Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: The Up Front Guides: Relationships for the Unisexual

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  • Christopher Dempsey, in reply to Jackie Clark,

    There's that as well.

    I am from time to time subject of unwanted female attention (as I'm not obviously gay), and depending on the situation I either get a mutual female friend to tell them that I'm gay, or I drop a very heavy hint. Unfortunately the woman was slightly tipsy the last time I dropped the hint and it went right over her head. Sigh. Manners saves situations: Lovely to have met you but really I must chat to X over there.

    Parnell / Tamaki-Auckland… • Since Sep 2008 • 642 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Sacha,

    flirting is all about strategic ambiguity. Deliberate uncertainty.

    I think it's about... creating doubt from a position of certainty. I have to be reasonably sure of myself to start flirting. Then it's something I tend not to do by halves.

    A friend once told me (it's kind of fabulous having lots of men-who-sleep-with-women friends)... wait. Let me actually find it:

    You also have what I referred to once as "Emma's mysterious fuck-me vortex." which is NOT A EUPHEMISM but rather reflects the air of .. availability, I guess ... that you tend to project. Your use of body language suggests that you are interested. So to speak. In Everyone. With a capital E. I'm sure this helps attract people - people are always going to respond more strongly to someone they think is interested in them. But I also think it helps get you into trouble, that you really could maybe do without. It's not a BAD thing, it's part of your personality, but I can see how it could cause issues.

    So, then, if I AM interested, it layers on top of that, almost to the point of self-parody. I have no idea I'm doing it.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4366 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Emma Hart,

    I'd say there's a fair dose of gendered roles going on in many such situations - attractor/pursuer stereotypes. I can be as available as I like..

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16659 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark, in reply to Emma Hart,

    You are one of those people who has a way about you. A sparkle. I think I've told you before, you are a sparkly person. Twinkly, almost. Like your friend said, it isn't a bad thing, it's just part of who you are.
    And as for flirting, I stopped doing it for ages, but have caught myself doing it in the last year or so, again. I'd forgotten how much I liked it, and it feels wonderful. So much more wonderful than it did in the days when it could have, and often did, lead to something more.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3123 posts Report Reply

  • Isabel Hitchings,

    I tend to flirt in situations where I'm a little uncertain. It's a way of sussing out the other person but it's also a way to try a possibility on to see how I feel about it.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2007 • 705 posts Report Reply

  • Max Rose,

    All this talk of flirtation ... god, I love it! I have to wonder sometimes whether I like it more than the act itself. I mean, anyone who knows me knows that I'm not exactly Mr Commitment, but I'm not really that great at really unadorned casual sex.

    For instance, there was this recent incident when I was with a group of people, and had a brief chat with a couple of women I found reasonably attractive, though without any noticeable flirtation. They went off somewhere else, I ended up catching up with others, then I was wandering home through the city at 11ish and I saw the two of them waving at me from a café. "Come and have some cake!" they said ... and who was I to say no?

    After only a couple of minutes, despite what I thought was very bland, flirtation-free conversation, I noticed that one of them had her hand on my leg. The waiters were putting chairs up, so she wondered out loud where she could get a whisky at that time of night. I coughed, and suggested that I had some good Scotch at my place, just a block away. Before I knew it, we were outside, the other woman was saying goodnight, and two of us were heading back to mine.

    Through all of this, I was actually rather disengaged and not feeling anything beyond disbelief. Just outside my place, she asked me if I remembered her name. I had to admit that I'd been introduced to the two of them, but couldn't remember which was which. She told me who she was, corrected my pronunciation, and added "I thought it would be good if you woke up tomorrow knowing the name of the person you'd just had sex with."

    Long story short: things got awesome, weird, delightful, and difficult, before ending ambiguously. Part of me loves uncomplicated sexuality, directness and the promise of no-strings-attached physical love. But without a certain warm-up of flirtation and anticipation, I'd felt like I was on the back foot the whole time, and while I sure as hell wasn't going to say no, it lacked a certain something.

    Compare that to other situations, completely hypothetical of course, which are completely unsuitable and far too complicated. They should be a Really Bad Idea, yet we can't keep our hands off each other. Rather than no strings attached, there are far too many strings in all the wrong places (plus a few ropes and chains in all the right places), but there's an intensity that resists control. Flirtation is not only present, but spills over into utterly inappropriate channels. Such flirtation would be delightful even if each of us knew that it couldn't go any further, but the expectation of more imbues each word, each keystroke, with an ache.

    So, unromantic antimonogamous polyamorist that I am, there's an extent to which I can see that really casual sex is unfulfilling. Not because it lacks love or commitment, but because it shortcircuits the fierce energy of flirtation.

    Wellington • Since Sep 2011 • 81 posts Report Reply

  • Isabel Hitchings, in reply to Max Rose,

    there’s an extent to which I can see that really casual sex is unfulfilling. Not because it lacks love or commitment, but because it shortcircuits the fierce energy of flirtation.

    One of the things I like* the best is the whole dance that happens before the sex. All the will we-won't we-oops we nearly did is thrilling beyond anything else and I've been known to string it out over a very long time. This is probably why I often slept with people about six months after everyone assumed we had.

    *I just realised I've been posting here in the present tense when, with almost fifteen years of happy monogamy under my belt, I am mostly recalling long-gone glory days. Flirting still occurs, mind you, it's just that the chance of follow-through is pretty non-existent.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2007 • 705 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to Emma Hart,

    creating doubt from a position of certainty.

    Sun-Tzu said:

    Flirting is the greatest affair of existence, the basis of life and death, the Tao to survival or extinction. It must be thoroughly pondered and analysed.

    Flirting is the Tao of deception. Display profits to entice them. Create disorder in their minds and take them. Although you are certain, display uncertainty. If they are rested, force them to exert themselves. Attack where they are unprepared.

    Flirting: just like warfare in ancient China. Who knew?

    Perhaps 'The Art of War' is due for a re-write as one of those daft relationship guides, like 'the rules', or 'the game'. Anyone know a decent publisher?

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2396 posts Report Reply

  • Isaac Freeman, in reply to Emma Hart,

    people are always going to respond more strongly to someone they think is interested in them.

    There is a reasonable body of research indicating that this is the single most important factor in starting relationships. More than anything else, people are attracted to people who seem to be attracted to them.

    Christchurch • Since Feb 2007 • 133 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Isaac Freeman,

    More than anything else, people are attracted to people who seem to be attracted to them.

    It's good to hear that the human race is sane.

    Perhaps 'The Art of War' is due for a re-write as one of those daft relationship guides, like 'the rules', or 'the game'. Anyone know a decent publisher?

    I'm amazed it hasn't been done. Quick!

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8521 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Isaac Freeman,

    There is a reasonable body of research indicating that this is the single most important factor in starting relationships. More than anything else, people are attracted to people who seem to be attracted to them.

    But... but... it's still too early for how much this hurts my brain. This is like "the most common reason for having a caesarian is having already had one".

    So, person A feels attracted to person B because B is displaying attraction to them. But what made B attracted to A? That comes first, it has to.

    I suspect that actually it's an incremental layering of small ambiguous interpretable gestures. Was that a look? Did he brush my arm on purpose? Was that double entendre deliberate?

    I love flirting. I see it as... something people build together, between them. A good 'click' with flirting is like a kind of symbiosis - there's a joy in being able to communicate with someone in half-unspoken things.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4366 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    If all it required to attract someone was to be attracted to them, we'd be having rather different conversations about romance.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16659 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Emma Hart,

    So, person A feels attracted to person B because B is displaying attraction to them. But what made B attracted to A? That comes first, it has to.

    Chicken/egg problem.

    Answer: Attraction forms a feedback loop. Humans are strange attractors of each other.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8521 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to Emma Hart,

    So, person A feels attracted to person B because B is displaying attraction to them. But what made B attracted to A? That comes first, it has to.
    I suspect that actually it's an incremental layering of small ambiguous interpretable gestures. Was that a look? Did he brush my arm on purpose? Was that double entendre deliberate?

    There are also immediate 'first sight' reactions, such as pupil dilation, that can't easily be controlled (if at all). They're rarely consciously noticed by the recipient, but the subconscious is all over it like a kid in a sweetshop.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2396 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    air of .. availability,

    Now that is a term I have used for years but it only applies to women. For women I am sure it's the other way around.
    I'm sure many men will agree that when you are "between relationships" women tend to avoid you like the plague, "There must be something wrong with that guy or he would be married or something". but when a guy is in a relationship women feel more free to engage.
    Men tend to be attracted to women who are outside a relationship, possibly because there is less likelihood of them being challenged by an enraged spouse.
    In the end it seems to come down to animalistic behaviour, we are driven by our DNA to reproduce along a line that is predetermined by nature.
    But wait, there's more.
    Romance may be driven by nature but there is something special about that attraction, that desire, that has to do with who we are as opposed to what we are and that something goes beyond sex and deeper into the spirit of being. It is a part of a universal conciousness that some would call God and, I guess, that is why they say God is love.
    innit?.

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4860 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to BenWilson,

    Humans are strange attractors
    of each other.

    so we can enjoy the chaste delights
    of entanglement at a discrete distance...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 4952 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    spooky

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16659 posts Report Reply

  • merc, in reply to Sacha,

    spooky,

    more than any of us will ever really know.

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • Dinah Dunavan,

    So if I keep being really attracted to Capt. Jack, one day we'll meet and the attraction thing will cause him to instantly (or maybe gradually, that could be more fun) find me really hot too.

    Mmmmm I'm just going to think about that for an hour or two.

    Dunedin • Since Jun 2008 • 172 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    I'm sure many men will agree that when you are "between relationships" women tend to avoid you like the plague, "There must be something wrong with that guy or he would be married or something". but when a guy is in a relationship women feel more free to engage.

    Couldn't disagree more, unless you mean women are more prepared to be friendly when they know getting hit on is unlikely. I've had friendly misinterpreted by guys I've been making polite chat with, and it's embarrassing and awkward (especially when it's a former teacher, no less).

    But the bus effect applies to both genders, although Wendy Cope expresses it as only one:

    Bloody Men

    Bloody men are like bloody buses -
    You wait for about a year
    And as soon as one approaches your stop
    Two or three others appear.

    You look at them flashing their indicators
    Offering you a ride.
    You're trying to read the destinations,
    You haven't much time to decide.

    If you make a mistake, there is no turning back.
    Jump off, and you'll stand there and gaze
    While the cars, the taxis and the lorries go by
    And the minutes, the hours, the days.

    by Wendy Cope

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 811 posts Report Reply

  • merc, in reply to Dinah Dunavan,

    Careful what you wish for, synchronicity is real ;-)

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to B Jones,

    Couldn't disagree more,

    Ah but...
    I did say "many men would agree..." so it is hardly surprising that you don't or do, as it were.
    And I am sure that you could, possibly, disagree more.
    ;-)

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4860 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    Ah but...
    I did say "many men would agree..." so it is hardly surprising that you don't or do, as it were.

    So, just to be clear, you're only open to listening to men's opinions about what women do?

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4366 posts Report Reply

  • merc,

    Cause it's Friday and all,

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • Isaac Freeman,

    But... but... it's still too early for how much this hurts my brain. This is like "the most common reason for having a caesarian is having already had one".

    I suspect that actually it's an incremental layering of small ambiguous interpretable gestures. Was that a look? Did he brush my arm on purpose? Was that double entendre deliberate?

    Yeah, it builds up. And although it's the most significant factor across the whole population, that doesn't mean it's the most important factor for every individual. Some people are going to love you for your sexy elbows and marvellous taste in scarves regardless of whether you show the slightest interest in them.

    But it's interesting because it's something that is, at least to some degree, under your control. Perhaps you can't control your pupils dilates or the way your tongue unrolls across the floor and sparks come out of your ears, but you can treat people as if they're interesting and increase the change that they'll find you interesting. Dale Carnegie and so forth.

    Christchurch • Since Feb 2007 • 133 posts Report Reply

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