I’ve never understood flirting. I don’t mean that I’m unaware of why people do it or how it’s done, but I’ve never been able to do it, nor have I ever wanted to. I’m even fairly oblivious when someone is attempting to flirt with me, to the point that I’ve had friends tell me that I’m immune to innuendo and to the point that someone has to overtly sexually harass me before I notice what they’re up to. I think the reason I’ve never gotten flirting is that to me it seems either gross (an obvious invitation to sex), or dishonest and manipulative, and I’m not too keen on applying any of those three adjectives to myself.
Women don’t have a lot of sources of power in this society outside of their control over whether men get to have sex with them, which means that women often use flirtatious behavior to get attention or to get men to do things. I’m defining flirtatious behavior broadly as any act that is intended to flatter the male ego in an attempt to either get his sexual attention or manipulate him into doing one’s bidding. That means it includes giggling, eyelash-batting, pretending to be inept, pretending to be stupid, pretending to be weak, pretending to be childlike, making unnecessary references to one’s sexuality or to sex in general, purposely and unnecessarily calling attention to one’s appearance and/or clothing (pointing out how cool your boat shoes are notwithstanding), and other sundry varieties of general coyness. Over the course of my life, I’ve watched hundreds of intelligent women exhibit outrageously embarrassing (in my book) behavior in order to get male attention and favors, and it nearly always puts me in a foul mood for one reason: it works.
That means we’ve created ourselves a situation in which the stereotype that men are fools and women are manipulative sex objects is true for the most part. Fucking great. I’m not going to get into a chicken-and-egg thing here about who started this circle of inanity, but it seems pretty obvious that women are expected to exhibit these kinds of behaviors and that the punishment for not playing along is being ignored, called a dyke, whatever. Put simply, not pretending to be a silly little fool comes with consequences. I’d say that I’m personally fairly happy with those consequences, since the kinds of dudes I tend to be willing to talk to aren’t taken in by that sort of behavior and since I’d rather be left alone by the kinds that expect it, but I’m not happy that the situation exists.
So what’s the solution? I vote that women be themselves in all cases and let men figure out how to handle it. I suppose that’s evident throughout this blog; I advocate that we knock off all the “beautifying” bullshit, stop pretending that our sexuality consists of enjoying being used and objectified, stop pretending to be weak and feeble-minded damsels in need of male assistance in everything from deciding what to do with our time to carrying our own shit around, and eschew all of these silly little behaviors that in the short term get us attention and favors, but in the long term feed into the idea that we’re a bunch of sexbots sent here by Heineken to bolster men’s egos and bring them beers. I suppose that might be a tall order for a lot of women. I suppose it might be hard to give up the one form of power some of us (not all of us – remember, you have to be fuckable) have with no guarantee that it’ll be replaced by anything but a lonely and powerless sense of pride and integrity and a glimmer of hope that the world will change to catch up to us. Ah, well. I can hope.
Enough feminist idealism for a minute. All this talking about flirting is making me think about how weird dating is. I have a friend who is dating right now. Just one. Dating at the age of 30 is really weird, isn’t it? I’ve never known anyone who did much dating, and I’ve only been on one date in my life, when I was 13, and it was to go see Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, which doesn’t count. People from Southern California don’t date, we hang out with someone in a group of other people, get drunk with them a few times, make out one night, and then find out we’ve got a boyfriend/girlfriend. That usually works out for people, since they end up meeting whoever they marry at about the time that shit gets old, sometime between the ages of 22 and 25. But what happens if that doesn’t work out and you end up single again? You end up being 30 or so and being forced to date for the first time in your life, that’s what.
This friend, who I’ll call Heywood, called me one day to discuss the grossness of the idea of dating. Heywood said he’d just gone out on a fourth date with a girl he met at a bar, and that he wasn’t sure if he could handle dating her, since she’s into Jack Johnson and Ozomatli. Imagine that: spending four nights of your life and a fair amount of money only to find out that the person you’ve spent the time and money with/on is into the musical equivalent of having a urine fetish. This highlights the whole problem of dating: you have to hang out with strangers, both of you knowing full well that you have no reason to be in the same room save for the fact that you both considered each other potential sex partners, and try not to let that make you too uncomfortable to talk. Fuuuuck that.
Then there’s the dilemma of where you’re supposed to meet these prospective dates. Bars? Yeah, people who hang out in bars to meet people to date are usually really cool. Work? If you’re into really awkward situations, sure. The grocery store? This isn’t a late-80s yuppie movie. Heywood said maybe he’d meet chicks at Target when he goes shopping for household goods, but how can he be sure they aren’t venturing into the clothing section? Big-box store pseudo-urbanity isn’t cool. If you’re going to buy your clothes at a place that also sells Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers, don’t be a poser: go to Costco and get a sweatsuit.
But I digress. It’s pretty much hopeless unless you’re willing to date people you meet on the internet, and I don’t care how “acceptible” online dating services have become; I grew up in the 80s, when only desperate middle-aged women named Carol and fat guys with beards used dating services. Dating websites, although I’ve never been on one, sound pretty rough, and the premise is fairly disgusting. You are on a website contacting strangers, and both of you know that you are a) unable to meet anyone any other way, and b) desperate to be in a relationship, which means c) you have self-esteem problems, as evidenced by the fact that you can’t handle being alone. Either that or one or both of you is there looking for people to have random casual sex with, which is even creepier.