It started with a friend on Facebook demanding of our blogging group; “Give me something to read”. And the thing to read was a post from the Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC), titled SIRC guide to flirting. Now I know what you’re thinking, so OK here’s the URL, you can go and browse to your hearts content. http://www.sirc.org/publik/flirt.htmlWhat followed was a rather long thread of discussion on the values/relevance/hilarity/ridiculousness/accuracy of such a guide. The guide itself was, well, funny to start with. But the further I read, and the more seriously the authors seemed to be taking themselves, the more angry I got. Until finally I snapped at a fellow commenter and used the J word: Jeepers. That’s pretty serious for me.
I remember being told that anger is always a sign that something isn’t right. And so I had to think: what exactly was it that triggered this anger in me?
I didn’t have a problem with a bit of an analysis of the way people flirt – it can be pretty funny really to look at yourself and others and pull to pieces the funny little quirks that surface when we’re trying to gain and hold the attention of the opposite sex.
I didn’t even have a problem with a guide. I’ve been to multiple ‘relationship sessions’ at camps and youth groups over the years where it has definitely been helpful to hear how boys think, and, you know, just to allay some of the common fears or misconceptions about flirting/dating/being friends….I suppose that our personality types have a lot to do with how we read an article like this. Someone commented “don’t people just make this kind of stuff up?’, while others were searching for more, in depth explanations. And me? I was getting angry.
I was angry because I really hate being labelled. and grouped. and expected to fit into a certain mold. And I don’t think I do that to my friends either. I try to understand who my friend IS. and to interpret the way they act based on what I know of them. If I don’t understand, then, if they’re a friend that I’m serious about keeping, I’ll ask.
One friend might say ‘I’m quitting my job”, and I know they’ve had a bad day so I just need to listen and let them vent. Another friend might say the same thing and I know I need to probe a bit deeper and find out about exactly what went wrong, because they won’t spell it out, but they want me to know- I just have to ask the right 30 questions to get there (Drives me crazy but I love ‘em). Another friend says “I’m quitting my job” and they just want me to laugh and say “awesome, I think I’ll quit mine too. Shall we run away to Greece together?” because that’s all they need.And I know this because I know my friends. I know this because we have spent time together and because we’ve talked about many different things, seen each other on many types of days, and most of all, because I’ve made mistakes. There are times when I’ve put my foot in it, reacted in the wrong way to the wrong person. and I know that next time I need to react differently. Sometimes I even have to apologise.
The thing with a guide, is that it’s just that. A guide. It’s not the oneandonlyvoiceofauthorityonallrelationshipsbetweenmembersoftheoppositesex. When I was younger and made one of those lists about my ideal guy (MUCH younger, I'll have you know), one of the bulletpoints was : ‘He mustn’t make jokes about *sigh*…women!’ It was important even back then. I’m my own person, and I’d like to be treated that way.
Two stories: A couple of years ago, I went to a friend’s 21st at the Southern Cross bar. I didn’t know too many others, so just sat quietly, and kind of timidly on one side of the room. Eventually this guy with a crazy old-school pilots hat came and chatted to me. I can’t really remember how he opened his conversation, but we chatted for a bit and I asked him about his hat – I mean it was staring me right in the face as a conversational topic. Later in the evening after a few more pints, he told me that he actually wore this hat as a conversation starter with girls. I felt really cheap – because I had fallen for his ploy. And I felt like I’d been manipulated, in a sense. I felt like his conversation with me was planned – down to the costume – which, if I hadn’t already disregarded most of hwat he said due to his high level of intoxication, would have made me think I couldn’t trust him anyway. It made me want to not even be polite to him any more. (He was far beond the use of the word Jeepers)
A couple of days ago, I was chatting to a guy at the bus stop. We talked about the weather. And you know what. NO MATTER WHO IT IS, I always respond with more than one word when they say ‘nice day isn’t it?’. Because I feel rude if I just shut them down with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’. From my perspective, I was just having a friendly conversation with a neighbour, killing time while waiting ten minutes for the bus and then 25 for the train. I did give him my number, because he didn’t have many friends, and he told me about an event coming up that I might like to go along to. (maybe that bit was just naïve, or plain stupid), but for the rest of it, I was just friendly – normal friendly, probably even a bit reserved because I had only just met him. By lunchtime, he had already rung me to ask how my day was and to introduce me to…his MOTHER!! (Who, by the way, is very pleased to meet me over the phone, and is looking forward to the day when we can meet face to face). ARGH!
So, after rambling in various directions for the last few paragraphs, let me come back to my point.“I dislike thinking about relationships in such a regulated manner”. Relationships can’t be modelled by a mathematical equation or a set of rules. Relationships have to be governed by relationship! They’re not going to be perfect, never. But they’ll never even be good if you can’t be yourself. I wrote my own guide to flirting right here. I kind of think of this as the same as A Guide to Meeting Someone For the First Time Whom You May Want to Become Friends With As Time Goes On:
1. Be in the moment: Don’t be worrying about where this will lead, or what you should say next. Enjoy right now. think about what you’re talking about right now. Appreciate what the person is saying right now. Friendships can’t be forced, they are built out of many ‘now’ moments.*
2. Enjoy yourself: A friend has to be someone who you are relaxed with. Of course, you won’t be 100% relaxed when you meet someone for the first time, but don’t try to hide away parts of your personality or try to fit yourself into a certain mold of behaving. People respond to genuineness, not so much a standard model. So make the jokes about what you think is funny, give your honest opinion, ask the questions you are interested in about them.3. Don’t beat yourself up: Like I said, relationships are full of making mistakes (if it’s not one person, it’s the other). If someone isn’t enjoying your conversation as much as you are, it doesn’t mean you are hopeless in social situations and can’t hold a conversation for the life of you and you need remedial help. It means – you should go and talk to someone else! Seriously, we aren’t all going to click immediately with everyone, so cut yourself some slack. If it’s someone who you’re already friends with, just address it directly. Or, go and talk to someone else! (and then come back later…) I HATE playing games and beating round the bush trying to guess whether someone is mad at me, or has had enough of me, or likes me.
I guess you can draw your own conclusions about how successful my guide has been J
*of course there is a time (in romantic relationships) where it makes sense to be forward-thinking. To be in agreement as to where the relationship is actually headed. But, I don’t think that the first few meetings, ‘flirting’ stage is the time.
There. I think I have more to say, but that is all for now. I might just spend the rest commenting on other people’s blogs that are about to emerge out of the woodwork.