Flirting: The Oldest Form of Safe Sex

Not that it lead anywhere in particular, but it MIGHT

Posted Aug 23, 2011

Years ago the rules of courtship between men and women were unequivocal. Once properly introduced, if there was interest, he called (never she). After several calls, the couple might begin walking out together in public, an open announcement to all interested parties that they were an item. Eventually the two would marry and live, if not necessarily happily, undoubtedly ever after. If a man came calling and didn't eventually propose marriage, or if the woman suddenly "wasn't at home" when he again called - if either one of them breached the expected order of things - that person was labeled a flirt, decidedly not a good thing to be.

For the most part, we can be thankful that rigid courtship rules have gone the way of whalebone undergarments. Nowadays, two people can meet anywhere, even online. She can phone first, or he can. Things might progress to a sexual friendship or one without sex...or even sex without friendship. Two people might date for awhile, exclusively or also seeing other people. They might or might not marry, or live together, be monogamous or have an open relationship.

But along with all these options come the multiplied possibilities of flubbing up. How can I be sure an attractive stranger is as presented - single, solvent and sane? Will he/she think me unliberated/pushy if I phone first? Do I really have to tell my life history again? And when it comes to "that", will he/she think I'm insensitive for combining love with latex? This is serious stuff. If it's such hard WORK to obtain or maintain a romance, then what happened to fun?

My dictionary defines flirting as "to touch lightly, to play at love". A light touch has much to recommend it, but to play at love in a world so filled with peril as today's seems foolhardy.

I propose reviving the art of flirtation precisely because it IS playing at love. The point of the game is the game. The purpose of this playing "at" is to kindle, even if only momentarily, that joyous rush of self-esteem, perceived intimate connection and delight with the universe one has when first falling in love ...with no muss, no fuss.

Principle #1: IT'S ALL IN THE EYES

Like baby games of peek-a-boo, acknowledgment of another person is primarily visual, literally "I see you". In fact, flirtations are often entirely nonverbal. By holding a glance one mini-second longer than necessary one conveys: "I see you. I see you seeing me. Briefly we are WE." Zap, instant intimacy without fear of heartbreak or diseases.

Principle #2: REMEMBER FUN?

Flirting is fun. She glances, he glances. She feels attractive, he feels attractive. Both of you can then go on with your lives feeling lighter, more up. If you see it as some kind of contest where you are a loser if the other person doesn't smile back, well, then you are. It's a game, remember, not war.


Flirting is an acknowledgment of the person, not the gender. (We've all seen people who perk up only at the sight of the "appropriate" sex, like the guy who enters a room full of other men and whines "There's nobody here.") Look beyond the obvious. Presumably anyone whom you'd flirt with has reached the age of dressing him or herself. Therefore, a comment about how nicely the color of the shirt matches the color of his or her eyes is letting the other person know you have noticed, that they are worth taking notice of. Try to avoid the obvious. Tell a sexpot type that you're captivated by her wit or a would be CEO that his little boy pout is sexy as hell.


A woman I know says that one of the sexiest things a man can do in her company is loosen his tie and roll up his sleeves. To her that implies both "I'm feeling comfortable" and "I might be ready for less formal activities." A man I know says he feels the same way when a seated woman slips off her shoes. The idea of a flirtation is not that it lead anywhere in particular, but that it MIGHT, or might have if things were different.

Everything I have described takes place in the real world, face to face, eye to eye. A good brief flirt can take place between two drivers stopped at a traffic light. The two may never actually meet, but the effect has been felt.

Today many flirtations take place online where the participants never actually meet either. The rules there, because the interactions are all verbal, must necessarily be different, but the intent must still be light and fun, not misleading seductions, no Gotchas!

Flirting. Let's revive a dying art. What could it cost you? Joy is a transmissible condition too.

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