Does it hurt to flirt? This is a question I’ve found myself asking a lot over the years. I’m terribly flirty. A lot of the time I don’t even realise I’m doing it until someone pulls me up on it. Recently a conversation with my best friend got me thinking about whether flirting is harmless or not.
For me flirting is such a way of life I’ve forgotten the primary objective of it is usually to convey attraction. I flirt with bar staff, checkout workers, club security, teachers, even the odd occasional policeman to get myself out of trouble. Am I attracted to all these people? Probably some of them but not all. So why do I do it?
The Case for the Prosecution
My male best friend tells me I flirt too much. I argue I’m simply being friendly, but even I know this is a weak argument. I flirt to make myself feel good, to get attention, possibly even to manipulate a situation (please see the policeman cited above).
Manipulation and attention seeking aren’t sought after traits, yet I staunchly defend the right to flirt. Ok, so my intentions might not always be whiter than white. I might be batting my lashes and pouting at the cute bar girl primarily to beat the queue. But is it hurting her? Unless the flirting leads to something more and I’m deliberately leading her up a path I’ve no intention of going I think not.
My flirty nature has caused my partners some issues in the past. Often the source of jealousy and rows. When flirty social media exchanges have been witnessed or I’ve been hair tossing and arm touching in the pub its led to much agro. “I wasn’t flirting!” I’d argue. It was never my intention to hurt the ones I loved. It’s just part of how I interact with people.
I remember reading once a psychologist theory about how women learn how to flirt with their fathers. I don’t mean to get all Freudian on you, but I firmly think this is true. I have a good relationship with my Dad before anyone accuses me of Daddy issues. However, my earliest memories of him involved manipulating him.
I could be a handful as a child, wilful, sullen, stroppy. I bet this surprises you huh given what a total ray of sunshine I am now LOL! My mum was our primary parent and spent her days refereeing myself and my sister and trying to keep us in line. She would send me to my room for some crime or another.
I recall sitting on the window sill staring up the road at the large building on the horizon which I knew marked my Dad’s company. He worked astonishingly long hours and I was lucky to see him for a couple of hours a day. But I was the apple of his eye and everyone knew it.
Getting My Own Way
I would perch up there muttering how she would pay when my Dad got home, like the horrible little sociopath I was. Lo and behold I would hear his key in the door and throw myself on the bed and begin crying. I’d hear him ask where I was, only to be told of my crime and current punishment. I’d hear him appealing on my behalf before eventually overturning my Mum’s sentence.
Even as he climbed the stairs I knew I’d won. He’d open the bedroom door with the familiar tone;
“Debbie…what have you done?” and I’d burst into well-rehearsed tears and wails for Daddy.
Of course, my defence was always full of holes. But when faced with puppy dog eyes brimming with tears and hair twirling my Dad would crumble every single time. And I’d chalk up another victory. It’s little wonder I’ve become reliant on these tactics in my adult life.
The Case for the Defence
As I stand in the dock again, accused of manipulation via flirting I ask you is this really a crime? The security guard on duty, does he feel affronted by a pretty girl flirting with him? Or does it lift his spirits and stroke his ego? Does the checkout operator feel offended? Or does it break up the monotony of their day?
The key is to know when to flirt and when to back off. If I talk to someone and they seem closed down or reluctant I don’t force flirt with them like some kind of horrendous flirting bandit. Insisting unwilling people swallow my giggling and suggestive eye brows all over the shop. Of course not, but if they green light me then yes, I will be all over that. Because it’s who I am, and I enjoy it. It’s like sport to me.
Surely flirting is an easy way to make you both feel good. I feel that little lick of power that comes with a successful flirt and you get your ego stroked and a boost in self-esteem.
This isn’t just me being narcissistic. I know this how it works as I’ve been on both sides. I know that when the fit young waiter flirts with me and my friends at lunch it makes me feel good. Even though I know he probably does it to every woman he serves. I know it lifts my mood and makes me smile. Where’s the harm in that?