It is generally acknowledged that I am the world’s worst flirt.
The truth of this becoming increasingly real with each passing day.
When I mentioned this to my good girlfriend Alisha, she cocked her head, smiled, and said, Yeah, we’ve known this for a while now. (And by we, she meant me and her and, I’m assuming, everyone else.)
I—I just, well, I thought that was just something we said.
Oh. Yeah, no. No, we were being serious, she responded, chuckling as she sucked down a bit of frozen margarita through a straw.
A guy at work—a lovely man with a wife and two kids and a keen sense of honesty, recently said to me—Oh, you’re that girl who, when you like a guy, has got the car in reverse.
Which is about as true a thing as anyone has ever said to me.
Flirting in reverse. My particular specialty. (And also what is sure to be the title of my first book of essays, so don’t anyone take it. I’m claiming the title here and now, on this, the 30th day of May in the year 2014).
What is so tremendously frustrating is that I am not without skill. I know what to do and how to do it, but only—and this is key—when nothing is at stake.
Because in front of a man with light eyes and superbly fitting pants (oh, the pants)—the composition of his face such that it’s hard to look at, and harder not to, I am inept. Befuddled. Bumbling and wordless.
I am eight years old, wide-eyed, and mute.
And occasionally mean.
Very often mean. Unfriendly, unkind, and un and un and un.
And, the thing is, none of these things is an appropriate response when a man flips your stomach. Because life is hard enough—for all of us—without assholes like myself giving all the wrong cues, to all the wrong people, at all the wrong times.
I have spent my entire adult life living and dating in New York City.
Which is a fate I would wish on no one.
This city is ruthless in so many ways. And love and dating are no exception—the rules of both being unwieldy and unclear and mostly capricious.
(Or so I thought).
Sitting in Tom’s office recently, I was detailing the many, many ways in which I manage to flirt-in-reverse, which is to say act-as-unfriendly-as-possible-to-the-men-I-am-attracted-to/sometimes-act-unfriendly-and-sometimes-not-which-may-actually-be-worse-because-it-is-confusing-and-unfair-and-has-everything-to-do-with-those-crazy-making-things-known-as-MIXED-SIGNALS!!
So there I am, sitting in Tom’s office, lamenting how unfriendly I am (because come on, I’m a puddle around a handsome man) and he looks me squarely in the face, So what you’re saying is, the only guys who end up approaching you are the one’s who disregard your signals entirely.
Oh, oh, OH—those are so not the guys I want!
And Tom looked at me, half-smiling, You think?
Because all I really want—what I imagine what so many of us really want—is to feel like I am both seen and heard.
Because, well, that is a big fucking deal—THE DEAL, maybe.
Over the years I’ve dated a few different guys—a strange sampling of the population. Varying religions, careers, upbringings. And because they were so seemingly disparate I couldn’t understand how time would invariably, unfailingly, INFURIATINGLY reveal how very much the same they all were.
So many different shades of…not-good.
And then Tom went and pointed out something so obvious as signals and a person’s response to them! And I found out I was the problem—which is THE BEST sort of news.
(This is why Tom gets the big bucks).
You see, I was, without realizing it, weeding out anyone who might actually be worth my time.
And this is how we shoulder the universe forward two inches: easy fixes and small leaps and little bit of courage.
Except that it wasn’t such an easy fix. Mostly because I’m a deeply fearful person and the notion of that first big bridge—that moment, or collection of moments when a person you like actually sees that you like them—well on the other side of that bridge is either crazy good things or…Dum dum DUM…rejection.
And I am not so great at rejection. (I know, I know).
And so I’m sitting there, hashing it out with Tom and bumbling on about how I’m scared and if I’m still so scared after all this time, and all this experience, is it because I’m not actually that keen on myself?
Because, well, I thought I’d gotten to the point where I was pretty okay with myself. And, shoot, are the miles betwixt here and there so innumerable?
And Tom, in typical Tom fashion says to me, I don’t think it’s as complicated as you’re making it. Any feedback you’ve received in the past is inherently distorted because you weren’t putting in any input—or at least, any appropriate input.
Which I gotta tell you, feels so rational and so right, that it might just be the game-changer I was waiting for (without knowing I was waiting for it).
There’s such a thing as a feedback loop and it has to be fed.
Which brings to mind a certain Noah and the Whale lyric: But if you give a little love, you can get a little love of your own.
If you give.
If, then. Causation.
Sometimes things take effort. Sometimes, smiling or speaking up is an uncomfortable jaunt up a very steep hill. Sometimes what comes so naturally to some, doesn’t come so naturally to others.
But finding out that we are the problem is so incredibly good—so incredibly empowering.
It is the beginning of a totally different ever-after. Or rather, the beginning of a totally different pursuit.
The ever-after will take care of itself.