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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

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What Kind of Flirt Are You?

Research shows people flirt with one of no fewer than six different reasons. Some people still are looking for a mate, of course. But we also like to flirt because we enjoy it. This kind of flirting "is kind of like racquetball," says Dave Henningsen, professor of communication at Northern Illinois University whose research and reading of the literature identified these six goals. "It's fun, and we do it together so we build our relationship."

Sometimes we want to explore what a romantic relationship with the person might be like. Or we want to reinforce or increase intimacy in a relationship we are already in. We may want to boost self-esteem—whether it's our own or the other person's. And some of us flirt to get what we want—a dark art that Dr. Henningsen refers to as "instrumental flirting."

Or, to simplify things, you could just cram each of these motivators for flirting over into the "because we enjoy it" column and call it a day. That is, as long as you "enjoy" getting what you want from hot friends, lovers, and coworkers who also think you're hot.



122 Comments / Post A Comment

NeenerNeener

Some time after I decided I flirt with all my friends, I also decided I no longer knew what exactly flirting meant.

machinesss

@NeenerNeener After being told by several men who are friends/acquaintances that I send out hella mixed messages, I've realized I probably have no idea what flirting means either.

Cawendaw

@machinesss Having not realized I was being flirted with until months or years later (when they told me), and not been able to make my own flirting recognizable through any measure of implicit or explicit communication ("Did you notice I've been flirting with you all night?" "No." or "But I'm flirting with you! Right now! I'm doing my darndest to flirt with you!" "Yeah, sure you are.") I've pretty much made peace with the fact that flirting is something that only happens to other people.

Bittersweet

@NeenerNeener Yep. I think of it as "being friendly" or "making a connection" but I guess others see it as something more dramatic.

Springtime for Voldemort

@NeenerNeener Yup. I never know how to actively flirt (though, perhaps my behavior changes around those I find attractive, despite my best efforts to "play it cool" anyway), and can never tell when others are flirting with me. Mostly, I try to solve this by asking those I want to fuck, "Hey, you wanna fuck?", perhaps a little out of the blue, and then praying that they don't take offense.

I have been told that the point of flirting is to be ambiguous, to let someone know that you like them without actually letting them know that you like them and still giving yourself plausible deniability. Which sounds awful.

RK Fire

I am bad at flirting, and when I manage to do it, I tend to use playground-level antics like kicking the person I'm flirting with or punching them playfully in the side.

...then I wonder why on a girls' night out, no one ever hits on me. I'm married, so I shouldn't care anyway, but still. I am ridiculous.

Amphora

@RK Fire My husband still tells the story of how I flirt-punched him in the stomach on our first date.

I maintain that roughhousing is a GREAT way to flirt.

Hellcat

@Amphora I hit my now-longterm-BF in the belly with a sound-effects light saber on our second date.

RK Fire

@Amphora Hahaha, just a sampling of the immature things my husband I did to each other when first getting to know one another back in college:
-he stole one of my flip flops while I was sitting down
-I flicked him in the ear to get his attention in class
-he put a cicada in my hand as a surprise
-I did the beer bottle tapping thing to get his beer to foam up and accidentally broke the neck of his beer bottle

Toby Jug

I never figured out how to flirt. I either come across as frigid, or worse, a sweaty silent 15-year-old. I think it's because I can't talk small. My friends have called me the Grim Reaper of Sexual Tension.

Good flirters, what's the secret? Eye contact or something?

tea tray in the sky.

@Toby Jug Not NECESSARILY a flirting tactic, but eye contact and frequent use of the other person's name can make 'em feel real special.

elbows on the table

@tea tray in the sky hmmm, but if some stranger (edited to add: that i had just met/someone i didn't know well... but really even someone i do know well) used my name a lot i also might get weirded out. there has to be a balance so you don't come off as someone imprinting or something.

(if it was someone i know well, i might feel like i was in trouble/being scolded.)

Hellcat

@Toby Jug I always feel like Chrissy Snow from Three's Company if I set out to flirt on purpose. This feeling has also kept me from ever trying on purpose to look hot in a photo, so it's probably a good thing.

solaria

@Toby Jug Anyone else only able to do it accidentally?! Or in situations that are inappropriate.

macaroni

@Toby Jug My best flirting advice is eye contact, smiling (genuine, ideally), and being (or at least appearing to be) generally interested in the other person and what they're saying. I'm Southern, and grew up in a family that had the identifier of [Our Last Name] charm, so flirting/charm (because they're the same thing) come naturally to me. Friendliness is the best way to get what you want, IMHO.

cinnamonskin

@macaroni we Southern girls are born with the Constant Flirt and SEC gene, in place of the yoga gene, I think?

That said, if I can learn yoga, bless your hearts, y'all can learn to flirt. It's not rocket surgery.

Lexa Lane

@Toby Jug I can only flirt with my friends' husbands/boyfriends, because they're "safe." They know I don't mean it, and so it's a no-risk situation. They also tend to be the ones who wonder why I'm still single.

elbows on the table

@cinnamonskin you just made my morning!

mr. elbows on the table recently realized that when i tell him "bless your heart" that it doesn't necessarily always mean what he thinks it does.

cinnamonskin

@elbows on the table yes! It has thousands of meanings. It's contextual. "Bless your darlin' heart" might as well come with cobras attached.

Blackwatch Plaid

I always think I'm a great flirt until a pretty woman looks at me and suddenly my eyes are glued to the floor.

Blackwatch Plaid

@Blackwatch Plaid Oh hey but if any women in this thread want to flirt with me, I will do my very best to keep up.

TARDIStime

@Blackwatch Plaid In your avatar, is the eye under the eyepatch the one glued to the floor? Because the one I can see is BORING INTO MY SOUL.

Blackwatch Plaid

@TARDIStime Yep. The covered eye can see through anything, just like Mad Eye's.

Also, is that a sonic screwdriver in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

TARDIStime

@Blackwatch Plaid It's my poison lipstick, sweetie.

But you can call me Sexy.

par_parenthese

@TARDIStime @Blackwatch Plaid I find this thread ridiculously nerdy/sexy. I.e. sexy.

elbows on the table

@TARDIStime OH MY GOD I LOVE YOU PLEASE MARRY ME.

okay so I just realized my flirting style: direct.

TARDIStime

@par_parenthese @elbows on the table @Blackwatch Plaid
Will you be my TARDISwife?

TARDIStime

@TARDIStime Ooooh, Whovian Bigamy!

elbows on the table

@TARDIStime I'm in! marry me, all of you!

TARDIStime

@elbows on the table
Blackwatch Plaid's pants may appear to be a certain size on the outside, but I assure you - they are much, much larger on the inside.
Plenty of room for everyone! ;-)

Blackwatch Plaid

@TARDIStime I like where this thread went while I was away. All of you: into my pants!

TARDIStime

@Blackwatch Plaid I'll bring my sonic screwdriver and my fuzzy fez!

Things are getting freaky in the space/time continuum - should we book a room at the 80's retro hotel with the freaky bobble head dummies? I'm pretty sure they like to watch.

TARDIStime

My in-laws all thought I was a total flirt when they first met me, which I was surprised by because I just thought eye contact and cracking a few jokes and lots of hugging was being friendly.
I think flirting is definitely relative - I just happen to have been raised in a super-affectionate family where everyone is demonstrative with their feelings and affection, so I am that way with everyone - some misconstrue my intent and since entering the workforce I've dialled a lot of that touchy-feely WAY down.

skyslang

@TARDIStime Flirting is relative. I definitely do not enjoy "flirting" with people. But my definition of "flirting" is batting my eyelashes and touching a dude's biceps because I want to have sex with him. Right?
I'll compliment people, joke with them, listen to them, ask them questions about themselves because...isn't that what a decent social human does? When did normal conversation skills become "flirting" ?

TARDIStime

@skyslang See above thread for my definition of "flirting". ;-)

Ophelia

My husband is a giant flirt. He flirts with EVERYTHING/EVERYONE. Women, men, babies, dogs. He's definitely the raquetball-type.

Jane Marie

@Ophelia ditto. oh, the poor waiters and bartenders who think he's my gay friend :(

Ophelia

@Jane Marie People ask if I'm jealous, but honestly, he flirts with EVERYTHING. It's not like he zeroes in on leggy blondes, he's really just in it to see how charming he can be. He has more of the politician-vibe than the gay-vibe, though he's definitely let down a few bartenders in the past.

dollguts

@Ophelia Oh. My. God. I thought I was alone in this. OK, it was boyfriend not husband but I was for a long time torn between jealousy and wondering why he's so insecure he needs to flirt with pretty girls to make him feel better before I realised....he flirts with everything. Like, it looks like flirting when it's the hot girl at your favourite cafe, but when you realise he gets like that around his great aunt/someone's dog, you just have to laugh.

cinnamonskin

@dollguts Oh goddess, I am one of the flirt-with everything people. Please forgive us. We don't mean to make you sad. It's like a charming tic?

OH LAWDY NOW I AM FLIRTING WITH YOU I THINK

fabel

@Ophelia Same story-- boyfriend flirts with EVERYTHING. It only bothers me when I think the person on the receiving end might...like it? or feel sorry for me? ("Poor thing, her man is flirting with me right in front of her!")

Nicole Cliffe

Relevant to my interests!! I am outrageous and over the top in my flirting, and my husband literally cannot tell someone is flirting with him. A woman took off his shirt at a club and he 'wasn't sure' if she was interested.

garli

@Nicole Cliffe Yeah I shamelessly flirt with the world. Including but not limited to: coworkers, bartenders, referees in games I am playing, checkers at the market, waaaay upper management at my company, the dude running the fitness bootcamp, ect. There's kind of a running joke track in my head at all times so as long as I'm not in a meeting might as well share it with the world. My husband gets hit on all day because he works at Trader Joe's and that forces people to love him.

TARDIStime

@Nicole Cliffe
"A woman took off his shirt at a club and he 'wasn't sure' if she was interested."
I just did a laugh-snort at my desk and a coworker popped her head over the partition and said "what are you sniggering at?"

Nicole Cliffe

For serious. He also believed me when I said "sure, let's be friends! I am not interested in you romantically either," like a fool, because I was hitting that within weeeeeks.

MilesofMountains

@Nicole Cliffe Yep, a woman "accidentally" grabbed my boyfriend's junk and then asked him out to coffee and he was shocked to find out she didn't just want to be friends. I think he was a little disappointed that he hadn't made a new friend, actually.

Ellie

@garli Yeah, me too. I can't turn it off. OK, maybe I could but I have never tried because I don't want to. It's soooo muuuuuch fuuuuun. Flirting!

cinnamonskin

@garli I love everyone at TJ's and I am not ashamed. But I don't want your hubs! I just want him to have a better day and comment on my excellent choices in flat fruit.

fondue with cheddar

@Nicole Cliffe Why is it that so many men seem to fall into two camps, the oblivious ones and the ones who think everyone who is not mean to them wants to jump their bones?

My boyfriend is clueless, too. I flirted with him so hard and in so many seemingly obvious ways before we started dating. It wasn't until I said, "I really don't need help hanging shelves; I just needed an excuse to lure you into my apartment," that he finally figured it out.

Danzig!

The technical term for my kind is "bloviator", we are a rare flirting breed native to middle-American land grant university liberal arts departments

Megasus

I am a flirt vortex no flirting happens to me or near me

PistolPackinMama

@Megano! Haaaaayyyyy girl, Hayyyy!

PistolPackinMama

@PistolPackinMama Oh damn... am in a black hole now?... ... ... nope. Still here. Your flirting physics is disproved.

cinnamonskin

@Megano! FLIRTING WITH YOUR MIND RIGHT THIS SECOND

Megasus

@PistolPackinMama If we were in person you'd probably disappear!

tea tray in the sky.

I recently got out of the relationship I'd been in since I was 16, and I had NO IDEA I was such a flirt. I frequently surprise myself. I also swear more?

par_parenthese

You guys, I figured out how to flirt in fifth grade. Is that wrong? It seems a little wrong. I was a flirting Early Bloomer, big time. And then I realized THE POWAAAAAAAAAAH of my sexuality like, the second I hit puberty and spent the next ten years advertising something I wasn't selling (because you may recall that it was a Virgin Post that brought me out of the Lurkworks) and thinking to myself, "I may never be the hottest or richest but I can make boys blush and turn them on without touching them and that is amazing."

And then I realized I was freaking some people out and pumped my brakes a little and now my flirting is SUBTLE. Like mostly little low laughs while I crooked-smile and look through my eyelashes. And maybe some judicious forearm touching.

dollguts

@par_parenthese give us some hints then! I think we can safely say the majority here have no freaking idea what they're doing

par_parenthese

@dollguts Augh, no, I don't think tips work, because what's natural to me (laughing, forearm-touching, eye sex) might come off as totally forced and ridiculous if someone else did it. I find it easier to flirt with women, because I'm only about 30% attracted to women AND there are fewer gay/bi women than straight men, so things are less likely to go somewhere. I like the safety of knowing I can flirt without feeling the pressure of it going somewhere.

Bootsandcats

"Flirting is a good tactic when you want the barista to add an extra shot to your latte."

Also a good method: asking for one and then paying for it.

Blackwatch Plaid

@Bootsandcats Best method: befriend baristas and get employee discounts all over town. Even better if this befriending involves sex.
(It's worked for me, anyway.)

TARDIStime

@Blackwatch Plaid You said you couldn't flirt! I'm scandalised!

Blackwatch Plaid

@TARDIStime I don't! I just get drunk with very slutty people. It works.

fondue with cheddar

@Bootsandcats Yeah, I don't like the idea of flirting to get something (other than dating/sex). That's just icky.

tea sonata

When I try to flirt, I... can't. Feels too forced, exhibitionist.
Yet! I have what I consider to be a a conversation with someone I've not met before and we can have a little banter, and my friends jump all over that with "WHO WAS THAT YOU WERE FLIRTING WITH DID YOU GET HIS NUMBER OHMYGOD LETS DOUBLE DATE" and all I can do is cringe. I just don't get it. The art of conversation now has an alterior motive. Boo.

Molly@twitter

I am a drunk flirt. This should totally be a category. Also, possibly an ovulating flirt.

Blackwatch Plaid

@Molly@twitter Drunk flirting is the only flirting I do.

likethestore

@Blackwatch Plaid Hell, I only do drunk relationships.

leonstj

I am very bummed y'all have not mentioned a certain r Kelly song.

Ellie

@leon s I have had it stuck in my head since I saw this article three hours ago.

cinnamonskin

@leon s we forget, sometimes, the youngs, they may not know the RK oeuvre.

conniving little shit

@Ellie I've had this version stuck in my head

leonstj

@cinnamonskin - The idea of R Kelly not being young'uns music makes me feel very old all of the sudden. These young bucks best not bring their girlfriend to eat.

cinnamonskin

@leon s they probably (gasp!) don't know Aaliyah, either.

*Old people fist bump*

solaria

Times I Usually Decide Against Flirting Only To Then Become Even More Uncomfortable(I swear to tell the truth and the whole truth):*

Soon as I see ya walk up in the club.
Winkin’ eyes at me when I roll up on them dubs.
Sometimes when I'm with my chick on the low.
And when she's with her man (who is possibly?) lookin’ at me.

Also, when you bring your girlfriend to eat.

'Cause hey, I'm white, awkward, I sing, plus I'm doing ehhh okay and I wish: that I could flirt.

*All bets are off if there's whiskey in the room.

Passion Fruit

I am an AWKWARD FLIRT! Zodiac animal: bumbling bear, spilling coffee from mug.

RK Fire

@Passion Fruit: I love this so much. I just imagine that your zodiac animal looks like the mascot of this website: http://www.tunnelbear.com/

macaroni

Oh, flirting. I can't tell you the power I realized I had when I came to the realization that having a Southern accent in Colorado means people will be super sweet to you. (When I lived in Colorado. In Georgia I'm just like everyone else.) I grew up in a family where our identifier was that we all had "that [Our Last Name] charm", and I learned from a young age how to flatter (manipulate?) to achieve a more favorable outcome. Annnnnd I just realized that sounds TERRIBLE. But it works. And in the immortal words of Erin Brockovich "They're boobs, Ed." (They work WONDERS.)

cinnamonskin

I flirted in the comments all the way down here. Also, wine. Yay, I am flirting with The Hairpin!

Hella

I can only flirt in a very juvenile way, i.e. throwing things at boys, or giggling and acting bubbly :( I want to do grown-up flirting!

Es
Es

I flirt like a motherfucker. For me, the difference between just being friendly and civilised and taking an interest is the gleamy eye and grin that says 'I'm making an innuendo with everything I say' even if I'm not. Then the flirtee is looking for innuendo (and to be fair, I'm normally making one) and then it all happens!

planforamiracle

@Es I like that distinction! My friends make fun of me all the time for "flirting" when I just felt like I was being friendly.

Girl Named Jack

I... I had to buy a book to learn how to flirt. It was called something super cheesy like Love Signals or Love Language or something. I'm not going to lie. It totally helped. And now I bone on the regular! Thanks, cheesy book! *The More You Know SWOOOOSH*

RK Fire

@Girl Named Jack: This is fantastic.

tea sonata

@Girl Named Jack TELL US YOUR SECRET. What is this book?
For science!

Girl Named Jack

@tea sonata I went to find it and it turns out there were two books that I was conflating. One was called Goodbye to Shy, and the other was called Love Signals. Both are chock full of ridiculous pseudo-science, but taken together there were a lot of good tips for people like me who never learned to speak body language properly. (Seriously - good posture? WHO KNEW?)

Passion Fruit

@Girl Named Jack I actually have a PhD in Pseudoscience, so this is right up my alley. God bless you, child.

Blushingflwr

The Worst is when you think you are doing playful, self-esteem flirting and it turns out the other person thinks you are doing the mate-finding flirting.

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