This week's contribution is a little early this week as my mind is distracted by an upcoming Easter long weekend and the social commitments I will be squeezing onto my dance card before then. I will be have a serious unmet writing need to fill by the time that long weekend rolls around.
A friend of mine said to me the other day that there seems to be a hell of a lot of confusion that arises between bonding and romance. The comment came up in the context of a discussion on flirting (and her trying to understand why I avoid attending most work related social functions).
In particular, we discussed whether it was appropriate to use flirting in a work context. In a work context, I find the use of flirting as a communication tool or as strategy (for example, for career advancement) completely unacceptable. I will tolerate watching others engage in such behaviour (after all, it is their choice to do so) and few people really notice that I rarely make small talk with any person that I feel may misconstrue my statements for anything other than small talk.
Both my friend and I have low opinions of some "flirters" - the ones that engage in a sledgehammer approach; wearing revealing clothing, hands firmly touching or stroking an arm, hard core fluttering of eyelids, hand flicking of coutured hair far too often, laughing excessively at another person's bad humour, and – fundamentally – using flirting as a way of feeling better about themselves. Women (and men) with low self-esteem, in need of the attention of another person to somehow give meaning to their lives.
Beyond that mutual disrespect for some of our former work colleagues, my friend and I parted ways on our views of the flirting concept.
Outside of a work context, if I sleep with a person after an evening of flirting, I will say unequivocally that the flirting has been an unmitigated disaster. I never entertain at a party with such purpose and, if sex is the outcome, I am disappointed in myself for not mastering my craft.
I grew up in an environment where flirting was common practice and much more about making the other person feel involved and comfortable. As a communication tool, softer subtle flirting was an icebreaker – designed to help people relax, slip out their shells, and build their confidence.
If I am attracted to someone and actually want to sleep with them, my approach is more overt, direct – there should never be any question or ambiguity about desire and motive. Most folk would argue that even the softer subtle approach is designed with the same end-game in mind. It isn't for me.
I think my view of flirting may be unconventional.
So, as a communication tool (or a strategy) in a work context, this spectrum and the sophisticated subtleties that come with it, is so poorly understood and, for that reason alone, flirting should never be intentionally used.
My view of flirting goes a long way to explain why, in a work context, I do not generally flirt, especially with much younger men. They are far less skilled in understanding the difference between bonding and romance. (I believe the same is also true of younger women and more senior male colleagues.) And, without being too cruel, I never cease to be amazed by an almost hardwired and extremely ill conceived male view that "if a woman talks to you she wants to sleep with you". In a work context, it's rubbish.
Hey - I grew up with two brothers; I studied in a male dominated discipline; I have spent my entire career surrounded by predominantly men; I have a lot of male friends. I am infinitely more comfortable around men talking football and politics than I am in amongst women talking gabble about shoes and makeup. Not only do I NOT want to sleep with every man who hears me speak at work, I never will want to either.
A conversation is just a conversation.