Flirting 101, or How I Learned to Not Like Dating So Much
I’m a flirt. Shamelessly so. Some might go so far as to say I’m an attention seeking freak really. I’ve been known to flirt with man, woman, animal, vegetable…I refuse to differentiate. No one, it seems, is off limits. I charm waitresses and bartenders into serving me first, I’m known as the dog whisperer as my canine friends come running, tails a-waggin’, through Point Pleasant Park, and it’s ridiculous the things I can make ‘pasghetti and meatballs do. And trust me, these suave, sophisticated ways are not new. In fact, for me, I think they practically date back to infancy. Now, bear with me a minute…I grew up with four siblings, one of which is a mere 14 months younger then me. It’s hard to get any undivided attention from anywhere with all that noise. Now, imagine being a toddler with messy hair and drool on my t-shirt and a smelly and likely way too full diaper, and THEN having to compete with a helpless tiny newborn baby girl all swaddled in pink. I remember my great aunt Jessie telling me about how, when my sister was born, I’d sit in the corner all doe eyed while all the well wishers paraded past me while I went unnoticed, eager to see the new bundle of joy, and then she, feeling sorry for me, would scoop me up and swing me in the air, and before you knew it was laughing and clapping my hands, with a roomful of rapt followers all of my own. So nowadays it’s a mischievous smile and a twinkle in my eyes, instead of giggles and clapping, but it all translates to that same attention seeking behaviour. Now, that’s not to say these um…skills have made my entire dating life easy. Quite the contrary. Remember, I said I was as good at attracting ’em, I didn’t say I was necessarily as good at keeping ’em. And keep in mind when the time came that I was finally comfortable with my sexuality, openly gay and actively dating and all that, I was left with, statistically speaking, under 10 percent of the male population – that’s technically not a whole heck of a lot to work with, people! And so, my dating life was still full of highs and lows, of learning experiences and horror stories, of guys just “kinda curious” or so deep in the closet you’d need GPS and a really big spotlight to locate ’em. And you know what else? It was a LOT of work. Having to put yourself “out there” meant BEING out there…and having to socialize. A lot. Bars, restaurants, coffee shops, weekend parties with friends of friends you barely know. That stuff gets expensive! And then there’s looking the part. Making sure you’re dressed well and smelling pretty just in case you happen to meet the ONE in the grocery store line. Or say working out on a treadmill when you’d rather be sucking back beer and pizza. And then there’s dating THE ONE and finding out, once the honeymooners over around day 3, that the love of your life is actually a stark raving mad lunatic, who thinks they’re part werewolf or a Martian in witness protection….and so then you decide not to date for awhile, maybe stay in and date “yourself”, which then turns into you watching all the seasons of Friends consecutively while binging on jellybeans and having deep conversations with your cat. Now none of that was me EXACTLY, but you get my point. You see, it’s true, my “powers” didn’t seem to work so well for me in the lucky in love department, that gift to attract attention, that boyish charm to keep it…. So instead, for a time, I decided to play matchmaker for my friends. To help them find the ONE. Because I do believe, for everyone, the ONE is out there. And so as far as that goes, my track record’s stellar.
Take this one friend….this beauty in her late 20s, funny, smart, absolutely beautiful, but always attracting the wrong guys. Seems, after closer scrutiny, she’d meet a guy at a bar, come on a little strong, he’d get all a bit too aggressive and all let’s get this party started jerkface like, and before you knew it the romance in the making was over. Another problem was that she’d always seem to fall for the prettiest guy in the world, or in other words the only gay in the village, first noticing and commenting loudly on what “nice shoes he had”. I noted that said was probably a bit of a red flag about which way his flag was flying , and when we prowled the bars “European shoes” became the code word that she at least shouldn’t get her hopes up. As in she’d say “wow, he’s hot!” and I’d say “yeah, but did you check out the Europeans!” Anyway, we both soon realized that, despite being a strong, modern, independent woman, she was, at heart, an old fashioned girl, and what she wanted was an old fashioned guy….Indeed, she wanted an old fashioned kind of courtship. So after role playing together – yes, role playing -how to introduce herself to someone she was attracted to, we successfully worked out this little “cruising technique” of a sly smile and soulful glance that said “I’m interested, but you better make the first move mister, cuz I don’t have all night. Oh, and you better buy me dinner first too!” And then, first time out of the starting gate, she pulls off said look, and soon meets an old fashioned kinda guy, and fast forward years later and they’re blissfully married, with a house and puppies and lots more life changes on the way. Or here’s another story….another lovely lady, early 40s, funny, outgoing, full of life, gay and proudly out, so comfortable in her own skin, for years involved in a deep relationship with a girl completely closeted, who sadly remained closed off, unable to move forward. And once that relationship ended for good, she was left to find her way in the scary ol’ dating world. And worse…trying to find single lesbians, those elusive creatures, socializing in their own close-knit community with potlucks and football championships galore rather than being out and about, on the club scene, ready to be scooped up for the taking. So the only other option seemed to be online dating, which was putting yourself out there in the extreme. But together we worked on the ad’s profile description, we took some glamour shots, and with lots of pushing and nudging and downright harassing on my part, the profile was up, the responses trickling in, and after a false start or two, she met a woman much like herself, lively, funny, outgoing and, most importantly, comfortable and at peace with the person she was, and they’ve been together, through ups and downs, all happily ever after since.
And now my latest challenge – another beautiful girl, smart, funny, outgoing, athletic, just teetering on that scary cusp of thirtyhood, and looking for love…if not everlasting at least a long time, much like lot of peeps just like her. But the problem is, it seems, the dating world’s as nasty and difficult to navigate then ever. Aside from the ol’ keeping yourself looking good inside and out, there’s a whole set of potential complications. In recent years, online dating has exploded. Recent studies in the US have estimated over 31% of single people actively use internet dating as a means to meet a potential match. (I’d guess even that number’s a bit conservative – there aren’t a lot of couples i know that DIDN’T meet online.) So that means today there’s a lot more competition out there, or in other words, some users may look at it like they’re a kid in a candy store, wanting a taste of everything with a whole lot of variety to try. And then you meet someone you like, you find some common ground, and you work at getting to know one another better. It’s all fun and light and frothy like in the beginning, but then one day you think WOW this is the guy/girl I want to be with, except you didn’t really think it in your head, you said it out loud, and now things have taken a SERIOUS turn, and it’s usually way too soon for that. You’re supposed to be honeymooning and basking in the newness, after all. . Or you play it cool, but you really like this guy/girl, but you’re not sure how much they like you, if they’re playing it cool too or they’re cool cuz they’re too busy running hot elsewhere. So, because you can’t really read minds, even though you try, you instead grab their or Blackberry when they’re not looking and read text messages or e-mails, to see if they’ve messaged a friend gushing over their new love, or, worst case, sexted someone else in above mentioned candyland. Oh, and then there’s the whole texting thing itself. NO ONE talks anymore (I’m totally guilty myself!) Instead we all text, we tweet, we facebook update, all 100 words ore less, and often things get lost in the translation….or they’re taken way out of context. So without hearing that voice on the other end, the tone, the intonation, the intent behind the words, you’re kinda left wondering. It’s enough to make you wanna stay home, watch those old Friends reruns and count how many times Jennifer Anistion’s haircut changes, while picking the cat fur off your favourite sweater just in case the phone rings for next time.
Sigh. It’s all quite exhausting really. Enough to make a guy REALLY glad he’s NOT single. You see, I’m happy to report, after years of highs and lows, of catches and near misses, frights and “mights” and enough closet guys to throw a big ol’ parade (you know, if they’d ever be willing to march in one), I can say that I’ve met the person that I think I was supposed to be with all along…dare I say (GASP!) the ONE? Because, truth be told, in my heart of hearts, I do believe there’s someone out there for everyone. It just means being patient, and to move forward. Willing to put yourself out there, willing to be vulnerable and independent and strong. And sometimes all of those things at once. Because in the end, I’d like to think it’s well worth it. And I know, for me, that it has.
As for all that flirting? Forget it. I’ve decided it, much like dating, is just far too much work. I think instead I’ll focus my wily charms on convincing my guy to make dinner and maybe do laundry. You know, use my powers for good.
Sounds hot, huh?