Lately, I've been getting pitches from so-called flirting and dating experts to write about them. While their bios are always interesting, I have to wonder how gifted they are in the romance department. What qualifies someone as a dating expert anyway? Someone who goes on a lot of dates?
If that's the main criteria, then I already have insider access to one of the greatest dating experts out there. And she happens to be my best friend: P.
P isn't a supermodel, but she is a beautiful girl—the type of person that turns heads when she walks down the street. She is a smooth cocktail composed of confidence, sex appeal, looks and sweetness. And she gets more guys than anyone I know.
While taking the train home from work one day, I chat with her about the art of flirting. We've both read countless articles about the basic Dos and Don'ts of the courtship game—as you probably have too.
The rules, which are pretty standard and obvious, sound something like this:
Having been in a relationship for the last year and a half, I feel a little rusty in my flirting aptitude. Still, I have always recalled these rules of attraction dutifully.
But P, the resident expert and boy magnet, tells me she has improved on the old school dogma. Attracting someone should be a little more subtle, she says. In other words, don't make it seem like you're flirting.
And this is when our simple conversation turns into a life lesson.
"Jen," she says, " You have to make the guy think he's making the first move when you're the one really doing it..."
Give me an example, I ask her. She provides two. (Of course she does.)
"I was on a plane and I spotted a cute guy, who happened to be sitting right behind me. There was an old lady who needed help putting her luggage away in the overhead compartment. So I volunteered to help but obviously, it was too heavy... so guess who gets up and offers to help me?"
That chivalrous act turned into a scintillating five-hour conversation from Los Angeles to New York—which eventually led to several dates in the Big Apple.
Funny enough, her second example took place on the return flight back to Los Angeles.
"There was this guy with really cool style—he looked like he was in the music business. And I could tell, because of his sneakers. He ended up sitting right next to me on the plane, and I wanted him to notice me, so I started playing my iPod and put it in the hand that was closest to him, and sort of faced it toward him, so if he looked down or glanced over, he could see what music was playing. I had on a bunch of songs that I thought he'd like... A few minutes later, he asks me about the music. It turns out he's a manager for one of the bands I was listening to."
In both instances, P was somewhat calculating but didn't have to make the first move. The guys always took the initiative-she just provided the catalyst. And the best part? There was no come-hither stare required on her end.
It was her intuition that helped facilitate these serendipitous scenarios, she says. "You look at someone and you just know what they're like and what they like. I just try to fit into that somehow."
Apparently, P's philosophy is: Judge a man by his shoes.
And once you have contact, what's the next step? I ask.
"The key is to be extremely warm and pleasant, but don't fawn all over him. Make it seem like you're nice to everyone. Then when you leave, don't ask for his number or anything like that. Just say, 'It was really nice to meet you.' Then walk away. Chances are they'll come after you."
Do they ever not come after you? I ask, tentatively.
She smiles. Not if you're doing it right, she answers.
Are there any other tricks up P's mini skirt? She tells me: What I'm about to tell you is the most effective flirting technique of all.
I wait eagerly—wondering what great secret is about to be revealed to me.
"Eye contact," she says.
That's it? I groan. I gently remind her that the five-second stare and look away has been a staple in romantic comedies since the early 80s.
She quickly corrects me. "No, you don't look away. You continue to stare. Gaze deep into their eyes. It doesn't even matter if you're paying attention to what they're saying."
"But I hate when people look directly into my eyes for long periods of time. It makes me feel so nervous and self conscious," I protest.
"It's uncomfortable in the beginning. But I swear, it feels like someone is looking into your soul—it's cliché, I know-but..."
"Completely cliché," I interrupt.
"But, it makes the other person feel like you're really listening and being attentive. It's a very intimate thing."
I'm skeptical, but I suspect she is right. When I think of the times people have really looked into my eyes, I have felt a certain closeness with them. I feel nervous. I feel... butterflies. Wow—she is right.
Our phone lesson comes to an abrupt halt as my train goes into a tunnel. P's voice goes to a place where my 3G cannot follow.
I go home that night thinking about flirting and wonder if I was or am any good at it. I ask my boyfriend shyly, "Am I a good flirt?"
Smiling, he gazes deeply into my eyes and says, "Not especially."
Well, at least one of us is.