Hi everyone. My name is Sam, and I’m (gulp) a natural flirt.
This identity has brought with it a cloud of shame. I’ve developed an eye twitch eerily similar to a cheeky wink (Which medical and spiritual professionals found is actually just an inner flirt demon attempting to befriend my retina), and I can’t help but compliment people’s eye color.
Honestly (wink), it’s been a burden — I struggle day and night. But I’m here to tell you my recovery story and new outlook on this stigmatized, yet fully natural affliction.
As I find myself passing my first-ever one-year anniversary with my partner, I was forced to reflect on my behavioral changes. Honestly, I was originally dismayed at the realization that my flirting, though exhaustively dampened, had not fully subsided when we began a monogamous relationship.
Refusing to give into bisexual stereotypes — framing us as attention-seeking or slutty — my processing trudges on.
Though I retired from the games of the “up and down glance” and the classic “Can I get your number?” I was still playing “sustained eye contact during a soft-voiced compliment” and “We should definitely chat more.”
I was worried the lines between romantic/sexual and friendly/platonic flirting would be too blurred — I was also worried about a jealous partner, to be frank. But most importantly, I worried I was going to lose an intrinsic part of myself that naturally drives to lift people up off the cuff and bring alive the dying art of instigating deeper, vulnerable connections with people.
This is when it registered that I can flirt — dare I say, should flirt — but with a new understanding of what the guidelines are.
Our biology inevitably relies on communication to execute its imperatives: it starts with neural and hormonal signals awakening the flirt demon who is insistent on reproduction. As the human mind develops and we learn more about its computation, the smirking and body language heavily evolves into social and cultural cues that alter the defining characteristics and intentions of flirting altogether.
This is where it got messy for me, because our intelligence — though impressive — also breeds willing, complex ignorance when it comes to many things. This ignorance applies especially to basic, respectful human interaction.
There have been innumerable people, typically men, who have taken flirting and weaponized it as a way to bring us back to a primordial and uneducated view of it. I’m sure many people rightfully fear the flirt because it has been morphed into a mechanism for perpetuated, rampant misogyny and harassment, not to mention a way to manipulate people into getting what you want. Obviously, none of this is okay.
Redefining what it means to naturally flirt can open up opportunities for community- and societal-level growth. We can stand up both for people who have been hurt by this system and those who are frustrated that this beautiful, wholesome and natural part of sociological and psychological behavior has been dragged through the mud by villains who choose to misuse it.
What was originally seen as purely biological, and continues to be problematic, needs another evolution…another framework. And I contend that this fight for the flirt can actually be a positive and productive staple of everyday interactions.
This means giving compliments that are natural, but respectful. This means demonstrating body language that is authentic, yet comfortable and reserved. This even means bringing non-gendered chivalry back — because it never really died. It necessitates creating a sincerely safe space for friends, acquaintances and even strangers to uplift one another through thoughtful words and actions.
I think Lehigh needs that energy, our community needs it and our world could certainly use a little, too.
I hope this biocultural behemoth in the form of a sometimes-harmful, sometimes-trivial act can be replaced with something lighter and more positive.
So, strip away the current connotations and pressures that come from flirting and try out this Flirting 2.0.
I believe we have the willpower to change that little flirt demon into something a lot more benevolent and pure.