone sat down beside me, pressed a gun to my head and said ever-so-casually, I won’t smack a bullet in your brainpan if you talk- thoughtfully and coherently and for an hour without pause for anything but breath- about flirting, I’d probably be able to supply several hours’ worth of detail about the ins and outs of this intriguing social construct. Moreover, if the gunwielder were to ask thoughtful and thought-provoking questions, it’d practically be a counselling session. or a deep-and-meaningful. or a date.


Man, I wish I had a therapist who’d hold me at gunpoint and force me to have a counselling session. Psychologists are so expensive.


that. the intention behind flirting. why do people flirt? why do I flirt? I find intentions fascinating. I believe one’s intentions must, must inform and colour the other questions that follow: when do I flirt and who with? and there’s also the practical aspects of how one flirts, what one does, what one says. I’m less interested in that; a lot of that, I find, is instinctual. Or should be. but why is what fascinates me and what I find most difficult to puzzle out. Intent and motivation. Because the best type of flirting, after all, is a form of communication; in its whatmost form it is a method of saying I find you interesting. I am interested in you. Do you find me interesting? without actually saying so.

People can get a little bit drunk on the thought of being found interesting.

It is a method of gauging whether the other person is as interested as you are without stepping out too far and risking the possible awkwardness-or-worse of rejection. It is testing the waters, as it were, without the commitment involved in actually turning to the person and declaring, “I find you to be the most attractive person currently in this room. I have long been privy to this particular set of beliefs. I want your babies. I would also like to make out with you until your face, or mine, falls off from overuse.”


And it’s a game. It’s fun.

The best kind of flirting is all questions.


There is also flirting as a form of persuasion and occasionally manipulation. It has as its basis the do I interest you? but with more- pursuit. Less question and more command. More- likemelikemelikeme. LIKE ME. LIKE ME MORE.

The whole purpose of this kind of flirting is- is to make the other person want you. It can be less kind. It can be more selfish. It can also be, on the whole, much more contrived. But the lines blur, often, between questions and commands.

There, I’ve found, is when it becomes less a game and more something that hurts.


I find the intentions behind flirting difficult to pin down; I suppose that’s partly why they fascinate me. I am by no means an expert at any of this; I find my own intentions difficult to pin down. I have flirted with a wide and varied bunch of persons; I have at many stages told the world at large that I was flirting with it at large. I’m one of those people with blurred lines between flirting and simply being friendly. I’m not alone in that.

During university I liked to say I flirted with everyone I was comfortable with. I think that’s half-true; I also think it was simply because I like people. I am genuinely interested in people, always. Always. Every individual human being fascinates me deeply. And a widespread affection for peoplekind makes for generally-distributed affection in all directions. It can be interpreted as flirting; sometimes it is flirting, sometimes it isn’t. Whatever it is, whether there is romantic interest behind it or not, at its base is a kind of boundless curiosity and the intention to find out more about the person because- hey look! I like this person! This person is fascinating! This person finds me interesting! This is fun! At its base, then, I think for me the root feeling behind flirting and friendship is exactly the same.

This is a theory, and like all theories, it could be falsity. I’ve spent the better part of five hours and two thousand words trying to put my thoughts down into coherency, and have decided that it is not possible anymore. Instead, I give you, from personal experience:


The Four People You Might Intentionally Flirt With (and two of them you should probably avoid.)

1. TYPE ONE: the incorrigible.

This is the kind of person who flirts as often as they breathe. Usually a ladies’ man, if you’re female, or the equivalent if you’re male. What is the non-derogatory female equivalent of a ladies’ man? In any case, they’re hilarious fun to play with because you know they’re not serious, they know you’re not serious and you both know the other person knows all of this. You flirt with them because it’s so damn fun to be irresponsible and a little bit drunk with feeling. This kind of thing ends easily; sometimes it surfaces into a proper friendship, other times they walk off the face of the earth and you never see them again and don’t really mind that either.

2. TYPE TWO: the breakable.

This is the kind of person you don’t want to flirt with unless you’re Absolutely Serious and Very Interested In Pursuing A Romantic Relationship With Them. Actively avoid leading them on unless you actually want to break people. They’re the kind who will take your flirting as serious, whether or not it is intended to be. Also included in this category are a whole lot of Christians, particularly the kind who don’t believe in flirting without an intention to propose somewhere down the line. Avoid flirting with these people the way you would avoid a shark with human limbs sticking out from between its teeth whilst on a pleasant seaside holiday.

3. TYPE THREE: the one you consider.

By and large, this is the majority of the people you might intentionally flirt with, and sometimes this as a category can overlap the first two like a really sloppily-drawn Venn diagram. Mostly this kind of flirting continues lightly over the top of an actual friendship while you try to figure out who they are, really, and what they’re really like when you get over the whole buzz of I’m actually kind of attracted to this person heyyyyy. What you’re trying to figure out during this is a little bit whether this person is interested in you, and a lot whether you’re actually interested enough in them* to be properly, seriously interested. Since this is most people you’ll flirt with, mostly it’ll be a no. It’ll usually finish with your friendship a little deeper than previously, which is always pleasant. If, however, you decide you’re willing to be Interested and Serious… well, huzzah for you?

4. TYPE FOUR: the one that breaks you.

This tends to be the one that escapes through the metal grille of your criteria. Usually they start in Type Three and you bang up the bars and go no, they’re not this or that and they don’t see this the same way and this is crucial to my perspective of humanity. And while usually you might be very disciplined when it comes to your average Type Three, for this particular person you’ll break out the excuses. There will always be some reason why you’ll keep flirting with them. Usually because they’ve found your kryptonite. And the more you get to know them the worse it’ll get and the more you’ll ignore your criteria. This is a Bad Idea. Unless you’re willing to bend iron bars, your criteria exists for a reason: to keep you safe and within sensible boundaries.**

Next time, hide your kryptonite better.


*Assessment based on whether you have anything in common, whether you admire and respect them enough, whether you just click as people, whether you have similar tastes in humour and if you find the same things important, have similar perspectives on things and congruent life goals- in fact, all those decisions you make when you decide whether you actually want to be serious about someone. I have a whole stack of daunting criteria on purpose.
** This is of course assuming you use criteria of any kind.

19 Responses to “in which we sit down without guns and discuss flirting, briefly and amiably, for a little while.”

  1. Frith Says:

    “next time, hide your cryptonite better”. ❤

    I love this, it's lucid and sensible and a kid of truce i nthe all-out war kind of way I've been thinking about it 🙂

  2. Frith Says:

    I’d just like to add that my spelling was atrocious up there but it’s ok cause I know i messed up, I’m not unawares.

  3. marcherry Says:


    I like truces. I build most of my world carefully on top of them.

  4. Frith Says:

    And also, list-based humour, yess!

  5. That is such an excellent description of flirting, Val! 🙂 Very nicely done.

    Those are probably fair categories to make, too – though I’d add that I think a person can be all of those – perhaps a different one to a different ‘flirter’. I think the Christians who don’t believe in flirting without looking to marry down the line can also be in all of the four, to different people and/or at different times.

  6. yontan Says:

    I really like how you have battled through the intro/main body of flirting to arrive at those well defined categories. I will readily admit to having sat/am sitting in all 4 categories, depending on who is sitting opposite me. I hope people can work out which category I fall into for them.
    It’s not always so easy to tell which category someone is in.

    • marcherry Says:

      Really? I find that easier, personally. The categories were delineated from my own experience of flirters :). I would have thought it’d be much harder to consider which category you fit into for other people because that requires a decent knowledge of the other person’s brain. One can hazard a guess, but one can never really know, methinks.

      • do you need to know which category you are to the other person, really, though? don’t we just act according to which they are to us? e.g. if someone is the fourth, it doesn’t really matter which one you are to them – they’re still in the fourth and that’s what defines your own behaviour, yes?

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