Saturday, June 9, 2012

The causes of Flirting-related anger.

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.
What 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.


  1. !

    <3 <3 <3 <3 <3.

    Also, ' 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).'

    Oh. my. goodness. PM, I love you. I love you so much. But this is just ridiculous. You need a remedial course in suspicion and useful paranoia.

    Also, I like and agree with your guide. And I'm trying to figure out which 'quitting my job' category I fell into. And you are all sorts of adorable. We really need to compare adolescent 'ideal guy' lists one day.

  2. So perhaps both of those guys could have done with reading some advice on the subject, perhaps along the lines of that which started this whole conversation? It seems like much of the problem, particularly in the second case, was with the guy completely misinterpreting your level of interest. Though I am curious at the implication that considering in advance how to have a conversation makes one untrustworthy.

    What is your basis for saying "Relationships can’t be modelled by a mathematical equation or a set of rules."? Surely they are an emergent phenomena of underlying physical laws, and as such can be (albeit it would be an extremely complex model)? And it does not seem entirely unreasonable to suppose that useful simplifications can be made to find a more practical model, or at least some helpful rules of thumb for how they may tend to play out.

    What does 'J' mean?

    1. You know, after pondering, I'm not entirely sure that relationships can't be modelled by a mathematical model. I don't like to think of it that way, because it make me think of inflexible, tautologies that are supposed to work for any value of x. And that clashes with my rant about individuality. But, for someone like you, who probably has a better and broader idea of mathematical models,maybe that works. God seems to have all sort of mathematical models and patterns throughout creation, I don't see why relationships should be exempt :)

      I don't think that 'considering how to have a conversation in advance makes one untrustworthy'. I do that myself. I jsut found that my response to his tactic (an his telling me of his tactic), was to feel a bit degraded.

    2. Yes, I would certainly feel degraded and cheap for falling for that tactic as well. I guess it makes the conversation just had feel more impersonal - that he's not interested in you for you so much, just that you're female.

    3. If the hat guy had just said he found it a good conversation starter, rather than specifically a conversation starter with girls, would that have made a difference?

  3. Oh, and missing from your guide: how should one initiate conversation in the first place, and then find things to talk about to continue it? Or meet people for that matter, I guess.

  4. After further pondering and discussion, I think I should clarify that the stories I told don't necesarily demonstrate 'what not to do'. Both of these guys were actually really nice, and I applaud them for having the confidence and friendliness to start and hold a conversation with a stranger. and in hindsight, most situations i probably feel more angry at myself for being predictable than at them. I think what I wanted to demonstrate is that I don't think friendships should be about having an agenda (any sort of agenda..whether it be religious or image-related, romantic or otherwise). I also think I should acknowledge that some people could write stories of times I've made people feel like I had an agenda too. Perhaps I should have used one of those's just,I much prefer to be the heroine than the villain :) PS: If anyone is interested, I could introduce you to this really nice guy I met at the busstop.

  5. PM, I love what you say about being in the now when it comes to interacting, that friendships are built out of now moments. So true. I also agree that relationships can't be modelled - there's just too many variables lol!

    Also about people responding to genuineness - sooo true. I guess my response to the guy with the hat would have been that he suddenly came across as not very genuine. And in relation to just reading Polly's blog lol about people flirting straight up when they haven't already met you - to me that also comes across as not genuine, when they try to plump up their feathers and make themselves appear impressive in order to impress you. Nope. Would rather get to know the person who isn't trying to impress, because they're not presenting a polished front.

  6. I like wearing a bowler hat. Sometimes it starts conversations.
    I'm conscious that wearing an unusual hat is sometimes used as a "picking up chicks" thing, but I sincerely just like having a bowler hat.

  7. I love how you appreciate and treat each friend as the person they are and not as a label PM! :)

    I have a feeling I might be a 30-questions friend... I also much appreciate your patience! :P

    GREAT guide to friendship/flirting both. I should follow those principles more often.