Friday, September 17, 2010


I’ve heard it said many times that women are natural flirts. That they are born able to flirt and are able to wrap people around their little, delicate fingers because of this.  In Forbes magazine, apparently, women are now being told to work their way to success through flirting, which seems a little backwards to me. Well, I am here to say, that I am a flirt-free zone. Yes, it’s true. I do not know how to flirt.

So how on earth has this anomaly happened? Is this not an anathema to womanhood? The inability to flirt.  If I were to go out with friends to a bar and if one of my friends said that a man kept looking at me, and that I should go over and flirt with him, I would not have the first clue as to what to do or say or anything.  I mean, yes, I have read the steps of intimacy and there are 12 of them:
  1. Eye to body
  2. Eye to eye
  3. Voice to voice
  4. Hand to hand
  5. Arm to shoulder
  6. Arm to waist
  7. Mouth to mouth
  8. Hand to head
  9. Hand to body
  10. Mouth to breast
  11. Hand to genitals
  12. Genitals to genitals
 Although with flirting, I think I’d probably stop at voice to voice.  It is, after all, just flirting not an all out seduction. I know the signs of flirting, even if (okay, when) I don’t recognize them at the time:
  1. Raised eyebrows—unconscious sign of interest on flirter’s part
  2. Eye contact—make and hold eye contact for significant amount of time; men will not hold the gaze of a woman he isn’t attracted to
  3. Hair flick—women often do this, sometimes unconsciously
  4. Playing with accessories—women play with earrings, twirl hair, fiddle with necklaces; men play with ties, jingle change in pants pocket
  5. Leaning in—nonverbal message the he/she wants to be closer
  6. Active listening—turn body towards other person, make eye contact, nod, show other signs of actively listening to what is said
  7. Open body language—invitation
  8. Sideways glance—demure glances, strong sign of flirting
  9. Looking at lips or body parts—sometimes an unconscious sign of flirting
  10. Laughter—laughing at jokes, silly or unfunny
  11. Light touches—touching someone’s arm, knee, or shoulder shows interest
  12. Ignoring cell phone—purposely ignoring or turning off the cell phone sends signal that he/she is more interested in the other person than whoever might be calling
But as for putting these things into action, I just don’t get it. When I look at the signs of flirting in this list, I think I do most of these all the time except for the touching part because I don’t touch people that I don’t know very well. No, I don’t have some kind of phobia about germs or anything. It’s just that touching somebody is invading their personal space and unless I have a very clear flashing neon sign saying it’s okay to do so, I am not comfortable with it. I hardly ever use my cell phone so that doesn’t count. I do not stare at body parts, i.e. I don’t stare at a man’s crotch. I think that’s just as rude as a man who stares at a woman’s boobs. And I don't laugh at things that aren't funny.

I always look people in the eye when speaking to them. I try to be friendly. I do play with my hair and jewelry routinely but especially when I am nervous but that doesn’t speak towards flirting. So it is quite possible that someone thinks I am flirting with him, when in fact I am just being me. It seems that flirting is about sociability and being open to possibilities.

I think the other part of flirting comes with confidence in yourself and, in a woman’s case, your femininity. It never actually occurs to me that someone is interested in me unless it is in blinking neon lights—even then sometimes I will miss it entirely and someone has to point out. I don’t think of myself as being ultra feminine. I don’t wear pretty pink except on my fingernails every once in a while. My voice is not what could be described as melodious.  I don’t faint – okay, I’ve fainted a few times but that has been very rarely when I’ve been ill. I’m not particularly afraid of insects. I don’t freak out when I see an ant or spider or even a cockroach. Although cockroaches gross me out because they’re filthy creatures but I’m not afraid of them per se. This past summer I had a black rat snake wrapped around my neck, which I found quite interesting instead of horror-inducing. I travel on my own. I do what I want when I want.  I’m highly logical and analytical, which seems to be at odds with the image of a romance writer but… there it is. So I’m not, and have never been, a girly girl.  But does that mean that I’m not feminine? I don’t think so. I think my brand of femininity is more subtle, for lack of a better term.  Growing up in my household, sciences and math were emphasized over softer subjects such as English and social studies.

My poor father ended up with three daughters all going through puberty at the same time, but he and my mother were determined that we would be independent women. That we would be able to do anything, within reason, that a man would be able to do. Obviously, the same physical strength is not possible— I need help opening jars. But having functional brains in logical subjects was emphasized. There wasn’t much emphasis placed on more feminine stuff. I call it feminine stuff because I don’t know what else to call it—getting Cosmo magazines, getting makeovers, having pedicures and manicures, etc. Talking on the phone forever every single night. Giggling with girlfriends over Playgirl magazines.

In fact, growing up in our house we did not have any kind of magazine delivered until I was probably ten. My mother worked so that my father could start his business, while he worked a full-time job, and I always was very proud of this. My mother was a “working woman” and she didn’t have time for inconsequential things like frivolous magazines. I was so floored when they finally started getting Maclean’s magazine delivered—LOL! For those of you who don’t know, Maclean’s magazine is a news magazine like Newsweek or Time. But it was a magazine nonetheless and I have to say that I was kind of disappointed that my mother would stoop to ordering a magazine. So you can see that perhaps my upbringing wasn’t as traditional as it might have been. Not that I’m complaining.

But what is femininity? This is something that came up in the past couple weeks over one of my posts on Facebook. And when someone brought up this topic of women being feminine and that femininity is a good thing, I really didn’t know in which way I was feminine.  I wear makeup every day, or at least when I leave the house.  I wear skirts sometimes. My hair is long. I do not wear high heels because those things screw up your natural body alignment; they wreck your back, neck, shoulders, knees, ankles and feet. The maximum heel that I will wear is about one inch. In other words, I try to make the most of what I’ve got without killing myself. But I’m not one of these giggly people who spends hours in front of a mirror and has to have her makeup flawless at all times.

I would rather put work into more than just external appearances. I want to be able to understand and like the person that I am. I want to be able to develop myself as a human being, and a good human being at that. No, I don’t neglect the outside. But yes, I believe in the importance to develop one’s intellect, understanding of the world and understanding of oneself. Is that unfeminine? Nietzsche said that stupidity in a woman is unfeminine—something that I agree wholeheartedly with. But stupidity is not just in the things that you can’t see at first glance; stupidity is also in the outward manifestations of a human being, which includes their appearance and behavior.

So in my quest to find out what exactly femininity was, I decided I would Google it. Femininity, on a lot of these websites, seems to be for women who desire to be laid out like a doormat for her man. Obviously I don’t agree with this version of femininity.  I think Audrey Hepburn had a very nice viewpoint, even in these times for modern women. I don’t think she was talking about femininity in particular, but I do think she was talking about being an attractive human being, which is different than being outwardly attractive. She said, "For Attractive lips, speak words of kindness, For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people, For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry, For Beautiful hair, let a child run their fingers through it once a day, For poise, walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone. People, more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed. Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of each of your arms. As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself and the other for helping others." I think we can all agree that Audrey Hepburn was a very feminine woman. She had an ephemeral grace about her and a regal but welcoming demeanor. And even though her heyday was 50 or so years ago now, let’s say, I don’t think she’s any less relevant now than she was in her own time.

So I think I will take this quote as my version of femininity. I may not always live up to that standard of being feminine but I think it is something that I can strive for. And in the end, isn’t being true to oneself but the most important thing? I’m not going to pretend that I am a pink-loving, giggling lady who loves tea and crumpets.  But I’ll tell you some of those pink-loving, giggling women who love tea and crumpets are vicious people. My version of femininity isn’t as obvious as some but it is something I am comfortable with, something that I am pleased to strive for.

So regardless of my flirtless state, which may not be as hopeless as I think, I believe I qualify as being feminine. I think every woman has to define what is feminine for her, what feels right for her, and not be guided by what some insipid website says is feminine. Being feminine is just as much about the inside as it is about the outside, if not more. One can look as feminine as all get-out, and still not be feminine. Feminine does not mean stupid or witless. I think each gender has unique gifts in their repertoire. If we were all the same it would be pretty boring. And I like men to be men. I don’t appreciate it when women try to be men—I realize that this is a part of feminism whereby women try to be taken seriously but I don’t think men take women more seriously when women act and dress like men. I think people respect others who are brave enough to be what they are, as they are, regardless of gender.

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