Friday, June 11, 2010

When flirting isn't flirting, is it still flirting?

I was reading about body language because ♥ ♥ linked me to a page, and there was a section on signs of flirting. I got a little nervous because I do all the things on the list, but not with the intention of flirting. The people I "flirt" with know it's not flirting. That makes it okay, right?

I'm not talking about flirting as in playful contact with cute stranger you meet at party. If you want to trace circles on the back of stranger cute guy's hand while you giggle at his lame jokes, don't blame society for tagging it as flirting. I'm talking about the subtle expression of interest between people who do know each other. You know, it's the kind of implicit indication, the things you do to that guy you like to gage his interest in you based on his reaction and safely say "hey, I like you" without risking anything. It's a legitimate skill, but are you still flirting when you don't think you are?

I've observed this in other people, girls who get close to guys because they are securely in the "friends zone." It doesn't matter what they do because everyone involved knows it's meaningless. Once you've reassigned meaning (or lack of meaning) to body language, it's no longer flirting. Problem is, what happens when you think you've changed the meaning, but the other person doesn't know that?

I was helping a guy analyze a girl's flirting signals. They sound like flirting to me, but she told him she wants to be friends. He thinks her body language and implications say otherwise. Maybe she's intentionally flirting, but maybe she's just ignoring the rules and taking meaning away from body language because she thinks they have an understanding. That makes so much sense because I do it, too. I have a friend I just do anything around because we have an understanding. I probably do everything on the flirting list, but I don't mean it as flirting. He knows I don't mean it as flirting. Sometimes I wonder though if he really knows it's meaningless. It's just easier not to have to walk on egg shells and censor my actions. You're not special because you're a guy, so I'm not going to worry about how I act around you. A friend is a friend...but what if they don't know that?

Errors in communication make this annoying when other people aren't aware that you reassigned meaning to body language. It becomes less of an indication of interest and more of a miscommunication of the status of the relationship. I can name countless TV shows and movies where a girl's behavior is mistaken by the guy as interest when the girl just thinks they're good friends (or vice versa).

So what defines flirting, the action or the intention? I don't think you can ever be sure of it because intentions are never certain, and when actions depend on the intentions behind them, flirting is flirting with disaster. Disaster, or at least some comedy as old as time without a laugh track to tell you it's funny.


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