19 February, 2010

On Flirting.

I'm temping in an office today. It's boring. No, scratch that, because saying it's boring only reflects badly on me--implying that I'm the kind of person who gets bored. There just ... isn't much to do. How's that? I look forward to the mail coming once a day so I can spend twenty minutes sorting it. I love it when the phone rings even if the caller has the wrong number. Or is a telemarketer. Yesterday I took a survey about office supplies over the phone. I think I have made my point.

Fact: working as a front desk secretary is essentially being a professional flirt. Think about it. I am the smiling face who greets the Fed Ex Guy and other delivery workers/couriers. I soothingly and chirpily connect callers to the department they seek. I charmingly welcome potential job applicants (all male so far). And I make small talk with my temporary co-workers, one of whom walks by the front desk much more than he needs to, it seems. I smile, I laugh, I wink, I tease. I can maybe kind of understand how office romances come to be. Not that I would ever consider participating in an extramarital affair, mind you. But I can see how, after weeks and weeks of sitting at a desk with nothing to do but flirt with people, "things" can happen.

In the white handbook that lays out the rules and regulations for Mormon missionaries, one of the bullet points emphasizes (paraphrased) "do not participate in flirtations with the opposite sex." In my second city when I was a Mormon missionary, when my companion and I were dutifully reading from the book as part of our morning studies, she paused at that bullet point and looked at me pointedly.

C: "Do not participate in flirtations with the opposite sex." ... or the same sex, right, Sister Koler?

Me: (jolted out of my exhausted reverie) Huh? Sorry, what?

C: You know what I mean.

Me: ... I'm afraid I don't.

C: You're a flirt! Not just with boys, with everyone! You flirt with kids, old ladies, our investigators' parents...

Me: Oh. (pause) I guess that's just how I am.

She was right, of course. Even as a straitlaced Mormon clergywoman, I was/am an irrepressible flirt. It's just how I interact with people. I wink, touch elbows, jokingly kiss anyone on the cheek. There was, once again in Hungary, one instance where I sat next to a teenage girl on the bus. I struck up a conversation and started asking her where she went to school, etc. Not too far into the conversation she gave me a creeped-out look and said with peculiar emphasis, "I have a boyfriend." Then I stopped talking to her because there is just no recovering from that kind of awkwardness. I can't remember if I got up and changed seats, but I should have.
Anyway, flirting indiscriminately is a good thing because 1. it makes any interaction more interesting and 2. it usually puts strangers (and myself) at ease. However, there are several negative consequences to this habit of mine: 1. it can sometimes confuse people into believing that I am a lesbian/into old people/unfaithful to my current boyfriend/a bad missionary and 2. it means that people who I am legitimately interested in often cannot be sure that I mean it when I flirt with them (or, likely as not, avoid flirting with them due to being scared like a little bunny). For whatever reason, when flirting really counts, I am unable to perform. Flirting, for me, does everything but serve its intended purpose.
I started thinking about the irony of this situation this morning at the bus stop. In Utah, I didn't get hit on by strangers very often, I assume because there is a surplus of attractive, accomplished women, many of them 10s, and I am a 6/7, on a good day. Maybe lower since I gained some weight over Christmas.
Anyway, the really great thing about Seattle is that I would say most women are in the 6-8 range. This is similar to the phenomenon that Pamela and I witnessed in Las Vegas, when I turned to her excitedly after getting checked out in a line for a roller coaster and said "Hey! We're hot in Vegas!" Accordingly, I get slightly more public male attention than I did in Utah. This is good for my self esteem but not otherwise helpful.
On Wednesday, for example, a good-looking but older (early 40s?) black guy stopped me in the hallway when I was walking through a building, told me I looked nice, and asked where I worked. I have a highly developed creepometer, so I knew for (reasonably) sure that he wasn't a freak or a rapist, just a friendly guy who liked how I looked. But even though I could sense that, all I did was smile demurely, say something non-committal, and walk away. One could theorize that I was trying to leave him wanting more, but the truth is, I'm not that clever. I was just unnerved.
Exhibit the second. This morning at the bus stop, like I was saying earlier, I was crossing the street at 6:50 in the morning, wearing a dress that came to my knees and no nylons. I stood next to a fellow commuter, a cute guy about my age in a knit black stocking cap. He looked over at me as I shivered and zipped up my coat as far as it would go, and said, "That's ambitious of you, wearing a dress today." He then made a big show of looking up and down my pale, goosey legs, and then said, "I like your style." Once again, I smiled politely, said something non-committal, and then pulled out my iPod and plugged into the nothingness.
That poor guy kept looking over at me while we were standing at the crowded bus stop, and the thing is, he seemed like a really nice guy. I don't know why I didn't encourage him. Obviously I am not self-centered enough to think my semi-rejection did him any lasting harm, but still, it would not have killed me to flirt back. I just never feel like flirting BACK, only flirting forward, when I am sure that nothing will come of it. How ridiculous.


eden said...

you're not the only one with unproductive flirting timing.

it's so much easier for me to flirt when i know it can't possibly go anywhere.

my mom thinks i should stop that.

oh well.

ani said...

amen sista.

I miss you by the way.

Love Analiesa

(ps. the "word verification" I had to type in to get this comment posted onto your site is : "floopit". I think that is ironic because I am home sick today. ;)