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I like to think of myself as a modern day Renaissance woman. In fact, in my mind, there is not much that I can’t or will not attempt to do.

For instance, when the pipe under my kitchen sink burst, I went to the hardware store, got the right piece and replaced it by myself.  Last night, I made a bomb Spicy Chipotle Corn, Black Bean and Potato Soup from scratch, right after I lifted my 110-pound American Bulldog into a tub for a bath. I like the collective works of Toni Morrison, Octavia Butler and the Real Housewives series. I like to travel, watch foreign films and can actually understand abstract art. I like wearing sneakers and makeup. And I like to listen to hip-hop music on my way to church.

Yes, There is not much that I am not an expert in – except of course when it comes to the playful art of seduction.

As much as I hate to admit it to myself, I suck at flirting.  I mean, I really, really suck badly at flirting. In fact, when it comes to flirting, I am just like the Dionne Farris song, “Hopeless” – like a penny with a hole in it. Maybe it’s because I tend to over think situations and events or perhaps it’s because I delight in too much of my natural awkwardness.  Whatever it is, I just don’t get what flirting is and how to do it.  Of course, my deficiency has also meant that I am equally as thick in the head at recognizing the subtle overtures a man shows when he tries to flirt with me.

Let me draw you a picture: recently while attending a function for my day job, a very nice looking guy I know on a professional level approached me and began a conversation.  After exchanging pleasantries, catching up on what we were doing professionally and all that jazz, he asked me what I was doing after “work.”  To which I went on this long diatribe about running errands and how much I hate errands and so forth.  He smiled. And not just a normal grin but a very toothy wide mouth smile.  Puzzled at all this sunshine he was displaying, I blurted out, “Why are you smiling like that? Is something funny?” He was startled but amused, for some reason. And then he said, “Well some people tell me I have a nice smile.”

-Blank Stare-

No seriously, that’s the look I gave him. No witty comeback, no attempts to stroke his ego with an affirming compliment, just a blank, dazed and confused stare.  My lack of response quickly removed the smile from his face and he lowered his head in defeat.  But this guy was relentless. We chatted some more, mainly him cracking jokes and smiling and me looking at him like “Why does he keep laughing at these corny jokes?” Finally, after an awkward pause, he asked me for my number.  Well since I was in professional mode and basically working, I reached in my purse and handed him my business card.  He looked disappointed.  “So this is your work number?” he asked.  Um, Yeah. “Um Yeah.” Again he looked disappointed but he thanked me for the conversation and left.

It would be five whole hours later, while driving around running those stupid errands, for it to dawn on me, “Hey, was he flirting with me?”  And to this day, I still don’t have a definitive answer either way.

I envy women, who can flirt effortlessly. The accomplished flirt knows how to read correctly the subtle nuances behind body language and how to convey certain messages with just eye contact alone.  However, when I do it, it usually sounds like this “Duh, Duh, Duh, ” followed nervous rambling, cackling and eye-twitching. The eye-twitching is often my sad, sad attempt at trying to seductively lure him with my eyes.

Various advice columns (yes, I’ll admit it. I’ve googled, “how to flirt”, before) try to offer us flirtatiously-impaired people some advice on how to flirt.  They tell us to compliment him on his appearance, talk about the weather or last night’s football game, and inquire about his favorite television show or band. They want us to crack jokes, or just ask him questions about himself. You know, treat him like he is one of your girl friends.  They make it sound so easy.  In some respects, it is easy – a little too easy.  Most times, my casual flirtations act as a pheromone killer and send signals to the opposite sex that I auditioning for a spot in the dreaded friend zone.  I mean, there is nothing wrong with being one of the buds. However I want to be desired too as much as I want to be looked upon as the girl, who is “just a friend.”

On occasion, I have been successful at flirting.  It usually happens when I am not conscious of the fact that I’m actually doing it.  Like the times when I’m eating alone in a restaurant or sitting on the train, staring aimlessly at something and a guy will appear in my sights, winking and smiling.  Like, how did I manage to pull that off? And how can I get this thing I did subconsciously to work with the men that I am actually interested in? I swear, if I ever figure that out, I would be one dangerous Renaissance lady.

Being a bad flirter can create major social faux pas because the expectation is that everyone with a vagina and a penis should know how to attract the attention of the opposite, and in some cases, same, sex. Yet for many, there’s no way to pretend that you’re good at flirting. You either have it or you don’t. Personally I think that flirting is overrated and not because I can’t do it. Okay maybe a little. But in essence, it really does come down to adding unnecessary confusion and just messing around with people’s emotions. Besides being a temporary ego-boost, what’s the point of making goo-goo eyes at someone you’ve just met and vaguely have interest in?


Charing Ball is the author of the blog People, Places & Things.

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